Monday, 28 April 2014

Treacle Flaps

After recent success utilising hot cross bun breadcrumbs as a single part of a greater whole, it may have been sensible to quit whilst I was ahead. Being sensible however, is not a quality often associated with myself, so with my usual reckless abandon I have again come up with another unconventional option for using up any buns that (heaven forbid) may be going to waste.

These bite sized beauties are a marriage of two of my very favourite sweet treats, treacle tart and flapjacks. The oats provide a beautifully biscuity yet chewy flapjack crust, but this then yields to a soft and syrupy centre reminiscent of a treacle tart. The buns themselves will usually add a gentle spice but I supplement this with just a hint of lemon and nutmeg. Of course you may tinker with these elements as you see fit. I personally believe a good wallop of ginger would work very well indeed!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
275g Unsalted Butter (Cut into cubes)
220g Golden Syrup
75g Light Muscovado Sugar
225g Jumbo Oats
2 (Around 150g) Hot Crossed Buns, blitzed to breadcrumbs
1tsp Ground Nutmeg
The zest of 1 Lemon

This one is so easy and terrific fun! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 21cm square baking tin with baking paper. If you can, try and use a single piece of baking paper to line your tin. Place the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a large saucepan and place on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Whilst that is doing its thing mix together the oats, breadcrumbs, nutmeg and lemon zest. When the syrup has become smooth and unctuous, add the oat mixture and stir together, still on the low heat. When the mixture is nice and consistent turn the heat off, tip into your prepared tin and press to the edges. It will still seem quite syrupy but this is money in the bank I promise!

Place the tin in the centre of the oven and bake for around 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and slightly springy to the touch. When you are happy, remove from the oven, leave the baked mixture in the tin for 30 minutes, then carefully lift the paper (along with its contents) from the tin and leave on a wire rack.

Once cool slice into squares and peel from the paper. Your work is complete, so why not have a flap or two to celebrate!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Hot Cross Bun Cake

Be it crossed or otherwise I love making the spiced, sweetened and richly fruited buns that are in such abundance at this time of year, so much so that I often find myself with a surplus. As I am always begrudged to let any of my creations go to waste, I thought it would be fun to try and come up with an interesting (and of course delicious) alternative to my usual options for any buns at risk of going stale, which previously had been either frozen or turned into bread pudding. This cake uses the breadcrumbs from a pair of hot cross buns in place of flour and is further enriched with caramelly light muscovado sugar, ground nuts and little extra hit of citrus and spice. It is packed with flavour and texture, with a syrupy crumb yielding to warming spices, toasty nuts and just a hint of orange. It at once feels curiously complex, yet wholesome and satisfying, so much so that I will no doubt be baking an excess of buns next time just so I can make it again!

Before we begin it is worth noting that there is a great deal of room for manoeuvre when it comes to the ingredients you use, be it the nuts, spices or even the bread itself. You could even make it completely dairy free if you choose a simpler sweet bread. Just let your imagination be your guide!

2 Hot Cross or Fruit Buns (Around 150g)
100g Walnuts
100g Pecans
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
1tsp Mixed Spice
The zest of 1 Orange
5 Large Eggs (Beaten)
2tbsp Golden Syrup (Warm)

Begin by preheating the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5, greasing a 20cm deep, loose bottomed baking tin and lining it with baking paper. Also, you'll need to grab your mini-chopper/food processor/blitzer out of the cupboard. Using your mini-chopper whiz each bun to bread crumbs, then place into a large bowl. Toss each of the nuts into the mini-chopper and again give them a blast until they are loosely ground (Not finely, you'll want some lumps and bumps in there). Add them to the breadcrumbs, along with the sugar, spice and zest and give them a mix together. Add the eggs and mix to a evenly combined batter, then pour into your prepared tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove it from the oven, leave in the tin for 20 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin. Whilst the cake is still warm brush the golden syrup all over the top, then leave to cool completely. Finish by putting the kettle on, making yourself a lovely cup of leaf tea and treating yourself to a massive slice.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

My Baking Adventures - March/April 2014

Here's a quick peek at some of my recent baking adventures. I love reading all of your questions and comments so if you have any please don't hesitate to get in touch...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Chocolate Stormcloud Cake

Above Le Chateau du Boulanger the sky was black and the air thick with menace. As I retired to the kitchen the light whisper of rain had become a vicious rasp, thrashing against the windows and seemingly hell bent on clawing its way inside. My mood was one of mischief and my intention, to create a cake as dark and as unbridled as the night outside. What resulted was this. This unashamedly adult chocolate cake, using deep dark chocolate, bitter black coffee and roasted hazelnuts. This rapscalion of a chocolate cake, so rich and indulgent that but a sliver is enough to not merely seduce, but completely debauch. Quite simply put you must make this cake.

