Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Mini Brioche a Tete

Brioche is a lovely enriched bread, using eggs, milk and lots of butter.  Often made as large loaves they can also be made in mini versions.  I have done this before my the blog, using a muffin tin. 

Today I am making them once more, but this time using mini brioche moulds.  The recipe will make 12 in my moulds, which are 4 inches/10 cm across at the top.  But is can be used to make them in a muffin tin too, but in that instance it will make 16.

The process is rather long, as the dough needs to be rested in the fridge for at least 7 hours, though overnight is probably better and certainly more convenient.  Then, once the buns have been formed they need to proof again, for about an hour and a half, until they have doubled in size.   But the end result is certainly worth taking the time to make them.  These buns are simply delicious, a moist, light and fluffy bun full of rich buttery flavour.

Since I only had 6 mini moulds I decided to simply roll the remaining dough into round buns and sprinkle some pearl sugar on the top.  That worked well too. 

All in all I am very happy with how both versions turned out, beautifully browned on the outside and the insides are a soft, airy and fluffy texture.  They taste very good indeed.

These buns are best eaten fresh, but they can be frozen too and then reheated in the oven to bring that freshness back.

Mini Brioche à Tête
Mini Brioche à Tête - Video
  • 500g(4 cups) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 6g salt
  • 50g(1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 10g instant yeast
  • 140ml(1/3 cup +1/4 cup) whole milk
  • 5 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • 250g(2 sticks plus scant 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • Pearl sugar, for sprinkling, if desired
  • 1 egg, beaten, for an egg wash
  1. Warm the milk to about 43C/110F.
  2. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  3. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. 
  4. Add the milk and eggs and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Increase the speed to medium for a further 6 – 8 minutes, until you have a soft, glossy, elastic dough.
  6. Add the softened butter and continue to mix for a further 4 – 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl periodically to ensure that the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be very soft and sticky.
  7. Tip the dough into a plastic bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to prove in a warm place for 2 hours, the dough should double in size.
  8. Knock the dough back and cover again.
  9. Chill overnight or for at least 7 hours, until it is firmed up and you are able to shape it. If the dough reaches the top of the bowl during this resting time you can gently knock it back and cover again.
  10. Lightly dust the worktop with flour and tip out the dough onto it
  11. Knock the dough down and fold it into itself a few times, using a little more flour to make it workable, as necessary.
  12. Roll the dough into a sausage and divide into 12 equal pieces(16 if you are using a muffin tin.
  13. Grease the tins.
  14. Roll each piece of dough into a ball .
  15. Using the side of your hand roll an indentation into the dough, dividing into 1 third, to 2 thirds.  Roll gently, stretching the neck of the indentation slightly.  
  16. Flatten the larger part of the dough and make a hole in the middle, with your thumbs. 
  17. Pull the head, which is attached to the neck of the dough, through the hole and gently form the roll into a round, place into the brioche mould(or the muffin tin), as level as possible.
  18. Gently press the head into the rest of the dough. 
  19. Repeat the process for all the remaining balls of dough.
  20. Cover and allow to rest until they have doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  21. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/375F
  22. Using a beaten egg brush the buns to lightly cover and then sprinkle some pearl sugar over if desired(preserving sugar or any that has those nice large granules will be ok too).
  23. Place in the oven, on the middle shelf, and bake for 20 minutes(15 minutes if making 16 in muffin tins)
  24. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about one or two minutes.  
  25. Tip out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Cut Out Sugar Cookies

I do enjoy biscuits of almost any type.  Buttery ones are high on the list of favourites, so shortbread, butter cookies and sugar cookies are all near the top.

This recipe is for sugar cookies, but with a dough that is firm enough to roll and cut out, keeping their shape.  They can be flavoured, with vanilla, almond, lemon etc depending one a person's fancy.  For mine I majored on vanilla, since I love that, but also added a little lemon extract.  If I had any lemons I would simply have added some zest, but the extract worked well.

This recipe is quite simple and just requires a little patience as the dough needs to be chilled before rolling.  Then it is just a case of rolling, cutting out, chilling a little longer and baking.

My cookies turned out very well, using a 32 star shaped cutter.  Of course any shape is ok, and depending on the size of the cookie cutter you can get more, or less, from this recipe.

I really like how the cookies are just a little firm on the edges and slightly softer in the middle.  The flavour, of mine, gave a decent vanilla flavour with the slightest hint of lemon.

