Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Dougel's Doughnut Bagels

To those who think they know him Dougel is a man with few vices. His body is a temple, his mind a solemn sanctuary. Restrained, temperate, even monastic he seems an example of clean and virtuous living. But behind closed doors Dougel is very different indeed. He delights in the decadent and shamelessly indulges in the immoral. His Hyde side craves all things saccharine and his favourite by far are these obscenely delicious Doughnut Bagels, spread thick with one of the jams, butters or curds he keeps well hidden. He confessed all to me one late evening, three leaves to the wind on the finest artisan tea and now my friend, I share the recipe with you.

Prep time: 25 Mins (Plus 90 Mins proving time)
Baking time: 25 Mins (Plus poaching time)
15g Fresh Yeast
30g Caster Sugar
100ml Tepid Water
300g Very Strong White Bread Flour
100ml Warm Milk
1 Large Egg Yolk

For poaching liquid
A large pan of boiling water
2tbsp Caster Sugar

For sugar crust
75g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
125g Caster Sugar

To finish
25g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
1tbsp Caster Sugar

If you've never made a sweet dough before, this is a great fun one to try. Begin by crumbling the fresh yeast into a large bowl, along with the 30g of caster sugar. Add the tepid water and mix together with a mini whisk or fork. Add the flour, warm milk and egg yolk, then mix with a wooden spoon to a loose dough. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 7 minutes, stretching the dough, folding it back on itself, rotating by a quarter and repeating. The dough will start off very sticky but will come together if you keep faith and keep kneading. You can add a little more flour if you feel you must, but try to avoid this unless absolutely necessary. When the dough has become smooth and elastic, transfer to a large clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for around 90 minutes, until risen.

Remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a lightly greased surface. Press your fingers all over the dough to knock air from it, then divide into four. Fill a large saucepan (or ideally a deep sided large chefs pan) with water and the 2tbsp of caster sugar, then bring to the boil and simmer. At the same time preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. For each ball of dough shape into a round, then with the greased handle of a wooden spoon pierce a hole in each. Stretch the hole out so you are left with a round doughnut shape and place into the simmering water. You may have to do this in batches of two to avoid crowding the pan. Poach for around 1-2 minutes, until puffed up then carefully turn over in the water (mind your fingers!) and leave for a further 1-2 minutes.

While the bagels are poaching you can melt the 75g of butter. When it has melted place in wide shallow bowl and in a separate bowl, tip in the sugar. When the bagels have poached on both sides and puffed up, lift them out of the water with a fish slice, draining any excess water. Place in the melted butter and flip over, covering the bagel entirely in butter. Remove from the butter, do the same with the sugar, then place on a large flat baking sheet lined with baking paper. Repeat the process for the rest of the bagels.

Once all bagels have been poached, coated in both butter then sugar and placed on the baking paper you can bake them in the centre of the oven for around 25 minutes, until crisp on top and golden brown. When you are happy they are baked remove them from the oven, peel carefully from the paper and place on a wire rack. Using the final 25g of melted butter brush lightly over the top of each bagel, then sprinkle with the last 1tbsp of sugar. Naughty? Possibly. Delicious? Definitely!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Joel Robuchon

What can one say about Joel Robuchon that hasn't already been said? He is one of the world's best and most influential chefs, with a near unparalleled level of awards and accolades, including the prestigious title of "Chef of the Century" by the Gault Millau guide. He is both an artist and a pioneer, with restaurants around the world still gaining international acclaim. To be granted a moment of his time was a great honour and I was delighted to ask him just a few quick questions...

You are one of the world’s most acclaimed and influential chefs, but who has been the single biggest influence on your career?

Jean Delaveyne and Charles Barrier.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everyday I am in my restaurants and three weeks of every month I am travelling around the world, constantly looking for new flavours, new products and new techniques.

What is the process of turning an idea into a finished dish?

I always start by not mixing too many flavours, using good healthy produce.

You have opened restaurants all over the world. Describe the dining experience at your restaurants.

We always respect the produce and treat it well. Quality comes first and customer satisfaction with the best food, that is simple and healthy.

What single piece of advice would you give to new or aspiring chefs?

Cook with love, as you would for your mother or girlfriend.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see with new chefs coming into your kitchens?

Not respecting the principles stated above. Wanting food to be too complicated or sophisticated.

What do you like about British cuisine?

London, where all cuisines from around the world have permeated into British cuisine today.

In what areas do you think British food culture could improve?

It is constantly improving in all areas.

What UK chefs and restaurants are you a fan of?

I do not want to fall out with my friends!

What do you enjoy cooking at home?

The best products at the best time in the season.

