Thursday 27 October 2016

Millionaires Shortbread

I'm off on holiday tomorrow, so using up food in the house. I wanted to make some snacks for the journey, however I had the challenge of no eggs, and really not much else. I did a bit of checking round the kitchen, and worked out I had everything I needed for some millionaires shortbread, so long as I made some interesting substitutions;
  1. Self-raising flour in the shortbread rather than plain flour
  2. Only half a bar of chocolate to top it with
  3. No cream
I've never really liked solid chocolate on millionaires shortbread, so decided to go a ganache instead. No cream, so instead I used the ganache technique that I used for the Opera Cake, a terrible irony when I've just put up my "Basics" ganache recipe! This was a very good example of what you can make if you deal with what's in the cupboard

The end result is actually rather nice...the ratios are a bit off, as I was using volumes from other recipes not exactly designed for millionaires shortbread. I'd tweak a few things;
  1. I'd line the tin with notes for shortbread have you just grease the tin, but its very hard to get it out
  2.  Slightly less shortbread, maybe slightly more toffee, though actually it was nice as it was
  3. A bit more chocolate...I was limited by what was available.
  4. I put the zest of a lemon in the shortbread, which lightened the flavour a bit. Orange would probably be a better choice, and a more classic match to the chocolate and toffee.

Millionaires Shortbread - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 160'C
  • Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm tray-bake tin with baking parchment (I just greased)

Shortbread Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour (I used 225g of self-raising, which made for a quite light biscuit)
  • 200g butter (I used 225g)
  • 90g semolina flour
  • 90g caster sugar (I used granulated)
  • Zest of 1 orange (I used lemon)

1) Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl

2) Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips into you have a small breadcrumb mixture

3) Add the caster sugar, zest and semolina, and continue to rub in

4) Put the mixture into the prepared traybake tin, and press down into the corners. Don't pack it too solidly, or the shortbread will be very tough

5) Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden on top

6) Remove from the oven, and leave to cool in the tin

Toffee Filling Ingredients

  • 400g Condensed milk (1 tin)
  • 50g butter
  • 50g dark muscavado sugar
1) Put the sugar and butter in a saucepan over a low heat

2) Stir until the sugar is melted, and mixed with the butter

3) Add the condensed milk, and raise the heat to medium

4) Stir for 5-6 minutes while the mixture thickens and starts to boil

5) You want the filling fairly thick, so once it is bubbling stir for 2-3 more minutes, making sure that nothing burns

6) Pour onto the cooled biscuit base, and smooth with a spatula or palette knife.

7) Leave to cool, or pop it in the fridge

Ganache Ingredients

  • 100g dark (50% chocolate)
  • 60g milk
  • 15g butter

1) Chop the chocolate up into small pieces, and place in a heatproof bowl

2) Put the milk in a small saucepan over a low heat

3) Stir the milk gently until just boiling (again, making sure it does not burn on the bottom of the pan)

4) Pour the milk onto the chocolate, and leave to melt the chocolate for 2-3 minutes (if you have trouble getting all the chocolate to melt, you can pop the bowl on top of the saucepan (off the heat, but it will still be warm)

5) Stir the mixture to form a smooth ganache

6) Stir in the butter until it has all melted

7) Pour and smooth the ganache over the cooled toffee, tipping the tray to get it into all the corners and edges.

8) Leave to cool until the ganache has set

9) Chop into squares/slices.
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Tuesday 25 October 2016

Savarin (GBBO Technical Challenge)

Cake or bread? I wasn't sure what to tag this's made as a very wet brioche dough, and the end result is a batter, rather than a dough.

I varied from the GBBO recipe of this...I didn't do any chocolate work, and the fruits on top were limited to what was in the house. Finally, I didn't use an orange liqueur, as it turns out to be crazy-expensive, and it's not like I would drink it otherwise... I did use this as an excuse to get a fancy new cake tin...a rather geometrically pleasing savarin ring which I suspect is a little lower in volume than the one the recipe was designed for, as during baking it rose out of the tin a little. I used the oven as a proving drawer, as otherwise I probably wouldn't have gotten it all done in an evening

You'll quickly realise that there is a lot of syrup for the cake...all the sweetness comes from the syrup, not the dough, so it's important to get it all into the cake.

