Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Black Forest Gateau Slices

This was the big project bake of the weekend, an attempt at doing something posh-looking. The goal was to have a cake that wouldn't look out of place at somewhere like Patisserie Valerie, so lots of layers, clean edges, and an attempt at decoration. I went for Black Forest Gateau as it's not something I've done before, and it's a classic flavour that gives some good structure to aim at.

I had some notes on the layers I wanted. 4 layers of sponge (joconde sponge, which I practised last week), crème au beurre, flavoured with kirsch between all the layers, to give the brown and white stripes. Morello cherry jam layers, mixed with more kirsch, and also a chocolate ganache layer...partly to add a creaminess, and partly to add some firmer texture. I've not done such a layered cake before, so the assembly was a bit of a learning experience.

Black Forest Gateau Slices - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 200'C
  • Great and line a 30cm x 20cm cake tin with baking parchment

Chocolate Joconde Sponge Ingredients

  • 3 whole eggs
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 3 egg whites (save the yolks)
  • 100g ground almond
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 30g butter (melted and cooled slightly)
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 20g plain flour
1) Place the egg whites in a medium sized bowl

2) Using an electric hand whisk, beat the egg whites to firm peaks, while slowly adding the caster sugar. This should form a glossy, firm meringue. Place this to one side.

3) Place the eggs, icing sugar and ground almond in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment

4) Whisk the mixture for 4-5 minutes, until doubled in volume, pale and creamy

5) Sieve the flour and cocoa into the bowl, and form in gently until just combined

6) Take the meringue, and in thirds fold into the mixture. Make sure there are no lumps of meringue left, but also keep as much air as possible in the mixture

7) Pour the melted butter around the outside of the bowl, and fold in

8) Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, and level by tipping gently to all the corners

9) Bake for 5-6 minutes, until risen, and spongy to the touch

10) remove to a wire rack covered with a silicone sheet (or baking parchment), remove from the tin, and peel off the baking parchment. Leave to cool completely

Creme au Beurre Buttercream Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks (saved from the sponge recipe)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 2tbsp kirsch
  • 225g room temperature butter
1) Place the sugar and water in a small, very clean saucepan

2) Place the yolks in a medium sized, heatproof bowl. It's worth putting this on a damp cloth so that it doesn't slip around on your work surface.

3) Start to heat the sugar mixture slowly, until all the sugar has melted/dissolved

4) Bring the sugar mixture to the boil, and continue to boil until it reaches 110'C. Immediately remove it from the heat

5) Using an electric hand whisk, start to gently beat the egg yolks.

6) Pour the hot sugar syrup onto the egg yolks as you whisk them, and pick up the speed. Whisk until thick and creamy

7) Add the kirsch, and whisk in

8) Add the butter in small chunks while continuing to whisk, until you have a smooth, silky filling

Morello jam Filling Ingredients

  • 150g morello cherry jam
  • 2tbsp kirsch
1) Mix the jam and kirsch in a small bowl

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • 75g plain (50%) chocolate
  • 75g double cream
1) Break the chocolate up into a small heatproof bowl

2) Add the cream to the bowl

3) Microwave the mixture for 10 seconds, and then stir thoroughly

4) Repeat step 3 until all the chocolate has just melted

5) Leave to cool to room temperature, and thicken up slightly

Assembly and Decoration

  • 10g plain chocolate (to decorate)
  • Whole cherries (to decorate)
1) Take the cooled sponge, and cut in half to give you 2 30cm x 10cm strips

2) Slice each of these in half horizontally, to give you 4 thin 10cm x 30cm strips of cake

3) Split the buttercream into 4 equal parts, and place each part on top of a sponge layer

4) Place the first layer on your serving tray, and spread the buttercream out to cover the slice, going as close to the edge as you can

5) Take half the cherry mixture, and spread over the icing

6) Take the next sponge layer, and place carefully on top of the first (careful use of a long palette knife is reuqired to lift and shirt the sponge layer)

7) Spread the icing out again, and then spread the chocolate ganache evenly over the top of the icing, again going right to the edge

8) Place the third sponge layer on top of the ganache, and again spread the buttercream evenly

9) Spread the rest of the cherry mixture over the top

10) Place the final sponge layer on top, and again spread the buttercream out evenly, and smooth off

11) Grate the chocolate finely over the top of the icing

12) Place in the fridge to chill for an hour (this makes it easier to trim and slice)

13) Do all the trimming and cutting with a hot, clean knife. I use a pint glass of hot water to heat the knife, and then wipe it with a cloth

14) Trim all the edges as neatly as possible, taking away as little material as possible, to form a sharp rectangle cake

15) Measure 9-10 slices, and cut evenly

16) Use the back of a hot teaspoon to melt a small patch of icing to one end of each slice, and press a fresh cherry there to hold it.

