Episode 31: Hot Water Crust Pasties (plus The Best Bakewell Pudding and more)

This week I tried out hot water crust pastry for the first time, making mushroom pasties.

Mushroom and Tarragon Pasties

Mushroom Pasty

I used this recipe from Ruby Tandoh and reviewed it on the podcast!

I used my leftover rough puff/ flaky pastry from last week’s episode to make the most incredible bakewell pudding. I also did some goodbye baking as I’m changing jobs, including a chocolate sheet cake with a mascarpone icing and a vegan banana cake with pecans and chocolate. A vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe is being refined, I’m not 100% happy with it although it did please a lot of young people.

The Best Bakewell Pudding Recipe

Sorry for naff photo!

This got RAVE reviews at work, from my partner, and I also thought this was one of the tastiest things I have ever made. I usually opt for a shortcrust pastry but the flaky pastry (which apparently makes this a pudding rather than a tart?!) was absolutely INCREDIBLE. So crisp and buttery. The fresh cherries also went jammy during baking and made the filling a little bit gooey. Trust me on this and see for yourself. Best eaten within 24 hours but my partner ate some the day after this and didn’t complain!

  • 330g home made rough puff/ pastry flaky pastry (see last week’s recipe)
  • 150g soft salted butter, plus some to grease the dish (if using unsalted, add a pinch of salt)
  • 150g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated is probably fine!)
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 UK large egg (US extra large / c. 60g in weight)
  • A handful of flaked almonds to decorate (optional)
  • A few tbsp cherry preserve or cherry jam (I used Bonne Maman)
  • About 100g fresh cherries, halved and pitted
  • Flour, for dusting
  1. Butter a large pie dish. (Mine was a 27cm / 10.5 in Pyrex glass dish.) Lightly dust a clean work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the pastry to a few millimetres thick so it will fit inside the pie dish. Leave a couple of millimetres extra at the top of the sides as it will shrink when baking. Prick the bottom with a fork about 6 times. Cover and refrigerate for half an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 170 fan / 375F / gas 5. Scrunch up a large sheet of baking paper so it will completely cover the bottom and sides of the pastry with some overhang. Place over the pastry and then fill with baking beans or dried pulses. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully tip out the baking beans into a bowl. Return the pie crust to the oven to dry out for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. If the crust has any air bubbles, gently press them down with the back of a spoon.
  3. Turn the oven down to 180C / 160C fan / 350F / gas 4. Beat the butter and sugar for a minute. Add the egg and a spoon of the almonds and beat in. Add the remaining almonds, the almond extract and the baking powder and combine.
  4. Spread cherry jam over the bottom of the crust until there are no gaps (but you don’t want too thick a layer). Fill with the almond mixture. Place the cherries on top in an even manner. (They will sink but it’s easier to put them in at this point!) Bake for about 30 minutes, then check if it is done or needs longer by putting a skewer in the middle. Scatter over the flaked almonds, if using, and return for a further 10 minutes if it’s still liquidy. Check again. Mine needed 40-45 minutes if I remember correctly, but I baked it until just set, which gave a perfectly gooey filling. Leave to cool in the dish until almost room temperature, then place on a wire rack to cool further. Cooling it fully ensures a great texture, but you can warm slices in the oven before serving, if you like.

Feed-A-Crowd Chocolate Sheet Cake with Mascarpone Icing

I’m guessing most of us still aren’t baking for crowds, but maybe in the coming months or year we will be able to. This makes two sheet cakes in foil roasting tins 36x26cm / 15x10in, serving 24(!) people. Mine were a little too thin so I’ve upped the eggs to 6. For this amount of mixture I’d recommend using a stand mixer, if you have one. The icing got a lot of compliments and recipe requests. To me it had a mellow, not-too-sweet white chocolate kind of flavour, which I think must be the vanilla and the creaminess. This balances perfectly with the tartness of fresh raspberries!

