Bake Off Bake Along: Week 8 - Chokatines

Despite having a good few days off work to relax (and eat), I still didn't feel ready for this challenge of the Bake Off Along. I feel like I've said this every week, but this week was even harder than the last!

With a choice between cream horns, mokatines and something I can't even remember the name of. I went for the one that didn't involve pastry. Mokatines. I'd like to start by asking, has anyone ever seen or heard of these before? Mary and Paul have been really sneaky this year in finding recipes that no one's ever seen before. Little secret squirrels.

I turned these mokatines into chokatines, using Mary's recipe here for the genoise sponge and making a regular chocolate frosting to finish. I brushed the sponges with apricot jam like in Mary's recipe and tried to coat with chopped hazelnuts but they didn't really stick. So I figured you can't have too much chocolate frosting, right?

I've never made genoise sponge before, its a little different to a regular mix. Here's some tips to avoid Paul's flat sponge disaster:
  • genoise sponge is naturally airy and doesn't use any raising agent. At first, it looks like the quantities of ingredients are very small, but by whisking up the eggs and sugar you'll create the volume needed for a good rise.
  • by whisking eggs and sugar together the egg proteins are broken down to allow the egg to whip up larger and quicker.
  • the mix should double in size and hold a thick ribbon (the point at which point a trail of batter from the whisk will sit on top of the mix for 3 seconds).
  • there are a few methods to whisk up the mix. Either cold, over a bain marie or half and half. Applying a little heat will help the mix to whip up quicker, but working cold works just as well, just takes a little longer.
  • use superfine sugar like caster sugar to ensure a really light, super fine crumb in your bake as it will dissolve evenly.
  • when folding in the flour, do not over mix as this will only knock out any of the air you've worked so hard to get. 
  • when folding in the melted butter, ensure its almost fully cooled. Pour around the side of the bowl also otherwise any of the remaining heat will cause the mix to collapse.

I would have included a photo of the inside to show even layers, but they collapsed. Still tasted great, my frosting just wasn't stiff enough to hold it all together.

And, here's how I've been getting on with the rest of the challenges:


Review: Matilda the Musical Afternoon Tea

Sometimes you really do have to be a little bit naughty and eat chocolate cake just like Bruce Bogtrotter. In order to do this, you'll need to book in for Afternoon Tea at Scoff and Banter in the Radisson Blu Edwardian. Once stuffed full of Mrs Trunchball's cake and sandwiches, skip over the road to the Cambridge Theatre and enjoy the show.

I popped over to try the Matilda-themed Afternoon Tea last week which includes a selection of sandwiches, scones and desserts with special extras like newt jelly and little sponged Victorias for children.

To kick things off we started with a generous selection of classic sandwiches: cucumber, egg and watercress, smoked salmon bagels and ham with sundried tomato baguettes, my favourite. Soft, fresh fruit scones with clotted cream and jam, the best I've had in a long time.

For the sweets, there were mini Victoria sponges, elderflower and prosecco jelly shots, strawberry tarts and layered chocolate cake with orange drizzle. The jelly shots were more shots than jelly, not that we complained and Bruce's chocolate cake was the ultimate decadent treat.

After feeling a little more like Bruce, we trotted over the road, grabbed a glass of wine and took our seats ready for the show. Inspired by the infamous Roald Dahl book and my absolute favourite childhood film, the award-winning West End show includes music by Tim Minchin. 

Magical, moving and hilarious, this is the best Musical I've seen. When we went, Matilda was played by Violet Tucker, so mischievous and captivating. But hands down, the star of the show is Mrs Trunchball played by Craige Els, with her giant bossom and psychotic mood swings. 

And you know the thing in the book where Amanda is swung by her pigtails like an Olympic hammer throw?...well, that happens too and its terrifying.

Find Matilda the Musical at the Cambridge Theatre until December 2016, for more information on this and the official Afternoon Tea visit

I was a guest of the show for the performance and Afternoon Tea. All opinions are my own, I've seen it before and loved it so much I wanted to come back! 

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 7 - Raised Gala Pie

I can't quite get my head round the fact that we're edging closer to the Great British Bake Off finals already. Baking one recipe a week is a challenge enough, let alone having to do 3 like the contestants do. There's no way I'd ever cope on the show.

Most of the last week has been spent deliberating what to bake for Victorian week. I don't like game, fondant icing and fiddly decorations leaving very little leeway for Mary and Paul's challenges. Hopefully no one will mind that I decided to make my own game-free hand raised pie. Its got pastry and meat so I should be ok, right?