How do you like to relax when you are away from the kitchen?

I like to go to Spain and rest every day at Peñón de Ifach, to recharge my batteries.

For more information about Chef Robuchon or his restaurant, please visit

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Hidden Chocolate Slices

In my business appearances can be deceiving and more often than not a scrumptious surprise lurks mischievously under the surface of even the most plain and unassuming exteriors. I love being able to share what I have made with others and the moment when friends and family experience that little unexpected treat is absolutely one of my favourite things about home baking. It starts with the initial anticipation, maybe a clue or two just to tease. Then comes the reveal, the surprise. What follows is curiosity, a touch of nervous excitement, maybe even hesitation. Finally, the sweet satisfaction and unadulterated pleasure of tasting what has been lovingly prepared. With the all that is occurring in the world one can be forgiven for becoming jaded, cynical even and it's these little moments of amusement, revelry and everyday indulgence that in my humble opinion, make life worth living.

These "hidden" chocolate slices are a perfect example. For this one you will be required to basically make two separate chocolate cake mixes, one dark and one white. You then envelope the dark chocolate mixture with its white chocolate counterpart. The result is a rich golden sponge with a dark and decadent chocolate fudge filling. Although I have labelled them slices, you actually bake them as you would a cake, in a round 20cm tin. You could use a square tin if you prefer, but I think serving them in little points makes a nice change.

Prep time: 25 mins
Baking time: 30-35 mins
For the Dark Mixture
100g Dark Chocolate (Cut into squares)
45g Unsalted Butter (Cut into cubes)
110g Caster Sugar

For the White Mixture
100g White Chocolate (Cut into squares)
45g Unsalted Butter (Cut into cubes)
110g Caster Sugar

3 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4tsp Salt
50g Plain Flour

I'm afraid you will need a few bowls for this one, so I apologise in advance for the additional washing up.

Melt together the dark chocolate and 45g of butter in a microwave or bain-marie, then do the same with the white chocolate and remaining 45g of butter. Set both the one side for 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep loose bottomed tin and line with baking paper. Add the dark chocolate mixture to a clean mixing bowl and do them same with the white chocolate mixture (in a separate clean mixing bowl). Add the sugar to each and mix to combine. This would be a good one for any of you ambidextrous bakers!

Mix the vanilla extract with the beaten egg, add just over half to the white chocolate mixture and the rest to the dark, then beat in until smooth and glossy. To clarify I weighed my eggs at 175g, so added 100g to the white mixture and the remaining 75g to the dark. Mix together the flour and salt, then add half to each of your chocolate batters. Fold through until evenly combined.

Spoon the dark chocolate mixture into the base of the tin and spread evenly to about half a centimetre away from the edge of the tin. Pour over the white chocolate mixture (It should be a little looser) and bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and a metal skewer comes out slightly sticky when inserted into the middle of the cake. Leave in the tin for around 30 minutes to cool, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack, removing any baking paper. Leave to cool completely, then slice and serve. Your work is done.

Friday, 13 September 2013

My Baking Adventures - September 2013

Here is just some of what I've been making and baking over the last month or so. Most of the recipes are on the blog, but if you have any questions or comments (or just want to say hello), then don't hesitate to get in touch...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Plum and Almond Pudding Cake

Picture the scene if you will. You return home weary from a morning of adventures, only to discover that you have promised your afternoon to a veritable menagerie of colleagues, consorts and confederates, all insatiable for only the finest afternoon tea and cake. Of course buying cake is simply out of the question, so it is for occasions as this when recipes such as my plum and almond pudding cake prove so invaluable.

The cake itself is beautifully romantic, with late summer stone fruit steeped in an exotic orange blossom water syrup, a soft and delicate almond sponge, lightly perfumed with orange zest and a biscuity, chewy topping with just the merest suggestion of marzipan. However it is also perfect for sharing with visitors, as you can prepare and bake the cake just before they arrive, filling the house with that wonderful, near intoxicating baking aroma. It then only needs to cool for an hour, leaving you time to entertain your newly arrived guests, regaling them with witty banter and thoughtful discourse, before serving warm with a dollop of custard or cold cream and without question, a pot of exquisite leaf tea.