  • 6 UK large/ US extra large eggs (360g)
  • 90g Dutch-processed, high quality cocoa (I use Green and Black’s)
  • 270g plain/ AP flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 360g light brown sugar
  • 360g soft salted butter (or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
  • 150g double/ heavy cream
  • 150g strong cold coffee
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar

For the icing: 500g mascarpone, 125g icing sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar

For the top: 300g fresh raspberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / 350 F / gas 4. Line the foil roasting tins with baking paper. Some overhang is fine or even good.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and combine after each addition. Add the flour and combine. Add the cream, coffee and vanilla and combine.
  3. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, and then check to see if it’s set. If it’s still liquidy, return to the oven for 5 minutes or so, then check again. Mine took about 20-25 minutes.

To make the icing, simply plop all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Spread over completely cooled cakes. Just before serving, scatter over the raspberries.

Vegan Banana Cake with Dark Chocolate and Pecans

Vegan banana, chocolate and pecan cake

Adapted from a recipe in The Quick Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer. This cake is much lighter than a classic banana bread and so low in refined sugar I ate it guilt-free for breakfast the next day. (Not sure anyone medically qualified would agree with this!)

  • 300g banana flesh (about 3 medium bananas)
  • 70g olive oil
  • 80g light brown sugar
  • 90g orange or clementine juice (you could also add the zest, if using fresh oranges)
  • 250g plain / AP flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder (I know it sounds like a lot but it didn’t turn out soapy)
  • 100g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate (check it’s vegan if you need to), chopped or broken up
  • 100g pecans, broken up
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / 350F / gas 4. Line a small-ish roasting or baking dish (20x15cm / 8x6in) with baking paper, leaving some overhang.
  2. Break up the bananas into your mixing bowl. Whisk with the oil and sugar until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and combine.
  3. Tip into the roasting dish. Scatter over the chocolate then the pecans. Bake for 20 minutes, then check with the skewer test. If it’s still liquidy, pop back into the oven for a few minutes, then check again. Leave to cool in the tin for a good while before using the baking paper to transfer it to a wire rack to cool further. Keeps for a couple of days in an airtight container but probably would stale quickly after this.

Episode 29: Passion Fruit Cream Choux Puffs

This week I was trying to hone my pastry skills with two technical bakes: passion fruit cream puffs and Danish pastry cream envelopes. I also made a really, really simple and quick comforting chocolate dessert cake. In the podcast I give a (pretty comprehensive) guide to British baking terms and ingredients!

Passion Fruit Cream Choux Puffs. Topped here with toasted flaked almonds.

Choux Pastry Recipe

  • 50g butter (salted or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
  • 80ml whole milk (3.5% fat) AND 80ml water (OR 160ml 2% / semi-skimmed milk)
  • 65g plain flour
  • 2 UK large / US extra large eggs (c. 120g in their shells)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / 390 F / gas 6. Stick down a sheet of baking parchment on a large baking tray with a little butter to hold it down.
  2. Put the butter, milk, water (and salt, if needed) in a small pan. Heat together until steaming.
  3. Add the flour all in one go. Beat with a spatula or wooden spoon, keeping the pan on the heat, for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Take off from the heat and leave for 5 minutes. You could transfer to a bowl to make this slightly faster. Beat the eggs in a separate cup or small bowl. Beat them in gradually, using a wire whisk from halfway through. The texture should be a “resistant drop”, forming a triangle shape when you hold the spatula horizontal to the bowl before dropping after a couple of seconds.
  5. Spoon into a plastic piping bag, then snip the end off to a width of 1 cm / just under 1/2 an inch. (Alternatively, you could use a nozzle of the same size and a better-for-the-planet renewable piping bag.) In a pinch you can use a plastic ziplock / thick sandwich bag instead of a piping bag.
  6. Pipe about 10-12 circular puffs, leaving a few cm (a couple of inches) between each one so there is room for them to expand in the oven.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down to 180C/ 160 fan / 350 F / gas 4 and bake for a further 15 minutes. Do not open the oven door, especially not in the first 20 minutes of baking. They need to be really crisp and golden brown- don’t be afraid to leave them in a couple of minutes longer if you’re unsure, as long as they aren’t on the edge of burning!
  8. Remove from the oven. Leave to cool for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack. As soon as you are able to do so without horribly burning yourself, slice them open carefully with a serrated (bread) knife about 2/3 of the way up. Place the tops next to the bottoms. The bottoms should be upright to allow steam to escape.

