The Bake Off Bake Along: Bread Basket

Oh, Prue. Prue. I sympathise, I really do. We’ve all had that heart-shrinking, teeth-grinding ‘Nooooo!’ moment when we realise we have sent a message about a person to that person, or misdirected a work email, or foolishly texted an ex when drunk. You try, desperately, to recall the message you’ve put out into the ether, but it’s too late. Everyone has seen it. What is done cannot be undone.

I happened to be on Twitter when Prue casually revealed the winner of the Bake Off about nine hours before it actually aired, so I was ‘spoilered’ immediately. I didn’t really mind though. As anyone who knows me will know, I always want to know the end of everything. And I was glad that Sophie was our winner. It definitely seemed like the right choice out of the final three bakers.


I can’t quite believe I’ve managed to make it all the way through this year’s bake off bake along. It has involved a lot of rushed early morning baking in a panic. I’m glad I’ve limped through to the finish line, though, because it’s given me some very good weeks. Let’s not talk about the bad weeks. My particular favourites have been the peanut butter fondants and the cannoli. Happy days.


Fittingly, finals week was actually the trickiest week for me in terms of choosing a challenge. I didn’t have the kit (and I’m not sure I have the skill, to be honest) to go for an entremet. I wasn’t feeling inspired by the technical challenge. Ginger biscuits are fine, but very fiddly icing is not up my street – all about the look, not at all about the taste. So, somehow, making twelve loaves of bread started to seem like the sensible option.


I could have made my life slightly easier and done three full size loaves, or one batch of four small ones. But, in the end, I decided to make a proper go of it, safe in the knowledge that it will be at least a year before I put myself through this process again.

And actually, it went surprisingly well.


When you put your mind to it, it’s quite astonishing how much bread you can make in a morning. And because I was bound by the constraints of the Bake Off challenge – i.e. I had to make one spelt bread, one filled bread, and one shaped bread – I ended up making up some new recipes. Which I am often too lazy to do.

My final loaves were spelt boules with almonds and dates, wholemeal walnut loaves filled with blue cheese, and simple white plaits. I’ve never actually made a plaited loaf before, and even though it seems a bit pointless – since the fancy shape doesn’t in any way make the taste more interesting – I admit it was quite satisfying. I don’t think my bread would have been accused of being underproved or overworked. The walnut and blue cheese bread was stupidly delicious: James and I ate an embarrassing amount of it very quickly. And I’ve always liked baking with spelt, and fruit and nut bread is very satisfying. So, three thumbs up. If I had three thumbs. You know what I mean.


I’m not going to post the recipes here because three recipes in one post would be a bit much. Also, I was kind of winging it. But if you are particularly interested in any of the three, do let me know and I will send a recipe your way.

Goodbye for now, Bake Off. See you next year. I hope. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all my free weekend time now. I mean, probably still baking, to be honest. But in a less structured way.



The Bake Off Bake Along: Berry Cheesecake Choux Buns

The semi-final has come and gone, only the final remains and, if we’re honest, we’re all a bit surprised that it’s come to this, right? I sort of lost faith in the show after the Julia – Yan – Liam triple blow eviction debacle. But I continued watching because, really, I have nothing more entertaining to be doing at 8pm on a Tuesday night. Also, there’s the bake off bake along to consider. And I can’t really complain, because I never thought to make berry cheesecake choux buns before this. And I’m really quite glad they exist in my life now.

So I’d never even heard of craquelin before this week. And I did an entire culinary diploma. Also, it looks kind of like an odd skin-complaint, no? Anyway, I did this bake along at 6am on a Saturday morning because that was literally my only free time during the weekend. There was no way in hell I was going to make two different types of choux buns. One type was as much as I could be bothered with. Clearly I was not going to be making Les Miserables cake before sunrise, and I have made my feelings on insane technical challenges that take six hours and look impressive but taste only of sugar perfectly clear. So choux buns it was.


Actually, I’m so used to profiteroles that I’ve never really thought of doing anything different with choux buns. Other than filling them with cream and covering them in chocolate, I mean. Which is a perfectly delicious thing to do, so I shall continue to do it. But now a whole world of choux bun glory is open to me! Why I never thought of filling a choux bun with cheesecake before I do not know. Thank you, bake off bake along, for inspiring me. These were majorly tasty.



I went for a mixed berry cheesecake filling here and topped the buns with raspberries because, er, that’s what they had at the shop. But obviously you can use whatever berries you like or have.

Unfortunately, although these aren’t difficult to make, they don’t keep particularly well. As soon as you’ve filled your choux bun with cheesecake filling (or with anything, really), you’re working against the clock. Your beautiful crispy pastry will start to soften fairly fast. It’ll still taste excellent after a couple of hours even if it’s gone soft, but you won’t really have the textural contrast you’re after.