Whenever I mention vanilla extract in my recipes I also mean real vanilla extract, in the UK only real vanilla extract is called that.  The artificially created flavour is called vanilla essence.

Although I serve these cookies just as they are, or with a little sugar sprinkled over the top they are also ideal for icing, with a simple icing, coloured as you wish.
Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Cut Out Sugar Cookies - Video

  • 450g (3 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 200g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract(or the zest of a lemon)
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • pinch of salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer(you can do it all with a hand mixer or by hand too) cream the butter with the sugar until all is combined and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg, vanilla extract and lemon extract(or zest) and mix until all is combined.  Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled.
  3. Put the baking powder and salt into the flour and stir around to mix in.
  4. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix until it all starts to form into lumps, don't mix it further than that.
  5. Use your hands to squeeze the mixture into a dough.
  6. Form the dough into a disc shape and wrap in plastic wrap then chill in the fridge for at least an hour, overnight is fine too.
  7. Once the dough is chilled remove from the fridge, if it is very hard leave for about 10 minutes to soften slightly for easier rolling. 
  8. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper, or silicone mats.
  9. Cut the dough into two equal sized pieces and form into a ball, then flatten to a disc.
  10. Roll out, on a lightly floured work surface, or between two sheets of parchment paper,  to a thickness of 1/4 inch(6 mm).
  11. Cut out using cookie cutters of your preferred shape(s).
  12. Place the cut out cookie dough onto the baking sheets, leaving a gap between each.
  13. Repeat with the second disc of dough.
  14. Refrigerate while you preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/375F.
  15. Bake the cookies in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to change colour.
  16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  17. If you wish to you can then ice the cookies with coloured icing, or sprinkle a little caster sugar over the top.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Gingerbread Cake with Orange Frosting

I recently had a couple of requests for ginger cake.  I have made one before, on this blog but that was before I was also doing videos. So I decided I would make it again, but with a little variation.

I should say that most of the recipes I have seen use only about half the volume of ingredients that my recipe uses, and usually with plain flour and baking powder where I use self raising flour and no baking powder.  I originally found the recipe on BBC Food website, but I have adjusted it slightly as I mentioned. In particular the baking time has been adjusted, and the temperature, as well as the depth of pan required.

I also pureed the stem ginger with some juice from the jar, rather than putting small chunks of the ginger into the cake.  That is because some people don't like to suddenly encounter a  very strong hit of ginger that you do get with stem ginger.  Pureeing the ginger allows it to be mixed evenly throught the cake, with the ground ginger as well. 

Although I haven't used other spices it is fairly common to add some cinnamon and maybe cloves or nutmeg.  But that is all a matter of taste really.  For me the two types of ginger are enough to make a wonderful cake.

The original recipe called for a 9 inch/23cm square cake tin that is at least 1 1/2 inches deep. In fact that it not enough on its' own.   The amount of batter in the recipe will just about fill such a tin, so any rise may well have the cake spilling over the sides.  Since I didn't have a deeper tin of that size I adapted, by ensuring the the parchment paper which I used to line the tin came over the top of the tin by at least an inch.  I also had some card that I could slip down the side of the tin if it looked like the paper wouldn't hold the batter as it rose.  In the event it held well. So my cake rose nicely and was contained.  Then as it cooled it levelled, but was still 2 inches high, so above the height of the suggested tin.

I also baked my cake for 70 minutes,  checking after 50 minutes to see if a skewer came out clean.  Then, as it didn't, I baked for a further 10 minutes and after testing again, 10 minutes more.   That gave me a perfectly baked cake which is ideal for eating without any frosting, if desired.  Of course it is also great with a nice orange flavoured frosting, which is simple to make. As well as eating as cake this is very good as a dessert with some custard, or some other sauce, maybe hot ginger sauce.

I am very pleased indeed with just how well this cake turned out, so I hope those who requested that I make it will enjoy making it themselves too.

