Sunday, 31 August 2014

Quiche Lorraine - with Cherry Tomatoes

Onto another savoury dish.  This time it is Quiche Lorraine, but I added some cherry tomatoes into the mix, which is not the way the purists would do it, I am sure.

Having done some research I discover that some people put onions and cheese in Quiche Lorraine, but my readings informed me that these ingredients are really not part of a real Quiche Lorraine.  Since I dont like cooked cheese it was no hardship for me to forego that ingredient.  Of course the adding of cherry tomatoes also deviates from the purist way of doing it, but I just couldn't resist, and they were sitting on the counter just begging to be used.

The recipe I used came from The Greedy Frog and on his page he gives lots of pics of the various steps.  He also explains why no cheese or onions should be used. 

Quiche Lorraine with Cherry Tomatoes

Quiche Lorraine sliced into portions


  • 300 g plain flour
  • 150 g unsalted butter, cold, diced
  • 200 g lardons (or diced bacon, or pancetta)
  • 3 eggs
  • 250 ml crème fraîche
  • 150 ml double cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cherry Tomatoes if you wish to use them

  1. Make the pastry. In a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and the butter to the flour. Work the flour into the butter between your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 
  2. Add enough cold water to bind, knead briefly then form into a ball (you can of course use a food processor instead if you prefer). 
  3. Wrap in cling film then chill for 20 min.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C/ fan 180C/ gas 6.
  5. Roll out the pastry to line a 28 cm fluted tart tin (re-form any leftover pastry into a ball and freeze for another time). 
  6. Chill again for 10 min, then line with foil, add baking beans, and bake blind for 15 min. 
  7. Remove the foil and beans, and return to the oven for 5 min.
  8. While the pastry is in the oven, heat up a non-stick frying pan, and dry-fry the lardons for a few minutes. They should colour slightly, but make sure they don’t get crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
  9. In a large jug, slightly beat the egg, then mix with the creams. Season, being careful not to add too much salt, as the lardons will be quite salty already.
  10. Scatter the lardons over the pastry base, pull the oven shelf partially out of the oven, and place the tin on it. Carefully pour the filling, stopping just below the edge of the pastry. 
  11. Carefully drop in cherry tomatoes, if you are using them.
  12. Push the shelf in gently, and bake for about 20 min until golden on top and soft in the middle.

Tarte au Chocolat

Following on from the success of my Tarte au citron I decided to try another tart, this time with a chocolat flavour.

This recipe is actually from a book by Christophe Felder, called Patisserie.  I bought the book recently and have enjoyed reading right through it looking for things to try.  The recipe in the book is actually called Pate Sucree Chocolat.  In Christophe's recipe he uses a square pastry ring to make the tarte case.  I didn't have one so I used a flan tin and it worked just fine.

The resultant tarte was just fantastic, though as I was making it I was having doubts about whether it would turn out ok.  In the event my worries were unfounded. But I should say that I used a different pastry to that in the original recipe.  So what I have done here is to detail the original recipe and at the end I have added details of the pastry I used.  Hence I called mine a different name to the one in the book.

Tarte au chocolat 

Tarte au chocolat - half eaten
Sweet Chocolate Pastry
  • 3/4 cup - 3 oz - 95g confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup - 1 oz - 30g ground almonds
  • 1 1/4 sticks  - 5 oz - 150g  of butter - softened
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg at room temperature 
  • 1 3/4 - 8 oz - 225 g - all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp - 15g unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • That is the ingredients for Pate Sucree Chocolat.

  • 10 oz - 290g bittersweet chocolate(about 65% cocoa)
  • 1 3/4 - sticks - 7oz - 200g butter
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup - 2oz - 60g sugar.

To make the pastry:
  1. Sift the confectioners sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add the ground almonds, butter, sal and vanilla sugar(or extract).
  3. Beat the ingredients at a low speed, with the paddle attachment, until the mixture is smooth.  Or use a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the egg and beat until smooth.
  5. Sift the flour, with the cocoa powder, into the bowl and bet in until smooth. 
  6. Flatten the dough into a disk and cover it with plastic wrap.
  7. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350F (170C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  10. Butter a 7inch square pastry ring or 9 inch round pastry ring.  (it said this but I don't have either, so a 9 inch flan tin would have to do).
  11. On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough, slightly less than 1/8 inch (2 mm) thick.
  12. Drape the dough over the rolling pinn  and transfer to teh pastry ring.  Trim the overhang, so that it is flush with the rim of the ring.  
  13. Prick the base of the tart shell with a fork.
  14. Bake for 15-20 mins, until a light crust forms on the top.  Let cool.
  15. Increase the oven temperature to 375F(190C).

