Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cherry Jam Doughnut Muffins

Cronuts, Townies, Duffles, it seems that we are no longer satisfied with merely single cakes or bakes and instead are turning to such appetising aberrations. A fad they may be, but you will certainly not find me sneering or crying sacrilege. If they they provide pleasure and satisfaction then, whatever their inspiration they are worthy of celebration.

I've had this recipe for some time, but considering the recent trend I thought it would be a fine time to dust it off. Alone it is a charming buttermilk muffin base, which you can use for an array of other recipes. However with just a little fine tuning the recipe is transformed into something altogether more cheeky. You can call these duffins, monuts or whatever you like. I'll just call them delicious...

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 20-25 Mins
175g Plain Flour
125g Caster Sugar
1tsp Baking Powder
100ml Buttermilk
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
100g Butter (Melted)
9 tsp (heaped) Black Cherry Jam

For sugar coating
30g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
100g Caster Sugar

I prefer baking these muffins naked as opposed to in cases, so begin by greasing a nine cup muffin tray (or nine cups of a twelve cup tray!). I also place a little disc of baking paper in the base of each cup, which I find makes the removal of said muffins considerably less demanding. However, this is entirely optional.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. In a large bowl mix together the flour, caster sugar and baking powder. In a separate bowl or large jug beat the eggs into the buttermilk with the vanilla extract, then tip the lot into the dry ingredients. Mix together, then add the melted butter and do the same, until you are left with a smooth batter.

Fill each muffin cup just over half way. Blob a heaped teaspoon of jam into the centre of the mixture, then spoon over the rest of the mixture equally to cover. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown, then remove and leave in the tin for 10-15 minutes, so the muffins can firm up and the tray can cool slightly.

Run a flat bladed knife around the edge of each warm muffin then delicately remove and place on a wire rack. Brush with the melted butter and dust liberally with the caster sugar. Leave to cool and your work is finished.

My Baking Adventures - July 2013 *BONUS EDITION*

I seem to have been a busy baking boy this month so here's not one, but two snapshots of my baking wonderland...

All of the recipes should be on the blog, but if you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to get in touch.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Ching-He Huang

Food is a truly international language and a wonderful way of introducing the flavours, textures and aromas of another country or culture into the home. Those bold enough to explore the global gastronomic landscape are rewarded with such a richly diverse culinary experience and perhaps even more importantly enjoy an enhanced sense of the intrigue and excitement we all feel when trying something new or exotic. We are lucky to live in a time where not only are the ingredients available so cosmopolitan, but where specialist cooks and expert writers are willing and able to share both their own experiences and recipes. As you probably all know by now I love learning about new ways of cooking from such adepts, and one of my favourites is Ching-He Huang.

Ching-He Huang is a self-taught champion of Chinese cookery. A respected cook, author and presenter, not to mention an entrepreneur with a degree in economics, she has made Chinese cuisine accessible to home cooks the world over through her books and television shows. She is passionate, knowledgeable and displays not only a complete understanding of Chinese food and cookery, but how to prepare delicious dishes healthily and easily. For anyone venturing into the realm of Chinese cuisine for the first time she is absolutely the best place to start, so it was with pleasure that I was able to steal a few minutes of her time recently to ask her a few questions…

You have an infectious passion for food. Where does your love for food and cooking come from?

The desire to please & share great food with everyone.

What inspires you?

Cooking is a humble profession. There is so much to learn and explore everyday and that's why I love working with food. The desire to make the perfect recipe comes from the same place as the desire to be a better person.

How does Chinese cuisine differ between regions and what are some of you favourite dishes?