Savarin - Recipe

Dough Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 10g dried yeast
  • 45g milk
  • ½tsp salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 180g softened butter
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • Zest of 1 lemon
1) Put the flour, sugar and yeast into a stand mixer bowl

2) Put the eggs, milk and salt into a large jug and whisk together

3) Add the egg mixture into the flour mixture

4) Using the paddle attachment, beat the batter for 5 minutes on a medium speed, until it is smooth

5) Continue to beat, and slowly add in the butter to form a smooth, glossy batter

6) Finally, mix in the zests

7) Leave to prove for 45 minutes to an hour in a warm place. While it is proving, make the syrup, cream and caramel

Syrup Ingredients

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 150g water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 orange (100g of juice...or 100ml of orange liqueur)
1) Put the sugar, lemon juice and water into a medium saucepan

2) Heat over a medium/low heat, stirring, until the sugar is melted

3) Rise the heat a bit, and bring to the boil

4) Remove from the heat, and stir in the orange juice

5) Leave to cool

Caramel Ingredients

  • 150g caster sugar
  • Water
1) Put the sugar into a small, clean pan, and add just enough water to cover the sugar

2) Place over a low heat, and without stirring let the sugar dissolve and melt

3) Bring to a medium heat, and allow to boil until the sugar starts to turn brown

4) Once it is golden brown, pour the caramel onto a sheet of baking parchment (obviously be careful, its really hot)

5) Leave to dry into a sheet

Cream ingredients (Chantilly-light)

  • 200ml double cream
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
1) Put all the ingredients into a bowl

2) Whisk until stiff peaks are formed

3) Back to the cake!
... ... ...

1) Grease a 24cm savarin ring/mould with some butter

2) Transfer the batter into the saravin ring, keeping the top level, and avoiding any air pockets in the mix

3) Cover with clingfilm, and leave to prove for another 20-30 minutes (until it is just below the top of the tin)

4) Pre-heat the oven to 160'C

5) Once the second prove is done, remove the cling film and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown, and a skewer comes out clean

6) Remove from the oven to a wire rack

7) As soon as it's cool enough to handle, turn the cake out of the tin

8) Pour half the syrup into the tin, and return the cake to the tin to absorb the syrup

9) Put the other half of the syrup in a large baking tray

10) turn the cake out into the baking tray to absorb the rest of the syrup (I also spooned it over, and used a pastry brush to catch any gaps)


  • Various slices of fruit (I used strawberry, banana and orange)
1) Place the cake onto a serving plate (carefully, it will be heavy now)

2) Using a star nozzle, pipe the cream onto the top and middle

3) Place the fruit slices over the top

4) Shatter the caramel sheet, and decorate the cake with shards of caramel

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Saturday 22 October 2016

Chocolate Ganache

Something I realised is that I need to nail down some of the basics recipes...stuff that isn't a complete item in it's own right, but something you do a lot of. Pastries, sponges, jams...and ganache. There are lots of recipes out there, however I need to stick to one recipe and technique that works for me.

The most common mistake with ganache is getting it too hot, and splitting it. the way I overcome this is to break the chocolate up into small pieces, and leave it for a few minutes after the cream is added to the chocolate to allow everything to melt, and even up in temperature. This recipe produces a ganache that will firm up, and be pipe-able while holding it's shape. The other mistake is trying to pipe it when it's too fluid, so it runs everywhere. I find it's easier to judge the viscosity of it when it's in a piping bag, and you can give it a good squeeze to judge the thickness.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 200g dark (50%) cooking chocolate
  • 150g double cream
1) Chop the chocolate up into small pieces. I find that if you just break it into chunks, you may get some bits that do not melt into the cream. If you want to be really careful, wheel out the food processor and whiz it.

