Sunday 30 June 2013


It doesn't come much better than a profiterole. Sure you can argue the merits of an ├ęclair but ├ęclairs are messy and once you start one you are committed until it's finished, unless you are that person that saves half for later...tut tut. A profiterole is a bite sized piece of joy. Crisp, light choux pastry, filled to the point of bursting with fresh cream and drenched with chocolate, it's a dieter worst nightmare.

I have been a little obsessed with perfecting the art of the choux recently, having decided to teach it to 13-14 year olds, I have to get it right myself first.

It's a simple pastry at heart, no gently rubbing flour into butter, no worrying about the heat of the room, no danger over kneading and making it tough for just a few examples.

There are several key points to follow for making a decent choux bun:
  • beat the flour in quickly when  the liquid boils
  • make sure to return the mixture to the heat to dry.
  • careful with the amount of egg added as it is temperamental and you might not need it all.
  •  don't open the bloody oven until its cooked.
Once you have mastered the art then the world is your lobster. Flavour the cream with your favourite liqueur, baileys or whisky for example or don't use cream and fill it with cream patisserie instead. Drown them in your favourite chocolate or up the game and make a Croquembouche or a St Honore.

150ml water
50g Butter
60g flour, sieved.
2 eggs, beaten
200ml Double Cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
100g Dark Chocolate

Melt the butter with the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiled, take off the heat, pour in the flour and beat hard with wooden spoon until a smooth paste and coming away from the sides.
Place back on the heat for about 30 seconds to dry out further.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before adding the egg
Add the egg, a bit at time, mixing well after each addition. the mixture will look like it's splitting but keep beating, it will sort itself out. when the mixture reaches a consistency where it will drop off the spoon with a jerk then stop adding the egg.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag.
Pipe small mounds on a sheet of greaseproof paper, keep them even.
Once done, then with your wet finger, tap the pointy tops down gently to make them smooth.
Bake in a preheated oven at 190C (fan) for 20 minutes until the buns are crisp and golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, stir in a tbsp of icing sugar (optional). Using a thin nozzle, pipe cream by piercing the bottom of each choux bun with the nozzle and then piping straight into the centre.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water and either dip each bun into the chocolate or drizzle it all over with a spoon.


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Friday 28 June 2013

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cake

After the success of the Triple Chocolate Cake of Death, another colleague at work got wind that I can make a decent cake when I put my mind to it and enquired if I could make one for her up coming wedding anniversary, being in a nice mood for a change and never one to turn down an opportunity to bake, I agreed and began pondering what to make.

The brief was even vaguer than the chocolate one with the brief  for this bake just simply 'cake'. Very helpful that. normally my go to flavour in cakey form are Lemon or chocolate, usually with raspberries but....British Strawberries are in fine form at the moment and there are some fine varieties floating about.

My advice when buying them are to give them a sniff, if they smack you round the head with strawberry aroma, get them bought and eaten but do it quickly because they are usually at the peak of their powers and will go off very quickly.

To go with the strawberries, I decided to opt away from the usual dark chocolate and go the other end of the spectrum with a white chocolate butter cream. I also decided to move away from a strawberry jam filling and go for a deliciously gooey and sticky strawberry compote which would help show off the strawberry flavour instead of just being very sweet.

Main Cake ( two 8 inch tins)
6 eggs - weigh in shells to find their weight then use this measurement for the following.
Caster Sugar
SR flour
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Little cake (one 4.5in tin)
1 egg, as above weigh in shell to find the weight.
SR Flour
Caster sugar
tiny drop of vanilla extract

Strawberry compote
450g strawberries, hulled and chopped in half or quarters.
4 tbsp Caster Sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice.

White Chocolate Buttercream
220g Butter
500g Icing sugar
300g White chocolate
milk (if needed)

To decorate
100g white chocolate
Punnet of strawberries

Cook each cake separately. For each cake, beat all the ingredients together in a bowl until a smooth cake batter is formed and the mixture easily falls off a spoon. Divide the mixture between the two lined and greased cake tins equally or pour the mixture straight into the lined and greased little cake tin. Level out and place in a preheated oven at 160C(fan) for about 45 minutes for the big cake and about 20-25 minutes for the little cake. Check they are done by inserting a skewer into the middle to see if it can be removed clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Place the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice into a saucepan, heat gently until the strawberries start breaking down, stop cooking when it is syrupy but there are still decent lumps of strawberry in there. set aside and leave to cool.

