Monday, 26 September 2016

Insomnia Flapjack

My flapjack now has a bit of a reputation's pretty good at keeping people going, without the sickliness of gels. One that that was missing, however, was a bit of a kick. There are a lot of caffeine gels on the market today, with varying amounts of the stimulant. I've personally found that careful use of caffeine can really help in-race recovery, and definitely gives you a bit of umph at the end of a long day.

So I did a bit of investigation into how to add caffeine into a bake. There is a lot of research out there, especially around sport, and it's nearly all positive. As a drug, it can dis fat metabolism, concentration, recovery and performance. It does have a few downsides...a bit hit of it will definitely hit your sleep patterns, and there is no "off switch", so once you've taken a dose, you're wired. I've also had a bad experience where I took a large dose (300mg) in a short period of time, and was also dehydrated...the end result being a small black-out while still pedalling (surprisingly I didn't crash, but I did come to riding through nettles about 3 metres off the track). I also needed to be wary of "hotspots", so it was important to get the caffeine mixed evenly in the bake. To this end I added it to the wet mix right at the start. I also got some super-accurate scales, to ensure the dosage was correct.

Initial results are positive...I've had 2 people "trial" it, and both had decent relative performances, and both couldn't sleep! The recipe below will give a dosage of 250mg, assuming you cut it into 16 bars. Unless you know what your tolerance to caffeine is, I would not recommend a higher hit than this. The strongest caffeine gel is 150mg, and most medical opinion is that over 400mg in a day may have undesired side-effects (for reference, the lethal dose is ~10g).

My next goal is to work on some other flavours, while keeping the low-fat/mixed sugar ratios. Chocolate and Cherry is a classic, but it would be good to have some variation.

Insomnia Flapjack - Recipe (makes 16 x 250mg bars)

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160'C
  • Grease and line a 20 x 30cm tray-bake tin (for nice, even bars, try and find a sharp cornered one)


  • 4g 100% caffeine powder (this can be bought very careful weighing it out)
  • 50g un-salted butter
  • 150g ripe banana
  • 80g golden syrup
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 150g fructose sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 200g condensed milk
  • ½tsp almond essence
  • 5g salt
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 100g flaked almonds
  • 100g dried cherries
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

1) Mash the bananas in a large saucepan (large enough to fit all the ingredients)

2) Add the syrup, sugars, salt and butter

3) place over a low heat, and stir until the butter and sugar has melted

4) Add the caffeine, and stir in thoroughly (you do not want any hotspots)

5) Remove from the heat, and stir in the condensed milk and almond essence

6) Add the beaten egg, and stir in

7) Add the flaked almonds and oats, and mix thoroughly, ensuring there are no dry pockets left

8) Stir in the cherries and chocolate drops, making sure they are evenly distributed throughout the mixture

9) Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, and level it across the surface (the neater you can do this, the better your bars will look)

10) Bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes, until the top is golden

11) remove from the oven, and leave to cool completely in the tin.Then place it in the fridge overnight (this makes cutting easier)

12) For 16 bars, chop into rectangles 10cm x 3.75cm

13) Wrap each one in foil, and store in the fridge until needed

Here's the nutrition breakdown from the original post. Each bar is about 3 blocks from this recipe.

Continue Reading...

Friday, 23 September 2016

Bakewell Tart (GBBO Technical Challenge)

I skipped last weeks technical challenge, because lacy pancakes? This weeks one was on far firmer ground, a bakewell tart. I used to almost live on this stuff (quite literally...sometimes it was all I insisted on eating), though I'd never done an iced (ala Mr Kipling) one before.

I decided to up the ante a bit, and do this as a timed challenge, giving myself 2½ hours, and no recipe (all I'd done was decide on the size of tin, and done a shopping list so I had all the ingredients). Sweetcrust pastry, frangipane and jam is stuff I've done several times before, so I was pretty confident...what I hadn't accounted for was the amount of time it took to cool the tart so that I could ice it! Even with it sitting on ice pack in the fridge, it took a good 20-25 minutes to get down to a temperature I was happy to put the water icing on. I eventually took 2h13 minutes, though it was out of the oven with almost an hour to spare!

I'll do the recipe in the same order I worked through, and approximate timings as well.

Bakewell Tart - Recipe

Sweetcrust Pastry Ingredients

  • 225g plain flour
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 150g chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Egg (from the fridge)
  • Chilled water
1) Put the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor with the blade attachment

2) Whizz until a breadcrumb texture is formed

3) Beat and add the egg, while whizzing

4) Slowly add water until the dough forms (you will not need more than 1-2tbsp)

5) Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, and knead a couple of times until it comes together to a smooth, soft dough.