Chinese regional cuisine differs from regions to regions based on climate and the people that are indigenous to those regions. The damp humid climate of the West, gives rise to spicy hot food from Sichuan. The people in the coastal regions of Fujian, Guangzhou are blessed with an abundance of produce from the sea and the climate favours rice farming so lighter seafood and rice dishes are pre-dominantly from these regions. The North of China is cold and dry and hardier plants such as wheat and cabbages were mainly grown so therefore dumplings, noodles and pickled cabbages feature on the menu and dishes tend to be much more oily because of the cold. Of course produce is transported all over China now but the traditions/use of spices or cooking styles can still be seen and thats because most Chinese people especially the older generation still eat seasonally and with health in mind. Although with the recent rise in fast food restaurants, the Chinese people are battling obesity just like the West, and this is sad to see.

What is the most unusual thing you’ve eaten and did you enjoy it?

Squid Sperm Sacs in Hong Kong.... They tasted funky and not very enjoyable... As well as Water cockroaches which had an odd metal taste and smell... Both were not my cup of tea... 

What one Chinese dish should everyone learn to cook at home?

Stir fried mixed vegetables - because it's tastier than steaming and more healthy than roasting. It also helps build confidence when people are new to wok cooking. If you can make vegetables tasty, the rest is easy. 

You are self-taught with a somewhat atypical background. How has this helped you in your career so far?

I started my own food production business at 21, and then ran it for 9 years. I learnt so much from working on the job, those were backbreaking years but I learnt that you can never give up. There are no rules when it comes to achieving your dreams (of course be good and just to people along the way and look after your health) but you have to take action to make things happen. Sometimes "no" just re-affirms your "yes". 

Healthy eating has played a big part in your culinary development. What tips do you have for those wanting to eat more healthily and responsibly?

It all starts with the quality of the produce. Know where your food comes from. There is so much we don't understand and don't know in how our food is farmed and cultivated. You only have a label to trust. The best is to grow your own food if that is possible. Next best is to choose organic or biodynamic produce, buy locally from a farmer's market (food that hasn't travelled for miles and miles is going to be more nutritious). Eat clean ie. as little processed foods as possible and eat "live" foods ie. wholefood that has "earth's energy", that doesn't come from a box or packet. Lots of organic fresh fruit and vegetables. When it comes to quality meat or fish, buy organic, it will have less antiobiotics or hormones pumped through it. You don't want to be eating produce full of artificial chemicals, you want quality produce. Also cut down on eating too much meat, a little good quality meat now and then goes a long way. The Chinese way of eating - sharing a fish between 8 people or using a small piece of meat to flavour 2 or 3 dishes is a responsible and frugal way to eat.

Chinese cuisine is not often associated with desserts and baking. Is this unfair?

That has been quite fair to say but times are changing. We do have some incredible bakeries in the Far East and it has come a long way. There is more variety and choice and we have certainly learnt from the French. You have bakeries such as Paul in China and Taiwan. Pierre Herme also recently opened up in Hong Kong. Its now quite the trend for wealthy Chinese businessmen to send their children to France to learn how to be a pastry chef so you are going to see a new generation of Chinese bakers. But yes, traditionally Chinese desserts were often limited to sweet cereal and grain soups, steamed sticky rice dumplings in various forms with plenty of fresh fruit on the table.

What are some of the most popular Chinese desserts?

Cocktail (coconut) buns, Buo luo bun, Sesame balls, Coconut milk sago, Egg custard tarts...

What is your favourite sweet treat?

My personal favourite? Black sesame broiled glutinous rice dumplings smothered in peanut sugar. Not healthy but a great treat?

What’s next for you?

I will be filming Season 3 for Cooking Channel in the U.S. next month and writing another book. I have also just launched, Click & Cook, a library of exclusive video recipes to help people learn how to cook Chinese food at home - it's like having me in your kitchen!

To find out more about Click & Cook, or for more general information, please visit

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sugar Crusted Buttermilk Buns

There really is nothing quite like the experience of baking bread yourself at home, from the tactile pleasure of kneading and shaping of the soft, elastic dough to the nervous anticipation as you break into the warm crisp crust of a freshly made loaf for the first time. It is one of my favourite things to bake and from wholemeal loaves, to sweet and sticky white buns every bread I make fills me with great pride.