Cling film a flat movable surface, such as a chopping board. melt the chocolate, in a bowl, over a pan of simmering water. once melted pour over the clingfilm and spread into a thin even layer, place in the fridge to cool and set.

White Chocolate Buttercream
melt the white chocolate using the above method and set aside. beat half the icing sugar with the butter until smooth, continue beating in the sugar until all is combined and smooth. pour in the white chocolate and beat until well combined. If very thick then add a tsp of milk until at the required consistency. If too thin, add more icing sugar to thicken it.

Trim the cake and make it even so it doesn't lean to one side. On the bottom layer pipe or spoon a barrier of buttercream around the edge.
Spoon the compote into the centre, try and avoid lots of syrup and add mainly the strawberries. The remainder can be spooned over individual slices.
Place the second cake layer on top.
Apply a crumb coat of buttercream to the big cake and the little cake separately and place in the fridge to set for about 10 minutes.
Completely cover the big cake with butter cream and place the little cake on top and cover that as well.
Hull and half strawberries and attach around the cake and the top of the cake.
Slice the layer of set chocolate into shards and place around the top of the cake at angles.

Serve with the remainder of the compote.


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Sunday 16 June 2013

Chocolate and Almond Cake - A Random Recipe

I have been a bit rubbish with blogger challenges recently. I always start the month off full of enthusiasm, checking out the new challenges and thinking about what I could do but then the month happens and blazes past and before I know it I'm reading the round-up wondering where the month went.
Well not this month, at the very least I'm going to get my favourite one done which regular readers will probably figure out is Dom's Random Recipe challenge. I always enjoy the fear of choosing a recipe and wondering which one I will end up suffering through.

This month's challenge is a summer themed one. Yes, Summer, that season where the sun shines, everybody goes bright burnt red, gets food poisoning off undercooked barbecue and is currently Missing in Action. Yeah I'm sure it will turn up eventually.

We were instructed to choose from the summery chapters of our books of which a few came to mind straight away but then this month's summer editions of Olive and Good Food landed and I decided to use them instead. Olive's Italian themed magazine got the nod after a quick flip of a coin and then I landed on page 46-47 and I picked the first recipe I looked at which was a Chocolate and Almond cake from Positano which reportedly grows the best almonds in Italy.

A fairly simple recipe and completely flour less so suitable for that coeliac in your life. The end result is a slightly squidgy cake with the texture resembling a good brownie. This, combined with fresh cream and even fresher strawberries or raspberries to cut through the bitter chocolate, makes a lovely cake/pud to enjoy in the sun when/if it makes an appearance.

Chocolate and Almond Cake
200g good chocolate (70%)
200g butter
250g caster sugar
5 eggs, seperated
250g ground almonds
zest of one lemon

To serve
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 190C/170c(fan) and line and butter a 23in cake tin
melt the chocolate in a bowl, over a pan of simmering water. stir in the butter and mix until smooth.
Add the sugar, mix well and  then add the egg yolks.
Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl until they form peaks, add the grated lemon zest then fold very gently into the chocolate mix.
Pour gently into the tin and bake in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides.
Turn out the cake onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
Dust with icing sugar and serve how you like.


Tuesday 11 June 2013

Salmon in a Bag

Awhile back I bought a whole salmon in order to fillet it up and have a good supply of fish for a reasonable price. The whole thing cost about 18 quid and I managed to get about 15 decent fillets off it. not bad at all.

I've been mainly eating them with a jacket potato and some salad for a quick and easy tea.
This time however,  I wanted to do something a little different but still keep the quick and easy element.

It's a simple recipe were (nearly) all ingredients are cooked in a makeshift paper bag and served as it comes.
The lemon thyme is well worth tracking down but a splash of lemon juice will also do the trick.

