Bake Off Bake Along: Week 6 - Lemon Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Nata)

We'll just skim past the fact that we're on week 6 already and I have been having far too much fun on holiday and weekends away to have done any baking for the other weeks. After a fortnight in Portugal this summer, eating my body weight in pasteis de nata and sagres, I decided to give them a try myself.

That aside, pastry week is one of my least favourite weeks. Particularly as I don't think Paul would accept the use of shop bought pastry. And so, to keep the silver fox happy, I gave a rough puff a go all in the name of 'bake off bake along'. I used this recipe from the BBC for the pastry which was pretty simple to follow. I just struggled with re-rolling some offcuts to get extra tarts from. They lost their layers and ended up more like shortcrust. Otherwise, not too shabby I'd say.

P O R T U G E S E   L E M O N   C U S T A R D   T A R T S   ( P A S T E I S   D E   N A T A)
(Recipe adapted from Paul Hollywood, makes one dozen tarts)

300g rough puff pastry, recipe here or shop bought is fine too
375ml whole milk
zest of 2 lemons
45g plain flour
185ml water
375g caster sugar
7 large egg yolks
  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees and lightly grease a 12 hole tart / muffin tray.
  2. Make the pastry or roll out a block of shop bought pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Use a 10cm cookie cutter to cut out a dozen discs and fill each of the tart holes gently pressing into each edge. Prick the base of each tart with a fork, cover with individual squares of baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 10 minutes until the pastry starts to firm. Remove from the oven and set aside whilst you make the custard.
  3. In a small pan, heat the milk, lemon zest and flour together whisking continuously for 2-3 minutes until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the sugar and water into a separate pan and gently heat to melt the sugar. Once melted, increase the heat to boil until the syrup reaches 100-110 degrees.
  5. Gradually whisk the syrup into the milk mixture. Add the egg yolks to a large mixing bowl and strain over the milk, whisking continuously. Cover the surface with a layer of cling film and leave to cool. 
  6. Pour the custard into each of the custard cases, about two thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for up to 20 minutes. The pastry should be golden and the custard bubbly, firm and brown.
If you think your tarts are cooked but the pastry hasn't browned enough, dust with a little icing sugar and grill or blow torch the tops until golden. Sneaky trick. 

Bake Off Bake Along:

Week 1: Lemon and raspberry loaf
Week 6: Pasteis de Nata

Bake Off Bake Along: Week 1 - Lemon and Raspberry Loaf

Hello, remember me? It's been far too easy over the last few months to eat all the food and not share. But, excuses aside, if there was anything that was going to blow off my baking cobwebs, then no surprises it was going to be the return of the Great British Bake Off. And boy was it good.

Initially I thought the first 2 challenges were a little on the easy side. But then I remembered the small fact that I've never dared make a swiss roll, let alone mini ones, and that my fruit is forever sinking in my cakes.

And so, I decided to ease myself in gently and try challenge one, the fruit cake. Adapted from an old favourite of mine, this lemon and raspberry loaf probably would have underwhelmed Paul in terms of its simplicity. And also the small fact that I managed to burn the top, let the berries sink AND go completely overboard with drenching it with syrup! Otherwise, all in all a great tasting loaf.

L E M O N   A N D   R A S P B E R R Y   L O A F
Makes one 2lb loaf

200g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
230g plain natural yogurt
215g caster sugar
3 eggs
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
120ml vegetable oil
200g fresh raspberries
80ml lemon juice
2tbsp caster sugar
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, add the yogurt, sugar, eggs, zest, vanilla and oil and gently whisk until combined.
  • Fold the wet mixture into the dry before gently adding the raspberries at the very last minute.
  • Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • In a small pan, melt the additional sugar into the lemon juice to make a syrup. Prick the top of the baked loaf with a fork and pour over the syrup whilst still warm.

Salted Chocolate and Pistachio Rye Babka

Who doesn't love the combination of dark chocolate and pistachio? Whilst a babka is both messy and pretty timely to make I think the idea of this flavour combo wrapped up within a light and springy rye dough is the ultimate in indulgent weekend breakfast baking.

I know we're only on Thursday and a few more working hours away from the weekend, but hear me out. There's a trick to making this guy in advance. Make the dough and the filling on a Friday or Saturday, at the same time or day by day, and leave to prove in the fridge till you're ready. So long as you have the bulk of the work done, all you need to do is allow it to get to room temperature before baking.