These buttermilk buns are rich, satisfying and an ideal introduction for anyone making a sweet dough for the first time. They are also very versatile and can be enjoyed on their own, or smeared with a variety of butters, jams, curds or spreads. You can even toast and serve them with vanilla ice cream or slice and butter them, cover them with custard and bake for a super indulgent bread and butter pudding. I might do that myself today!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 20-25 Mins
15g Fresh Yeast
50g Caster Sugar
60ml Warm Water
300g Strong White Bread Flour
1/2tsp Salt
150ml Buttermilk (At room temperature)
A handful of Dried Vine Fruit

For the crust
25g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
25g Caster Sugar

Begin by crumbling the fresh yeast into a large mixing bowl, along with the caster sugar. Pour in the warm water and mix with a mini whisk or fork until the yeast has mostly dissolved. Add the flour, salt and buttermilk, followed by the vine fruit then mix with a wooden spoon until the dough just starts to come together. Tip the loose dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

Bring the dough together with your hands then knead for around 7 minutes, stretching the dough out, folding it back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. The dough will start off relatively tacky but keep at it and it will eventually become smooth and elastic. Dust the dough with flour, place in a large, clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm place for about 90 minutes, until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen return it to a fresh, lightly floured surface and knead briefly for 1 minute, knocking any air from the dough. Divide equally into six, shape into balls and place on a clean, lightly greased surface. Cover with a sheet of lightly greased cling film and leave for 25 minutes, just so they can rise again. After about 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

Carefully transfer each bun to a baking sheet that's been lightly greased with a little butter. Brush each bun all over with melted butter and sprinkle over the caster sugar. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until brown and that's the buns done. Congratulations!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Andoni Luis Aduriz

I have always stated that food is the ultimate creative medium. More than merely fuel, it is a way we can bring a little imagination, passion and wonder into everyday life. The process of transforming the seemingly ordinary into something extraordinary is remarkable enough, but the fact we can all do this easily and affordably is not only astonishing, but actually life affirming. It is for this reason that I have such an admiration for chefs that not only push the boundaries, but disregard them entirely. The innovators, nonconformists and provocateurs. Chefs such as Andoni Luis Aduriz.

Andoni Luis Aduriz, is head chef and owner of the two Michelin starred Mugaritz in the Basque Country. Having worked with some of the most celebrated names in Spanish food (Arzak, Adria and Subijana to name but a few) he has rightfully emerged as one of the leading voices in international gastronomy, as well as one of the most innovative and influential chefs in the world. He is unafraid to astound, challenge, amuse, even confuse and majestically navigates the fine line between refined, cultured cuisine and the mischievous rascality that widens our eyes and puts a surprised smile on our faces. A gastronomic genius, with just touch of mad scientist to me he represents dining as it should be, an experience, so I was very happy to recently have the chance to ask him a few questions…

How would you describe your philosophy on food?

We are passionate about exploring and discovering new things, and we offer all of our experiences in our menus. In them you can discover who and what we are and what has influenced us. We seek to shape these experiences in an elegant, austere and unpredictable manner.

Your book is titled 'A natural science of cooking'. What do you mean by 'A natural science'?

In the kitchen, chemistry and physics go hand in hand with anthropology, sociology and art. It is a rich, complex and very creative territory. It has many sides to it, like a prism, giving it a character of a scientific discipline. Of course, it is an activity that requires knowledge of natural materials. We liked the idea of giving the book that title, and integrating two words representing science and nature.

You've won many awards and accolades, but what has been your proudest achievement?

My greatest achievement is certainly to have motivated my colleagues at Mugaritz and to have found the attributes that have given us our personality. It is not easy working with very diverse characters, looking for things in common and setting ambitious goals that will motivate individually and collectively.

What motivates and inspires you?

Learning and improving is what motivates me. I’m inspired by almost everything, from my colleagues to the most simple of situations. And obviously, it is very inspiring to see how your efforts translate into happiness in someone else.

What makes the dining experience at Mugaritz so special?

