Friday 29 April 2016


This was more of an experimentation, taking the form-factor of Chocolatines, and using it with some different. The flavours were partly based on what was in the house (since we came back off holiday, I haven't done a bake-specific shop). There was half a jar of raspberry jam in the fridge, and a load of flaked almonds, so going bakewell was the obvious choice!

I could have done a few things differently. I used a 20cm x 30cm traybake tin, and in retrospect I should have either done more sponge (4 egg mix), or used a smaller tin (20x20cm), as the cakes were a little thin. If I'd had more time, I would have chilled/frozen the cake to get sharper edges to them as well. Finally, I think they look a little pale, and some colour on top would have worked well (fresh raspberries?)

Bakewell-a-Tines Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 150'C
  • Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm tray-bake tin (see notes above on sizing concerns though!)

Sponge Ingredients

  • 160g softened butter
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 75g ground alomnds
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • A few drops of almond essence
  • 3 large eggs
1) Place all the ingredients in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Mix rapidly until all the ingredients are just combined and consistent

3) Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, and level the top (it's a slightly denser mixture than normal, more akin to madiera sponge)

4) Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, checking that a skewer in the middle comes out clean

5) Remove to a wire rack to cool

6) Once cool, using a sharp bread knife, cut the cake in half horizontally, to get 2 thin layers of sponge

Filling/Decoration Ingredients

  • 160g softened butter
  • 320g icing sugar
  • A splash of milk
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • 100g flaked almonds
  • Raspberry jam

1) Put the butter and icing sugar in a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment

2) Beat until the buttercream forms. Add the vanilla, and enough milk to get a soft, creamy consistency

3) Continue to beat until the icing turns white and very light
4) Spread the jam over one half of the sponge, all the way to the edge

5) Place the other sponge layer on top to form a sandwich

6) Using a sharp bread knife, trim off the edges of the sponge, and cut into 9 (or12) equal portions.

7) Using a knife, spread buttercream on the edges of each cake,
tehn roll the edges in the flaked almonds

8) Take the rest of the buttercream, and place in a piping bag with a star nozzle

9) Pipe rosettes of icing across the top of each cake
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Tuesday 26 April 2016

Biscuit Double-Bill - Chocolate Shortbread and Oat'n'Raisin Cookies

The biggest problem with holidays is that food is basically on tap, and when you're doing 2-3,000 metres of climbing on the bike each day, your appetite is a little crazy. We got back on Saturday, and I've had real snack-cravings I made biscuits!

The first batch was some chocolate shortbread, using a variation of the recipe I used in January. I replaced some of the flour with cocoa powder, and then made half plan, and half with chocolate chips. I think my biggest error was I rolled them too thin (5mm), and so they were too crumbly, and very slightly burnt (the eternal danger of chocolate, you can never visually tell when it's done). Still, they went down well. I've never rolled shortbread before, I've normally made a slab, and then cut it afterwards. I also used a food processor for these, rather than rub in the butter.

The second batch was a tweak on something I've done before, but not documented...american-style cookies. These were oat and raisin (being what I had in the house), and came out far better. I normally struggle to make melt-style biscuits look decent, but this time I rolled the balls fairly well, and they baked well. I think this might be the first time I did them onto baking parchment, so perhaps that helped as well?

Chocolate Shortbread Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 160'C
  • Line baking trays with baking parchment


  • 195g plain flour
  • 225g butter (at room temperature)
  • 100g semolina
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • Chocolate Chips (optional)

1) Put all the ingredients in a food processor (except chocolate chips, if you are using them), and whizz until a dough starts to form (if will go breadcrumb-y first, then start to clump)

2) Turn out into a large bowl, and using your hands form a ball of dough

3) On a floured surface, roll out to the desired thickness (I went to 5mm, but I would recommend something thicker)

4) Using a circular cutter (I used 6cm and 5cm diameter) cut out rounds, and place on the baking tray. Re-roll cut-offs to get more biscuits

5) (optional) Press some chocolate chips into the biscuits

6) Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes.