1 salmon fillet
3-4 sun dried tomatoes, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
200g new potatoes
Few sprigs of Lemon Thyme
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
Salt and black pepper

Get the potatoes on the boil with plenty of salted water, depending on the size they should take about 10-15 minutes.
Get a large piece of greaseproof paper and place the salmon fillet in the middle, arrange all the other ingredients around the salmon.
Once the potatoes are soft, drain and slice in half and place around the salmon.
Drizzle over some oil and season with salt and pepper.
Seal up the bag by twisting and folding to reasemble a cornish pasty. ensure the ends are well twisted to ensure the steam stays inside.
Place in a Preheated oven at 180C for about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with a green salad to up your healthiness rating even more


Monday 10 June 2013

The Greedy Pig Supperclub

I spend the vast majority of my weekends in Leeds and have come to know the City quite well, mainly in relation to where is good to eat and drink.

The Greedy Pig is definitely one of these places. It is a simple little cafe run by Jo and Stu that serves bloody good food and even better breakfasts. We took a friend of mine there who has eaten enough breakfasts to give a cardiologist an heart attack and he walked away raving about it.

Over the past two weeks, Leeds has been hosting its annual food festival with the main festivities taking place this weekend in Millennium Square and Victoria Gardens, cue lots of good food, lots of beer and far too much sun for my fair complexion to take.

As part of this, The Greedy Pig, whilst opening their cafe and running a stall in Victoria Gardens they also hosted their very own supper club in Chapel Allerton, the multitasking heroes.

So off we went....

First off was salmon on a bed of new potatoes. this was delicious, perfectly cooked, full of flavour but very light and fresh which was just what was needed after the heavy food and beer of the day.

For the main course we went for Hogget, not a meat I often get chance to eat and it's a shame really because it is lovely. Hogget, if you are wondering, is a sheep aged between 1-2 years old. Lamb is below a year and Mutton is anything over 2 years. So the meat has had time to mature a bit but still lovely and tender.

This was lovely, soft juicy meat, with fennel, asparagus and a vegetable pilaf.

This would have been enough food but it came with a side of heritage tomatoes and new potatoes.

For the third and final course we opted for one of each of the available puddings, a gloriously gooey chocolate brownie, which I nearly ate the entirety of before I was reminded I was supposed to be sharing, and a face wrinkling slice of the Lemon and Raspberry bar. Both a superb end to the meal and available at the cafe if you ask nicely.

All this lovely food cost only £20 each and well and truly ruined the rest of the night as we had planned on cocktails afterwards but after nearly falling asleep in the pub we decided to call it.

Looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Strawberry and Cream Butterfly Cakes

Bit of a retro baking post this one with the Classic Butterfly cake and the beautiful British Strawberry.

I'm sure most of us at one time in our younger days have stood on a chair to reach the counter, covered in flour, whilst painstakingly cutting out the middle dome of cake from little fairy cakes in order to fill it with some random jam and tooth achingly sweet buttercream before placing the little halved dome back on to make 'wings'.

A classic bake for kids if ever there was one, or for grown up kids for that matter...

Being a little bored and in a cakey but lazy mood I did originally plan to make a few simple cakes to have with some strawberries, which are beautiful at the moment, but as ever I couldn't stop there. So with the addition of a little cream  and some icing sugar I relived a small moment of childhood and made these little strawberries and cream butterfly cakes.

Ingredients (makes 5, scale up as required)
1 egg
50g self raising flour
50g butter
50g caster sugar

5-6 strawberries, chopped into little pieces
50ml double cream
Icing sugar to dust

In a bowl, beat the egg, sugar, flour and butter together until smooth and drops off a spoon easily.
Fill 5 cake cases to just below the brim and place in a preheated oven at 180C/160C(Fan) for 15- 20 minutes until nicely golden on top.

Leave to cool whilst preparing your strawberries and whipping the cream until thick.
Cut out a small cone shape out of the middle of the cake and set aside, fill the hole with strawberries and cream.
Half the little dome and place back on the top of the cake with the two flat sides facing each other.
dust with icing sugar and enjoy.