Thursday, 26 May 2016

Strawberry Mousse Cake

OK, this one was experimental, and it both worked, and didn't work. The concept as a 2-3 layered cake, with a strawberry mousse in between the layers, and the same mousse also covering the cake. My plan was to bake a sponge, cut out circles slightly smaller than a cake tin, then construct the cake within the tin, filling it with the mousse as I went.

It sort of worked, however the mousse took too long to set (overnight), and the coating was too thick. I did a ganache over the top, however I used a 2 part chocolate/1 part cream ratio, and I probably should have used a 1:1 ratio instead.

If I were to do this again, I'm do the following changes;
1) The mousse would simply be between the sponge layers, then I'd rely on a pouring ganache to seal the sides

2) More gelatin in the mousse

3) More strawberry in the mousse, or a stronger flavoured filling

Strawberry Mousse Cake - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 200'C
  • Grease and line a Swiss Roll Tin with baking parchment

Sponge Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • ½tsp vanilla essence
  • 100g self-raising flour
1) Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence in a large bowl, and beat thoroughly with a hand-mixer until the mixture is light, pale and thick (it's done when you pull out the whisk, and it leaves a trail in the mixture...this will take 7-8 can also use a stand mixer)

2) Sieve and gently fold in the flour, making sure there are no pockets of dry flour in the mixture

3) Gently pour into the prepared swiss roll tin, and tip in gently to fill the corners, and get the mixture even

4) Bake in the oven for 8-9 minutes, until the mixture just starts to pull away from the sides

5) Remove to a wire rack covered with baking parchment, and flip out. Peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool

Mousse Ingredients

  • 175g Strawberry purée (you'll probably need 250-300g of strawberries)
  • 225ml double cream
  • 5g gelatin powder (as noted above, I think you need more)
  • 30ml hot water
1) To make the strawberry purée...hull all the strawberries, and put them in a food processor

2) Blend them thoroughly, until smooth

3) Push the blended strawberries through a sieve to remove the seeds

4) Weigh out 175g of the final mixture into a bowl. The rest can be kept in an airtight jar (it's nice with yoghurt as a snack!) - as noted above, I think this recipe could use more strawberry.

5) Add 60ml of the double cream to the strawberry purée, and whisk together

6) Take the rest of the double cream, and whisk to soft peaks

7) Put the powdered gelatin in a small bowl/ramekin, and add the hot water. Stir until dissolved, and allow to cool slightly

8) Add the gelatin mixture to the strawberry mixture, and whisk in.

9) Whisk the strawberry mixture into the whipped cream. place in a  bowl, cover with cling-film, and chill until needed.


Ganache Ingredients

  • 40g double cream
  • 80g dark chocolate
  • Splash of milk (to slacken
  • 2 strawberries (to decorate)
As noted above, I would suggest a 60g/60g mixture for a pouring ganache instead

 1) Take a 18cm cake tin, line the bottom with greaseproof paper, and the sides with acetate

2) Take a 16cm circular cutter, and cut out 3 circles from the sponge

3) Put the mousse in a piping bag with a small, round piping nozzle attached.

4) Place a sponge circle in the cake tin

5) Pipe the mousse into the gap around the cake circle, then a layer of mousse over the top

6) place a second sponge layer in, and repeat the piping

7) If you have the mousse left, repeat with the third layer (I didn't do this)

8) Smooth the top of the mousse, and place in the fridge to set

Note - this took overnight for me, but I think more gelatin would set it faster

9) To make the ganache, break the chocolate up into chunks and place in a heatproof bowl

10) Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just starts to boil

11) Remove from the heat, allow to cool for 30 seconds, and pour onto the chocolate

12) Stir the chocolate until it melts (you may need to heat the bowl up to melt all the chocolate, but do it gently on a soft heat, or the ganache will split)

13) mix in a little milk to slacken the ganache

14) Remove the set cake from the cake tin, and remove the acetate

15) Pour the ganache over the cake, spreading it so it drips down the sides

16) Decorate the top with some sliced strawberry

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Spiral Loaf

 A bit of catching up to do... I've been away this weekend in Cardiff, participating in Velothon Wales. A big turnout from Reading Cycling Club, and some great performances...we missed out on 1st place in thw Team Challenge by 2 seconds.

