Bake Off Bake Along: Week 5 - Cherry Bakewell Tart

Another week in the tent of dreams, and another bake that usually wouldn't phase me...but did. Its as if the baking Gods (i.e. Paul) knew I was using shop bought pastry and let me down. This week saw a patchwork of pastry and a leak. Pastry week was a flop.

A flop until I got some treats from the lovely Debenhams gang from their Tala range. My baking armoury is ready Paul, bring on botanical week! There's everything from icing nozzles to pastry making tools - star baker I'm coming for you.

But for now, I tried every which way to ensure that there were no soggy bottoms. With the blind bake, I pricked the base and loaded up with baking beans in a bid to dry out the pastry. My mistake was in chopping surplus pastry off before the blind bake rather than after, and it shrunk down the sides of the tin. I tried to patchwork in some new sides but it didn't work so much. Mary would have called in informal and Paul a mess. And ultimately it sprung a leak!

C H E R R Y   B A K E W E L L   T A R T
(Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food, serves 8)

1 block of shop bought shortcrust pastry (sorry Mary and Paul!)
2-3tbsp morello cherry jam
125g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
1 egg, beaten
1tsp almond extract
50g flaked almonds
80g icing sugar, sifted
2tsp cold water

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Roll out the shortcrust pastry on a well floured surface until its the thickness of about a pound coin. Use the pastry to line an 8 inch tart tin. Prick with a fork to avoid any air bubbles, line with baking paper and baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes to dry out the base.
  • Spread the base evenly with the cherry jam.
  • Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat. Add the sugar, almonds, egg and almond extract and stir well. Pour into the pastry tin and cover with the flaked almonds.
  • Bake for 35 minutes until golden and the frangipane is mostly firm.
  • Make the icing with the icing sugar and water, pour into a piping bag before drizzling over the top of the tart once slightly cooled.

Thanks to the fab guys at Debenhams for sending over some Tala baking treats. Will certainly keep me going with bake off bake along! Check out their range here.

The Happenstance, St. Paul's

Out of pure coincidence I seem to have spent a fair amount of my time recently frequenting various venues of the Drake and Morgan chain. There's The Refinery, The Folly and now The Happenstance amongst six other sites.

Last week I was invited to sample The Happenstance's new Autumn menu which at the time felt premature on the hottest day in September since time began. But now I'm fully in the swing of things, pumpkins, coats, scarves 'n all (you'll be happy to hear!).

On first glimpses we were a little concerned about whether our table was to be near the busy bar area. Something all to familiar from dining at The Folly. Fortunately we were soon ushered up to the dining room and handed a glass of fizz and the menu.

Next up for Flick and I on our culinary quest was the drinks list. I've fond memories of sitting in a deck chair watching Wimbledon and drinking a goldfish in a bag cocktail at The Refinery. So you guessed it, when I clocked it on the menu this is exactly what I ordered. Now I know this sounds very unladylike of me, but its not the goldfish bowl of our student years. Its a bit of fun, ultimately a supercharged G&T with the addition of vodka and rosemary, and I love it. 

First up on the menu was chorizo and paprika scotch egg followed by meatballs with cannellini beans, feta and pine nuts. I couldn't quite find the feta flavour in the meatballs which would have added to the kick of seasoning that they needed. We were also thrown by them being in a creamy sauce rather than your regular tomato. Not necessarily a bad thing, just needed a little lift. The scotch egg, however, was sublime and I'd happily eat plenty more.

Next up for mains, we shared a butternut squash risotto and roast cod with brown shrimp and mash. Sadly the risotto was not quite to my taste as I'd expected the squash to be a primary ingredient rather than a few cubes on the top. The brown shrimp and cod were pretty good, despite lots of surplus oil on the dish, but I'd have loved a sauce to accompany it.

For dessert, the pecan tart came up absolute trumps. So much so its inspired Flick to invite the gang round for Sunday dinner this week and pecan tart is on the menu! And still obsessed by Jaffa Cakes from week 1 of the Great British Bake Off, I also opted for their chocolate orange jaffa cake for dessert. A soft genoise slice, layered with orange jelly and chocolate. Send me more please!