For the filling:
  1. Finely chop the chocolate.  
  2. In a bowl, set over a saucepan filled with one inch of barely simmering water, or in 30 second burst in a microwave, melt the chocolate with the butter.
  3. Stir until smooth.
  4. Break the whole eggs into a medium bowl and add the egg yolks.
  5. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and thick, about 5 minutes.
  6. Fold in the chocolate with a flexible spatula, until smooth.
  7. Slightly mound the filling in thetart shell and smooth the top with a spatula.  (Note, mine may not have been quite thick enough, as I just poured it in).
  8. Bake for about 5 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn't burn.
  9. Let cool completely before serving.

Now, I used a different pastry.
Pate Sablee:
  • 2 Cups - 9oz - 250g all purpose flour  ( I substituted 90 grams of this for cocoa powder, which made a very chocolatey pastry)
  • 1 stick + 1tbsp - 5 oz - 140 g butter, cold and diced.
  • 1/2 cup - 3 1/2 oz - 100g sugar
  • 1 egg yolk.

To make this pastry:
  • Sift the flour/cocoa into a large bowl.  add the butter and sugar.
  • Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients.
  • Continue rubbing until the mixture forms fine crumbs.
  • Add the egg yolk and knead until the dough is smooth and form a ball.
  • Flatten the dough into a disk and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F(180C).
  • Butter the tart pan (9 inch round).
  • On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough, until it is  1/8 inch (3 mm) thick.
  • Drape the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to the tart tin.  Trim the overhang so it is flush with the rim of the pan.
  • Prick the base of the tart shell with a fork.
  • Bake for 15-20 mins, until a light crust forms on the top.  Let cool.

Even with this pastry mine broke up a bit.  I didn't want to overwork it.  I will have to practice.  But I patched it up just fine.
Also I think mine was not rolled as thin as they suggest.

Still, after all that it tasted very nice indeed, and was very rich.

Chocolate Victoria Sponge Cake

A Victoria Sponge, or Victoria Sandwich is a very popular cake in the UK.  It is one of my favourites, when baked correctly, as it has a lovely lightness to the sponge and a very tasty jam and buttercream filling. 

I made one such cake which turned out well, but I then went one step further and made a chocolate version.  For this I found a Paul Hollywood recipe, on Waitrose's website .  

Happily it turned out well and certainly was enjoyed by the tasters when I delivered it to them.  In fact it was devoured very quickly indeed.  That's always a good indication of how it tasted.

Chocolate Victoria Sponge Cake

Chocolate Victoria Sponge - sliced
  • Preparation time:20 minutes
  • Cooking time:20-25 minutes
  • Total time:45 minutes 
Serves: 10

For the cake:
  • 4 medium eggs – weighed in their shell (about 245g)
  • The weight of the eggs in butter, softened (about 245g)
  • The weight of the eggs in caster sugar (about 245g)
  • The weight of 3 eggs in Waitrose extra fine sponge flour (about 185g)
  • The weight of 1 egg in cocoa powder (about 63g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Splash of milk

For the chocolate butter cream filling:
  • 75g softened butter  THIS WAS NOT ENOUGH, I  ADDED MORE
  • 225g sieved icing sugar
  • 60g dark chocolate – melted
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar mixed with 1 tsp cocoa powder to dust the top of the cake.
1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4. Grease and base line two 21cm loose bottom cake tins. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs together. Gradually add to the creamed butter and sugar until well incorporated.
2. Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder together.  Fold into the mixture. Add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture if it’s too stiff.
3. Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins. Smooth over the surface so it’s level. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The cake should be springy to touch and have shrunk from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes, and then remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.
4. To make the filling, beat the butter with the icing sugar until smooth. Pour in the melted chocolate and stir. Add 1tbsp milk if needed to make more spreadable.
5. When the cakes are completely cold, sandwich together with the chocolate butter cream. Place the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a sieve and dust over the top of the cake.

Tarte Au Citron

For my next bake I went back to some French recipes to find one that matched what I expected from a Tarte au citron.  This lovely lemony tart is just perfect with some whipped cream.  The pastry is a light, sweet shortcrust one, that can be difficult to roll, if over or under worked.  But you can always patch it up once it is in the flan tin.

The recipe comes from BBC Food and is one of Mary Berry's.  On the website there is a video, so you can see how she makes it.

My effort turned out quite well and tasted delicious.  I do have a photo of it, which I show below.  Next time I will also take a slice out so the consistency of the filling can be clearly seen.