17) Serve and eat!
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Irish Soda-Bread

This was borderline panic-baking. I was hunting through the cupboards, looking for something to satiate a massive carb-craving (I get those a lot, especially when I'm under-fuelled for a race). as always I have plenty of flour, eggs, butter and sugar, but nothing was to hand and ready to eat.

Once again I attacked Mary Berrys Baking Bible, and spotted a recipe for Irish soda-bread...a quick check showed I had all the ingredients to hand, and once again it was a "throw it all in a bowl", so nice and fast.

The trick with soda-breads and scones is to work the mixture as little as possible...you almost don't want it smooth, but a bunch of lumps barely held together. I served this with some caramelised onions and sun-dried tomatoes, and it went down very well indeed!

Irish Soda-Bread - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 180'C
  • Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat (or baking parchment)


  • 400g strong white flour
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (about 3-4g)
  • 5g salt
  • 150g yoghurt (I used fat-free greek yoghurt)
  • 150g milk
  • ~50ml warm water
  • Sunflower oil (optional)
1) Put the flour, oats, salt and bicarbonate in a large mixing bowl. Stir it with a whisk to combine them.

2) Add the milk and yoghurt, and start to gently mix in with a spatula

3) Add the water until the mixture just comes together as a lumpy ball

4) (optional/tip) Lightly grease your hands with sunflower oil, and form the dough into a ball (the oil stops it sticking to your hands)

5) Place the ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet, and press it down slightly

6) Cut a deep cross in the top with a sharp knife

7) Bake for 30 minutes, the flip over and bake for another 10 minutes

8) Remove to a wire rack to cool
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Orange and Sultana Traybake

A bank holiday weekend, with plenty of cycling, meant that most of the baking was fast, easy stuff. This one was whipped up for post-race fuel for the team, and was taken from Mary Berrys Baking Bible. It's a nice and simple "throw it all in a bowl" recipe. Slightly dissapointed that the sultanas sank a bit (probably should have coated them in flour), but the taste made up for it.

Orange and Sultana Traybake - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 160'C
  • Grease and line a traybake tin with baking parchment


  • 225g butter (room temperture)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 275g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder (about 8g)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 30ml milk
  • 275g sultanas
  • Zest of 2 oranges 
  • Demerara sugar (to decorate)
1) Put all the ingredients apart from the demerara sugar into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Mix until combined and smooth

3) Pour into the prepared traybake tin, and smooth with a small pallette knife

4) Bake for 25 minutes

5) Sprinkle the top with demerara sugar, then bake for another 10 minutes

6) Leave to cool, the remove from the tin and slice into generous chunks
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Friday, 26 May 2017

Joconde Sponge Slices

I never intended to completely finish this one, however once I'd done the sponge and icing, it seemed a no-brainer to whip up some ganache and cover it. If I had some jam or fruit to hand, I reckon it would have been a complete cake...as it is, it's just short.

I did this to have a go at 2 things;
1) Joconde sponge - this is used an awful lot in "professional" baking...it seems to have a variety of names and definitions, and is also associated with a form of decoration (where a paste is made, and used to form decorations before the cake is baked), but at it's core it is an almond-based cake that is light, but does not overly rise, and cuts cleanly. It uses a lot of egg!

2) Creme au Beurre - ala french buttercream. I've tried this before, with less than stellar results...looking back at my notes there I'm pretty sure that the sugar syrup was too hot (it was before I religiously used a temperature probe, and the recipe I followed didn't provide temperatures). It's a popular combination with joconde sponge, as that uses egg whites, and this uses egg yolks (so it's like lemon curd and meringue pie...a glorious symbiosis of ingredients to use the entire egg).