I would never say that Mugaritz is better than another restaurant. However, I dare to say it is unique, singular, full of character and personality. Our way of being, living and understanding gastronomy and the thousands of hours a year that we spend on creativity, makes us different. I emphasise: not better, but different. This characteristic, in such a homogeneous industry, is becoming more and more valued.

How do you come up with new recipes and combinations?

My team and I spend twelve thousand hours a year on thinking, finding and trying new things. Aside from this, it is important to stimulate curiosity and a critical eye. In other words, working hard and filtering this work through our own style and philosophy.

What are your plans for the future, both personally and for the restaurant?

My personal goal is to continue improving and not to become too lax. Professionally, it encourages me a lot to know that we have some great and challenging projects on the table. I am excited to know that we are working on dishes that will open up new possibilities and ways of study.

What do you enjoy cooking at home?

I have a three year old son and, during the summer, a girl of eight and I try to cook dishes that will extend their palate of flavours, aromas and textures. I believe it is my duty to leave them a wealth of knowledge associated with their culture and the world.

What one dish should everyone learn to cook?

It would be good if everyone had a minimum of knowledge so they could fend for themselves. More than a dish, I would suggest learning some basic techniques and gaining an understanding of the raw materials and products.

What advice would you give to aspiring chefs and food professionals?

I would tell them to focus on expanding their knowledge base through reflection and investigation, in order to help their future career. Think of your values and know that we have to be honest and consistent.

What do you hope your legacy will be (aside from potato stones!)?

More than a recipe book, I would like for us to be remembered as a group of people who managed to develop a different project, so innovative and multidisciplinary, that even meals were served there.

Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking is published by Phaidon. For more information please visit

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Cherry Frangipane Tarts

As I sit here gazing wistfully out into the evening sun my heart warms at the thought of all that summer has to offer, from walks along the beach to barbecues with friends. Whatever you have planned for the sunny season, these little frangipane tarts will be a welcome addition to your picnic basket, with crumbly buttery pastry, fragrant almond frangipane and sweet, sharp fruit. I've used cherry jam and morello cherries in kirsch, but the recipe is very flexible. You can use apricots, raspberries, strawberries, even rhubarb or plums. The choice is yours...

For the pastry
100g Unsalted Butter (Cold and in cubes)
200g Plain Flour
1tbsp Icing Sugar
2 Egg Yolks
2tsp Cold Water

For the filling
6hpd Teaspoons of Black Cherry Jam
100g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
100g Caster Sugar
100g Ground Almonds
2tsp Almond Extract
2 Egg Yolks
18 Cherries in Kirsch
25g Flaked Almonds

2tbsp Icing Sugar
1tsp Water

It may seem like there's a few components to this but I promise it's a very easy recipe. If you have individual mini tart cases then it's time to dust them off but if not don't fear, I use a Yorkshire pudding tin!

First up is the pastry. Rub the cold butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar, egg yolks and water, then mix with a wooden spoon. As the mixture begins to form get your hands in there and bring it together to a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up a bit.

Whilst the dough is chilling you can make the frangipane filling. Cream together the butter and sugar, the add the almonds, almond extract and yolks. Mix until evenly combined, then set to one side until the pastry is ready.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease 6 small tart tins or a 6 cup Yorkshire pudding tray. Unwrap the chilled pastry and on a floured surface roll it out thinly. Divide into six and line each tin with the pastry, pressing the dough up the sides until it overlaps the edge slightly. You can re-roll the pastry if necessary and use any spare to repair any cracks or breaks. Spread a heaped teaspoon of jam into the bottom of each, then blob some of the frangipane on top and smooth to the edges. You won't need a massive amount of frangipane as it does expand a little during baking. Stud 3 cherries into each filled tart and scatter over a few flaked almonds. Place the tarts into the oven for 25-30 minutes, until evenly brown on top, then remove from the oven and leave in the tins on a wire rack until cool.