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 35 Mins
100g Dark (70-80%) Chocolate
120g Unsalted Butter
4 Large Eggs (Separated)
200g Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
3tbsp Black Coffee (At room temperature)
100g Roasted Hazelnuts (Chopped)
3tbsp Plain Flour

Icing sugar (To dust)

I concede that this one does require a variety of equipment, bowls and processes but fear not, the cake is a joy in its preparation.

Begin by melting together the chocolate and the butter. This can be done in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (known as a bain-marie) or in the microwave if you are confident in your timings. Once the chocolate and butter are melted together sit to one side to cool for ten minutes. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3, grease a 23cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper. Add the egg yolks, caster sugar, vanilla and black coffee to a large mixing bowl and whisk by hand. Add the chocolate mixture and continue whisking until evenly combined. Using a mini-chopper blitz the nuts until roughly ground and just starting to release their oil, then tip into a small bowl and stir through the plain flour.

In a fresh, very clean bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and holding their shape. Add a third of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture and fold through gently to combine. Add a third of the nuts/flour and do the same, then repeat for the other two thirds until you are left with a velvety batter studded with tiny flecks of ground nuts. Carefully pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 35 minutes, until the top has started to crack and a metal skewer comes out slightly sticky when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy it is baked removed from the oven, leave in the tin for 60 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool place in a sealed container and chill in the fridge for at least 60 minutes prior to serving. I find this gives the cake an incredibly rich and fudgy texture. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.

This one is an absolutely filthy cake so why not go all the way and break out the thick double cream!

Monday, 7 April 2014


Meringues are somewhat en vogue at the moment, with many the modish patisserie choosing to embellish their windows with tempting piles of these delicate and delicious beauties. This is for good reason, as despite utilising but a few ingredients and simple techniques they feel inherently sophisticated and luxurious. Light and crisp on the outside, yielding to a soft and chewy centre they are of course saccharine sweet, but are a fantastic base for a veritable kaleidoscope of flavours, aromas and even textures. The trick I find is to warm the caster sugar in the oven prior to whisking it through the egg whites, which gives the finished meringue a wonderful marshmallowy texture. Just have fun with all the whisking, mixing and shaping, as the process should be as much about whimsy as the finished article!

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 65 - 70 Mins
5 Large Egg Whites
200g Caster Sugar
100g Icing Sugar
A dash of flavouring (Such as vanilla, rose water or orange blossom)

Begin by preheating the oven to 140C/2755/Gas 1 and lining a large flat baking sheet with baking parchment. Once the oven has warmed spread the caster sugar over the parchment and place in the centre of the oven for around 5-7 minutes to warm through. At the same time add the egg whites to a large, clean mixing bowl and whisk until they are light, fluffy and hold their shape. Remove the warmed caster sugar from the oven, add a little of it to the mixture and whisk again, this time on a higher speed. Keep slowly adding the warm sugar and whisking, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Sift in half of the icing sugar, gently fold through with a metal spoon until combined then add the other half, along with your flavouring and continue folding. How much flavouring you add depends on your preference, but if in doubt restraint is always advisable. Be as gentle as you can folding the mixture but be sure there are no powdery lumps before proceeding.