Joconde has (for a cake) quite a high prep time (having everything weighed out and ready in ramekins helps no end), however it bakes really quickly, and is indeed very good to handle. I'm actually planning on doing a full recipe with this at the weekend, and this has given me a lot of confidence. The filling came out pretty well too, so I'm reasonably sure that last time I had the sugar syrup at far too high a temperature.

Joconde Sponge Slices - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 200'C
  • Grease and line a 30cm x 20cm swiss roll tin with baking parchment


  • 3 egg whites (save the yolks)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 30g flour
  • 30g butter
  • ½tsp almond essence
1) Place the butter in a small microwaveable bowl

2) Melt it in the microwave (I do 10-second bursts and then stir...repeating until it has just melted)

3) Place the egg whites in a large bowl

4) Using a hand mixer, whisk until soft peaks are formed

5) Add the caster sugar, and continue to whisk until you have a glossy meringue

6) Place the icing sugar, almonds, essence and whole eggs in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment

7) Whisk for 3-4 minutes, until smooth, and roughly doubled in volume

8) Sieve the flour into the mixture, and fold in gently

9) Fold the meringue in, splitting the batch into 3. You're aiming to remove all the large lumps and have a smooth mixture, while retaining as much air as possible. Patience is key!

10) Add the melted butter around the outside of the bowl, and fold in

11) Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared swiss-roll tin, tipping it gently to fill all the corners evenly

12) Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes, until the top is just golden, and it's firm and spongy to the touch

13) Remove to a wire rack, turn out, remove the paper and allow to cool

Creme au Beurre Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 225g room temperature butter (must be soft!)
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
1) Place the egg yolks in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Have a electric hand whisk ready, and I suggest placing the bowl on a damp cloth to hold it in place

2) Place the sugar in a small, very clean saucepan, and add ~45ml of water

3) Gently heat the sugar mixture until all the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil

4) Boil until the mixture reaches 110'C

5) Start to whisk the egg yolks, and pour the sugar syrup in slowly while whisking (you're looking to hit the egg yolks with the stream of syrup...if you hit the bowl it will probably set!)

6) Continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and creamy

7) Start adding the butter slowly, piece by piece, while continuing to whisk


1) Slice the sponge in half lengthwise, to give you 2 30cm x 10cm strips

2) Put about 60% of the icing on top of one slice, and spread evenly using a small pallete knife

3) Place the second sponge layer on top, and clean up the join

4) Take the rest of the icing, and put a thin coat on all sides of the cake, and on top, smoothing as much as possible

5) Using a large palette knife, transfer to a clean cake board, and place in the fridge to chill

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • 100g plain (50%) chocolate
  • 65g milk
  • 30g butter
1) Place the chocolate and milk in a small microwaveable bowl

2) Heat in the oven for 10 seconds, then stir copiously. Repeat this until all the chocolate has just melted (the stirring is vitally important, as if the temperature in the ganache varies, it will split)

3) Add the butter and stir until dissolved

4) Leave to cool until the mixture thickens. You want it to be at a consistency that it can be spread

5) Take the cake out of the fridge

6) Pour the ganache evenly over the cake top

7) Using a small palette knife, level the ganache, and also coat the sides, smoothing as much as possible

8) Using a damp cloth, clean any marks from the cake board
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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Pulled Pork Doughnuts

Bit of a high concept one here. I'm not entirely sure when I started thinking about it, but it's been bouncing round in the back of my head for a while now. It's a pretty simple idea...take your traditional pulled pork bun (or if you're a fan of the Asian side of things Cha Siu Bao), and then rather than steaming of baking them, deep-fry them ala a doughnut. Simples?

The logistics are a little more involved...I've never made pulled pork before, and after a bit of digging found a recipe, only to find it takes 5 hours in the oven! This was definitely not one that was going to be done in a single evening. I also decided to make my own barbecue sauce, and again spent some time looking this up. I ended up doing the pork and the sauce on a Sunday, then the dough, assembly and frying on the Monday evening. Fortunately it a a pleasant, warm day, and the dough proved quickly (though I helped the second prove with a "proving draw" oven set-up)

The volume here provide waaay more pulled pork (I did the entire 2½kg pork shoulder joint...my local supermarket had almost exactly the cut the recipe called for, and it's not like it won't get eaten!) and barbecue sauce than you need...no bad thing! The dough volume makes 12 buns, though with the pulled pork and sauce volumes you could probably make 30'ish.