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
For the fruit
4 Ripe Plums (Stoned, quartered and the quarters cut in half)
25g Light Muscovado Sugar
1tsp Orange Blossom Water

For the cake batter
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
150g Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Large Eggs
100g Ground Almonds
2tbsp Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
The zest of 1 Orange

For the topping
25g Plain Flour
25g Cold Unsalted Butter (Cut into small cubes)
25g Light Muscovado Sugar
25g Flaked Almond (Crushed)
1/2tsp Almond Extract

The first task is to prepare the fruit. Put the plums into a small saucepan with the 25g of sugar and orange blossom water. Turn on a low heat and leave, lid on for around ten minutes, until the plums have released their juices. Remove the lid and turn up the heat to medium for 4-5 minutes. Try to avoid stirring the fruit too much as it will then break up, but feel free to gently manoeuvre the pan in a circular motion occasionally to move the fruit around. Turn the heat up high for a final 1 minute until the juice has become syrupy, then remove from the heat and leave to one side whilst you continue with the cake batter.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep loose bottomed tin and line with baking paper. In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar, before beating in the eggs one at a time. Fold through the almonds, before sifting in the flour and baking paper and doing the same, along with the orange zest. Again, leave to one side so you can get on with the topping.

Speaking of which, take a clean bowl and add the remaining flour, butter, sugar, crushed almonds and almond extract. Rub it all together so the mixture is evenly combined and no lumps of butter remain. You should be left with little nuggets of the topping, which is exactly what you want.

Spoon the cake batter into your prepared tin and spread carefully to the edges. Spoon over the warm fruit and any remaining syrup, then evenly scatter the topping over (you've guessed it) the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 45-50 minutes, until the cake is a deep golden brown and a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are satisfied the cake is cooked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out, gently removing the paper and leave for an hour to cool on a wire rack until warm.

And that's your work done. The only problem with this cake is your guests will love it so much they will keep demanding more!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Chantal Coady

Chocolate. It needs no introduction. No words can really do it justice. It is all things to all people, from restoring and comforting to exotic and tantalising. It is seriously seductive and at times, yes I will say it, downright sexual, and from the sticky saccharine chocolate bars, to complex and challenging artisan creations there seems to a chocolate for everyone and every occasion. As you can guess it is one of my very favourite ingredients and I am so thankful to be able to have access to such an incredible, yet relatively affordable product. There are some wonderful chocolate shops in the UK, with an astonishing selection of beautiful chocolate treats and one of the very best is Rococo Chocolates.

Rococo was founded in 1983 by Chantal Coady and has been creating and supplying some of the finest chocolate ever since. They are one of the world’s best chocolate shops and not only invested in the creation of amazing artisan products, but also committed to doing so ethically, responsibly and sustainably. I hold the company in very high regard and was recently lucky enough to ask Chantal a few quick questions. So if you are a fan of chocolate (and who isn’t?) read on...

Rococo celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. How has your business developed over that time?

The chocolate scene has totally transformed in the UK over that time, and I would like to think that Rococo has played a part in bringing this country out of the “dark ages”. The business itself has gone from just selling Chocolates to making our own limited edition ganaches and becoming part owners of a small cocoa farm and organic cooperative on the island of Grenada. While we are still a 100% family owned business we now have 4 shops and employ around 50 people.

Why chocolate?

I have always loved chocolate, ever since I was a small child. Being one of five children, there was never quite enough of it as far as I was concerned! When I was a student I worked at Harrods, which had such an amazing range of chocolate, although I had a sense that something was missing from the experience of buying it in store. It was a gut feeling, I was sure that other people also wanted to have an "emotional transaction" when buying such a special treat...

What inspires you?

Roald Dahl & Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a huge part of my early dream. I love a good story! More recently its been Mott Green and the team of farmers and chocolate makers in Grenada.

Also, travel, culture, art & design, particularly Morocco for all the Moorish designs

You have a very strong and distinctive visual style. How did it originate?

My background is in design. I studied textiles & printmaking at Camberwell School of Art before opening Rococo.

Which of your many achievements have your been most proud of?

That's a tough one! Probably my children and the Rococo Family!

How do you come up with different flavour combinations?

There is no particular formula. Sometimes it's when I am travelling, or taking a classic recipe and giving it a Chocolate make over. Often its just a “light bulb” moment.

Which combinations have you tried that really didn't work?

It is very personal what works and what doesn't. A veteran French colleague commented on one of recipes that he found it too acidic. I love things to have zest and intense flavours, sometimes that might be more acidity rather than sweetness. While I respect the French opinion, I tend to go more for those sorts of flavours. I don't much like strawberry or cherry in a ganache. It’s hard to make them "sing".

What is currently your favourite chocolate bar to eat?

While we still have some definitely the Grococo bar. For me this bar is a dream come true, our own very first single estate bar, made from our own cocoa beans by the late Mott Green. It has notes of honey, fig, tobacco, tropical fruit, plum, hazelnut, and roast coffee. We decided on 66% as this is a great balance for the Trinitario beans, and it was the year Mott was born (he was a Fire Horse in the Chinese calendar). It is a great example of why 70% is not always the best indicator of quality. Of course it will never be made again by Mott, but we hope that we will do something similar.