6) Roll the dough out to ~3mm thick (I use batons), in a circle large enough to line a 23cm tart tin

7) Line the tart tin, leaving some pastry overhanging, and carefully tucking the pastry into the corners

8) Prick the base of the pastry with a fork all over

9) Place in the fridge to chill

10) Turn the oven on, to 190'C

Time taken - 10-15 minutes

Jam Ingredients

  • 200g raspberries
  • 200g jam sugar
1) Put the raspberries in a saucepan, and use a potato masher to purée them

2) Add the sugar to the pan

3) Begin to heat gently, while stirring, until the sugar has dissolved

4) Turn up the heat, and continue to stir

5) Heat/Boil until the mixture reaches a temperature of 104'C (I use a temperature probe). Keep stirring should take about 3-4 minutes after it starts to boil

6) Pour the jam out onto a clean baking tray (with a lip) to cool

Time Taken - 10 minutes

1) Take the tart tin out of the fridge

2) Line it with clingfilm, and fill with dried rice/baking beans

3) Place in the oven for 15 minutes. While it's baking, make the frangipane

Frangipane ingredients

  • 150g softened butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g ground almond
  • ½tsp almond essence
  • 1 Egg
1) Put the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Mix until light and creamy (might need to scrape the sides down a couple of times)

3) Add the egg and almond essence, and mix thoroughly

4) Add the ground almond, and mix in

Time taken - 15 minutes

1) Remove the tart tin from the oven, and take out the cling-film and baking beans

2) Return to the oven for 7 minutes, until the base of the pastry is just starting to turn golden

Time Taken - 7 minutes


1) Take the tart tin out of the oven

2) Using a sharp knife, trim the overhanging pastry off, so the edge is flush with the tin.

3) Turn the oven down to 160'C (crack the door a bit to help it cool down)

4) Spread ~4tbsp of the cooled jam over the base of the pastry

5) Take the frangipane, and spread it over the jam

6) Use a small palette knife to smooth the top of the frangipane

7) Place in the oven for 30 minutes, until the frangipane has baked to a light brown

Time taken - 35 minutes

1) Once the frangipane is cooked, remove to a wire rack. Do everything you can to cool it down fast. As soon as you can, get it out of the tin. Put it on a cold plate in the fridge, put the plate on ice packs. Even waft it with a baking tray etc. Before you ice it, it has to be (at most) slightly warm to the touch. Once it's getting close, make the icing

Time taken - 25-30 minutes

Icing Ingredients

  • 300g icing sugar
  • ½tsp almond essence
  • Pink food colouring
  • Water
1) Put 275g of the icing sugar in a large bowl with the almond essence

2) Slowly add water while stirring, until a thick, viscous icing is formed.It will change consistency very quickly, so be sparing with the water

3) Put 25g of the sugar in a ramekin with the pink food colouring

4) carefully add water until the same consistency is formed

5) Put the pink icing in a small piping bag

6) Once the tart is cool to the touch, pour the white icing on top, and spread to the edges using a small palette knife

7) Pipe parallel lines of the pink icing over the top of these

8) Using a cocktail stick, feather the pink lines by cutting through them at 90'

Time Taken - 5 minutes


Continue Reading...

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Orange Curd Cupcakes

I did these really just to remind myself of how long they took, as there is a baking competition at work next week. I'd like to say I went for "orange" (clementines, aka easy peelers) curd rather than lemon curd as it was what was in the house...having tried it, the flavour is not as strong as lemon. Maybe some spices (cardamon, ginger etc) might give it some more warmth.

Otherwise, they went great. The volume of curd and meringue was spot on, and I was really happy with the consistency of the meringue...really marshmallow-y.

Orange Meringue Cupcakes

  • Pre-heat oven to 150'C
  • Get a 12-hole muffin tin, and 12 muffin cases

Cake Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • ½tsp vanilla essence
1) Put all the ingredients in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Mix until just smooth (you want to stop as soon as it looks smooth....any longer and you'll beat the air out of it)

3) Spoon ~50g into each of the muffin cases

4) Bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes

5) Remove to a wire rack to cool

Orange Curd Ingredients

  • Zest and Juice of 1 large orange
  • 2 egg yolks (save the egg whites for the meringue)
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 40g butter
1) Place the juice, zest, yolks and caster sugar in a small saucepan

2) Heat gently while stirring until the mixture starts to thicken (coats the back of a spoon)

3) Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it's melted

4) Decant into a jar and leave to cool

Swiss Meringue Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 120g caster sugar
  • ½tsp cream of tartar
1) Put the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a bain-marie

2) Whisk over the heat until the mixture becomes foam

3) Add the cream of tartar

4) Continue to whisk until the mixture is stiff and glossy (this will take 8-10 minutes)

5) Remove from the heat to cool


1) Using a cupcake corer, take out a chunk of the middle of each cake

2) Put 2 teaspoons of curd into each hole

3) Place the cores back into the holes, pressing them down gently

4) Put the meringue in a piping bag with a large star nozzle attached

5) Pipe generous swirls of meringue onto each cake

6) Using a blowtorch, toast the meringue on each cake (try not to set fire to the paper case!)