I whipped up a loaf of bread to act as snack food for the trip there...when we were wandering round the supermarket I saw some cheap end cuts of a ham in the deli, so picked them up, and used those as inspiration for this. I also still had some dried tomato and mushroom, so I ended up with a well-flavoured, fairly filling snack bread.

Spiral Loaf - Recipe


  • 400g strong white flour
  • 100g dark rye flour
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 330ml water
  • 10g salt
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • 15g sundried tomato
  • 10g dried wild mushroom
  • 150g ham, grated
  • 2tbsp chopped chives
  • Milk (to brush)
  • Sesame Seeds (to decorate)
1) Place the flours, oil, water, yeast, salt, tomatoes, mushrooms and half the chives in a stand mixer, with the dough hook attached

2) Mix for 10 minutes, until a firm, smooth dough if formed.

3) Place in a lightly oiled bowl, and leave to prove for 2-3 hours (room temperature about 22-23'C)

4) On a floured surface, knock back, then roll out into a rectangle about 30cm x 40cm

5) Put the grated ham, and the other half of the chives on top of the rectangle, leaving a 2cm gap around the edges

6) Started at a short edge, roll up the dough (like a swiss roll).

7) Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Tuck the ends under to leave neat ends to the loaf

8) Leave to prove in a warm location (about 24-25'C) for an hour and a half

9) Pre-heat the oven to 220'C

10) Brush the loaf with a little milk, and sprinkle with sesame seeds

11) Place in the oven, and pour 500ml of water into a pan at the bottom of the oven

12) Bake at 220'C for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 190'C, and bake for a further 30-35 minutes
Note - we are baking this a little longer, and a little lower, as the layers within the loaf will mean the centre cooks a little slower...the lower temperature will stop the outside from burning, while the inside gets up to temperature.

13) Remove to a wire rack to cool

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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Mousse and Biscuit Petit Four

One thing I had never tried before was mousse, and more specifically a gelatin-set one. There seems to be a lot of different ways of making mousse, though the 2 main versions are either a whipped cream base, or a whipped egg white one. I decided to try a fruit-based cream one, using gelatin to set the shape.

I've not really used gelatin before, and it's something I should have a good grasp of really. I bought some powdered stuff, as it seemed faster to use, based on what I've read. The first mousse flavour I went for was strawberry, and then then second one was orange.

The core concept of the mousse was simple...purée the fruit, mix in some cream and gelatin, then mix into a whipped cream. The whipped cream provides the air, the fruit provides the flavour, and the gelatin provides the strength, and the core theory worked fine. I made a slight mistake on both fruit purees...for the strawberry I forgot to run it through a sieve, so had seeds. For the orange, I had been reading a recipe for St. Clements Muffins, which uses the entire orange blended, so thought I would try that...unfortunately some of the sourness of the pith comes time I'll zest and peel it.

For the biscuit cup, I used a biscuit recipe I did back in January, but without the cocoa. The first batch I put the baking powder into, and they puffed up way too much...the second batch I rolled thinner, and missed the baking powder out. I used a mini muffin tray to form the cups, and after a bit of experimenting a 48mm cutter was best, though pushing them in was a bit fiddly.

I think the next mousse step is a mousse cake, probably using a fatless sponge to layer it up.

Mousse and Biscuit Petit Four Recipe

Biscuit Ingredients

  • 100g butter (softened)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½tsp salt
  • ½tsp vanilla essence

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

2) Cream the butter and sugar into very light and soft

3) Add the egg and vanilla essence, and beat in thoroughly

4) Add in the sifted flour and salt, and mix until a dough is formed

5) Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill

6) Roll out to 3mm thickness on a floured surface (I use batons)

7) Use a 48mm cutter to cut out circles (you'll get a lot)

8) Use the circles to line a mini-muffin tray

9) Pre-heat the oven to 160'C

10) Bake the biscuits for 10-11 minutes

11) Cool on a wire rack

Mousses Recipe

  • 150g Blended Fruit (see 1-3 below)
  • 175ml double cream
  • 3g powdered gelatin
  • 2tbsp hot water
 1) Take the fruit, and prepare it (remove heads, seeds, pith etc)