Tarte Au Citron

As you can see my pastry shrank a little during baking.  This is probably because I over worked it.  Also the ideal is to leave an over-hang of pastry around the edges, which can be trimmed off later.  However the shrinkage didn't have any effect on the taste of the end result, so it was no great problem.


For the pastry

· 175g/6oz plain flour

· 100g/3½oz cold butter, cut into small cubes

· 25g/1oz icing sugar

· 1 free-range egg yolk

· 1 tbsp cold water

For the filling

· 5 free-range eggs

· 125ml/4fl oz double cream

· 225g/8oz caster sugar

· 4 lemons, juice and zest

· icing sugar, for dusting

Preparation method

1.To make the pastry, place the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food processor. Pulse briefly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then add the egg yolk and water.

2. Pulse again until the mixture sticks together in clumps then tip onto a work surface and gather it into a ball with your hands. Knead the pastry just two or three times to make it smooth. If your butter was a bit too soft, the pastry might be too. If so, wrap it in parchment paper and chill for 15 minutes.

3. Grease a 23cm/9in loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin.

4. Lay a piece of parchment paper on the work surface. Remove the base from the tart tin and lay it on the paper. Using a pencil, draw a circle onto the paper 4cm/1½in bigger than the tin base.

5. Dust the base of the tin with flour. Place the pastry ball in the centre of the tin base and flatten it out slightly. Roll out the pastry, still on the base, until it meets the circle mark. As you are rolling out, turn the pastry by turning the paper. Gently fold the pastry surrounding the tin base in towards the centre.

6. Carefully lift the tin base off the work surface, drop it into the tin, then ease the pastry into the corners and up the sides of the tin, pressing the overhang lightly over the rim. If the pastry has cracked at all, simply press it together to seal. Press the pastry into the flutes of the tin then lightly prick the base with a fork, but not quite all the way through. Place the pastry-lined tin on a baking tray, cover loosely with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

7. Remove the cling film from the pastry case and line with foil so it supports the sides, then fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 12-15 minutes, until the pastry is set, then lift out the foil and beans. Carefully trim the excess pastry from the sides using a sharp knife, holding the knife at a sharp angle and slicing away from you. Remove the trimmings from the sheet. Return the empty pastry case to the oven for another 10-12 minutes or until it is pale golden and completely dry. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C/325F/Gas 3.

8. For the filling, break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk again until they are all well combined. Pour the filling mixture into a jug, then into the cooled baked pastry case. To prevent it spilling as it goes in the oven, pour in most of the filling so it almost fills the tart, carefully sit the baking sheet and tart on the oven shelf, then top up with the rest of the filling to completely fill it. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until just set but with a slight wobble in the centre.

9. Leave to cool slightly then, when the pastry seems firm enough, remove the tart from the tin. The easiest way to do this is to place the base of the tin on an upturned can or jam jar and let the outer ring fall to the work surface. Transfer the tart to a serving plate and serve warm or cold, dusted with sifted icing sugar.

Raised Chicken and Ham Pie in Water Crust Pastry

Yet another savoury bake, this one heavy on the meat filling.  It is also different in that it uses a water crust pastry.  That is the pastry used for raised pies such as the ever popular pork pie.

This particular recipe is from courtesy of the delightfully named French Tart.  

It does take a long time to make and is quite complicated.  But following the recipe is easy, and the results are well worth all the work.  

I made mine in a 9 inch springform cake tin and it worked very well.

Chicken and Ham Pie in Water Crust Pastry

Total Time: 26 hrs 30 mins
Prep Time: 24 hrs
Cook Time: 2 hrs 30 mins


1 lb plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces butter
4 ounces lard or 4 ounces white vegetable fat
4 ounces milk, and
4 ounces water, mixed in equal proportions

4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, dieced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 lb good quality pork sausage, casings discarded and crumbled into pieces
8 ounces chopped pancetta or 8 ounces chopped ham or 8 ounces bacon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaf
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leave
1/2 teaspoon ground mace or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 lemon, rind of, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
butter or lard, for greasing
1 egg, beaten for glaze

1/2 pint vegetables or 1/2 pint chicken stock
11 g sachet gelatin powder


1 Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, making a well in the centre.
2 Place the water, butter and lard into a saucepan, when the butter and lard has melted bring it all to the boil. Take off the heat.
3 Pour the mixture into the centre of the flour. Working very quickly, mix with a wooden spoon. Then knead with hands to produce a smooth and elastic dough. Allow to rest in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes.
4 (This pastry must be used whilst still warm, otherwise it will become brittle and hard to mould. I keep mine in a small pan over gently simmering water.).
5 Proceed with your recipe, as below.