2) Put the chopped chocolate into a small heatproof bowl

3) Weigh the double cream into a small pan

4) Heat the cream gently, stirring with a spatula

5) Just before the cream starts to boil, remove it from the heat

6) Pour the cream over the chocolate, making sure that it is all coated

7) Leave the mixture for 3-4 minutes without stirring, to allow the heat to disperse evenly throughout the mixture

8) Using a spatula or a whisk, vigorously mix the ganache together until smooth and glossy

9) Leave to cool, while stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken

10) I find it easiest to use out of a piping bag, so transfer to a small piping bag

11) If required leave to cool until slightly thicker (you can get a good feel for the consistency by squeezing the bag). Once it feels more viscous, you can pipe it.

Note - if you make too much, put the left-overs in a jar, and keep it in the fridge. When you want to use it, put it in a heatproof bowl over a bain-marie, and carefully stir until it goes fluid again. Be very careful not to overheat it, you just want it to loosen up, and then you are back to step (9) above.
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Wednesday 19 October 2016

Financier Petit Fours

If there is one downside to making crème patisserie, it's the excess of egg whites you're left with. This normally forces you to make meringue, or macarons, or (if you're going a bit crazy) angel food cake.

In a bit of an internet trawl, I stumbled on Financiers...small rectangular cakes made with an egg white base, and not the traditional meringue whip followed by folding in a dry ingredient. even better, they used a silicone mould that just happened to be lying around in the kitchen.

I went for a simple flavour (chocolate and almond) for these, as it was my first attempt doing the recipe. Quite happy at how they came out, it made about 40 (I did 20 with almond flakes on top, and 20 with a blanched hazelnut pushed in, though I should probably have done 2). they are a mouthful or two each, so perfect petit-four size, and really simple to make. the most complex thing is the beurre noisette (a posh way of saying brown/burnt butter), however even that is not exactly hard... I only had one mould with 20 cavities, so did 2 runs.

For some reason they remind me of dominoes, and it would be fun to make an edible set, maybe with 6 flavours/colours?

Chocolate Almond Financier Petit Four

  • Pre-heat oven to 170'C
  • Get a 20-rectangle silicone mould (~2 inch by 1 inch cavities), and place it on a baking tray


  • 140g butter
  • 115g ground almonds
  • 35g plain flour
  • 1g salt
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 120g egg whites (approx 3 large egg whites)
    150g icing sugar
  • Blanched hazelnuts (optional)
  • Flaked Almond (optional)
1) Put the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, and stir until melted and boiling

2) Keep stirring until the butter begins to turn brown. once it does immediately take off the heat and decant into a heatproof bowl, and leave to cool

3) In a mixing bowl put the flour, ground almonds, salt and cocoa powder, and use a sieve to mix them together

4) Put the egg whites into a stand mixer with the whisk attachment

5) Whisk until the egg whites are loosened (you're not whipping air into them, just slackening them off)

6) Add the cooled brown butter to the egg whites, and continue to whisk to combine

7) Add the icing sugar in thirds, whisking each in (again, you're not making a meringue here, just using the whisk as a mixer to combine)

8) Finally, add the dry ingredients to the mixer and combine until smooth

9) Transfer the mix to a piping bag (no nozzle needed, it's just easier to handle)

10) Chop off the end, and fill each silicone mould to roughly the top (the mixture rises slightly, but not much)

11) If you want, push hazelnuts into each mould, or place a couple of almond flakes on top

12) Bake in the oven for 12 minutes

13) Remove from the oven, and once it's cool enough to touch, transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
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Tuesday 18 October 2016

Chocolate Éclairs

Last time I did these I had a complete nightmare...burning them, getting weird, lumpy shapes, and generally not doing that well, so I went back and re-read my notes, and tried to clean up the process. I've also recently had issues with overly slack custards.