Overall, the venue is great and ideally located. The separate dining area is great too. I'd recommend it most especially for their creative cocktails, and if you're looking for those after work/food drinks.

Find The Happenstance nearest to St. Paul's station and check out their menu here.

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 4 - Churros

I wasn't overly enamoured with batter week. So much so I didn't really want to bake/fry any of the challenges. I spent hours flicking through Pinterest and Instagram looking for some inspiration. I know you can always freeze batter, but its better fresh. With a home of two, there's only so many yorkshire puddings of lace pancakes you can make and that's just wasting food. I'm not sure taking cold leftovers into the office would have worked so well.

And so, begrudgingly I decided to make churros. I didn't expect that I'd be able to get regular churros to be uniform in size and to hold their piped ridges so I went for fewer and bigger doughnut sized churros. 

You know what? I'm so glad I did. These are super easy to make and can be great for desserts. Imagine them sandwiched between a big scoop of salted caramel ice cream or topped with fresh berries. A DIY churros dessert bar if you will. 

As I was home alone on a weekday day off, I decided to keep it simple. Ready made fancy salted caramel and super quick cheats chocolate dip were my choice of toppings. One for me, one for Matthew and the rest were packaged up in foil takeaway containers to keep warm and were sent off to my brother, his wife and brand new baby in hospital as a care package. 

G I A N T   C H U R R O S   W I T H   C H E A T S   C H O C O L A T E   D I P
(Recipe adapted from SBS, makes 6 large churros)

For the churros:

100g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
3 eggs
Plenty of oil for frying

For the sugar coating:

100g caster sugar
1tbsp ground cinnamon

For the chocolate dip:

4tbsp nutella spread
1-2tsp whole milk

Salted caramel, ice cream, chocolate chips and anything else you fancy to serve.

  • Bring 250ml of water and the butter to boil in a medium pan over a medium heat. This will melt the butter, so doesn't matter so much whether you've cubed it or not, or even forgotten to take it out the fridge in advance.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, cinnamon and salt to remove any lumps.
  • Once the liquids have come to the boil, pour in the flour mix and continue to cook over a medium heat whilst stirring continuously until the batter forms a smooth ball in the centre of the pan. Remove from the heat.
  • Put the batter into the stand mixer's bowl (saving on washing up!) and mix with a paddle attachment on a low speed. Add in each egg one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Once smooth and all the eggs are combined, leave the batter to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, once the batter is ready everything will happen very quickly so prepare the next steps in advance. Cut 6 squares of baking paper. Prepare a disposable icing bag with a large star shaped nozzle. Line a tray with baking paper to blot the churros once cooked.
  • After the batter has rested, spoon into the prepared piping bag. Pipe 6 equal discs of churros, starting from the centre and working out. Place the discs into the freezer to chill, this will help them keep their shape when frying.
  • Bring a medium frying pan filled with 4cm of oil to the boil, or enough to cover a churros. Once the oil has reached around 180 degrees, a square of bread will turn brown within 45 seconds.
  • Place the churros in one at a time, and cook for 2 minutes each side. I like to regularly check the oils temperature in order to maintain the same heat. Otherwise its likely to increase and you'll find your churros burning.
  • Once golden, use a slotted spoon to upturn each onto kitchen paper to blot away any residue oil.
  • Then dunk in the prepared cinnamon sugar ensuring to coat all sides, nooks and crannies.
  • For the chocolate dip, add the nutella into a small bowl and add a dash of milk. Warm gently and slowly  in the microwave, 20 seconds at a time. You may want to add a few more drops of milk a little at a time to ensure the right thickness. Mix well before serving.

F O L L O W   M Y   B A K E   O F F   B A K E   A L O N G...


Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes
Week 2 - Iced Doughnut Biscuits
Week 3 - Chocolate Twist Babka
Week 4 - Giant Churros

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 3 - Chocolate Swirl Babka

I'm hoping that I'll manage to brave the showstopper challenge one week soon. But for now I'm blaming it on the weather. Making a 3 flour beast in my tiny roasting kitchen is most likely to bring on a bread related breakdown. Paul, you are one mean man.