Creme Patissiere Recipe

Makes about double the quantity needed for pastries or puffs!

  • 300ml whole (3.5%) milk
  • The yolks of 3-4 large eggs (UK large or US extra large, or you can weigh the yolks – you want 60-80g yolk.) (To get a lovely yellow, you want really high quality eggs that have a rich orange yolk. In Britain, St Ewe’s eggs and Clarence Court Mabel Pearlman eggs are ideal.)
  • 45g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated should work fine too)
  • 3 tbsp / 25g cornflour
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  1. Heat the milk until steaming. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar for 4-5 minutes until very light and creamy, then whisk in the cornflour. (You do need a stand mixer or electric beaters for this bit, unless you’re Popeye.) Scrape down the sides and around the bottom, especially if you’re using a stand mixer.
  2. Very gradually add the hot milk by pouring it down the side of the bowl while whisking slowly. You have to whisk constantly The easiest way to do this is with a stand mixer on low speed but you can absolutely do this by hand. (Don’t whisk on a high setting, as it will get unmanageably frothy.) Return to the sauce pan and put back on the heat, stirring constantly with a spatula. After a few minutes you will notice it suddenly starts to thicken – that’s the starch molecules bursting and it will make the cream very gelatinous, very quickly! Keep stirring until you have an even consistency (you may want to take it off the heat after it’s mostly thickened).
  3. Transfer to a small heatproof bowl, cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming, and leave to cool. When it’s at room temperature, pop into the fridge until you’re ready to use it. You can loosen it up by giving it a good stir. I’ve found this method very reliable, but if you do have any lumps, you can knock them out with a hand blender.

(Passion Fruit) Creme Chiboust Recipe

Creme chiboust is literally just pastry cream and whipped cream mixed together. Make a creme patissiere as above, and add about 250g whipped double / heavy cream (c. 48% fat) to this. In this instance I used slightly more – 300ml/ 290g. I found it fine to whisk it in gently, but recipes usually suggest folding it in after loosening up your creme pat by giving it a beat or whisk on its own. To make it passion fruit, cut about 6 wrinkly passion fruit in half and scrape out the filling into a sieve over a bowl. Leave to strain. Stir and press to strain more juice. Stir this in with the whipped cream. You can, of course, leave in or use some of the seeds, it’s just my preference that I’m not keen on them!

Danish Pastry Cream Envelopes

Pastry Cream Danish with a couple of raspberries

I made the danish pasty dough from Ruby Tandoh (link here). (I find that with my oven I need to bake at a lower temperature for the first 10 minutes.) I rolled out the dough, cut it into 12 squares, plopped a dessert spoon of creme patissiere in each and added a couple of raspberries on top before pinching two corners in to shape. (My shaping needs work!!!) Optionally, you could top with flaked almonds, change up the fruit, use jam, etc etc. I have plans to try making pastries with lemon curd, tinned apricots (which would make oranais aux abricots or abricotines) and many more variations.

Easy-Peasy Chocolate Studded Cakey Dessert

This is what I turn to when I need a comforting pudding fast. It’s based on something my Mum made when I was growing up.

  • 3 UK large / US extra large eggs (c. 180g in weight)
  • 180g room-temp butter (and a pinch of salt if the butter is unsalted)
  • 140g plain flour with 1/2 tsp baking powder or 140g self-raising flour (leave out the baking powder if you want it to be more fudgy!)
  • 40g cocoa powder (I used dutch-processed but natural is probably fine)
  • 180g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated is fine)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Around 200g broken up bits of chocolate- I like milk and white chocolate callets by Belcolade)

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350 F / 160C fan / gas 4. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add the flour, cocoa powder, vanilla and beat until just combined. Transfer to a small lined casserole dish. Bake for about 15 minutes until it passes the skewer test. Best served WARM!

Episode 28: Blue Cheese Pastry; Raspberry and Pistachio Meringue Cake

In this episode I was talking about a blue cheese pastry I’ve fallen in love with and a pistachio meringue cake I’ve made a couple of times now for very special occasions, including a friend’s micro-wedding this week!

Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Tart

The pear, walnut and blue cheese tart in all its glory. Sorry for the poor lighting!

Recipe by Anna Glover in Good Food’s Vegetarian Christmas, 2020

For the pastry:

  • 100g wholemeal flour (strong wholemeal and spelt wholemeal both work, too)
  • 100g plain/ all purpose flour (if using spelt wholemeal make this strong white flour)
  • 50g walnuts
  • 100g cold cubed butter
  • 1 egg (I found it works with both UK medium/ US large and UK large/ US extra large)
  • 50g hard crumbly blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola Piccante
  • A pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 3 UK large / US extra large eggs, 1 separated, egg white beaten (total weight c. 180g)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 125ml double cream (I’ve found I can use 150ml [ie. a whole small tub] and avoid waste)
  • 1 ripe pear, halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 50g hard crumbly blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola Piccante (I usually use more)
  • 40g walnut halves (I usually use more)
  • Butter for greasing the dish
  • Salt and pepper

To make the pastry: Put both flours and the walnuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely chopped. Add the butter and a pinch of salt, then pulse again until the mixture resembles damp sand. Add the egg and cheese and pulse together again until the mixture comes together in a ball. Add tiny drops of cold water to bring it together, if needed. (KH: I find if I use a medium egg I need to add water, but don’t if my egg is large.) Wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes.

Blind baking: Heat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / gas 6 / 390 F. Grease a 23cm tart dish with butter. Roll the pastry out on a work surface lightly dusted with plain flour to the thickness of a £1 coin (3.15 mm). Place into the dish, using the rolling pin as a transportation device if needed. Patch any cracks with off-cuts and press into the dish. Press the edge with the back of a knife. Prick the base with a fork, then line with a scrunched sheet of baking parchment and then baking beans/ dried pulses. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment. Glaze the inside of the pastry case with the reserved egg white. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until light golden and dry.

For the filling: Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan and fry the seasoned leeks until soft. Leave to cool. In a bowl or jug, whisk the two whole eggs, egg yolk, cream and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the pear slices in the base, then spoon the leeks on top. Scatter in the cheese and walnuts. Pour in the egg and cream mix. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set with a slight wobble in the centre.

Blue Cheese Pastry Straws

Blue cheese pastry straws

Make the pastry, as above, and roll out into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Scatter half with 50g blue cheese. Fold over and roll out again. Cut into strips. You could twist these if you like or cut them into fancy shapes. The pastry is very short so you may need to repair cracks now and then. Freeze. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 200C / 180 fan / gas 6 / 390 F for about 25-30 minutes. Best served with slices of fresh pear.

Raspberry and Pistachio Meringue Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Yes, this IS a lot of pistachios and very expensive to make, which is why I only do it for very special occasions! It’s incredibly delicious and not overly sweet. The meringue is chewy rather than crispy.

For the meringue layers:

  • 225g caster sugar
  • The whites of 6 UK large/ US extra large eggs (c. 240g egg white)
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 400g pistachios without shells
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 50g white chocolate (75g if you want to drizzle on top)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste
  • 250g mascarpone (fridge-cold)
  • 250g double/ heavy cream (c. 50% fat) (fridge-cold)
  • 50g icing sugar
  • c. 250g fresh raspberries

To make the meringue layers (I like to do this the day before):

  1. Roast the pistachios in a preheated low oven (325F / 160 C / 140 fan/ gas 3) for about 15-20 minutes until toasty all around. You may want to give them a stir halfway through to ensure an even roasty-toastiness. Leave to cool. Leave the oven on at the same temperature.
  2. Grease, line and grease again four 20cm/ 8 in round cake tins. (You need to grease the parchment paper in order for half the meringue to not just be stuck on there.) If you only have two of these tins, no worries – you can bake the meringues in batches, or you could draw out circles on to parchment, place on baking trays and grease the circles.
  3. Blitz 340g of the pistachios with 100g of the sugar in the food processor until pretty finely ground, while very much avoiding taking it too far and making a nut butter. (Reserve the remaining pistachios for decoration.)
  4. Whisk the egg whites, 125g of the sugar and the cream of tartar to the edge of stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold in the ground pistachio mixture, using a metal spoon and doing so in about 3 goes.
  6. Dollop gently into the tins, level (an offset spatula is very useful here) and bake for about 20 minutes in the same low oven (160 C / 140 fan / 325 F / gas 3).
  7. Leave to cool completely, then very gently transfer to a very airtight tin and leave overnight.
  8. Grind the reserved pistachios in the empty food processor bowl (you don’t really need to wash it out). Place in an airtight container and reserve for assembly.