My Grandad absolutely loves sausage meat pies so this, Gala pie was for him. Packed with pork mince, sausage meat, bacon and scattered with quails eggs.

For the filling I used the Hairy Bikers' recipe, adding far more sausage and bacon to fill a generous 2lb loaf tin. To ensure I was making Paul-approved pastry, I used his own recipe, here.

The pie itself was so dense it didn't quite cook all the way through, particularly the thick crust. To rescue it, it'll be wrapped in individual foil servings and warmed in the oven as it wasn't made to be eaten the same day. I should have taken it out the loaf tin half way through the bake to get some colour. I was chuffed at how well the quails eggs cooked though, well worth how fiddly they were to peel. 

And here's what I learnt:
  • hot water crust pastry is relatively simple to make. Rather than hours of cooling and folding the key is to make a rough dough and to work into shape whilst still warm. If it starts to cool it will crumble so can be warmed again if needed over a pan of simmering water.
  • supposedly you can also make hand-raised pies with the same pastry, where you don't use a tin or mould. When warm its quite slithery, so I wouldn't. Why else are there intricately detailed pie tins?
  • as this type of pastry is quite fatty its good at holding juicy fillings making it ideal for pies. If you're particularly worried about a juicy filling or gravy in your pie, then brush the pastry with egg yolk before filling. The protein in the egg yolk will form a barrier against moisture.
  • hot water crust pastry should be a rich brown colour once cooked, unlike mine. If you fancy making this one yourself then cook it for half the time in the tin to allow it its shape and to firm up. Then cook out of the tin on a baking tray to get some colour. Alternatively...
  • this type of pastry doesn't need to be blind baked so ensure to use a tin that conducts heat effectively, i.e. something glass or black metal. I used a light coloured loaf tin which doesn't seem to hold heat too well.
  • another way of avoiding a soggy bottom is to place the tin on a pre-heated pizza stone or heavy baking tray so allow extra heat into your pastry quicker. The trick is to get the pastry to crisp up quickly before the filling cooks.
  • another lesson I've learnt is to allow some space between the filling and pastry lid to allow steam to escape which will help it to cook throughout. Use a pie funnel, cut slits on the top and don't pack any gaps full of bacon (like I did). 
For some tips and frangipane disasters, see how I did in previous weeks:


Review: The Arch Hotel Street Food Afternoon Tea

Tucked round the corner from Marble Arch, The Arch Hotel offers a modern take on Afternoon Tea, Street Food inspired in their Hunter 486 restaurant. Inspired by the International Street Food Scene, classics like scones and sandwiches are given a little upgrade.

A combination of two of my favourite things, I'd like to be able to say that I had the dedication to polish the lot off myself, as this photo suggests. Of course, I was more than dedicated in eating as much as possible, with the help of Boy who had booked this treat as a Birthday present to me (Boyfriends take note, if you're looking for something a little less girlie that you'll both enjoy, then this is your place!)

Stowed away in a little booth, Tattinger poured and camera out. 
We started with a selection of their savouries all beautifully presented and steaming hot.

Mini cheeseburgers with onion marmalade in brioche buns
Smoken chicken, chilli, avocado and mango tortillas
Homemade scotch quail eggs
Chicken satay with dipping sauce
Mini fish and chips with tartare sauce

The cheese burgers were perfectly cooked with a tangy marmalade, so good I would have managed a full-sized one in addition to everything else. The mini fish fingers were packed with steaming, fresh and flaky fish encased with crispy batter. One of Boy's favourites, the satay chicken was generously sprinkled in sesame and a nice chilli kick.

Next up, a board of miniature sweet treats. 

apple and cinnamon doughnuts
chocolate and pistachio macarons
coffee eclair
lemongrass, mango and coconut rice pudding
strawberry and pistachio tart
raspberry and victoria sponge

As much as I love scones, cinnamon doughnuts are pretty good contenders for a replacement. The Victoria sponge was gloriously light and fluffy. And my favourite, the coffee eclair. I was so glad to see these was much larger than everything else!

It was great to see a modern update on the traditional sandwiches of Afternoon Tea, not usually my favourite part. Both Boy and I loved it and would definitely love to go back again to have everything again in both miniature and full sized versions.

Love Street Food as much as we do? - Bookings and more information, here.

Hunter 486 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

  We dined at Hunter 486 of our own accord, and therefore all views expressed are my own.