So instead, I opted for a chocolate loaf. A babka to be precise. I think everyone baking along made one of these guys, and you know what? I bloody love a babka. Truth be told I hadn't ever made one before...see baby challenge steps.

A deliciously sweetened loaf, with the softness of brioche and all the fillings you can shake a stick at.

I added some lemon zest into my dough, which proved to give a great flavour punch from the off. Then to the chocolate filling I added some cinnamon for warmth and some hazelnuts to finish the top for a nutty texture boost.

Babs the babka, as I've named her, could have perhaps been more risen. But was most certainly packed full of flavour, soft and pretty simple to make. Simple if you don't count the time invested. Albeit cheating with using a dough hook in my Kitchen Aid.

And there we have it. Bring on the batter for week 4!

C H O C O L A T E   S W I R L   B A B K A
(Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen, makes one large loaf for 12, or 2 small 1lb loaves)

350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g caster sugar
2tsp instant yeast
grated zest of 1 lemon or small orange
3 large eggs
1/2 cup cold waterr
pinch salt
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
sunflower or vegetable oil for greasing


130g dark chocolate
120g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
handful of chopped hazelnuts to top


1/3 cup water
75g caster sugar
  • To make the dough, combine together the flour, sugar, yeast and zest in a large bowl of a stand mixer. Add the eggs, water and continue to mix on a medium speed with a dough hook until everything comes together into one ball. Turn the mixer down low, add the salt and butter one spoon at a time. You may need to scrape down the sides to ensure everything is well incorporated. Once the dough has come together, continue to beat on the same speed for 10 minutes. The dough should become smooth and will pull away from the sides of the bowl. Place into a large bowl coated with oil, cover with cling film and leave to prove in the fridge overnight (or 4-6 hours minimum). It won't quite double in size but will definitely rise.
  • To make the filling, heat the chocolate and butter over a low heat to melt. Remove from the heat and add the icing sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Stir to form a paste and leave aside to cool.
  • Grease either a large baking tray or two 1lb loaf tins. The bread can be frozen if you want to split the dough into two.
  • Remove from the fridge and roll the dough out on a well floured surface to a rectangle the thickness of a pound coin. 
  • Spread the chocolate mix over the dough, leaving an inch gap round each edge. Brush the length of one of the longest sides with water. Starting to roll from the opposite site, tightly roll the dough into a long sausage and seal with the dampened end.
  • You may wish to chill the dough for 10-20 minutes, just to make it easier to cut. To cut the dough for plaiting, slice it in half down the middle lengthwise. Turn each strand cut side up, pinch one end together and gently plait until the bottom, pinching the ends once more. 
  • Snake the dough into the prepared tray, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove at room temperature for 1-2 hours. It should become plump but won't increase in size too much. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts, or whatever you fancy before baking in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Once baked, the top will be golden and a skewer inserted into the babka will have no resistance. If underbaked, it will still feel stretchy inside.
  • Whilst baking, make the syrup in a small pan over a low heat. Allow the sugar to fully dissolve into the water before removing from the heat to cool slightly.
  • As soon as the babka is baked, remove from the oven and pour over the sugar syrup to get a good shine. Allow to cool in the pan half way before removing to cool fully.

F O L L O W   M Y   B A K E   O F F   B A K E   A L O N G...


Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes
Week 2 - Iced Doughnut Biscuits
Week 3 - Chocolate Twist Babka
Week 4 - Giant Churros

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 2 - Iced Biscuits

Another week has flown by, with this week in the tent of dreams seeing the contestants try their hand at biscuits. Not my most favourite week, its pretty much the same each year. Challenge one being something iced, challenge two being something fiddly and the final challenge always being a 3d sculpture.

I don't have the nerve to make eleventy hundred pieces and make a sculpture so it was a choice between Viennese whirls and iced biscuits. In the spirit of challenge, I don't really rate myself as being the most patient when it comes to decorate so I opted to make these doughnut iced biscuits.