Gingerbread Cake with Orange Frosting

Gingerbread Cake with Orange Frosting - Video

For the cake:
  • 225g/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 225g/1 packed cup light brown muscovado sugar
  • 225g/5/8 cup golden syrup(corn syrup is a good alternative)
  • 225g/2/3 cup black treacle(or molasses)
  • 450g/16oz self raising flour((I used 225g of SR Flour and 225g wholmeal SR Flour but one type is ok if that is all you have)
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 balls stem ginger (from a jar),  with a little of the juice too.
  • 2 medium eggs(large in USA), beaten
  • 300ml/1 1/4cup milk( I used 2% semi skimmed)
For the orange frosting:
  • 160g/1 1/4 cups  icing sugar
  • Juice and zest of one orange.
  1. Place the stem ginger together a little juice into a food processor(I used my immersion blender) and process to a puree(you could just chop or grate into very small pieces.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/320F.
  3. Grease and line a 9inch/23cm square cake tin.  Preferably the tin with be more than 2 inches deep.  If it isn't then ensure that the lining comes at least an inch about the top of the tin, and  then tape the excess so that it stands up and will support the cake as it rises. If you have a deeper 8 inch square tin that would be fine, but you may have to adjust the baking time.
  4. Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup and black treacle into a saucepan and gently heat, stirring,  until the butter has melted and the sugar is fully dissolved. Then allow to cool.
  5. In a large bowl place the flour and ground ginger and mix with a whisk(or sift together) until mixed together.  
  6. Pour the milk into the bowl, then the ginger puree(or grated) and then the semi cooled butter mixture.
  7. Give it all a quick stir and then add the beaten eggs.
  8. Mix together until everything is combined and you have a smooth batter.
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, giving it a little shake to ensure it is in the corners and is level.
  10. Bake in the oven for between 50 and 70 minutes, checking at 50 minutes with a skewer, if it comes out clean the cake is done.  If not then leave it for another 10 minutes and check again, repeating until the skewer comes out clean.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
  12. When the cake is cooled remove from the tin and place on a large plate.
  13. In a bowl place the icing sugar, orange juice and zest, and mix together until you have a thick paste, but just about of dropping consistency.  If necessary add a little more sugar to thicken, or a drop of water to make a little looser.
  14. Pour the icing onto the top of the cake and use a spatula to gently spread all over the top, to the edges. 
  15. Allow the frosting to set a little.
  16. Cut into squares and serve.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Czech Easter Bread - Mazanec

As I was thinking about what I could bake my thoughts turned to Easter.  So I decided that, having  made Hot Cross Buns on the blog and in videos I would need to do something a little different.  So I took to researching on the internet what I might make.  I came up with a few ideas, but first I thought I would make Mazanec which is a lovely sweet bread eaten at Easter in the Czech Republic, and also in Slovakia I believe.  In fact a variation of this bread is enjoyed throughout Eastern European countries at Easter. Certainly when I was living for a while in Prague I ate it and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Mazanec is a sweet bread that has raisins in it, often soaked in a little rum first.  Sometimes slivers of almonds are included in the bread and more are sprinkled over the top before baking.

Although it isn't Easter until the beginning of April I thought I would make this bread now, just to show how easy it is, so that others can consider baking it at Easter time.

This bread is eaten during Easter week in the Czech Republic, often with butter spread on it, but sometimes just plain or with fruit.  

Although the recipe takes a little time to make, as you have to let the dough prove prior to shaping and baking, it is well worth the small amount of effort required.  Having checked various recipes and watched several videos I noticed that in many instances the bread 'cracks' during baking.  This it seems is quite normal, so I didn't worry too much that mine had done the same.

My recipe is enough for one large loaf, or two smaller ones.  The dough can also be divided into stranded and plaited and then formed into a circle before baking.  For mine I just made one large loaf and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  I cut a cross in the top and although the loaf cracked that often happens and doesn't affect the taste in the least. It tasted delicious, similar in some respects to Pannetone.  I will be making this again for Easter.
Mazanec - Czech Easter Bread