My Favourite London Burgers: Part 2

A post that needs very little introduction. I love burgers, London loves burgers, so here's the sequel to my favourite London burgers part one. Think of part one as a beginners guide, and this will be your intermediate guide!

In no particular order...

Burger Bear: Grizzly Bear - cheeseburger topped with double oak smoked bacon & BB's bacon jam

Bacon fan? Burger Bear have you covered. Crispy bacon, oozing American cheese and super soft brioche. 

Bill or Beak: Chicken Caesar - grilled corn fed chicken, anchovy caesar dressing, parmesan, tempura capers

Hands down the best chicken burger and brioche in town. I don't know how they do it, but no brioche could ever compete with this. Perfectly tender chicken with lashings of parmesan, perfection. 

Mother Flipper: The Candy Bacon Special - aged beef patty, candy bacon, shoestring fries, American cheese, pickles, MF special sauce

My absolute favourite burger from the Mr Hyde's Burger Party. Candied brown sugar bacon and crispy shoestring fries are the perfect match for their special sauce and heaps of American cheese. I want all my burgers to be loaded with fries now. 

Ninth Ward: Braised beef brisket burger - 12 hour braised brisket, gravy soaked with dill pickles and onions

New kid on the block offering a great taste of the Americana. Starting with this braised brisket burger. Incredibly messy, and perfect with some loaded dirty chilli fries.

Dip n Flip: Dip n Flip burger - cheeseburger topped with sliced roast beef dunked in gravy

Unashamedly, when you Google images of Dip n Flip you'll find me. Burgers get bigger and messier here, topped with gravy dunked sliced beef and plenty of mustard. Anything is improved with gravy after all. So messy, people were given gloves to eat them with at Mr Hyde's party.

I have hesitations in calling this an intermediate guide, there maybe loads I haven't tried, but these are all pretty heavyweight contenders for some of the finger-licking good places in town.

Need more suggestions, try part one of my favourite London burgers or Beardy Mike's top 3, here.

Where shall I try next? I need burger recommendations...what can knock the socks off these guys?

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 6 - Apple Frangipane

If there's one thing I've learnt, its not to bake on Monday's. This week's bake along entry was without a doubt, the most emotional of them all. 

I'll set the scene. A freshly baked frangipane perches on the top of the stove to cool, a pan of eggs bubbling away next to it. You turn your eye for just a second and before you know it, the eggs have boiled so aggressively the frangipane is knocked, sails through the air and lands on the floor with a thud. Yelp.

We've all done it before and its utterly soul destroying. All that hard work, undone in just a matter of seconds. Baking karma says this is because I completely cheated and used a pre-made and half baked pastry case. 

I've learnt my lesson. And my second attempt came out just fine, using this Waitrose recipe.

Apple pie number 1, you were splendid...if only for a short time.

Here's a few little pointers for making the best frangipane and sweet pastry here:
  • a frangipane is a versatile dessert, a crisp pastry case, rich almond filling that puffs and envelopes a fruit filling. Choose seasonal berries, apple, rhubarb, peaches or pears for a dessert that will take you through the year, from season to season.
  • to make frangipane, you usually start off in the same way as making a cake. Beat butter and sugar together, add eggs and then fold in the dry ingredients. For a more moist, dense filling, save the butter for last and whisk in hot and melted to the rest of the ingredients.
  • instead of almonds, try pistachio, cashew or any nuts of your choice.
  • add vanilla extract and some citrus zest to lift the frangipane a little, avoids being too bitter.
  • if your fruit of choice is particularly wet, ensure to dry with kitchen paper and add at the last minute to avoid a soggy bottom.
  • Mary also favours lining the base of the pastry with some ground almonds, before adding the filling to also avoid soggy bottoms.
  • frangipanes are perfect to make in advance, wrap well and pop in the freezer for later (will last up to one month).

Take a look at how I got on with the rest of the challenges:

Organic September with Waitrose

September has been crowned Organic month by the Soil Association. To celebrate the best of British organic produce, Waitrose have a whole heap of great recipes using their Duchy range. Its a great time to discover some new ingredients, recipes and to help you do so, some great in-store offers. 

Whilst supporting British farmers, by choosing organic fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy you're choosing proper food, produced with no chemicals in a sustainable way to both animals and the environment. By making just a small changes during your weekly shop you'll be helping to make a big difference and choosing food that just plain tastes great.

Waitrose challenged me to come up with some meals using their Duchy Organic range during the week, and here's how I got on...