No intricate designs here I'm afraid, but you've seen make jaffa cakes, I can't really ice within the lines so I'm surprised these turned out so tidy! Almond sugar biscuits topped with either plain or chocolate icing and plenty of doughnut sprinkles.

I C E D   D O U G H N U T   B I S C U I T S
(Makes 2 dozen biscuits)

170g unsalted butter, softened
170g white caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 egg
2tsp baking powder
500g plain flour

For the icing:

225g icing sugar
few drops of chosen flavouring/colouring
2-3tbsp boiling water
sprinkles to decorate

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line two cookie sheets with baking parchment.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar on a medium heat until pale and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and the extracts and continue to beat on a low speed until well combined.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a large separate bowl. Add slowly to the wet mix whilst continuing to beat on a medium speed until well incorporated and the dough forms one ball around the beater attachment.
  • Flour a work surface and roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness. Use round cutters to cut the doughnut shapes and a drink lid to cut out the centre of the doughnut hole.
  • Place evenly spaced on the prepared cookie trays and bake for 6-8 minutes until they just start to turn golden. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to cool fully.
  • To make the icing, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add one tablespoon of water and begin to stir, add a few more drops as necessary until the icing mixture is smooth but thick enough to decorate the biscuits. If you want other flavours or colours, divide the icing mixture into smaller individual bowls for each flavour or colour. To make chocolate icing, from the 225g icing sugar, substitute 2tsp for cocoa powder.
  • Once the biscuits are fully cooled, pour the icing into individual piping bags to frost them. Sprinkle with toppings and leave to fully set before serving.

F O L L O W   M Y   B A K E   O F F   B A K E   A L O N G...


Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes
Week 2 - Iced Doughnut Biscuits
Week 3 - Chocolate Twist Babka
Week 4 - Giant Churros

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes

And so there it is, the Great British Bake Off is back again for another summer in the tent of dreams. With week one starting as cake week, I thought the title of Star Baker would be an absolute steal.

I was super tempted to make a drizzle cake or something with a super glossy mirror glaze. But, in the name of challenge, I tried my hand at making my own jaffa cakes. Finesse and patience just isn't my way but that's exactly what I love about baking along with the show, you get to try things you wouldn't normally bake.

And do you know what? They aren't as difficult as they look. A super quick sponge bottom that bakes up in just 5 minutes, a homemade orange jelly and a coating of dark chocolate. The only difficulty is getting the perfect topping. Whilst these aren't the most uniform, there's absolutely no comparison to shop bought, sorry McVities!

J A F F A   C A K E S
(Recipe adapted from The Guardian, makes 12 jaffa cakes)

For the sponge:

1 large egg, plus one extra yolk
40g caster sugar
40g plain flour
zest of 1 orange

For the orange jelly:

100ml orange juice
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 packet gelatine powder
2 tbsp thin cut marmalade
100g dark chocolate (I love using Lindt Excellence's dark chocolate with orange and almond in)

  • Grease a 12 hole muffin tray and line the bases with circles of baking paper. Heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Beat together the eggs and sugar on a medium-fast speed until the mixture doubles in size and reaches ribbon stage, where a ribbon of the cake mixture sits on top for a few moments before sinking back in to the rest of the mix.
  • Add the flour and gently fold until just combined before adding the orange zest.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin tray and bake for 5-6 minutes, until the cakes just start to turn golden and shrink away from the sides. Leave to cool in the tray.
  • To make the jelly, add the orange juice, lemon juice and zest to a small saucepan. Add the sugar, marmalade and whisk in the gelatine and bring to a simmer on a low heat. Remove from the heat immediately and divide between the cakes. Leave to set in the fridge for 10-20 minutes.
  • Use a small knife to run round the edges to release each cake from the muffin tray.
  • Melt the chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water. Leave to cool slightly before spooning over the jaffa cakes gently rounding off the edges as neatly as you can.
  • Leave to set once more, in the fridge if you're short on time before serving.

F O L L O W   M Y   B A K E   O F F   B A K E   A L O N G...