7) Remove to a wire rack to cool

Oat and Raisin Cookies

  • Pre-heat oven to 170'C
  • Line 3 baking trays with baking parchment


  • 250g plain flour
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½tsp salt
  • 170g butter (softened)
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 140g raisins (or sultanas)
  • 140g rolled oats
1) Put the softened butter (it wants to be really soft), and sugars in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Mix hard until soft and light

3) Add in the egg and egg yolk, and again mix hard to produce a creamy mixture

4) Add in the flour, bicarbonate and salt, and mix until combined

5) Add in the oats and raisins, and again mix until combined

Note - for steps (4) and (5) you want to mix "just enough", you don't want to over-work the flour, just get the mixture consistent and then stop

6) Form 18 small balls (about 2½-3cm diameter) of the mixture, rolling them gently in your hands to get a smooth, even shape.

7) Place 6 balls on each baking tray, spread out well

8) bake each tray for 12-13 minutes. The cookies will melt and spread, and then start to crack.

 9) Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the tray for 3-4 minutes to firm up

10) Remove to a wire rack to cool completely

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Sunday 24 April 2016

Bacon and Onion Quiche

I did this just before I headed off on holiday...we had a load of eggs left, and I didn't want them to go to waste. I thought that it would be a good savoury meal for the last night, before an over-indulgence abroad!

The shortcrust is a basic recipe, with just butter, flour and enough water to bind it, and I used a food processor, which I'm getting more confident with. For the filling, I love bacon and onion, and I always recommend adding extra egg yolks for a very rich filling. The recipe makes more filling than you probably need (though it will depend on the depth of your tart tin I suppose). For mine I used about 3/4's of the mixture.

Bacon and Onion Quiche Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 190'C

Pastry Ingredients

  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g chilled butter
  • 10-20ml cold water

1) Put the flour and butter in a food processor with the blade attachment

2) Whizz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs

3) While the food processor is still going, slowly add the water, until a dough just begins to form

4) Remove the dough from the processor, form a flat disc, wrap in clingfilm, and chill for 15-20 minutes

5) Roll the dough out to 3mm thick (once again, I use batons), and large enough to line a 23cm tart tin. I have a silicone mat with the sizes you need marked on it...very handy!

6) Line the tart tin, with the pastry hanging over the edges

7) Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork all over

8) Line the pastry with clingfilm, and fill with dry rice/baking balls

9) Bake in the oven for 15 minutes

(while this is happening, you can make the fillings)

10) Remove the clingfilm and rice/baking balls, then return to the oven for another 7-8 minutes, until the base of the pastry just starts to turn golden

11) If you have made the egg part of the filling, as soon as you take the pastry out of the oven, use a pastry brush to lightly coat the base and sides of the pastry case with a small amount of the egg filling. This will cook with the pastries heat, and seal the pastry, preventing the dreaded soggy bottom.

12) Trim the top of the pastry with a sharp knife so that it is level with the tin.

Filling Ingredients

  • 200g medium strength cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 150g smoked bacon (cut into strips)
  • Half a large onion
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100ml milk
  • 200ml double cream

1) Put the oil in a frying pan on a medium heat

2) Place the bacon and onion in the frying pan with the thyme, and cook until turning golden at the edges

3) Leave to cool

4) Place the eggs, yolks, cream and milk in a large jug, and beat until smooth and consistent


1) Turn the oven down to 160'C

2) Place the cheese in the bottom of the pastry case

3) Spread the cooled bacon and onion over the cheese, so you have an even layer across the tart

4) Slowly pour in the egg mixture as high as you dare. You may want to wait until you've transferred it to the oven before topping it up.

5) Put the quiche in the oven (and top it want it as full as possible)

6) Bake for 30-40 will slowly dome as the egg cooks, and it is fully cooked once the middle has risen slightly

7) Remove to a wire rack to cool completely (it will go flat again)

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Thursday 14 April 2016

Cycling - another week away

I'm just about to go off on another break (so no baking for a week!)...this time to Tenerife. The cycling has been going full tilt since the last time I mentioned it, and race season is now upon us... I'll be racing every week probably from now until September/October. The next week will be lots of big, long hills, and hopefully a chance to get some more strength into my legs.