Continue Reading...

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Two-Tone Cookies

This was a bit of a failed experiment, but a highly edible one nevertheless. When I made some triple-chocolate cookies a couple of weeks ago, I had a thought that the big cracks that develop during the bake might be usable for a nice visual effect. The theory was that I could do a layered cookie, with a plain/white chocolate dough below, and a dark chocolate dough above...then, when the dark dough cracked, the white dough would show through, giving a dramatic colour contrast...

...unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. Cookie dough is not exactly the easiest material to handle, and the dark chocolate layer was too deep. Also, the 2 layers seemed to make the cookie slightly stronger.

So, rather than a dramatic cookie, you get a 2-tone one instead. Still nice and chewy, just like the posh ones you get from the supermarket. This recipe makes 18, which is just right to fit on 2 large baking sheets!

Two-Tone Cookies - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 170'C
  • Line 2 large baking sheets with baking parchment.


  • 200g soft dark brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 170g softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 280g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½tsp salt 
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 50g white chocolate chips
  • 50g dark chocolate chips (I used chopped up 70% cooking chocolate)
1) Put the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Mix until a light, pale mixture is formed

3) Add the egg and egg yolk, and mix hard until you have a thick, pale consistency

4) Get 2 large bowls, and split the dry ingredients between them to form a "white chocolate" mix, and a "dark chocolate" one;
  • Dark chocolate : 130g flour, 50g oats, ¼tsp bicarb, ¼tsb salt, cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips
  • White chocolate : 150g flour, 50g oats, ¼tsp bicarb, ¼tsp salt, white chocolate chips
5) Split the butter/sugar mixture evenly between the two bowls

6) Using separate spoons/spatulas, combine the ingredients in each bowl

7) Form 18 even sized balls from each mixture, rolling lightly in your hands

8) Press one ball of each colour together to form a large ball of split colour, then place on a baking tray, and flatten with the palm of your hand. Repeat this for all the balls, to form 18 two-tone balls of dough (9 on each baking tray). Make sure they are well spaced, as they will spread in the oven

9) Bake each tray in the oven for 13 minutes

10) Leave to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Banana Bread

I'm thoroughly depressed about the GBBO whit, it's not going to exist (at least, not as it currently is)...having been flogged off to C4, and the impending commercialisation of it (imagine less "Chocolate Week", and more "Lindt Chocolate Week") Depression makes me want to eat, so I made some banana bread with some nice, ripe ones sitting in the fruit bowl.

It's a nice quick one to whip up, though takes a while to bake, as it's so moist...

Banana Bread Recipe

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180'C
  • Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment


  • 100g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 30g milk
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder

1) Mash the banana with a fork

2) Place the banana, butter, egg, sugar and milk in a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment

3) Mix thoroughly, until as smooth as it will go (you'll have some bits of banana and butter still there)

4) Add the flour and baking powder, and mix until just smooth

5) Pour the batter into the prepared tin

6) Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes. You may need to give it a foil hat after about 30 minutes. Check it is cooked by seeing if a skewer comes out clean.

7) Leave in the tin for a couple of minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

Continue Reading...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Blueberry Mille Feuille

I've been meaning to try this for a while... I did actually give them a go a while back, but the crème patisserie came out runny, and the pastry like a brick! This time I went for a slightly simpler version, with a classic vanilla custard, then blueberries, and a blueberry jelly layer.

I made the crème pat the night before (using some spare yolks I had after having made macarons)...unlike the previous time, I made sure it would be thick, with a decent mount of cornflour, flour, and a couple of full eggs (rather than just yolks). This turned out to be not quite thick enough, and structural integrity was compromised. I should probably have gone full cornflour, and maybe 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk.

The blueberry jelly worked well, though again it wouldn't have hurt to have another sheet in the mixture to produce a firmer jelly...the colour was really good! I did make the mistake of using baking parchment to set it on, when I should have used foil. Finally, the pastry went pretty well...I used a fast method for making rough puff that I've had good results with before. So, generally I was happy with the individual components, but assembly was a bit tricky (mainly due to soft crème pat). Another option would have been to cut out all the slices of pastry individually, rather than attempt to slice the finished thing. This would have been fiddly with the jelly, and I could see having lots of cake squares being a big advantage if you went that way.

All the volumes here made more than was really needed, though if you had bigger baking sheets, you could make more slices (I was limited by the size of a baking tray for the puff pastry sections).