I'm already looking forward to starting the next one ahead of this weekend to enjoy with a huge cup of black coffee in bed on Sunday morning. I recently gifted my giant coffee machine to my brother in exchange for an old school coffee dripper, and you know what? Its got me excited for lazy morning coffee rituals all over again!

S A L T E D   C H O C O L A T E   A N D   P I S T A C H I O   R Y E   B A B K A
Serves 6-8, recipe adapted from Olive Magazine

For the babka dough:

500g rye flour, plus extra for dusting
30g golden caster sugar
1tsp salt
7g dried fast action yeast
zest of 1 lemon
275ml full fat milk
75g unsalted butter
2 eggs, 1 beaten and one to glaze

For the filling:

75g unsalted butter
75g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
2tbsp icing sugar
2tbsp cocoa powder
75g blanched pistachios, roughly chopped, plus extra for decoration
1/2tsp sea salt flakes


75g golden caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract

  • To make the dough, place the dry ingredients including the lemon zest into a large mixing bowl. Put the milk and butter into a small saucepan and gently heat over a low heat. Along with the beaten egg, add the mixture to the flour mix and stir to combine. Using a dough hook on a stand mixer, beat for 5 minutes until a soft, sticky ball of dough has formed. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  • To make the filling, melt the butter and chocolate in small pan over a very low heat. Once fully melted, set aside to cool slightly, around 5 minutes. Add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and whisk together until smooth.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, tip onto a well floured surface and roll into a long rectangle about 1/2 inch in thickness. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving an inch around the edge. Scatter over the chopped pistachios and sea salt flakes. Fold in half lengthways and gently roll to seal the filling, until about the thickness of a pound coin.
  • To shape the babka, slice the dough rectangle into 4 equal width strips. Then, slice each of the 4 strips into 'trousers', i.e. leaving around 1/2 inch at the top unsliced. For each of the 'trousers' individually, plait together the two 'legs' before finally plaiting each of the 4 strips together. Don't worry this can be rough!
  • Place the dough plait into a grease round baking tin, about 8-10", tucking the loose ends underneath.
  • Leave to prove once more for around one hour, until the babka has doubled in size again. Alternatively, leave to prove overnight in the fridge and remove at least 30 minutes before baking to allow it to reach room temperature.
  • Brush the top of the babka with the remaining egg and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once cooked, a the babka will be golden, springy and a skewer inserted will come out clean.
  • To make the glaze, boil 75ml of water with the sugar until dissolved and of syrup consistency. Remove from the heat before stirring in the vanilla, brushing the top of the cooked babka and topping with some extra chopped pistachios.

Stores well in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Gently warm before serving if you like.

Jam Doughnut Bundt

This month's obsession is currently doughnuts. Particularly every single flavour Crosstown sells, all of the chocolate filled ones from Bread Ahead and, you know what, even a regular supermarket's jam filled when needs must. If you've never had any of these then you are missing you, I'm telling you.

There's certain things, like doughnuts, that I know will cause me more frustration than joy if I attempt to master them in my very own kitchen. Whilst I may be an avid baker, I am more than keen to leave certain things to the professionals.

Everything except combining my love of a simple one bowl bundt cake mix with all the joys of a doughnut, in one giant form.

And so here I present to you, a jam doughnut cake, or a giant doughnut if you will. Because I doubt very much I could replicate something as good as my market favourites.

Of course this is very much a cake and not made from dough, but all prep can be done in one bowl within 10 minutes. Forget making dough, kneading and proving, this guy is super easy going. Filled with your favourite jam, mine is always raspberry, and smothered in cinnamon sugar once baked.

Just remember to thoroughly grease your bundt tin for ultimate upturning and bob's your bundt uncle, a stress free bake!

J A M   D O U G H N U T   B U N D T
(Serves 8-10)

400g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
225g golden caster sugar, plus extra for topping
175g butter, melted, plus extra for topping
250ml full fat milk
2 eggs
half jar of raspberry jam
1tbsp ground cinnamon

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease a bundt tin.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and caster sugar to a large mixing bowl.
  • Whisk together the butter, milk and eggs in a jug before pouring into the dry ingredients. Gently mix until everything is just incorporated.
  • Pour half the batter into the prepared bundt tin. Use a small spoon to smooth some of the mixture up the walls of the bundt tin in order for the jam to be fully enveloped during baking. Dollop the jam evenly around the middle of the bundt ensuring not to touch any sides. Pour over the remaining batter, smooth the top and bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool before upturning onto a wire rack to cool fully.
  • As the bundt is cooling, brush with a little melted butter and scatter over cinnamon sugar to coat each side.