What one chocolate recipe should everyone learn to make?

A really good mousse...

What advice would you give about cooking with chocolate?

Use the best quality you can afford. Always melt slowly and be careful when using microwaves or ill-fitting Bain-Marie's.

Don't fall for buying high percentage cocoa just for the numbers, as it may not taste great. Better to go for something lower made with better beans.

What's next for you and the business?

We tend to do things quite slowly, it’s important to get details right. Having said that we seem to have been doing a shop fit each year for the last 3 years. Right now we have for the very first time appointed an "outsider" Richard Larkin as MD, and that means that (husband) James will step back and become Chairman. One of our first priorities is getting really good systems in place so we can look at growing in new territories. Without good information it’s hard to make informed decisions.

For more information about Rococo Chocolates, or to buy online please visit

Monday, 2 September 2013

Fig and Date Upside Down Tart

As a baking fanatic my store cupboards always seem to be littered with the leftovers of my previous exploits, be it a handful of dried fruit or the remains of a bag of flour. I am always quite rightfully begrudged to discard even small amounts of any ingredients I've invested in, so it's always good to have a few recipes that only require the bare minimum of each individual component.

Take this tart for example. If I do say so myself it is a stunning creation, with a crisp flaky pastry top/bottom and sweet, sticky and syrupy bottom/top. It is definitely more than a sum of its meagre parts, with no more than 100g used of any of the contributing ingredients, from the handful of dates leftover from a recent tea loaf, to the dregs from a bottle of rum remaining after a night of, well I forget exactly.

As austere as this tart may seem it is a real beauty to both serve and to make. Everything from creating the flaky pastry to the fragrant syrup is a pleasure and such a satisfying way to spend a few hours. I cannot sing its praises highly enough.

Oh and one final thing. You may have noticed this one pays more than a passing resemblance to the traditional French Tarte Tatin. You can call it whatever you like, but as an English gent I am sticking with Upside Down Tart, served not with crème anglaise, but thick custard...

Prep time: 2 Hours
Baking time: 35 Mins
For the pastry
50g Unsalted Butter (Cold and cut into small cubes)
100g Plain Flour
1/2tbsp Icing Sugar
Around 3tbsp of Cold Water

For the filling
2 Figs
3-4 Medjool Dates (Pitted)
50g Unsalted Butter
100g Golden Syrup
1/2tbsp Rum
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
Demerara Sugar (A sprinkling)

The first job is to make the pastry, which although takes some time is still great fun. Add the cubed butter to a bowl, followed by the flour and icing sugar. With a flat bladed knife gently mix the butter around in the flour mixture, just to coat the butter with the flour. Add the water and keep working with the knife until it starts to come together to a very loose dough. You may need slightly more or less water, but I've found around 3tbsp is usually enough. At this stage get your hands in and bring together. You should find that you have a soft dough with chunks of butter visible. This is a very good thing as it's these pockets of butter than create the flaky finish. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a floured surface. Roll out to a thin rectangle, fold each end towards the middle, then over again in half. Turn by a quarter and do the same again, then pat off any excess flour, wrap again in cling film and place in the fridge for 15 minutes. You then need to repeat this process 2 more times, taking care not to use too much flour each time.

When the dough is resting in the fridge for the final 15 minutes you can start on the filling. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and grab a 20cm solid (not loose bottomed) sandwich tin. If you don't have one you can pick them up in supermarkets or department stores for only a few pounds. Cut the figs into eight and arrange around the base of the pan (you don't need to grease it), then roughly chop the dates and place between the figs, filling any gaps. Add the butter, syrup, rum and vanilla to a small saucepan and leave on a very low heat, stirring occasionally until the butter has melted into the syrup. Give it one final stir then pour over the fruit.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to a large circle, slightly larger the the diameter of the tin. You may have a few scraps of pastry left over, so keep those to one side. Lay the pastry over the top of the fruit and tuck in all around the edges. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and place in the oven for around 35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and a nice golden brown in colour. Remove from the oven, then carefully upturn onto your serving plate, ready for your by now salivating guests.

One final point, if you do have any scraps of pastry left over, squeeze them together into a small ball, then roll out to a thin rectangle on a floured surface. Dust all over with cinnamon and caster sugar, roll up, and slice into rounds. Place on a tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle over a little more sugar and bake in the oven at 190C/375F/Gas 5 for around 15 minutes. You'll then have some little pastry biscuits to serve with tea and coffee. Bonus!