Mazanec - Czech Easter Bread - Video

  • 500g (4 cups)strong white bread flour
  • 25g(3 tbsp) strong white bread flour
  • 200ml(1/2 cup+1/3 cup) lukewarm milk
  • 125g(one stick + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 100g(1/2 cup) caster or granulated sugar
  • 3 medium(large in USA) egg yolks
  • 1 medium(large in USA) egg for brushing
  • 60g(scant 1/2 cup)raisins
  • 60ml(1/4 cup) dark rum, optional
  • 50g (1/3 cup) flaked/shaved almonds + more from sprinkling
  • 14g(2 packets) Active dried yeast
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • seeds from one vanilla pod(or tsp vanilla extract)
  1. Soak the raisins in the rum for an hour(if you are using rum). Then drain the raisins and discard the rum(or do with it what you wish).
  2. In a bowl place 100ml of the lukewarm milk, 2 tsp of sugar, 25g flour and the active dried yeast and stir, then leave to activate for 20 minutes.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the kneading attachment fitted(this can all be done by hand but will be much harder work) place the flour,  sugar, salt, vanilla seeds(if using extract pour that into the milk), lemon zest and almonds.  Mix around thoroughly.
  4. Add the milk, melted butter, raisins, egg yolks and the yeast mixture.
  5. Knead on slow until all is combined. 
  6. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes.
  7. The dough will still be a little sticky, but well kneaded.
  8. Lightly flour the work surface and tip the dough out onto it.
  9. Give the dough a few kneads and shape into a ball.
  10. Place into a bowl, lightly oiled, and turn so that the dough is covered with oil.
  11. Cover with a damp towel, or some plastic wrap, and allow to prove in a warm place for an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  12. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out.  Then shape again into a round loaf shape(at this stage you could divide in two and make smaller loaves, or you could make one small loaf and three braid plate the remaining dough and form into a ring).
  13. Place the shaped dough onto a baking tray and brush all over with egg wash.  
  14. Sprinkle with more flaked/shaved almonds.
  15. Cut a small cross into the centre top of the dough.
  16. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  17. Cover the dough with a damp towel, or plastic wrap(loose) and allow to rise for at least 30 minutes.
  18. Place in the oven and bake for 60 minutes, then test with a skewer(or by internal temperature.
  19. If a skewer doesn't come out clean, or if the internal temperature has not reach between 88C/190F and 96C/205F then leave to bake for a further 10 minutes and test again.
  20. If the bread has browned enough you can lightly cover during baking, with aluminium foil.
  21. When the skewer comes out clean and/or the temperature has reached the correct level remove from the oven and place of a wire rack to cool before slicing.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sausage Plait

Having started my little series on making pastry I decided to use the first batch, rough puff pastry, to make a sausage plait.  But I went further, since I wanted to demonstrate that you could also just use shop bought puff pastry and make the same thing.

So, although the recipe below is simply for one sausage plait the pastry element can be either from my rough puff pastry recipe, found here: or shop bought puff pastry in a block or ready rolled. To demonstrate that I made two.

I prefer home-made unless I can be sure to get hold of all butter puff pastry in the stores and that is not always available.

For the sausage plait I used Lincolnshire sausages and took the filling out of the skins.  Lincolnshire sausages are pork with some sage.  But it is also easy to make your own with finely ground/minced pork and a couple of tablespoons of freshly chopped sage.  Then my recipe also calls for Worcestershire Sauce and chilli flakes as well as garlic powder, and tomato paste.  That all comes together into a wonderfully rich flavour that taste great served hot and equally good served in cold slices for lunch. 

Both of mine turned out very well.  My preference is for the one with rough puff pastry, simply because of the rich buttery flavour of the pastry.  But the shop bought puff pastry worked very well too, so either would be good to serve.

Sausage Plaits
Sausage Plait - Video
  • 1 block of rough puff pastry, made in advance, from this recipe:  or 1 pack of shop bought ready rolled puff pastry.
  • 400g sausage meat(or 400g finely ground/minced pork)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped sage(2 tbsp if using ground pork)
  • 100g fresh bread crumbs( I made mine in the immersion blender)
  • 1 small to medium onion
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp powdered garlic
  • ½ a beaten egg(the other half is used for brushing
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. Finely chop the onion and saute until soft, then leave to cool.
  2. In a large bowl mix the sausage meat with the breadcrumbs, onion, chilli flakes, Worcester sauce, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt and half an egg.
  3. Use your hands to make sure everything is mixed well.
  4. Place the mixture on plastic wrap and shape into a log about 9 inches/23cm long and 3 inches wide.
  5. Place in the fridge while you get the pastry ready.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F
  7. Flour the work surface and place the pastry dough onto it.
  8. Roll the dough out(if not using ready rolled) to an oblong which is about 13 inches long and about 10 inches wide. Have the long side facing you.
  9. Place the sausage meat in the middle, long side facing you.
  10. If necessary roll the sheet of pastry to make it longer, about 13 inches(to have enough for covering the ends).
  11. Trim the pastry so that the ends are just enough to cover the ends of the sausage.
  12. Cut the sides of the pastry in one inch widths at about 45 degrees.
  13. Trim the ends and place them over the end of the sausage by about an inch, wrapping around the sides too.
  14. Trim so that each strand can go just past half way over the sausage.
  15. Brush the ends of the strips with egg.
  16. Take one strip and place it over the sausage, just slightly overlapping the end.
  17. Take the opposing strip and bring up to overlap the first strip, in the middle of the sausage.
  18. Repeat with the remaining strips ensuring that they overlap each other slightly, so there are no gaps on the top.
  19. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush all over with egg.
  20. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the sausagemeat is fully cooked and the pastry is a nice golden brown colour.
  21. Remove from the oven and leave for a few minutes, then carefully transfer to another tray to cool completely using a wide spatula to lift as it will still be quite soft.
  22. Serve warm or cold, both taste great.