Spaghetti bolognese

To start, I went back to basics with a classic spaghetti bolognese. My favourite recipe is just a simple one from the Masterchef Cookery Course book, and I add in some Marmite for extra flavour. Make this when you get in from work, add a splash of Merlot (not too much, you need to drink the rest) and leave it to gently simmer away until you're ready for dinner.

I was amazed by how bright and fresh the beef mince was and the bacon was thickly sliced. Miles apart from the mince you usually see in the supermarkets.

Paired with Bonterra Organic Merlot Mendocino which has a full, silky plum flavour made with organic grown grapes.

A classic recipe I love to make in bulk and freeze in batches. So versatile too, I like bolognese with pasta, spaghetti, jacket potatoes, mash potatoes or in a sandwich!

Stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon

Another simple recipe that takes little effort, but its vastly improved with some great ingredients. And, another use for that brilliant bacon.

I butterflied the chicken breasts, spooned in lashings of cream cheese, wrapped in strips of bacon and plonked them in the oven with sliced peppers to roast for 20-25 minutes. Served with sweet potato mash, which is an entirely different colour and so much sweeter than regular sweet potatoes I've bought in the past.

The Miguel Torres Las Mulas Organic Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, refreshing with tropical and citrus notes. Perfect with chicken. I love that this is named after the mules that work in the vineyards!

BBQ Salmon fishcakes

My absolute favourite recipe of the week and a great way of using up what's in the fridge with some fresh salmon.

No real recipe for these, but as a guide, I made 6 with 2 fillets of salmon. Cook the salmon under the grill for 10 minutes until just cooked and flake into some left over sweet potato mash, add chopped spring onions, sweetcorn or whatever's lurking in the fridge. A generous squirt of BBQ sauce, seasoning and squidge into shape. Dust with flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs in turn. To cook, add a little oil to a pan and fry for 4 minutes on each side.

You may think it a little strange, but in place of my favourite panko crumbs, you can also use crushed cornflakes or, like I did here, ryvita crispbreads to give a perfect crunch!

This time, I opted for a nice Rosé to go with the fish. The Quoins Rosé is delicate and fresh with a great flavour of cherries and strawberries.

During the week I really enjoyed making these meals and spent more time thinking of the individual ingredients rather than the recipe as a whole.

And that's exactly the idea, by making just a few swaps to what you'd already buy you're making such a difference and everything tastes so much better!

To find out more about the Duchy Organic range and the Prince's charities, take a look here.
And if you fancy trying some organic wine, the Waitrose Cellar has some great choices.

*I was given a giftcard to purchase ingredients in exchange for a mention of Organic September. All opinions are my own, that salmon is well worth a few extra pennies!

Recipe: Lindor Orange Truffle Triple Chocolate Loaf

Some of my favourite cakes to make are loaf cakes. Relatively quick to make and usually take a little while in the oven which is a perfect opportunity to get the washing up done and sit back with a cup of tea. They don't require much attention!

If we're talking loaf cakes, then the absolute ultimate loaf cake would of course be a chocolate loaf cake packed full of your favourite chocolate. The world is your oyster-loaf...pick whatever you fancy.

Each time Lindt release a new flavour of their Lindor Truffles, I think its my favourite. Except this time, I really do think their orange flavour* will have a very long reign, just like the Queen!

For this loaf I used a big bar of Dairy Milk Caramel...some would argue its not proper baking chocolate, but they haven't lived. You could always substitute this for proper chocolate because there's a whole box of Lindor Truffles too, seems a little extravagant. But again, you haven't lived until you try it.

So because orange really is the new black, I present to you - YOUR triple chocolate loaf, because it certainly isn't Terry's, silly!

Lindor Orange Truffle Triple Chocolate Loaf
(Recipe adapted from The Londoner, makes a 2lb loaf)

180g unsalted butter, room temperature
180g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
125g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
100ml whole milk
4tbsp cocoa powder
200g milk chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • Heat the oven to 160 degrees and line and grease a 2lb loaf tin.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually mix in the eggs, a little at a time. Gently mix in the flour, almonds and baking powder. Add the milk and milk to a smooth consistency. 
  • Add the chocolate chunks and whole truffles, stirring as little as possible. 
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, a skewer inserted should come out clean of better (but maybe not chocolate!)

The caramel sunk to the bottom and the rest of the slice fell apart...all the more reason to serve warmed with ice cream. But if you like your slices a little more tidy then perhaps use plain chocolate.

* Sally c/o Lindt kindly sent me a pack over to give their new flavour a try. My passion for Lindor truffles is honest and my own.