6 Place all the pie-filling ingredients in to a large mixing bowl, including the herbs, spices and seasonings. Mix thoroughly with your hands - it's messy, but it's the best way to get everything well amalgamated!

7 Heat the chicken or vegetable stock. Mix the gelatine with a little cold water until it is spongy and smooth, gradually add the hot stock to the gelatine and mix thoroughly. Set aside until it is needed.

8 Grease an 8" round loose-bottom pie/cake tin or a special decorative pie mould - grease it liberally with melted butter or lard.
9 Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 3.
10 Take two-thirds of the warm pastry, form into a large, flat disc and put in the bottom of the tin or pie mould. Gently press and mould until the pastry covers the base and sides of the tin, keeping it as even as possible.
11 Fill the pastry pie case with the pie filling mixture - packing it down well.
12 Moisten the top edges of the pastry with the beaten egg. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut a circle or oblong to fit the top of the tin. Place over the filling and seal the edges, without pressing the pastry down too heavily. Trim the edges. Make a hole in the top centre of the pie and use any pastry trimmings to make pastry leaves and decorative trimmings. Press these onto the top of the pie and glaze the whole thing with beaten egg.
13 Now lay a sheet of foil over the top and bake for 2 hours, then remove from the oven. Leave the pie for 30-45 minutes to firm up, then turn up the oven temperature to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Carefully remove the pie from the tin and brush the pastry all over with the remaining beaten egg. If the sides show any sign of bulging, encircle the pie with a band of silicone paper (parchment) and tie with string.
14 Return the pie to the oven and as the pastry continues baking it will firm up (if you used the paper, you will gradually be able to peel it away, but add a little more egg to the unglazed parts) and all the pastry will brown – it will take approximately 30 minutes. As the top will brown before the sides, it will need to be protected with foil while the sides finish browning.
15 When the pie is a glowing golden colour, remove from the oven, leave to cool, then cover and chill.
16 Meanwhile have the jellied stock warmed slightly (by sitting it in a bowl of hot water), then cool it to the syrupy stage and pour it into the pie very gradually through a funnel, in to the centre steam hole (as much as it will take). Chill again to give the jelly a chance to set and then – believe it or not – it's ready to serve!
17 Serve with assorted fresh salads, pickles, mustard, chutney and relishes. Will pie keep for up to 5 days in a cool place or the fridge.
18 This freezes very well, defrost overnight, sitting the pie on a wire rack to avoid the pastry becoming soggy.
19 Wrap the pie for a picnic in greaseproof paper and cut the pie into slices when you arrive at your destination.

Courgette and Chickpea Filo Pie

Let's get any confusion out of the way right from the start.  Courgettes are known in some countries, such as USA as Zucchini, which I guess is of Italian derivation.  In the UK we use the French name courgette.  

This is another recipe from Nigella's website.  I usually try to use those recipes that say 'posted by Nigella', meaning that it is one of her recipes, rather than one posted by users of the site.  I don't intend any slur on those recipes, but experience has shown that Nigella's own recipes work very well, if followed correctly.

This bake is somewhat of a departure for me, being a savoury bake.  It is also the first where I have not made everything myself.  I bought in the filo pastry.  It is just too much effort to make my own, particularly as I am a novice baker.  So, apologies for the cheat, but I am sure most people buy in their filo. 

This pie turned out very well, and was just a wonderful lunch when we ate it.  It does look a little messy when cut open, but that is the nature of the filling, rice, chickpeas, courgettes etc.  I highly recommend this pie to anyone who wants something different from time to time.

I have two photos to share this time.  Firstly the pie after it came out of the oven, and secondly after it had been cut open.

Courgette & Chickpea Filo Pie

Courgette & Chickpea Filo Pie - inside view

The mix of textures enhance this pie, with its' crisp, flaky pastry, the softness of the courgettes, the semi soft rice and firm chickpeas, as well as the spices make this a very moreish bake.