Rough Puff Pastry

I decided that I would begin to make some videos that demonstrate how to make various types of pastry.  This is so that I can then refer to these videos, rather than demonstrating how to make the pastry in every recipe that needs it.

The first one is Rough Puff Pastry.  Puff pastry, especially home-made is wonderful, but rough puff pastry is a very good alternative as it gives almost as much puff, but for much less effort.  Of course you can always buy puff pastry in a store, but the quality is variable.  Some have 'all butter' others just use a vegetable shortening which drastically affects the flavour.  So for me I like to make my own and this quick version works great for so many things.

Puff pastry takes many hours to make, but rough puff can be done in less than two hour and give a great result.

Once made the pastry can be chilled and kept for at least a week, or frozen and kept for months, so making double batches is a good idea, freezing half for later use.

The recipe below will easily make enough to roll out into a 25cm x 25cm square(12inch x 12inch), so it is perfect for things like turnovers, plaits, sausage rolls, beef wellington etc.

Having made the pastry I will use it, in a later post, to make a sausage plait.  In fact I will be making two, one with this pastry and one with shop bought puff pastry, just to compare.
Rough Puff Pastry

Rough Puff Pastry Video
  • 160g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
  • 160g (1/2 cup + 3 tbps+1 tsp) chilled butter in cubes.
  • 80ml(1/3 cup) ice cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt.
Place the flour into a large bowl and add the salt and butter.
Using a knife, or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the cubes have been reduced to small chunks, slightly larger than breadcrumbs

Some larger flecks are fine too.

Add most of the water, retaining a little for later if needed, and mix in to create a dough.
Work the dough together, using a hand if necessary, to pull it together, but still with flecks of butter showing.

Form into a square disk about and inch thick and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.
Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the chilled dough to an oblong with a length 3 times the width.
Brush off any excess flour and fold one third the length onto the middle third, 

then fold the remaining third on top of that.  This is known as a single turn.

Turn the pastry so that an open edge is facing you and roll out to an oblong again.
Repeat the folding as before.  That is now 2 turns.
Repeat the rolling and folding between 4 and 6 more times(depending on your patience, I prefer 6 as it gives more layers).  If the dough seems to get warm and sticky refrigerate for 20 mins before continuing).

When you have completed 4 to 6 turns wrap the dough and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out and using.  It can be stored for about a week in the fridge and much longer in the freezer.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Banana Loaf Cake - Banana Bread

It was sugested to me that I might make a Banana Bread, or more accurately Banana Loaf Cake.  I have made one before, but that was a chocolate flavoured one.  This one today is a slight variation on a recipe that I found in The Guardian, which used walnuts where I used roasted hazelnuts.  I prefer the taste of hazelnuts, particularly once roasted.

The recipe is very simple and quick to make.  The preparation is quick as is the mixing and then just about an hour to bake.  The resulting loaf is delicious and moist due to the bananas.  The flavour is fantastic too.  A slice of this is ideal with a cup of tea.  I guess it is also good for breakfast, for those who enjoy muffins in the morning, since it is quite similar in texture.

One person has also been asking for recipes with not too much butter or oil.  I think this recipe fits that purpose as many versions I have seen use at least twice as much as I have used here.
Banana Loaf Cake
Banana Loaf Cake - Video
  • 320g bananas(peeled weight)
  • 50g chopped roasted hazelnuts(or any nuts you wish chopped roughly)
  • 180g plain flour
  • 160g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 medium eggs(large in USA), beaten
  • 56g butter, very soft or melted and cooled
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/325 F
  2. Butter a 2lb loaf tin and then coat the buttered surface with flour, shaking off the excess.
  3. In a bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  4. In a separate bowl crush 2/3 of the bananas until mushy.  Then chopped the remainder into small chunks and mix in.
  5. In a large bowl place the sugar, eggs and butter and whisk together until all combined and slightly increased in volume. ( I used my hand mixer for this).
  6. Add the flour and banana and gently fold in until all is just about combined.
  7. Add the hazelnuts and fold again until all is mixed in.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and spread until the batter is level.
  9. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 10 minutes.
  11. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.