2) Blend in a food processor until smooth

3) Push through a sieve to remove seeds lumps etc

4) Place 150g of the fruit puree in a bowl

5) Add 50 of double cream to the fruit, and whisk in

6) Take the remaining 125ml of cream, and whisk to soft peaks

7) place the 2tbsp of hot water in a ramekin

8) Add the gelatin and stir in

9) Once the gelatin is dissolved, whisk the gelatin into the fruit mixture

10) Add the fruit mixture to the double dream, and whisk in


  • Strawberries (hulled and sliced)
  • 50g Dark chocolate
1) Spoon the mousse into a piping bag with a medium-sized nozzle

2) Fill the biscuit cups

3) Place a slice of strawberry in each cup

4) Melt the chocolate, and put in a small piping bag

5) Snip the end, and drizzle over the mousse
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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Rye Plait

My sort-of traditional Saturday loaf...once I had found out that the race was cancelled (early on Saturday morning), I decided to do a fairly plain loaf, and do the first prove while I was out cycling. We were having a semi-posh meal that night (basically, the supermarket was doing a meal offer), and we had some pate, so I decided to do a plain loaf that could be used for toast.

So as not to make it completely plain, I swapped out some normal flour for rye, to give the loaf a slightly nutty flavour. Rye tends to make a dough quite sticky, and a bit dryer than normal, though my recent doughs have been quite wet, so that wasn't an issue. When I got back from cycling (about 4 hours), and knocked it back, made a simple 3-weave plait, and left it for a couple more hours to prove before baking (with a milk glaze, and sesame seeds on top). Probably one of the more even plaits I've done, but still slightly favours one end over the other...

Rye Plait Recipe

  • 425g strong wholemeal flour
  • 75g rye flour
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 10g salt
  • 7g fast-action yeast
  • 330ml cold water
  • Milk (to glaze)
  • Sesame seeds (to decorate)

1) Put all the ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment

2) Mix for ~10 minutes, until a smooth dough is formed

3) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and leave to prove in a cool room (~18-20'C) for about 4-5 hours

4) Scrape the dough out onto a well floured surface, and knock back

5) Split the dough into 3 even parts

6) Roll each part of the dough out into a sausage about 15-18 inches long, and just under 1 inch thick

7) Plait these together

8) Fold the ends under to form a neat loaf

9) Place onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment, and cover

10) Leave to prove for 1½-2 hours, until the dough has approximately doubled in size

 11) Brush the loaf with a little milk

12) Sprinkle the loaf with sesame seeds

13) Pre-heat the oven to 220'C, and place a baking tin at the bottom of the oven

14) place the bread in the middle shelf of the oven, and pour 500ml of water into the baking tin

15) Bake for 10 minutes at 220'C, then turn the oven down to 200'C and bake for a further 18-20 minutes

16) Remove from the oven, and place on a wire rack to cool
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Carrot Cake

Saturday was supposed to be the first race in the ORRL, which is the main series of road races for lower-level riders in this area. I was really looking forward to it, and it would have been my first big race representing the club. A key part of any race is the post-event "nutrition", so I made a carrot cake, which I think may be the single most popular cake for cyclists (based on what seems to vanish first at cafes)

After all this work, the race was cancelled very last minute (frustratingly down to what sounds like an admin error), something that left a lot of racers, volunteers and organisers a bit annoyed...we did a hard ride as a team, but not really the same, and felt like I've missed out on a good race...but at least I had a cake to console myself with!

I did this as a tray-bake, but you could easily use the same ratios to make a more traditional layered cake, and put the cream cheese filling in between. It rises very evenly, so would be well suited to a layered cake.

Carrot Cake - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 170'C
  • Grease and line a 20cmx30cm tray-bake tin

Cake Ingredients

  • 175g dark soft brown sugar
  • 120ml sunflower oil
  • 200g wholemeal, self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3-4tsp mixed spice
  • 6 cardamon pods, crushed, with shells removed
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 175g sultanas
  • 200g grated carrot
1) Put the sugar, oil and eggs in a bowl, and whisk with an electric whisk for 2-3 minutes, until light and creamy

2) Sieve the flour, bicarb, mixed spice together, and then combine with the egg and oil mixture (this is one of those cases where you want to just combine everything, but don't over-mix it, or the air will go out and you'll have a heavy, dense cake)

3) Fold in the carrots, sultanas, zest and crushed cardamon

4) Pour the mixture into the prepared tray bake tin

5) Bake in the oven for 35 minutes

6) While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup and toppings

Syrup Ingredients

  • Juice of ½ an orange
  • 15g lemon juice
  • 40g soft dark brown sugar
1) In a small jar, thoroughly miss the juices and sugar, until all the sugar has dissolved

2) Once the cake has baked, remove from the oven to a wire rack, leaving it in the tin

3) Quickly, skewer the top, then pour the syrup evenly over the cake, allowing it to sink in.