  • ½ teaspoon cumin(seeds or powder)
  • 1 small onion (finely diced)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 plump courgettes
  • 125 grams basmati rice
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 2 x 400 grams tins chickpeas (drained)
  • 100 grams melted butter
  • 200 grams filo pastry
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6/400ºF and put in a baking sheet.
  2. Gently fry the cumin seeds/powder and onion in the olive oil until the onion's soft. Add the turmeric and coriander. Dice the courgettes (unpeeled), add them to the onion mixture, and cook on a fairly high heat to prevent the courgettes becoming watery. When they are soft but still holding their shape, add the rice and stir well, letting the rice become well coated in the oil.
  3. Add the stock 100ml / ½ cup at a time, stirring while you do so. When all the liquid has been absorbed the rice should be cooked, so take it off the heat, stir in the chick peas and check the seasoning.
  4. Brush the insides of a 22cm / 9 inch springform tin with some of the melted butter. Line the bottom and sides of the tin with 3/4 of the filo, buttering each piece as you layer. Leave a little filo overlapping the sides, and keep 3-4 layers for the top. Carefully put in your slightly cooled filling, and then fold in the overlaps. Butter the last layers of filo and scrunch on top of the pie as a covering.
  5. Brush with a final coat of butter, and put in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the filo is golden and the middle hot. Check this by inserting a slim, sharp-bladed knife (or cake-tester). If, when you remove it, it feels hot when you press it against your wrist, the pie's ready.
You need to work quickly with filo pastry, as it dries out very quickly.  So butter it and use it immediately.

Madeira Loaf

Almost everybody knows Madeira cake.  A nice, simple cake that goes so well with a good cup of tea.  It is almost impossible to get this cake wrong.  Mine turned out nicely, though I have no photo to share.  As if I need to repeat myself, I didn't realise I was going to start this blog, so didn't photograph many of my early bakes.

I am sure I will make this again soon, so then I will be able to update with a photo.

This was the fourth loaf of my one day baking blitz, so by the end I was ready for a rest.  But first I had to deliver the cakes to the intended recipients, and to sample them, with some tea.

  • 240 grams unsalted butter (softened)
  • 200 grams caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 210 grams self-raising flour
  • 90 grams plain flour
You will need a loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7cm / 9 x 5 x 3 inches), buttered and lined.

  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3/325ºF.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar, and add the lemon zest.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each.
  4. Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally, the lemon juice.
  5. Sprinkle with caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) as it goes into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
  6. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the tin before turning out.

Orange Loaf Cake

The third loaf cake in my baking blitz was Orange Loaf Cake.  This is quite a simple cake, with a very nice flavour, just enough orange to make it interesting, but not overpowering.

Like an idiot I failed to take any photo of this loaf, or indeed, the next one.  So I will have to post a photo later, when I make it again.

Meanwhile here is the recipe I used.

Preheat the oven to 180c/ Gas mark 4

  • ·         ½ cup of orange juice
  • ·         110 grams of butter
  • ·         225 grams  of caster sugar
  • ·         300 grams of plain flour
  • ·         2 tsp of baking powder
  • ·         2 eggs
  • ·         ½ cup of orange juice
  • ·         Tbsp. orange rind


  1. Stir together flour, baking powder.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together butter or margarine and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in rind and 1/2 cup juice. Pour in flour mixture, and stir until moistened. Turn into a greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour, or until done. Remove loaf from oven, leave to cool before removing from pan and allow to rest on cooling rack.   You can test to see if it is done by inserting a skewer into the middle.  If it comes out clean then the loaf is done.

Nigella's Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake

This was the second loaf in my one day baking blitz.  I found it on Nigella's website, I also found a video on Youtube, so I was able to watch how she made it.  Often searching for a video to match a recipe is a good idea, and it gives an indication of how simple, or not, a particular recipe will be to follow.

Once again my patience wore thin, and I sprinkled the flaked chocolate on the top a bit too soon, so it melted into a firm crust, but that was an aesthetic error, rather than a taste error.  The cake itself, with the cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and the chocolate drizzled in after cooking, seeping into the skewered holes, make this a really tasty morsel, for lovers of chocolate.

Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake
Ingredients  for the cake
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 50 grams cocoa powder
  • 275 grams caster sugar
  • 175 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 80 ml sour cream
  • 125 ml boiling water
  • 175 grams dark chocolate chips (unless you prefer milk)
for the syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 125 ml water
  • 100 grams caster sugar
  • 25 grams dark chocolate (from a thick bar)
  1. Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all ingredients can come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/325ºF, putting in a baking sheet as you do so, and line a 900g / 2lb loaf tin (mine measures 21 x 11cm and 7.5cm deep / 9½ x 4½ inches and 3 inches deep and the cooking times are based on that) with greased foil - making sure there are no tears - and leave an overhang all round. Or use a silicon tin.
  3. Put the flour, bicarb, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into the processor and blitz till a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Switch it off then remove the lid and the well-scraped double-bladed knife and, still using your rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips or morsels.
  4. Scrape and pour this beautiful batter into the prepared loaf tin and slide into the oven, cooking for about 1 hour. When it's ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle and a cake-tester, or a fine skewer, will pretty well come out clean. But this is a damp cake so don't be alarmed at a bit of stickiness in evidence; rather, greet it.
  5. Not long before the cake is due out of the oven - say when it's had about 45-50 minutes - put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. You may find it needs a little longer: what you want is a reduced liquid, that's to say a syrup, though I often take it a little further, so that the sugar caramelizes and the syrup has a really dark, smokey chocolate intensity.
  6. Take the cake out of the oven and sit it on a cooling rack and, still in its tin, pierce here and there with a cake tester. Then pour the syrup as evenly as possible, which is not very, over the surface of the cake. It will run to the sides of the tin, but some will have been absorbed in the middle.
  7. Let the cake become completely cold and then slip out of its tin, removing the foil as you do so. Sit on an oblong or other plate. Now take your bar of chocolate, wrapped in foil if you haven't got much of its wrapper left, and cut with a heavy sharp knife, so that it splinters and flakes and falls in slices of varying thickness and thinness.
  8. I've specified a weight, but really go by eye: when you think you've got enough to scatter over the top of the loafcake, stop slicing. Sprinkle these chocolate splinters over the top of the sticky surface of the cake.

Sticky Malt Loaf

I had a baking blitz a few weeks back, baking 4 different loaves in a single day.  The first of which is a Sticky Malt Loaf.  For those who know, and love the Soreen malt loaf this is not like that.  But it is certainly most delicious, and its stickiness increases day by day.

I urge you all to try this one, it is very nice indeed.  Once again I have a photo, but not of it sliced.  At the time of baking I hadn't even thought about a blog.  So it means I shall have to make another loaf and photograph it properly, and then update this post.

This is another recipe from BBC Good Food.  If you haven't checked out that site it is worth a look, since it has a host of very good recipes, and lots of tips.

The recipe is for two loafs, made in 1lb loaf tins.  If you only have a 2lb loaf tin that is fine, but you may need to slightly adjust the cooking time.

Sticky Malt Loaf

  • sunflower oil, for greasing
  • 150ml hot black tea
  • 175g malt extract, plus extra for glazing (see tip)
  • 85g dark muscovado sugar
  • 300g mixed dried fruits
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

  1. Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Line the base and ends of two greased 450g/1lb non-stick loaf tins with strips of baking parchment.
  2. Pour the hot tea into a mixing bowl with the malt, sugar and dried fruit. Stir well, then add the eggs.
  3. Tip in the flour, then quickly stir in the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and pour into the prepared tins. Bake for 50 mins until firm and well risen. While still warm, brush with a little more malt to glaze and leave to cool.
  4. Remove from the tins. If you can bear not to eat it straight away, it gets more sticky after wrapping and keeping for 2-5 days. Serve sliced and buttered, if you like.

Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake

This is another recipe where I didn't think to photograph the result, but I can assure you the recipe is spot on and the resultant cake was simply perfect.  I heartily recommend making this, it is easy to make and even easier to eat.

The recipe is from the BBC Good Food website and was written by Mary Cadogan.  She says it can be cut to 15 slices, though I guess that is slightly dependent on who you are cutting for.

It seems I will be very busy, as I have already promised to make certain items again,and the post photos.  

I have now made the cake again, for the purposes of a photo.  The recipe calls for an 18cm square tin.  Now I only have a 20cm square tin.  What to do?  That was a bit of a quandary, but ever resourceful I set my mind to work.  The solution, courtesy of a few minutes of searching on the internet,  was to increase all quantities in the recipe by one fifth.  It seems that an 18 cm square tin is 81% of the capacity of a 20cm one.  So increasing the quantities by 20% just about cover it. 

And so to the photo of the new cake, with another to be added tomorrow, after it has been sliced open.
Carrot cake, with Orange Icing, freely distributed to add a frisson of derring do

Carrot Cake, Sliced

This cake is dairy free and can be frozen, if desired.

  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 140g grated carrots (about 3 medium)
  • 100g raisins
  • grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg (freshly grated will give you the best flavour)
For the frosting
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1½-2 tbsp orange juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C. Oil and line the base and sides of an 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment. The easiest way to do this is to cut two long strips the width of the tin and put each strip crossways, covering the base and sides of the tin, with a double layer in the base.
  2. Tip the sugar into a large mixing bowl, pour in the oil and add the eggs. Lightly mix with a wooden spoon. Stir in the grated carrots, raisins and orange rind.
  3. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then sift into the bowl. Lightly mix all the ingredients – when everything is evenly amalgamated stop mixing. The mixture will be fairly soft and almost runny.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes, until it feels firm and springy when you press it in the centre. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out, peel off the paper and cool on a wire rack. (You can freeze the cake at this point.)
  5. Beat together the frosting ingredients in a small bowl until smooth – you want the icing about as runny as single cream. Set the cake on a serving plate and boldly drizzle the icing back and forth in diagonal lines over the top, letting it drip down the sides.