I have had my first ever win! Completely unexpected as well...I managed to get into a 2-man break with another lad, and we held off the field for 45 minutes, eventually finishing with a 50 second gap. I managed to pinch the sprint finish between us.

It's been tough to fit the training and a regular baking schedule in...I spend about 14-15 hours a week cycling (on top of a full-time job), and I try and do at least 3 bakes a week. I think I'll need to plan a little better, and also look at techniques to speed things up...I've noticed that a lot of baking time is spent waiting for stuff to cool down!
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Scotch Pies

Oh dear, 2 ugly bakes on the trot. It's clear that my presentation is not up to scratch. These little hot-water crust pies were really fiddly to make, probably the hardest pies I've tried.

The basic concept is to form a ball of meat (lamb, in this case, as I couldn't find minced mutton), and then wrap it in pastry. Simple? Not really. You make 2 discs of pastry (one 18cm, one 10cm), and the large one is gentled pulled up around the sides, then the smaller one is fitted on top to form a lid. Actually getting the larger one to stay in place to get the small one is some kind of act of luck though.

The recipe is from here, and I won't bother re-typing it this time. I did a double-mixture, so I had 8 pies. The challenges I had were;

1) Hot water crust pastry is a great thing to work with, as it's very forgiving, but you do need to work with it while it's still warm. Doing 8 pies, and them being fiddlier than I realised meant that I took a long time to make all 8, so the last ones were harder, as the pastry become more solid

2) Flour/paper your baking tray. I lost a couple of bottoms when I tried to move a couple, and they stuck. Novice.

3) Definitely have the baking parchment strips and string pre-cut. If I did these again, I'd read up on slip knots, as doing a classic reef with any tension at all was very hard (and you need to have some tension, or the string falls down.

4) I'd be tempted to square off the meat ball a bit, to make it a bit wider and lower, as this would make fitting the lids a bit easier.

5) I ended up tying the pies before fitting the lid, to fold the sides up. Not sure if this was a good or bad idea in retrospect, as it meant that you had a very small area to work in.

6) I actually think the end result is a little...bland. more spice, or more flavours would be better I think.

7) I did hand-risen pies around a dolly previously, and I think I preferred that method over this one!
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Book Cake

First things first, I really need to learn to pipe. I scrawl like a 3-year old.

This was a cake that I did with fairly little planning, and the end result shows that. Gill has been running a book group for the last 7 years, so when she mentioned she was going to buy cakes for their next meeting, I stepped in and offered to bake one instead...only it was the next day, so I sort of had to think on the fly.

The basic concept was a cake baked in a tray-bake tin, then make a sheet of chocolate ganache to bend round it, and pipe in lines to represent pages. Finally I'd pipe some icing onto the top for the book "cover".

The cake bit was easy...I'd made a chocolate and cherry cake a few days previously, and it was lovely, but the chocolate didn't really come out, so I swapped the sponge for an almond one. Other than that it was a simple tray bake. I've never done a sheet of set ganache before, and that was...educational. The mixture was a 2:1 chocolate:cream mixture, using 50% cooking chocolate. Making the ganache was simple...after that my plan was to spread it into a large rectangle on some greaseproof paper, allow it to set, and then fold it round the cake. I made 2 mistakes;
1) I over-spread the chocolate, so it was weak in a few places
2) I didn't quite let the cake cool enough (rushing things!)

So when I was peeling back the paper from the ganache (fortunately I did the bottom of the book first) the ganache had softened, and stuck to the paper. The emergency remedy for this was to place freezer packs directly onto the paper, which quick-set the ganache, and I was able to get the "book cover" on. Piping the pages was messy, and I possibly should have done it when the cover was underneath. I ended up running a fork round to get the lines, rather than piping them.