For the filling – do this the morning of or a few hours before serving:

Melt the white chocolate and leave to cool. Whisk fridge-cold mascarpone and fridge-cold double cream with 50g of the white chocolate, vanilla paste and icing sugar. Place a meringue layer on the bottom and spread the cream with an offset spatula (or you could pipe it). Place another meringue layer and spread/pipe another layer of cream. Place the third meringue layer and spread/ pipe another layer of cream. Then put fresh raspberries on top of this. Top with the final meringue layer and a final thick layer of cream, then put more raspberries on top of this. Drizzle with the remaining white chocolate, if you like. Finally, scatter with the reserved ground pistachios.

Episode 27: Croissants, Pains au Chocolat and Blackcurrant Pastries

My first attempt at making these pastries! Please excuse the poor shaping and the under-bake on the croissants. ENTIRELY my fault for rushing!

I went back to my trusty copy of Crumb and the marvellous Ruby Tandoh for this! This dough you can use to make whatever breakfast pastries you like. I’m not going to write out the recipe as I didn’t make any changes. I thoroughly recommend buying her book, but otherwise here is her recipe republished. Here are my tips though if you decide to make this yourself!

  • Leave yourself plenty of time, take your time, and don’t rush. This is why some of my pastries were a bit underbaked.
  • Keep everything cold (until the second rise, or even through it if you choose to do this overnight)
  • Using instant/ fast-action yeast makes your life easier if you can get it
  • Read the instructions about shaping thoroughly. I find things like this really hard, maybe you won’t….
  • Pre-heat your oven really well so you get plenty of steam inside the pastries helping them rise nicely.
  • If you complete this, pat yourself on the back well done and enjoy. This really is a process!

Episode 26: Cute Chamomile Cupcakes

Four episodes in to Florals for Spring month… Am I converted to floral flavourings? I think I am! These chamomile cupcakes are really sweet little things. Though I think I was most taken with rose…

These cute little cake babies are based on a recipe in Ruby Tandoh’s book, Crumb. I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Ingredients

  • 225g butter
  • 160ml/g milk (I used whole/ high fat because yum)
  • 6 chamomile tea bags – plus one more to decorate the cakes (optional)
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs (UK large is c. 60g each)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 210g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 200-300g icing sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / 350F. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Put the butter, milk and the 6 tea bags in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, then set aside. After 5 minutes squeeze out and get rid of the tea bags. Leave to cool.

3. Beat the eggs and sugar for 3 minutes with an electric whisk until very light and airy. Pour 200g of the butter and milk mixture as well as the vanilla down the side of the bowl and fold in with a spatula. Sift the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl (or straight in if you prefer) and fold in in two goes, making sure there are no lumps.

4. Divide between the cases. Bake for 15 minutes. Check they are baked through by pressing the top gently of one of the cakes. It should be springy. Or you could do the skewer test. Stick it back in the oven for a few minutes if necessary. (I found 15 minutes to be about right.)

5. Put the remaining butter and milk mixture in a mixing bowl and refrigerate while the cakes are in the oven. When the cakes are out and have cooled, make an icing with the remaining butter and milk mixture by sifting in as much icing sugar as you need to get the desired consistency. You could use more butter as well if you would rather have a firmer icing: I found it was very much a runny icing. Sprinkle with great contents of the extra teabag to decorate, if desired.