Blueberry Mille Feuille - Recipe

Crème patisserie Ingredients

  • 500ml full fat milk
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 40g cornflour
  • 40g plain flour
  • 100g butter
  • 1tsp vanilla seeds
1) Place the milk and vanilla seeds in a saucepan over a low heat

2) place the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and flours into a heatproof bowl

3) Whisk the eggs, sugars and flours vigorously until it is light, thick and creamy

4) As soon as the milk start to bubble at the edges, remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking all the while.

5) pour the custard into a clean saucepan, and return to a low heat. Continue to whisk.

6) The custard will begin to thicken as it heats. Don't stop whisking it. Once it's reached the desired thickness remove from the heat.

7) Add in the butter, and whisk until fully incorporated

8) Turn the custard into a clean bowl, and place a layer of cling-film over it, touching the surface to stop a skin forming.

9) Place in the fridge to cool. This can be done ahead of time.

Rough Puff Pastry Ingredients 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200'C
  • Get 2 large baking trays, and 2 sheets of baking parchment the same size as the trays 

  • 400g plain flour
  • 200g butter (chilled, in 1cm cubes)
  • 200g lard (chilled, in 1cm cubes)
  • Chilled water (~100-150ml, dependent on the thirstiness of your flour)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Plenty of flour for rolling
1) Place the flour and salt in a large bowl

2) Put the cubes of butter and lard in, and toss with your fingertips until they are all coated in flour

3) Slowly add water while mixing with your fingertips, until a crumbly dough starts to form. As soon as you can form a lump of some description (bits will be falling off etc) you are done

4) On a heavily floured surface begin to roll out the dough into a rectangle about 40cm x 30cm

5) Fold into thirds, rotate, and repeat the rolling/folding 3-4 times more (at least...5-6 is better). Make sure to have keep the work surface and rolling pin heavily floured throughout. Pinch the edges closed each time.

6) Once you have done 4+ repeats, you should have a fairly neat looking rectangle of pastry. Roll this out to a medium thickness rectangle, wrap it in cling-film, and place it in the fridge for 20 minutes

7) Once chilled, roll out to 3mm thickness. Cut a section equal in size to your baking trays

8) Form a sandwich going (bottom to top) Baking Tray - Baking Parchment - Pastry - Baking Parchment - Baking Tray. This will keep the pastry neat and tidy while you bake it, and stop it going too puffy

9) Place the pastry in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes

10) Remove from the oven and take off the top baking tray and baking parchment

11) Using a sharp serrated knife cut 3 equal, long rectangles out of the pastry. Leave these col cool on a wire rack

Blueberry Jelly Ingredients

  • Line a swiss roll tin with foil. try and get the base as flat as possible, and into all the corners.
  • 280g blueberries
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 4 sheets of gelatine
1) Place the blueberries, sugar and water in a food processor

2) Blend thoroughly, until you have a smooth liquid

3) Pour into a saucepan, over a low heat

4) Place the gelatine sheets in a bowl of water (ensure they are separated). This need to be left for 4-5 minutes to bloom

5) Boil the blueberry mixture gently for 3-4 minutes, until the colour is a rick purple.

6) Remove from the heat

7) Squeeze out the gelatine sheets, and stir into the hot blueberry mixture until it's all dissolved

8) Pour the mixture into the prepared swiss roll tin, ensuring that it even covers the base

9) Leave to cool, then place in a fridge to chill and set


  • ~150g blueberries
  • 350g fondant sugar
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
1) Place one of the sheets of puff pastry on a cutting board

2) Carefully cut the jelly sheet in half, and place this half over the pastry sheet (I did this by leaving it on the paper/foil, flipping it upside down, then peeling back the paper to leave the jelly on the pastry)

3) Trim the jelly to the same size as the pastry sheet using a small, sharp knife

4) Put the crème patisserie in a piping bag with a large round nozzle attachment

5) Pipe stripes of crème pat down the length of the pastry

6) Gently place a second slice of pastry on top

7) Gently place the other half of the jelly on top of this, and trim again

8) Form a chequerboard pattern of the blueberries on top of the jam.

9) In between the blueberries, pipe blobs of crème patisserie

10) Place the final slice of pastry on top of this. Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the fondant icing

11) Put 325g of the fondant sugar in a bowl

12) Slowly add water while mixing, until a very thick paste is formed. Be really careful not to add too much water.

13) In a smaller bowl, place 25g of fondant sugar, and 1tbsp of cocoa

14) Again, add water while mixing to form a thick icing

15) Carefully spread the plain fondant icing over the top of the pastry, getting it all the way to the edge

16) Put the chocolate fondant in a small piping bag, and cut the end off so that just a very thin amount can come out.

17) Pipe thin chocolate lines on top of the slices

18) Using a knife, run through these lines at 90' to form a marbling pattern

19) Place in the fridge (or, if your crème pat is a little soft, try the freezer)

20) Cut slices using a sharp serrated knife
Continue Reading...