Line two more large flat baking sheets with baking parchment. Take a large spoonful of the mixture and carefully dollop onto the parchment. You can be creative with the shaping, as long as you don't spread the mixture too thinly and making sure you can fit 5-6 meringues on each baking sheet. Repeat for the rest of the mixture then bake in the centre of the oven for 65-70 minutes, until they are a very pale golden and feel dry and crisp on the outside. When you are happy they are baked remove them from the oven, leave on the tray for 15-20 minutes, then carefully remove from the paper and leave to cool completely on the wire rack. You have finished, so time to break out the chopped nuts, cream, ice cream, fresh fruit, melted chocolate, or all of the above!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Rhubarb and Custard Tart

Some of my most favourite recipes are born as much from opportunity as they are from any sort of creative 'process'. This one for instance began life as trifle ingredients remaining after what can only be described as a jelly calamity. Vexed as to what to do with the bounty of ingredients remaining I thought I'd try out my own recipe for a rhubarb and custard tart. The result is not only a beautiful combination of creamy, fragrant custard, tart rhubarb and crumbly, biscuity pastry, but a fantastic opportunity to practice an array of enjoyable techniques, from roasting, to pastry, to custard making. In fact I would even go as far as to say this recipe is the perfect introduction to some relatively simple skills that will stand you in very good stead for the future...

Prep time: Err well... best to give yourself the afternoon!
Baking time: 30 Mins (Rhubarb), 15 + 30-35 Mins (Tart)
For the Roast Rhubarb
400g Fresh Rhubarb (Cleaned and trimmed)
4tbsp Caster Sugar
The juice of half a juicy Lemon

For the Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
115g Unsalted Butter (Cubed and at room temperature)
200g Plain Flour
20g Icing Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
2-4tsp Cold Water

For the Custard
400ml Whipping Cream
A large, sticky Vanilla Pod
4 Egg Yolks
2 Large Eggs
50g Caster Sugar

The first task is to prepare the rhubarb, so preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Chop the rhubarb into little nuggets, no more than 2cm thick and in a clean bowl mix together with the caster sugar and lemon juice. Place the coasted rhubarb spaced out into a large glass, oven proof dish, then spoon over any leftover sugary syrup. Loosely cover with foil (Don't let the foil touch the rhubarb), then roast in the centre of the oven for around 30 mins, until the rhubarb is a light pink and soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave in the dish until warm.

For the pastry, rub the butter into the flour, then add the icing sugar and egg yolk. Add 2tsp of cold water, then bring the ingredients together to a loose dough. You can add a little more water if necessary. Tip the loose dough out onto a clean dry surface, then work together for a minute until smooth and soft. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 mins to chill.

When the dough has had time the fun can really begin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 5, place a flat baking tray in the oven and lightly grease a 20cm sandwich cake tin. I prefer using one of the these to a tart tin as it allows for a nice deep filling. Remove the dough from the fridge, leave for 10 minutes to warm up, then on a lightly floured surface roll out to a large circle, big enough to fill the tin with a border around the edge. Carefully transfer the dough to the tin and gently press to edges. As I mentioned before you want to leave a small border around the lip of the tin just in case you experience unexpected shrinkage. You may have some pastry leftover, which is absolutely fine as you can use it if any cracks appear during blind baking. Speaking of which, line the the pastry with some crumpled baking paper, fill with baking beans, place on the hot tray and blind bake in the centre of the oven for around 13-15 minutes, before removing the beans and paper and returning to the oven for a further 2 minutes to dry out. Remove from the oven and set to one side. You can repair any cracks with the dough you have left over. Incidentally I use a hot tray as I think it helps cook the base thoroughly, as well as makes it easier to remove the tin from the oven.

Reduce the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan, then split a vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add the lot to the cream. Turn the heat on low and warm through until just starting to steam. You don't want it to boil. Whilst this is slowly warming, remove the rhubarb from the syrupy juice it will be steeping in (you can use a fork for this) and place on the cooked based. You can pour the leftover syrup into a jar for later. In a clean bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar. When the vanilla cream is hot tip it over the eggs, keep whisking, then pour into the pastry case (You can remove the vanilla pod at this stage). Keeping it on the baking tray, return to the oven for around 30-35 mins until just set to a wobble and browning on top, then remove and leave to cool to room temperature. Using a sharp knife carefully trim any excess pastry from the edge of the tart, then place in a sealed container and leave to chill in the fridge for at least two hours.

To finish, carefully remove from the tin, slice and serve with a little drizzle of the leftover rhubarb syrup. This one may take a bit of time but I assure you, it is well worth the effort.