Better with Comté Masterclass

Everything is better with cheese, in fact everything is better with Comté. And that was exactly the premise of a night in Cactus Kitchens trying our hand at incorporating one of my favourite cheeses into a selection of seasonal dishes.

First up, cheese tasting. All milk to make Comté comes from Montbéliarde and French Simmental cows who have 2 acres of land each in the Jura Massif to roam free and work their magic. What a life! They eat grass and flowers in the summer and hay in the winter. Each day small village dairies transform the cows milk into wheels of Comté who in turn age the cheese in house, regularly turning the wheels, salting and brining for up to 24 months.

Not only does seasonal changes in the cows diet change the flavour profile of the finished Comté wheel, but also the age of the wheel. There's such a vast difference between a young Comté and a mature. When young, its elastic, lactic, pale and fruity. When mature, more nutty, deeper in colour and crumbly due to the break down of amino acids. 

These both lend a great flavour to varying seasonal dishes as we went on to explore and try for ourselves in the kitchen. 

To start, a watercress, beetroot and fennel salad with Comté, basil and walnut crostinis. Here the 18 month is used in place of parmesan and pine nuts to give a deep nutty flavour in both the pesto and in the generous shavings on top...part of the perks of working with Flick - there's no scrimping on the cheese! Our starter was paired with, Grüner Veltliner, Reiden Selection, one of my favourite wines of the evening. From Austria's signature grape, its dry, fresh, citrusy and the perfect balance to the 18 month Comté and balsamic beetroot.

Next up, a butternut squash, sage and Comté risotto where a young cheese is used for creaminess to the earthiness of the squash. Of course, once again this is also topped with generous shavings of the mature because this is a cheese night after all! Paired with Tierra Alta Sauvignon, again dry and citrusy but more acidic - perfect for the younger, creamier 8 month Comté.

And of course, the Comté chefs worked their magic on a Comté, banana and vanilla tarte tatin. Yes, there's cheese in this dessert. The use of a young Comté, between 8-12 months, as we learnt in making the risotto gives a creaminess to the puff pastry and trust me, it was delicate and totally delicious. Served alongside a Petit Védrines Sauternes gave the perfect nutty, caramelised balance to the finale dish.

Armed with some new know-how I'm very excited to give some new Comté dishes a try at home. I've also decided that it would be a pretty great life being a Comté cow being free to roam in your 2 acres all day and graze non stop.

Thanks for having me Comté and Cactus Kitchens!

I was invited to attend the masterclass, was not paid and all opinions are my own...who doesn't love cheese this much?

Hot Cross Bun Brownies

I interrupt the scandi centred recipes posted so far this year with a seasonal brownie recipe. Because when all else fails and you're lacking in baking mojo, revert back to basics. These guys are proof that a trusty brownie recipe has your back. Throw in whatever you fancy, something seasonal or something outrageous.

This is my traditional, failsafe brownie recipe pimped up with toasted hot cross buns, extra currants and some cinnamon, all topped with some crosses in true Easter fashion.

H O T   C R O S S   B U N   B R O W N I E S
(Makes 12-16 brownies)


3 eggs
275g caster sugar
175g salted butter
300g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
50g currants
175g plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
3 toasted hot cross buns, cooled

Crosses (optional):

50g plain flour
50ml water

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 20cm square baking tray.
  • Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl until combined and set aside.
  • Melt the butter and chocolate together over a pan of barely simmering water, remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  • Return to the eggs and sugar and whisk once again until pale and fluffy. Pour in the chocolate and butter mixture and combine with the currants.
  • Gently fold in the flour and ground cinnamon using a spatula, careful not to over mix.
  • Tear the toasted and cooled hot cross buns and scatter over the base of the prepared baking tray. Pour over the brownie batter ensuring to fill all gaps and corners.
  • Mix together the flour and water to form a paste. Pour into a piping bag with a small round nozzle. Pipe crosses over the brownies.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes. The top will be firm with a wobble in the centre. Remove from the oven and leave to fully cool on a wire rack before chilling in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours (I like to leave mine overnight). This allows you to slice the squares neatly. 

Store brownies in an airtight container for up to 5 days. They can also be frozen if well wrapped for a few months.

Nordic Afternoon Tea at Aster, Victoria

Its no secret that I love cinnamon buns. 50% of the few recipes I've posted so far this year have all been bun related. My quest for the year is to learn the perfect knot and unlock cinnamon bun superstardom.