One thing it made me realise is that I need to nail down my recipes for the "Basics" eclair is a great's 3 very basic recipes (choux, crème patisserie and ganache), all of which I should be very confident about doing, and I should stick to one recipe. These actually came out really well, so I should nail down these recipe components, and build up some kind of reference for all the basic recipes that I use a lot (typically pastry, dough, jam, ganache, custard etc etc, the fundamental building blocks of baking...)

Anyhow, these came out pretty well...the ganache topping is a little...informal, and I should probably dip them for better results (these were piped and spread with a palette knife). The recipe made enough for about 15-16 éclairs, though I did 12, and then some rings with the leftovers. You'll note I use weights for the's far easier pouring into a saucepan on some scales than trying to be accurate with a measuring jug! This recipe also uses a lot of bowls and saucepans, so be ready to do some washing up...

Chocolate Éclairs - Recipe

  • Pre-heat Oven to 190'C
  • Line a large baking tray with baking parchment

Choux Ingredients

  • 100g full fat milk
  • 100g water
  • 100g butter
  • 3g salt
  • 8g caster sugar
  • 60g plain flour
  • 60g strong flour
  • 3 large eggs
1) Put the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt into a saucepan

2) Put over a low heat and stir until the butter and sugar have melted, and the mixture is just starting to boil

3) Take off the heat, and add in the flours, stirring vigorously to form a paste

4) Return to a low heat and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together, and pulls away from the sides

5) Transfer the dough to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and mix for 2-3 minutes to cool it down and smooth the mixture

6) Beat and add the eggs, and mix hard for 5-6 minutes, to form a smooth, glossy, pipeable dough

7) Transfer the dough to a large piping bag with a large open-star nozzle attachment

8) Pipe 12-16 éclairs on the baking tray, about 2-3cm apart. I drew some guidelines on the back of the baking parchment, and was aiming for éclairs 13-14cm long.

9) Trim the ends with a pair of wet scissors, to neaten up the éclairs

10) Sprinkle the baking sheet with a little water (wet your hand, then shake it over the tray)

11) Bake for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them, and if they are browning too much reduce the temperature by 10'C

12) After 30 minutes, turn off the oven and crack the door, but leave the éclairs in there to dry out for another 15 minutes.

13) While the éclairs are baking, make the custard.

Crème Patisserie Ingredients

  • 500ml full fat milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 50g cornflour
  • 45g softened butter
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1) Put the yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in a large heatproof bowl

2) Using an electric hand-mixer, beat until thick and pale

3) Put the milk and vanilla seeds in a medium sized saucepan

4) Heat the milk over a low heat, stirring, until it just begins to boil

5) While beating the yolk mixture, slowly pour the milk in

6) Once fully combined, pour the custard through a sieve into a large, clean saucepan

7) Continue to beat the mixture over a low/medium heat until it begins to thicken. This happens quite quickly once it starts, so be ready

8) Take off the heat, and beat in the butter until fully combined

9) Pour the custard onto a baking tray (with a lip), spread out and cover with cling-film. Place in a fridge to chill


1) Take the éclairs out of the oven, and put on a wire rack to cool completely

2) Create a hole at each end (I use the point of some scissors). The hole wants to be the same size as a Bismarck piping nozzle (for obvious reasons)

3) Take the cooled custard, and hand whisk it to loosen it up. Transfer it to a piping bag with a bismarck piping nozzle

4) Fill both sides of the éclair with the custard (no-one has ever complained about too much custard, be generous!)

Ganache Ingredients

  • 200g dark (50%) chocolate
  • 150g double cream
1) Chop the chocolate up into small pieces,and place in a heatproof bowl

2) Put the cream in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally

3) Just before the cream begging to boil, take off the heat

4) Pour over the chocolate, and leave for 3-4 minutes to let the chocolate melt

5) Stir vigorously to produce a smooth, glossy ganache

6) Once it has cooled and thickened slightly, spread generously over the éclairs

7) Leave in a cool place to solidify

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