4) Leave the cake in the tin until it is completely cool (this allows the syrup to absorb into the cake)

Cream Cheese Topping Ingredients

  • 250g mascarpone (or Quark, if you want a slightly healthier option)
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
1) Place all the ingredients in a bowl

2) Whisk with an electric whisk until smooth and creamy and firm

3) Cover with clingfilm, and chill in the fridge until needed

Praline Topping Ingredients

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g walnut pieces
  • ~40-50ml water

1) prepare a sheet of baking parchment to placing on a work surface, and lightly greasing (this is to turn the praline out onto to set)

2) Place the water and sugar in a very clean, small saucepan

3) gently heat until all the sugar has dissolved

4) Bring to the boil, and continue to boil until it begins to go brown.

5) Once the sugar is nut-brown, remove the the heat and quickly stir in the walnut pieces

6) Scrape out onto the prepared baking parchment to set

7) Once cool, place in a plastic bag and smash it up with a rolling pin


1) remove the completely cool cake from the tin, and place on a serving tray

2) Spread the cream cheese topping evenly over the top of the cake

3) Sprinkle the praline over the cream cheese
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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Paris Brest

I was looking around for choux recipes to try out, and I came across the story of Paris-Brest. This is a patisserie created in 1910 to celebrate the Paris-Brest-Paris cycling race, which I know of as a slightly insane audax cycling event. It's a baking challenge with it's history steeped in cycling, I clearly had to make it!

I have now received my new piping nozzles...nice big ones, which make doing choux a lot easier. I found a recipe for Paris-Brest (I'd only ever seen mini ones before, not full size ones), and then tweaked it. It's an almond-flavoured thing, and I love marzipan, so I added a layer of it to the middle, and I did the buttercream as a meringue base...partly as it's lovely, and partly as I have a lot of egg whites!

I had a few issues...I initially did the bake at 190'C for 30 minutes, and the entire thing collapsed (under-baked massively). I quickly did a second one, and baked this for 40 minutes at 190'C, then another 10 minutes at  160'C (to make sure it dried out fully). This worked better, though the layers were not quite high enough to easily cut through. I think I may have more success with less layers of choux (I went 3/2/1...perhaps just 3/2 would be better, or even 2/1). I also had the ring split, as it expanded, leaving me a rather broken wheel.

Paris-Brest Recipe

Marzipan Ingredients

  • 200g Ground Almonds
  • 200g Icing Sugar
  • ½tsp almond essence
  • 35g egg white
1) place the icing sugar and almonds in a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, and mix on low speed

2) Add in the egg white and essence, and continue to mix until a paste is formed, and it smooth

3) Chop off ~80-100g of it, wrap the rest in cling-film and place in the fridge

4) Pre-heat oven to 190'C

5) Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment.You may want to use the base of a 22cm cake tin as a template

Choux Ingredients

  • 130g water
  • 130g milk
  • 130g butter
  • 12g caster sugar
  • 6g salt
  • 160g strong flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk (to brush)
  • 100g flaked almonds

1) Place the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a medium sized pan over a low heat

2) Heat and stir until the butter is melted, and the mixture is just beginning to boil

3) Remove from the heat and quickly add the flour, stirring vigorously

4) Return to the heat, and stir for 4-5 minutes to cook the paste

5) Place the mixture in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and mix for a couple of minutes to cool slightly (you;ll get a lot of steam coming off)

6) Add the eggs, and mix hard until a glossy, smooth dough is formed

7) Allow to cool, then transfer to a piping bag with a large, open star nozzle (I used a 5/8" nozzle)

8) Onto the baking parchment, pipe 3 concentric circles of choux, with the largest being ~22cm

9) Pipe 2 layers on top of that

10) Pipe a third layer on top of that (optional, I think)

11) Brush the choux with the egg yolk

12) Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the ring

13) Bake in the oven for 40 minutes

14) Reduce the temperature to 160'C, and bake for a further 10 minutes

15) Turn off the heat, crack open the door, and leave for a further 15 minutes (to allow the choux to dry)

16) Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely

Crème au Beurre Ingredients

  • 100g egg white
  • 150g icing sugar
  • ½tsp cream of tartar
  • 330g softened butter
  • 80g marzipan

1) Place the butter and marzipan in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and mix until very light and creamy

2) Place the egg white, sugar and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl over a bain-marie, and whisk until stiff peaks have formed

3) Allow the meringue to cool to room temperature

4) Spoon the  meringue into the butter, while continuing to mix. You may need to scrape the sides down.