Medovnik - Honey Cake

Medovnik is the Czech word for a wonderful honey cake.  It is time consuming to make, and quite complicated to assemble.  But it is well worth it, as it tastes wonderful.  I have eaten it many times in Prague, you can buy a slice in any Cukrana, or indeed whole cakes.

As with all my early bakes I failed to take a photo of the inside of the cake.  So, although I have a photo of the cake, covered in the crumbed coating with chopped walnuts, I dont have a view of the inside.  I will try to rectify that at some time.  But I will say that this cake should have many layers.  Mine had eight layers of cake with the filling in between each layer and then all over the top and sides as well.

I warn you that this is a very addictive cake, and really rather sweet too.

Medovnik - Honey Cake

The recipe I followed is originally from a Czech website, here, in Czech.  With the help of google translate, and a little interpretation of meaning I have come up with this version of the recipe.

      For the cake: 
  • 450 grams Flour
  • 180 grams Icing Sugar
  • 180 grams Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 6 tablespoons Honey
  • 4 tablespoons Cream
  • 1 teaspoon Cocoa Powder
     For the filling:

  • 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 200 grams of Unsalted Butter
  • 70 grams roughly chopped walnuts
  1. The first thing to do is to make a start on the caramel filling. Take a can of condensed milk. Put it in a saucepan of water, making sure that the can is completely covered. 
  2. Bring the water to the boil and then simmer for about 2.5 hours, longer is fine too, it will make the caramel darker. 
  3. Remove the can from the water, and leave to completely cool. You can do this the day before making the cake. 
  4. In a bain marie add the butter, sugar, egg, honey and cream for about 5 minutes, using a hand mixer is best. 
  5. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda and cocoa powder. 
  6. Then mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and let sit for about 10 minutes covered with plastic film. 
  7. Take some parchment paper and draw 8 inch circles on it. Repeat this with 7 more pieces of paper. 
  8. The batter you made should now be of a cookie dough consistency, so that it is easy to roll, without sticking. If it is sticky let it sit a little longer, or use some flour on the rolling pin to prevent sticking. 
  9. Roll out, on the parchment paper approx 160 grams of the dough. Repeat for all 8 sheets of paper. 
  10. Bake each one for 6 to 7 minutes 
  11. On parchment paper draw an 8 inch circle and roll out approximately 160 grams of dough into a circle onto the paper to bake. Roll out 8 same sized circles and bake each one for 6 to 7 minutes at Gas Mark 4/350 degrees F/180 degrees C 
  12. Also bake any left over mixture, you will need it later, for crumbing. 
  13. When baked let it all cool 
  14. Cut each cake layer to precisely, or as close as possible, 8 inch circles. Retain the off-cuts 
  15. To assemble the cake take a flat plate, slightly larger than the 8 inch layers. 
  16. Lay one layer on the plate and cover with caramel 
  17. Sprinkle with a few chopped walnuts 
  18. Lay the next layer on top and again cover with caramel and walnuts. 
  19. Repeat the process until you have used all the cake layers. 
  20. Now cover the entire cake with the remaining caramel, top and sides. 
  21. With the off-cuts and any additional dough that was cooked chop it to breadcrumb size, along with the chopped walnuts. Using a food processor and pulsing will do this very quickly. 
  22. Cover the cake with the crumb mixture. 
  23. Put the whole thing in the refrigerator to allow it to firm up, before slicing.

Sacher Torte

Next up on the baking front is Sacher Torte.  This is a 'cake' which originated in Vienna and I first tasted it in the Savoy Restaurant in Prague.  As an aside, if you are ever in Prague a visit to Savoy Restaurant is very worthwhile.  The food is very good and the restaurant has a wonderfully adorned ceiling to marvel at too.

It is a rich, fairly moist and dense confection, which tastes wonderful, with a little whipped cream.

I followed a fairly standard recipe, which adheres more to the traditional way it would have been made in years past.  Many recipes incorporate ground almonds, which are not included here.