The writing is just awful. I ran out of space on "year", and I kept pressing down. I sort of know you should let the icing fall onto the cake, but it's quite fiddly to do in practice.

The end result was OK, but I had hoped I could do something a little more elegant. It tasted lovely (possibly a bit more almond was needed).

Book Cake - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 150'C
  • Grease and line a 20 x 30cm traybake tin

Cake Ingredients

  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 200g softened butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 4 eggs
  • A few drops of almond essence
  • 1 tin of black cherries
1) Drain the tin of cherries, and place the cherries on a piece of kitchen towel. Gently pat them dry

2) Place the rest of the ingredients in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

3) Mix the batter until smooth and combined (but only just)

4) Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and level

5) Press the cherries into the batter evenly across the entire cake

6) Bake the cake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean

7) Remove from the oven, and allow to cool completely (it's even worth putting it in the fridge)

Ganache Ingredients

  • 300g plain (50%) chocolate
  • 150g double cream
1) Break the chocolate up into small chunks, and place in a large heatproof bowl

2) Put the cream in a small pan, and heat very gently until just starting to boil

3) Pour the cream onto the chocolate, and leave for 1 minute

4) Stir/whisk the chocolate and cream until the chocolate is completely melted, and you have a glossy, smooth mixture (you might need to slightly warm the bowl to finish melting the chocolate... I do this by putting the bowl in a slightly larger bowl with some tap-hot water only want to apply gentle heat)

5) Pour the ganache onto a large sheet of greaseproof paper

6) Using a palette knife, spread the ganache out to a rectangle ~34cm x 50cm

7) Leave to set completely


  • 100g softened butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Splash of milk
1) Beat the butter, sugar and milk together to form a soft buttercream icing

2) Spread a small amount of the buttercream on one end of the ganache, in an area just smaller than the cake

3) place the cake on the patch of buttercream, square to the edge of the rectangle

4) Pipe a small amount of buttercream along the "spine" of the cake, and a small amount on top

5) Fold the ganache over the cake, and press down.

6) Gently peel back the greaseproof paper from the top of the cake (at this point, if there are any issues, I would suggest ice-packs to quick-chill the ganache, making the removal of the cake easier

7) Place a display board on top of the cake, and flip it over

8) Remove the greaseproof paper from the other side (and be really careful here, as this is the top side!)

9) Pipe buttercream around the 3 open sides of the cake, and run a fork through to resemble pages

10) Using a smaller nozzle, pipe wording on top of the cake.
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Friday 8 April 2016

Chocolate Spiral Brioche

I be-moaned the fact that brioche took forever to make a while back, which was the main reason I didn't make it very often. I found myself with a surfeit of eggs, so decided to try doing a brioche around my normal life, and see if it was possible to leave it to prove throughout the day.

The first part was fairly easy...I made the dough up on a Thursday evening...this isn't that time consuming, as it just involves sitting next to the stand mixer and occasionally tossing in a lump of butter. once that was done, and the dough had that glossy, smooth consistency you're looking for, I scraped it into a greased bowl, covered it in cling film, and put it in the fridge to prove overnight.

The next morning I got up at my normal time (about 6:30am), and went about the shaping process. I'd already decided that I was going to try and jazz the loaf up, so attempted a chocolate spiral pattern inside the loaf. I used a 20cm springform tin, and started off by putting a ball of dough (about 1/8th of the total amount) in the middle of the tin. The rest of the dough I rolled out into a large rectangle, and covered it in 200g of plain chocolate (50% cocoa solids, I use Lindt cooking chocolate, which I find to be very well behaved) which I'd chucked in a food processor, and blitzed to a fairly fine consistency. That done, I rolled it up into a reasonably tight tube, and placed this around the ball in the middle of the tin, put the tin in a cake holder in the kitchen, and left it to ride while I went to work.

Our kitchen is typically about 15-16'C during the day at this time of year (it doesn't get much sun, and it's still fairly cool outside), and I was hoping that it would not over-prove in the 7-8 hours I was away. Unfortunately I was a bit off, and it had definitely gone over the edge, looking a bit saggy. Nevertheless, I popped it in the oven (190'C, for 40-45 minutes, and applying a tin hat after about 30 minutes to stop the top from catching), and out came a complete loaf.