Episode 25: Lemon Loaf with Elderflower Drizzle and Elderflower Cream

As part of Florals for Spring month I tried elderflower to see if I could actually like it. I don’t think I’m as sold on it as I am on rose, but I like it and I think it is a nice refreshing note in cocktails and ice lollies. I also liked it with lemon, in this cake, but found you need to dial back the lemon from a standard lemon drizzle cake so the elderflower isn’t overwhelmed. A convenient thing about using elderflower cordial is it’s already a syrup, so you can use just as it is to drizzle in cakes or to flavour cream.

This recipe is adapted from recipes by Ravneet Gill and Helen Goh (both fab bakers and wtiters). It made a nice change from the typical creaming butter and sugar method. I’m usually lazy about sifting flour, but because there’s a lot of folding, it’s actually important here to avoid pockets of it in the finished cake. It’s really reliable. For best results you want a really consistent, even oven temperature, so preheat the oven really well, if you can.

Lemon Loaf with Elderflower Drizzle and Elderflower Cream

For the cake:

  • 3 large eggs (UK large – c. 180g whole)
  • 225g caster/ superfine sugar
  • 150ml / 140g double cream
  • 75g butter
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • The zest of 1-2 lemons, depending on the size of lemon and how much you can get from them. (I do love a lemony cake, but if you want to taste the elderflower, don’t go overboard.)
  • 6 tbsp (90ml) elderflower cordial (I used Bottle Green)

For the cream: 150ml/ 140g double cream, 3 tbsp (45ml) elderflower cordial

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan/ 350F. Grease and line a 1lb /900g loaf tin. These seem to vary a lot, but the one I’ve had success with for cakes is light coloured and on the smaller side. (I now reserve my black loaf tin for bread duty.)

2. Zest the lemons and set aside. Weigh the flour and add the baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until very light and frothy and roughly tripled in volume.

4. Melt the butter in a small pan or the microwave. Stir in the cold cream. Heat again if necessary, very gently, so you have a barely warm but liquid mixture. (Too warm will scramble the eggs.)

5. Pour the butter and cream down the side of the bowl, then fold them, and the zest, in gently to the egg mixture with a spatula.

6. Sift in the flour mixture and fold in, in two goes.

7. Bake for 50 minutes or so, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

8. Take out of the oven and leave for 5-10 minutes. Stab all over, maybe about 12 or 15 times, with a skewer. Evenly pour over the elderflower cordial. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

9. To make the cream when you’re close to serving the cake, whip the cream on its own to soft peaks. Add the elderflower cordial and beat in until just combined.

Episode 24: Orange Blossom and Cinnamon Cupcakes (with Lemon Curd Icing)

In this episode, I talk about my favourite cookbook before getting into the orange blossom trials. I made two pretty bad bakes before arriving at this one! Orange blossom and cinnamon is a common combination in Moroccan cooking and really works. The lemon curd icing gives some citrus sharpness to compliment the warmth and fragrance of the cinnamon and orange blossom water.

Cake ingredients: 2 room temperature UK large eggs (c. 120g), 150g plain / AP flour, 150g caster (superfine, but granulated should be ok) sugar, 150g room temperature salted butter, 50g Greek or natural yogurt, 1 tsp orange blossom water (I think they vary a lot – I used Steenbergs), 1 scant tsp ground cinnamon, 1 scant tsp baking powder.

Icing ingredients: 75g icing / powdered sugar, 75g salted butter, 75g good lemon curd (I used Morrison’s The Best Sicilian and highly recommend it), 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (again, I used Steenbergs)

Cake method: Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake cases. Preheat oven to 180C / 160 fan/ 350F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg gradually – in at least two stages – combining really well each time. Add the flour, blossom water, cinnamon, baking powder and yogurt and whisk to combine but don’t overdo it. Bake for about 20 minutes or so until the cakes spring back when touched. Leave to cool completely before icing.

Icing method: Beat the butter on its own until lighter and fluffier with an electric hand whisk. Add the icing sugar and combine with a spoon first to stop the icing sugar coating your kitchen. Then beat this with the butter until fluffy. Add the lemon curd and beat in briefly to combine. Chill until needed. Use a small spatula to gently cap each cake with icing.