I have two photos to share this time.  But a major mistake was not to cut the cake to show the inside.  I will do that next time and add the photo to this page.
Sacher Torte - After being covered in Chocolate Ganache

Sacher Torte - before being covered in Chocolate Ganache

  • 7 egg yolks
  • 150 g softened butter
  • 125 g icing sugar
  • 200 g dark chocolate
  • 1 packet (8g) vanilla sugar
  • 7 egg whites
  • 125 g crystal sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150 g flour
  • Butter and flour for the mould
  • 150 – 200 g apricot jam, for spreading
  • Rum, if desired
  • Whipped cream to garnish
For the glaze:
  • 200 g dark chocolate coating or cooking chocolate
  • 250 g sugar
  • 150-170 ml water


1. Melt the chocolate slowly (ideally in a bain-marie). Meanwhile, mix the butter with the icing sugar and vanilla sugar until creamed. Gradually stir in the egg yolks. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C. Grease a cake tin with butter and sprinkle with flour. Whip up the egg whites with a pinch of salt, add the crystal sugar and beat to a stiff peak. Stir the melted chocolate into the paste with the egg yolks and fold in the whipped egg whites alternately with the flour. Fill the dough into the tin and bake for around 1 hour.

2. Remove the cake and leave to cool off (to achieve a flat surface turn the cake out on to a work surface immediately after baking and turn it again after 25 minutes).

3. If the apricot jam is too solid, heat it briefly and stir until smooth, before flavouring with a shot of rum. Cut the cake in half crosswise. Cover the base with jam, set the other half on top, and coat the upper surface and around the edges with apricot jam.

4. For the glaze, break the chocolate into small pieces. Heat up the water with the sugar for a few minutes. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool down until just warm to the taste (if the glaze is too hot it will become dull in appearance, but if too cold it will become too viscous). Add the chocolate and dissolve in the sugar solution.

5. Pour the glaze quickly, i.e. in a single action, over the cake and immediately spread it out and smooth it over the surface, using a palate knife or other broad-bladed knife. Leave the cake to dry at room temperature.

Serve with a garnish of whipped cream. If possible, do not store the Sacher Torte in the fridge, as it will “sweat”.  This will also take the shine off the ganache, which is often how it is served.

I have made this twice now, the second time I changed the recipe for the ganache,  Instead of the one above:

  • 200 g dark chocolate
  • 200g of double cream

Heat the cream in a saucepan.  When hot, but not boiling, take the pan off the heat and add in the chocolate, chopped into small pieces.  Stir gently as the chocolate melts into the cream.  When it is fully melted allow it to cool a little.  Then pour over the top of the cake, it should coat the top and down the sides.  You can use a palette knife to cover any area of the sides that don't get coated.   A tip is to do this while the cake is on a cooling tray, which is standing over a baking tray to catch any excess chocolate.

Cherry Tomato and Basil Focaccia

Having reached a certain point now, in my baking, I decided that I should invest in a stand mixer, and decided upon a KitchenAid device.  Having bought it I thought I would try a recipe from the KitchenAid website, and settled upon a savoury bake, Cherry Tomato and Basil Focaccia.

Happily it all turned out very well.  The recipe, shown below, makes enough for two loaves.  The bread freezes well, so it is quite possible to eat one, on the day of baking, and freeze the other.  I do recommend eating the loaf as soon as possible after baking, or freezing, as this bread will not stay fresh like supermarket loaves.

Here is a photo of my attempt, it turned out rather well, I think.

Serves: Makes 2 loaves
Preparation time: 15 minutes - Rise: 2 hours
Cooking time: 25 minutes
  • 30 g fresh yeast
  • 400 ml lukewarm water
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 800 g white bread flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 125 ml olive oil
  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 24 red cherry tomatoes (or 12 red and 12 yellow cherry tomatoes)
  • extra virgin olive oil and sea salt flakes, to garnish

  1. Crumble the yeast into a measuring jug and add the water. Stir in the sugar and leave for 10 minutes until the mixture starts to foam.
  2. Stir in the olive oil. Mix the flour and salt in the mixer bowl with the flat beater on speed 2 for 30 seconds. 
  3. Change to the dough hook and gradually knead in the yeast mixture until you obtain a soft dough. Knead for 2 minutes on speed 1.
  4.  Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until doubled in volume. 
  5. Finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and basil. 
  6. Knock back the dough and knead with the dough hook on speed 1, mixing in the sun-dried tomatoes and basil.
  7. Divide the dough into two portions and roll out each portion to a 1.5 cm thick circle. 
  8. Place on greased baking sheets and make 12 indentations in each dough circle with your fingertips. Push a cherry tomato into each indentation, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in volume. 
  9. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. 
  10. Drizzle the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt flakes.
  11. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the focaccias are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base.