Once it was (almost) cooled (we were fairly hungry!) I sliced it open, and the spiral was there, but if had been pushed a long way to the edge by the central ball of dough.

So, the concept worked, but it needs some refinement. Things I'll change for next time;

1) I can't do the second prove un-attended...or at least not at room temperature. I might try doing the same in the fridge, and see if I get better results

2) The ring idea was not quite right...not only was the central ball capable of pushing everyone else around, the join was not very neat. Next time I'll use a traditional loaf tin, and do a single spiral along the length of it.

3) Possibly too much chocolate, and if you're going to add a sweet filling, the bread dough might need a little more sugar (or some other flavouring...perhaps orange?), otherwise it tastes flat.

Chocolate Spiral Brioche Recipe

The bread dough was identical to the first time I did it, so I won't re-type that bit. The cooking was identical as well, so I'll just go over the assembly process.


  • 200g plain (40-45%) chocolate
1) Put the chocolate in a food processor with the blade attachment

2) Blitz the chocolate until it resembles a fine gravel

3) Take the dough out of the fridge, and knock back

4) Take 1/8th of the dough, form a ball and place in the middle of a 20cm springform tin

5) Roll the rest of the dough out to approximately 20 inches x 15 inches rectangle on a heavily floured surface (the dough it very sticky, be warned!)

6) Spread the chocolate gravel out over the rectangle, and push into the dough slightly

7) Roll the dough into a tight roll, with the chocolate on the inside.

8) Place the dough sausage around the ball in the middle of the tin

..after this you continue with the original brioche recipe...allow it to prove until it's just cresting the top of the tin, then bake at 190'C for 40-45 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean, though try and avoid the chocolate when you test it!)
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Cherry and Chocolate Cake Traybake

This was a very quick bake I threw together as I was craving something sweet (I always get that after training...probably why I'll never be my actual race weight!). I was also making a brioche (I'll post that up once it's done), however they take forever and a day, and I wanted some immediate satisfaction.

This was loosely based on a donauwellen cake, only without some of the faff (I know it's "simple things done well" month, but I wanted cake quickly!), so I skipped the split of vanilla and chocolate cake, and rather than make a ganache to spread on top, I just dusted it with cocoa. I also skipped the crème patisserie, and did a light buttercream instead. I even used Stork margarine, rather than butter, as you don't have to wait to soften it!

This could just as easily have been done as cupcakes, or a traditional round cake, with just minor amendments to the cooking times.

Cherry and Chocolate Cake - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 150'C
  • Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm traybake tin

Cake Ingredients

  • 170g butter or margarine (I used Stork for this cake)
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1 tin black cherries

1) Put all the ingredients apart from the cherries in a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attached

2) Mix until smooth and combined

3) Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin

4) Drain the cherries, and pat dry with kitchen towel

5) Lightly sprinkle the cherries with some plain flour

6) Press the cherries into the cake mixture evenly across the tin (they will be poking out the top of the mixture, but don't worry about that)

7) Bake in the oven for 25-28 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean (don't poke a cherry!)

8) Remove to a wire rack to cool. After a few minutes, remove from the tin and peel off the paper, and allow to cool completely.

Icing Ingredients

  • 150g butter or margarine
  • 300g icing sugar
  • Splash of milk
  • Vanilla essence
  • Cocoa powder (to sprinkle on top)
1) Put the icing sugar and butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachement

2) Beat slowly initially, until the sugar has been weighed down by the butter

3) increase the speed, and beat vigorously until the mixture begins to turn pale and fluffy

4) Add a splash of milk and the vanilla essence. continue to beat until you are happy with the texture and consistency

5) Spoon into a piping bag with a nozzle attached (I used a closed star)

6) Once the cake is cool, pipe the icing over the top

7) Sprinkle with the cocoa powder

8) Slice and eat!

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