Episode 23: Earl Grey and Rose Tea Loaf (plus Hot Cross Buns and Chocolate Nests)

Welcome to Florals for Spring month! To start with, I shocked myself by actually liking rose when used delicately. According to colleagues (and me) this cake is well-balanced, delicious, moist and has an unctuous texture. If you definitely don’t like rose, I would urge you to use the vanilla variation. Adapted from Molly Baz.

Earl grey and rose tea loaf ❤

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 250g caster/superfine sugar (granulated probably fine too)
  • 190g vegetable oil
  • 235g full fat Greek yogurt, warmed to room temperature in the microwave
  • 3 tablespoons earl grey tea leaves (loose leaf or 4-5 high quality teabags)
  • 2 tsp rosewater (I used Steenbergs, I think they vary a lot) OR 1 tbsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 250g plain/ all purpose flour (or white spelt flour)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp of salt

Method

  1. Prepare a light-coloured standard loaf pan (2lb/ 900g) and preheat the oven to 160C/ 140 fan / 320 F / gas 3.
  2. Grind the earl grey in a pestle and mortar until fine.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until tripled in volume.
  4. Pour the oil, yogurt and rosewater/vanilla down the side and whisk in.
  5. Add the flour, salt, tea leaves, bicarb and baking powder and whisk or fold in.
  6. Transfer to the prepared loaf pan and bake for about an hour, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Hot Cross Buns

A tray of perfect chubby babies

It’s taken me a while to perfect these. So if it’s too late for this year, sorry! Definitely try them next year. This very enriched dough makes them ultra fluffy. If it’s easier for you to get hold of, you can substitute this spice blend for 2.5 tsp mixed spice and 1.5 tsp cinnamon. I do like my spices on the heavier side, so feel free to pare it down if you like.

Makes 12 generous buns

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 5g salt
  • 70g light brown soft sugar / caster sugar
  • 1 tsp mace
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • scant 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 8g instant (fast-action) yeast
  • 300ml tub single cream
  • 50g butter
  • 2 medium/ large eggs (UK medium is c. 50g, UK large is c. 60g)
  • 150g currants (or raisins/ sultanas)
  • 50g candied citrus peel
  • For the egg wash: 1 egg yolk and around 3 tsp egg white
  • For the crosses: 60g plain/ strong white flour, 70g tepid water

Method

1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, salt and spices. I use a dough whisk for this mixing stage but you can use a fork if not. Then add the yeast and mix through. (This is to prevent the salt from inhibiting the yeast.)

2. Gently melt the butter in a heat proof jug in the microwave. Tip in the cream and stir well to combine, then pop back in the microwave and heat to around body temperature, stirring well after each short burst. (Too hot will kill the yeast but warm will help it work a bit faster.)

3. Add the cream and butter mixture and the eggs. Mix together well, leaving no pockets of unmixed flour. Cover the bowl with a plate/ cling film/ shower cap and leave for about 30 minutes. This helps the flour absorb more liquid and gluten bonds will then start forming, leaving you with less kneading to do.

4. Add the currants and peel and knead until you can stretch out a few inches of dough and see light coming through them. (The windowpane test.) Ensure the fruit is as well incorporated as possible, but it can be tricky and it’s not your fault! Cover the bowl again and leave until doubled in size and very puffy. (Takes about an hour or longer in a cooler kitchen.)

5. Line a baking tray. Tear lumps off the dough of around 101-102g each and pop them on a plate or clean work surface. Once you’ve got those lumps all weighed, shape each bun. Pull dough from the centre up and over, turning as you go, until you have a taut ball. You could also scoop underneath and round to form even more surface tension. (This helps them keep their shape and puff up beautifully.) Cover with a light tea towel or cling film and leave until puffy. (This takes about 45 minutes or possibly longer in a cooler kitchen. You can also bung them in the fridge overnight as this slows the yeast down.)

6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to moderate (I do 180 C to avoid burning the bottoms of my buns, but you may be okay to bake at a higher temperature for less time.)

7. Make up your egg wash and cross mixture. Mix the egg yolk and 2-3 tsp egg white in a small cup or bowl. In a small mixing bowl, mix the flour and water for the crosses. You need a consistency that will come off the spoon easily but not be too runny. Tranfer to a small piping bag or plastic sandwich bag. Use straight away, or if you leave it too long you may need to add more water as the mixture will get drier.