Week 1 - Jaffa Cakes
Week 2 - Iced Doughnut Biscuits
Week 3 - Chocolate Twist Babka
Week 4 - Giant Churros

Kerb at Camden Market

Street food markets are my absolute favourite places to go in London. I'm pretty convinced that anything that has Kerb's name on it will be my favourite since that time Flick, Persephone and I played Kerb-bingo last year. 

In previous years, locations such as the Southbank have hosted Kerb for a few weekends during the summer. But now its back and better than ever, hosted by Camden Market 7 days a week, 364 days a year. Launching over the weekend, Nicola and I popped over to check out what was on offer. 

Oh My Dog! and their seriously tasty dogs. With a rotating menu of American classics we opted for the YumDog in a demi-brioche bun, secret sauce, gherkins, lettuce, mustard and onions. A classic frank which could only be made better with crispy onions in place of regular fried onions. Got to love a little crunch with your gherks.

Cupcakes and Shhht's selection of gluten free and vegan treats includes strawberry and matcha cupcakes (incredible), super fudgy brownies and even vegan freakshakes if that's your bag.

From Ghetto Grillz, behold the East London Classic. Pulled salt beef brisket, english mustard and pickles. The ultimate dream! I'm seriously considering downing the brioche and asking for all my burgers in a bagel now.

Did someone say ice cream? Blu top's in town with incredible flavours like brown toast and jam and cinnamon snickerdoodle.

Other noteworthy favourites include one of my top gin picks, Half Hitch, Kimchinary for Korean burritos and Mac Factory for gourmet mac n cheese.

Head down to Kerb's new home in Camden Market for 35 traders, 7 days a week. 11am-6pm weekdays and till 11pm on Friday's and Saturdays. You'll be spoilt for choice.

More information on the Kerb gods here! Thanks to the Kerb team for inviting us down to preview x

Custard Cream Cupcakes

You can't go wrong with custard creams, they really are king of the biscuits in my eyes. Whilst much research has been done on the ultimate dunker, I'll challenge purists and say that these guys are better than a ginger nut. They may not have the sculptural dignity, but they do offer the perfect flavour balance to a brew with the added cream bonus in a bid to hold some shape.

Maybe I'm biased, but they truly are my favourite.

When hearing all about my friend's new bakery business and all the cupcakes she's making I was inspired to get into the kitchen and make my own...for myself! Cupcakes are the divas of the cake business, only best on the day of baking, but there's something to be said by having your own personal little frosted cake...or three (no one's counting)!

Vanilla sponge packed with crushed custard creams and topped with custard flavour buttercream. In order to have unlocked ultimate cupcake achievement levels, I'd have loved to have made some fresh custard to fill the centres with. But alas, I was hungry and the kitchen is too hot from last week's heat wave (my jar of coconut oil still hasn't set yet). I'm saving my efforts for the Great British Bake Off starting up next month and attempt to bake along again each week.

C U S T A R D   C R E A M   C U P C A K E S
(Recipe adapted from Primrose Bakery's Everyday, makes 12-16 cupcakes)

150g self raising flour
115g plain flour
10g custard powder
120ml semi-skimmed milk, room temperature
1tsp vanilla extract
110g unsalted butter, softened
225g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
100g custard cream biscuits, crushed

Custard buttercream:

200g unsalted butter, softened
280g icing sugar, sifted
4tbsp custard powder, sifted
few drops of milk if needed to help combine
custard creams to decorate

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a cupcake tray with cupcake cases.
  • Pour the milk and vanilla extract into a jug and mix together. In a bowl, add the flours and custard powder.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Continue to mix on a slow speed whilst adding each egg, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Whilst continuing to mix, pour in the third of the flour until combined and alternate between the mix and the rest of the flour mix. Add in the crushed custard creams and gently fold together with a spatula.
  • Spoon the batter evenly between each cupcake case, filling up to two thirds full.
  • bake for 15-18 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to fool fully on a wire cooling rack before frosting.
  • To make the frosting, beat the butter on a medium speed to ensure soft before gently and slowly adding in the icing sugar and custard powder. Continue to beat on a low speed at first, then medium until well combined.
  • Load the butter cream into a piping bag, pipe a swirl onto the top of each cupcake and top with two halves of custard creams.