Pulled Pork Doughnuts - Recipe

Pulled Pork - Recipe

I used this recipe from the BBC Good Food website, and won't worry about writing it out again. There were a lot of new flavours in there for me (liquid smoke? I now have a bottle of it). I struggled to find the onion salt...you can also get onion granules which can be mixed with plain salt (1 parts granules, 3 parts salt) for the same effect.

Searing the pork was...interesting. The joint was bigger than my largest frying pan, so there was some delicate balancing going on. The next challenge was that my roasting tin is wide than my tin foil, so there was a bit of ad-hoc origami going on to join 2 sheets together...I realised this was pretty important, as otherwise over the 5 hour cooking time the meat would go dry if the moisture could escape, so a good seal was vital.

It actually came out really well, and was just falling apart when I was attacking it with a fork. I stored it in 2 large tubs in the fridge, and 12 doughnuts used less than half.

Barbecue Sauce Recipe

Again, I headed to the trustworthy BBC Good Food website. I wanted something sweet and sticky, but with a good flavour, as I was unsure how much of it I'd be able to get into the buns. This recipe certainly has a kick to it!

Again, the ingredients list was a bit of a learning experience. I had no idea what Passata was, I didn't have some of the spices, and chipotle paste is new to me as well (and I also butcher the pronunciation). Actually making it, once I had all the ingredients assembled, was pretty simple, and I did it in the extremely long time I had spare while the pork was cooking. Once it was cooked, I let it cool, and then decanted into small kilner jars to store...I ended up using under half the recipe for the 12 buns, and I was also using it on some meals to add some depth.

Dough Recipe


  • 500g strong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 15g fast action yeast
  • 200ml full-fat milk
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 60g butter (room temperature)
1) Warm the milk in a microwave to ~40'C (tepid)

2) Place the flour, salt, yeast and eggs in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment

3) Begin to mix, and slowly add the milk to form a dough

4) Mix for 4-5 minutes, until the dough begins to smooth

5) Add the butter to the bowl

6) Mix for another 8-10 minutes, until you have a smooth, glossy and stretchy dough

7) Place in a slightly oiled container, and leave to prove somewhere warm for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.


(this is where it gets a little fiddly!)

1) While the dough is proving, make 12 balls of pulled pork. These want to be approximately 3 - 3½cm in diameter.

2) Pull the balls apart, and add ½tsp of barbecue sauce into them, gently then reforming them

3) Leave the balls to chill in the fridge to firm up

4) Take the proved dough, and knock back

5) Split into 12 equal parts by weight (my dough weighed 880g, so each part was 70-75g)

6) Roll each dough part out into an oval approximately 10cm across

7) Take a chilled meat ball, and wrap the dough around it. Pinch the edge shut, ensuring there is as little air as possible.

You want to be quite diligent pinching the dough together, so ensure the meat is fully encapsulated, and as even as possible all the way round the meat ball. Smooth it off gently.

8) Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush them with a little oil if you are worried that they may touch when proving again.

9) Leave to prove for 30-45 minutes (I used an oven with a temperature probe at ~40'C for this). They should expand a bit, but not double their size.

10) Set up your deep fat fryer, with sunflower or vegetable oil. You want the temperature at 180'C.

11) Prepare a "landing zone" for your cooked doughnuts. I had a cooling rack with a kitchen cloth underneath to catch errant oil and flour. You'll also want a flour sprinkler, and some heatproof tools.

12) Fry the doughnuts 2 at a time. You don't want more than that, or the oil will get too cool, and you'll get greasy doughnuts. I was carefully fine-tuning the shape before they went in, but didn't have any splits.

The cooking time is 3 minutes, and I was flipping them at 1 minute, 2 minutes and 2½ minutes.

13) Remove the doughnuts from the fryer to the landing zone, and sprinkle with flour to finish.

These are delicious warm...

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