7. Brush the egg wash on to the buns with a pastry brush. Once all the buns are egg washed, snip a small hole into your piping bag (or makeshift piping bag). Pipe vertical and horizontal lines over the buns to make crosses.

8. Bake for around 15-25 minutes depending on your baking temperature and oven. I turn mine around halfway through due to my oven being hotter on one side. Leave to cool on the baking tray for a while before transferring to a cooling rack. I just carefully slide everything off including the paper.

Note: These are best eaten within 24 hours of being made. If not eaten quickly, freeze them. Defrost before toasting. (I use my microwave’s defrost function for about 1 minute.) In Britain it’s practically the law to eat them toasted if they aren’t warm from the oven. Spread liberally with butter, clotted cream or lemon curd.

Chocolate Nests

Chocolate nests with chicks

Makes around 18. I found it a great way to use up an excess of chocolate. Feel free to halve or double the recipe. The recipe is from Jane’s Patisserie (very successful recipe, thank you, and will now be my base for no-bake fridge cake things).

  • 400g chocolate, broken up (I like half dark and half milk, or all dark)
  • 100g butter
  • 100g golden syrup
  • a pinch or two of salt
  • 7 shredded wheats (315g), broken up
  • 54 miniature chocolate eggs (3 per nest) or as many as you want
  • other springtime/ Easter decorations, if wanted

Line two cupcake trays. Melt the chocolate and butter gently, stirring well. A bain marie or short bursts in the microwave both work well. Stir in the golden syrup. Add the broken up shredded wheats and stir to coat the lot with chocolate mixture. Spoon into cases. Top with mini eggs and any other decorations Leave to set at room temperature or in the fridge.

Episode 22: Raspberry and Sumac Yogurt Cake

This cake is mega good. Moist, loads of raspberries distributed throughout and it keeps well in an airtight container (as small as possible to keep out as much air as possible. Sumac has a tart, citrus flavour, and in a flash of inspiration the other day I thought ‘What about raspberries?’. As I had hoped, they do go well together. Of course, very few good ideas in food are new, so having Googled ‘raspberry sumac cake’ there are actually quite a few out there!

A slice of raspberry, sumac and yogurt cake

It’s roughly based on this recipe from Clotilde Dusolier at Chocolate and Zucchini.

Ingredients

  • 2 UK large eggs (c. 60g each)
  • 300g full fat Greek yogurt (c. 250ml) – warmed gently to room temperature
  • 200g caster / superfine sugar
  • 80g vegetable oil
  • 250g plain / all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 2 tablespoons sumac, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 300g raspberries
  • Around 2 tablespoons demerara/ turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / 350 F/ gas 4. Grease a 23cm, high sided cake tin (I used a springform one) with vegetable oil and line the base with parchment paper. If you are using a springform or any tin that may leak, pop it on a baking tray.
  2. Get a large mixing bowl and measure out the eggs and sugar. Sift the flour, take out 2 tablespoons of it, then add the raising agents and sumac into a medium-large bowl, and mix them together. Put the 2 tbsp flour into a medium-sized bowl and very gently coat the raspberries with flour. (This stops them sinking so you get an even distribution throughout the batter.) Warm the yogurt gently to room temperature if you haven’t already – I put it in the microwave very briefly and stir well. You could put it in a warm water bath, alternatively.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and much bigger in volume. Add the vegetable oil by pouring it down the sides, and do the same with the yogurt. Whisk these in until just mixed. Fold in the flour mixture gently until no lumps or streaks remain. Finally, fold in most of the raspberries. Transfer the mixture to the cake pan. Dot over the remaining raspberries. Sprinkle over the demerara/ turbinado sugar.
  4. Bake for around 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean of batter. Don’t be afraid to take it out before or after the time suggested, depending on how it is looking and the skewer test! Leave to cool completely before cutting into it, otherwise the crumb won’t be set and you may end up with a right mess. I’d cool it really well in the tin before taking off the sides or trying to move it anywhere.