 1) Cut the choux ring in half

2) Roll out the marzipan into a thin sheet the same size as the ring (I did it on sugared, greaseproof paper)

3) Place the marizpan over the lower ring, and trim to size

4) Pipe the buttercream over the lower section in swirls

5) Place the lid back on the pastry

6) Sprinkle the top with icing sugar

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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Eclairs - 2nd Attempt

After Sunday's failed attempts at choux pastry, and a lot of background reading, I went for another go last night. The new piping nozzle hadn't arrived, so I think the shape is still a bit off, however after a bit more tweaking, I think I'm getting there.

These had less egg in them (3, rather than 4), and after the first batch came out too dark (again!), I ended up using a temperature of 180-190'C for 30 minutes, then leaving them in the oven with the door open to dry out for another 15 minutes. This meant that they were slow to make (as for each batch I had to re-heat the oven), but the end results were...OK. The crème patisserie was, as always, lovely (and I can't recall a single time someone has said "there is too much custard in this éclair!")

I need to pipe them longer (I partly blame this on the baking tray, but in my mind a chocolate éclair should be ~6 inches long, not 4 inches like these). I didn't really like the chocolate I used to make the ganache (it really wanted to split, and I had to work very hard to pull it back). All in all, it's a move forward, but definitely improvements to be found. I remember from GBBO that strong flour can be used to produce a stronger choux bun, so might try that next time. There was also something called Craquelin that was used in Professional GBBO which gives the bun more of a crunch.

Chocolate Éclairs - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 180-190'C
  • Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment

Choux Pastry Ingredients

  • 100g butter
  • 100g milk
  • 100g water
  • 5g salt
  • 8g caster sugar
  • 120g plain flour
  • 3 large eggs
 1) Place the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt in a medium pan

2) Cook on a low heat until it starts to boil

3) Take off the heat, and quickly mix in the flour, forming a paste

4) Return the pan to a medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, until the paste pulls away from the sides of the pan

5) Scrape the paste into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and mix for a minute to smooth and cool slightly

6) Add the eggs, and mix hard until a glossy, pipable dough is formed

7) Transfer the dough to a piping bag with an open star nozzle (once mine arrives I'll take a photo)

8) Pipe 10 lengths of dough onto each baking tray

9) Bake in the oven for 30 minutes

10) Once the baking time is done, turn off the heat, crack open the door and leave for 15 minutes to dry

11) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely

Crème Patisserie Ingredients

  • 500ml milk
  • ½tsp vanilla seeds
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
1) Place the milk and vanilla seeds in a small pan over a low heat. Warm up, but don't boil.

2) Put the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a heatproof bowl, and using a hand mixer whisk until white and creamy

3) Slowly add the heated milk to the egg yolks, whisking constantly

4) Put the custard into a clean pan over a low-medium heat, and whisk until it thickens (it's the egg yolk doing the thickening, not the flour, so it will thicken as it approaches boiling)

5) once the desired thickness has been achieved, scrape into a baking tray with a lip (I use a swiss roll tin), flatten, and cover with clingfilm.

6) Place in the freezer for ~1 hour to cool completely

7) Scrape into a bowl, and whisk to slacken

8) Transfer to a piping bag with a long nozzle

9) Poke a small hole in the end of each choux bun with a knife, then fill with the custard

Ganache Ingredients

  • 250g plain (40%) chocolate
  • 100g double cream
1) Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, in chunks

2) Heat the cream in a small pan until just boiling

3) Pour the cream over the chocolate, and mix/whisk

4) It should turn glossy and smooth. If it starts to split, you can recover it by;
   a) add a small amount of cold cream
   b) a small amount of butter
   c) whisk like crazy!

5) Pipe, or spread the ganache over the top of the éclairs
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