So when I was invited down to Aster in Victoria to try their new Nordic afternoon tea, firstly I was thrilled to try their cinnamon buns. And secondly, I love Nordic food so was intrigued as to how they'd translate it into an afternoon tea menu.

First up, cocktails and bubbles. My choice was the Greenway with gin, St Germain, matcha tea syrup, fresh basil and lemon juice. Super fresh and infinitely better than a matcha latte, i.e. matcha with gin!

For savouries, Atlantic prawn skagen on sourdough, blackcurrant herring with egg on dark rye and pork rolls with aquavit mustard. I love Finnish egg butter karelian pies so was thrilled to see it on the menu in an open sandwich. 

And for sweets, cinnamon knots, blueberry pie rye croute and lingonberry macarons. The softest macarons around with lingonberries sourced straight from Finland.

Executive chef Helena Puolakka then gave us a demonstration on how to make the best cinnamon knot. Gone are the days of a big roll and slicing each bun, its all about knots to keep optimum filling in each and to maintain light airy buns. It really does make the difference!

If you fancy getting your fika on, I thoroughly recommend Aster's and its such a gorgeous venue! Served from 3.00pm-5.00pm everyday for just £20 a head, you can't go wrong.

For more information, and to drool over the menu, take a look here.

Thanks to Sheepa for inviting me, I had a fab time. Although my food was complimentary, all opinions are my own.

Poppy Seed & Marzipan Buns

I've made plenty of buns recently and have no intentions to stop. Especially after visiting Aster last week and watching their executive chef Helena Poulakka expertly knot some cinnamon buns. Whilst mine are never uniform in any way I did learn a few tricks. I thought cinnamon was my favourite, then cardamom, but after making these marzipan and poppy seed ones I just can't decide which comes up trumps. Other than the fact that this recipe is the most easiest I've ever made!

For these buns, I tried rolling the dough out into a shorter rectangle before spreading over the filling. After folding in half and rolling into a longer length, the filling is perfectly sealed which reduces some of the sticky mess I usually experience, and helps to give a nice layered profile after twisting. The next trick is not to twist, knot or roll too much or too tightly. You need all that air in there to get soft cloud like buns.

These buns are made by simply twisting a length of dough a few times, knotting once and tucking the ends under. Although I still quite like my trousers method for knotting, found here.

I also accidentally forgot to buy strong white flour so used brown instead and it totally worked. Next time I'll try a rye mix as I love the balance with sweet fillings.

P O P P Y   S E E D   &   M A R Z I P A N   B U N S
(Recipe adapted from Trine Hahnemann, makes 12-16)


12g fast action yeast
300ml whole milk, lukewarm
1 egg
700g strong brown flour
50g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
100g unsalted butter, melted
1 beaten egg, for brushing


200g marzipan, grated
250g unsalted butter, melted
4tsp poppy seeds
150g golden caster sugar

  • Add the yeast to the milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix gently with a spoon to allow the yeast to start dissolving. Add the egg, flour, sugar, salt and butter and mix on a low speed with a dough hook until the mixture forms a ball. Continue to knead with the dough hook on a low-medium speed until the dough becomes smooth, around 3 minutes.
  • Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to prove for at least an hour in a warm place. The dough should double in size.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling by combining the marzipan, butter, poppy seeds and sugar together until a gritty paste forms. I chilled mine in the fridge a little to firm up. The marzipan will melt into lumps if the butter is still pretty hot but this will roll into the dough anyway.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, upturn onto a well floured work surface and roll out into a 30 cm long rectangle. Scoop the filling onto the dough and spread with a palette knife leaving a half inch gap around the edges. Fold the dough in half length ways and roll once again to seal the filling in the dough, up to 60cm in length.
  • If there are any gaps where the filling hasn't spread, trim the edges. Score even lengths of dough before slicing with a palette knife.
  • To shape, take each length and gently twist and twizzle a few times before knotting and tucking the ends underneath. None of my buns ever end up being the same size or uniform at this stage!
  • Place each on a lined baking tray leaving plenty of space between each bun. Leave to prove once again in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Brush the buns with the beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden on top. 

These buns are definitely best served fresh and warm straight from the oven but can be gently reheated over the next few days if necessary.

Daim Blondies

The days are finally getting longer, hurrah!

We made it through winter, ish, and here's to daylight a fresh new start. I always consider February as my new year, the rigmarole of January just feels like an extension of the festive season. I've been trying my very hardest to do some baking, but everything has flopped so far.