Trim any excess pastry from the edge of each tart, then carefully remove from their tins. Mix together the icing sugar and water until smooth and glossy, then drizzle over each of the cooled tarts. And there you go, all finished. Time to get the picnic basket ready.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Richard Bertinet

With all its playfulness and whimsy it can be easy to dismiss baking as somewhat superficial, frivolous even. But that would be a mistake, for it is so much more than that. It is a not only a means of bringing joyous wonder into everyday life, but an artisanal skill that can be learnt, attained and applied by nearly everyone, regardless of status or circumstance. Its concepts, techniques and processes are absolutely achievable at home and one baker represents this perspective more for me than nearly any other, Richard Bertinet.

Richard is an award winning baker, author and food champion. He is a master, with over 25 years experience and both his bakery and books rightfully receive near universal acclaim. However he is also a teacher, passionate about sharing his knowledge and enabling others to realise their own aspirations and become better cooks, from amateur enthusiasts to professional chefs. His recipes, knowledge and enthusiasm are a frequent source of inspiration, so it was with great pleasure that I recently took the opportunity to ask him a few questions…

How would you describe your philosophy on food?

Simple and plenty. I love to serve food piled high on a platter. The joy comes in sharing with family and friends.

Why baking?

I was drawn to the local bakery as a child. I used to peer over or round the counter and was always fascinated by what the bakers were doing.

What inspired you to become a baker and what continues to inspire and motivate you?

As above I always loved the smell, warmth and atmosphere as a child and it stayed with me. Later on I became inspired by the likes of Lionel Poilane whose book I still pick up from time to time. In terms of on-going motivation, I love teaching people to bake. It is hard not to love what you do when you see the satisfaction on someone's face when they taste great bread they have made themselves.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Publishing my first book Dough was a great personal milestone. It was wonderful to see my recipes in a book form and to be able to share them with a wider audience. And then more recently winning the BBC Food Champion award was a fantastic honour particularly as it is voted for by the public. It was a complete shock and I was thrilled that customers felt motivated to write about their experiences at our cookery school.

What is your favourite thing to bake and why? 

I think it has to be our signature sourdough loaf.  The crusts sing as they come out of the oven and cool and it never ceases to excite me.

What do you see as the next big thing in food?

I think we will all be talking about the issue of Trust for the next few years. The horsemeat scandal has really shaken people's faith in our food producers and we need to win it back. We need to engage customers in a dialogue and ensure we can show the provenence of our products.

What are your plans for the future?

Well I am just starting work on my next book so that will take up a bit of time over the next few months and hopefully will come out next year. The cookery school has an amazing programme lined up for the autumn with Angela Hartnett, Nathan Outlaw, William Curley and Mat Follas all coming to teach guest chef classes so that will keep me busy too. And we have a rolling programme of development of new products for the bakery so do make sure you are signed up to our newsletter for all the latest announcements.

Aside from your own bakeries (of course!) what is your current favourite shop, café or restaurant?

I love Mitch Tonk's SeaHorse reastaurant down on the south coast - I am trying to find a free weekend to take Jo and the kids down to take them there but things are a bit busy at the moment so I think it will have to wait until later in the year. We also ate at the River Cafe a week or two ago - the food was wonderful  - its such a classic but doing great things. Locally I have had great meals recently at both the Pony & Trap in Chew Magna (south of Bristol) and the Pumphouse in Bristol.

What piece of kitchen equipment could you not do without?

My dough scraper.  Brilliant for bread.  Brilliant for cleaning a frosty car winscreen!!

What are the most common mistakes people make when baking?

Not putting enough water in the dough or compromising the recipe by adding flour or oil to the table when working the dough.

What single thing should everyone learn to bake?

A basic white dough is the place to start - turning it into a fougasse for instant gratification and a white tin loaf as it is the bread that most people use more than anything else.

What tip would you give to aspiring home bakers?

Practice makes perfect and remember to show the dough who is boss!

To find out more about the Bertinet Bakery and Cookery School, including information on booking classes, please visit