There's been a spiced pear bundt with whiskey caramel...that fell into pieces as soon as I upturned it from the bundt tin. A peanut butter and banana loaf...that was so totally over cooked it tasted rubbish. A cardamom, hazelnut and bourbon cake...that just did not quite work.

So you'll know by now that when all else fails, I always resort back to brownies. For brownies are kind and they are forgiving when you're in a baking funk.

This time blondies packed with my one true love, daim. The chunks of daim melt down to form the most fudgiest, toffee like base which lends itself perfectly to a blondie. My favourite thing to do is to dunk them in a steaming cup of strong coffee.

D A I M   B L O N D I E S
Makes 16

125g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
240g, golden caster sugar
125g salted butter, melted
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
150g daim bars, chopped into rough chunks

  • Grease a 20cm square baking tray with baking paper and heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Whisk together the sugar, melted butter and egg together until light and creamy. About 5 minutes on a low-medium speed of a stand mixer.
  • Gently beat in the egg and vanilla extract before folding in the remaining dry ingredients, including the daim bars, until just incorporated. 
  • Pour into the prepared baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the centre starts to firm with a slight wobble.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray on a wire rack. Once fully cooled, I like to chill in the fridge for at least a few hours to firm up in order to be able to slice the blondies neatly. You can keep them in an airtight container at room temperature afterwards for a few days.

Cardamom Buns

I'm so excited that we've booked a trip to Copenhagen for February that I just had to bake some buns to celebrate. I love the flavour of cardamom so thought I'd try a variation on the regular cinnamon ones I make.

I must say that sometimes I find making them a labour of love. Although I can't pretend I don't cheat and use the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid. I also leave them to prove overnight in the fridge so they get plenty of time to relax and do their thing. As folding and shaping goes, I've given up trying to tightly roll long lengths of dough and loosing filling whilst slicing.

The method of shaping is a little more relaxed even if it does take more time doing each bun individually.  I take individual strips, cut mostly down the centre to make a dough pair of trousers. Twist each leg, knot a few times and then tuck under and seal underneath.  I prefer this look too!

C A R D A M O M   B U N S
(Makes 12, recipe adapted from BBC)

20 cardamom pods
350ml full fat milk
125g unsalted butter, cubed
500g strong white bread flour
150g golden caster sugar
7g fast action dried yeast
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
vegetable/sunflower oil for greasing
1 egg, beaten
  • Break open 10 cardamom pods and add them to the milk in a small pan. Heat gently until the milk starts to steam without boiling. Add 50g butter to the milk and stir until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, 75g sugar, yeast, salt and cinnamon. Add the milk and mix with a dough hook until the ingredients have combined to form a soft ball of dough. Continue to beat for up to 5 minutes until the dough ball is soft, smooth and shiny.
  • Lightly oil the edges of the mixing bowl, loosely cover with cling film and leave to prove for 2 hours, until doubled in size. Alternatively, leave to prove overnight in the fridge allowing 30 minutes in the morning for it to get to room temperature.
  • Crack the remaining cardamom pods and blitz in a food processing to make a powder. Combine with 75g sugar. In a bowl mix all of the cardamom sugar but 2tbsp with the remaining butter until smooth.
  • Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Remove the dough from the bowl onto a well floured work surface. Knock the air out and roll to form a rectangle. Spread the cardamom butter mix over the entire surface of the dough rectangle.
  • Longest side facing you, fold the top third down to the centre and the bottom third up, like an envelope. Score 12 even slices before cutting (I find scissors handy). Unfold each individual piece and slice each strip down the centre leaving a little at the end, like a pair of trousers. Twist each half outwards a few times before knotting together and tucking the ends under each bun.
  • Place all buns evenly spaced onto the prepared baking trays. Cover the buns with some lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm place to prove again once again. This time for 30 minutes - 1 hour, until doubled in size.
  • Heat the oven to 190 degrees.
  • Once the buns have finished their second prove, brush each with beaten egg and scatter over some sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.
  • Whilst the buns are baking, tip the reserved 2tbsp of sugar to a pan along with 50ml of water. Bring to the boil and remove to cool. Once the buns are baked, remove to a wire rack and brush with the sugar syrup 2-3 times as they cool.
Buns will keep in an airtight container for a few days, or in the freezer for 6 months - just heat them up in the oven before serving.

Please do send over any Copenhagen recommendations, I'd love to know. In the mean time I'm eating buns every day for breakfast and doughnuts all day long at work because who needs any self control after Christmas? On a more serious note - if anyone has seen my will power...