On the Bake Off they always make out like choux is really hard. I don’t know why, because it’s not. If anything, I actually find it easier than most other pastries, because you don’t have to faff about with resting it. Or keeping it cold. Or worrying about overworking it. Or rolling it out without cracks. Or any of that stuff, really. This recipe looks long but it’s not because it’s complicated. It’s because I am trying to carefully explain how to make choux in case you’ve never done it before.

This recipe will make around 25 choux buns, although obviously it depends wildly on how big you pipe them.


for the choux

220ml water
85g butter, cubed
105g plain flour
Pinch of salt
3 eggs, at room temperature

for the cheesecake filling

300g full fat cream cheese
50g icing sugar
150ml double cream
150g mixed berries, mashed with a fork

to finish

150g icing sugar
juice of a lemon
drop of purple food colouring, if you like
raspberries, or berries of choice, to top choux
around 3 biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs, to top choux
edible glitter, to finish (I did this because I have a cupboard absolutely crammed with baking decorations, but it adds absolutely nothing in terms of taste – I just like shiny things – so do skip it if you want)


  1. First, make your choux. Preheat your oven to 220C/200C fan/ gas 6 – and you really do need a hot oven to make these puff up properly so if you know yours runs cold then maybe give it an extra 10 degrees. Put your water and your cubed butter into a medium saucepan on a medium heat and cook until the butter has melted, but don’t let it boil. Meanwhile, sieve your flour and salt together.
  2. When all your butter has melted into your water, turn the heat right up and bring it to a rolling boil – you’ll see the butter solids start to collect in the middle of the pan. Take it off the heat and, as quickly as you can, whack all your flour in at once and beat like mad with a wooden spoon until it’s all incorporated and shiny and pulling away from the sides. It should naturally form a kind of ball of paste. This is called your panade. You need to let the panade cool down a bit now, until it’s about skin temperature, otherwise it won’t absorb the egg properly. I normally move mine into a cold mixing bowl to speed this up.
  3. While your panade is cooling, crack your eggs into a jug and beat them lightly. When your panade is cool enough, start beating in the egg, a little at a time, until you’ve used 2/3 of it. This is really hard work with a wooden spoon but works completely fine with an electric whisk so that’s what I always do. When you have 2/3 of the egg in, check the consistency. You want a ‘reluctant six second dropping consistency’ (I know it sounds weird, that’s just what we were always taught at culinary school). All it means is that when you take a decent scoop of the mix onto a wooden spoon and hold it up the mixture should fall off, but quite reluctantly. After about six seconds, in fact. If you use large eggs, like I do, you probably won’t end up using them all.
  4. Pop your choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle and pipe it out onto baking trays in rounds. If you have good non-stick trays you don’t have to bother lining them – I never do – but if you’re worried them use baking paper. With a damp finger, press down the peaked tops of the buns (to stop them burning) then put the trays into your hot oven for 20 minutes.
  5. After 20 minutes, your choux buns should be gloriously brown and puffed up (if they’re not, give them 5 minutes longer). Take out the tray, turn them all over, and use a skewer or a sharp knife to poke a little hole in the bottom of each bun, then put them back in the oven. This is to let the insides dry out a bit. You want to take them to what probably seems a bit darker and firmer than you would naturally. You need them to be crisp and strong because they are going to have a wet filling.
  6. While your choux is baking, make your cheesecake filling. Beat your cream cheese and icing sugar together briefly until smooth. Add your cream, and beat for a minute until your mixture thickens up a little. You want it firm enough to pipe into the buns. Fold through your berries. You have to mash them to make sure they’re not going to clog your piping bag later. Pop this mixture into the fridge until you need it.
  7. Prepare your icing. Mix your icing sugar with your lemon juice. You want a fairly thick icing so it doesn’t just fall off the choux buns, but if it looks too thick add a drop of water. Colour it, if you like.
  8. When your choux are baked, let them cool completely. This should only take ten minutes. When they are cool, put your cheesecake filling into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Using the nozzle to enlarge the steam holes you made in the base of the buns, pipe them full of cheesecake mix.
  9. Spoon a little icing onto the top of each bun. Finish with a berry, a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs, and glitter if you’re going all out.

Five minutes with Nadiya Hussain: reigning champion of The Great British Bake Off; the nation’s beloved kitchen goddess; queen of my heart

It’s perhaps unsurprising that if you tell a class full of culinary school students that you are going to meet and chat with Nadiya Hussain they become alternately jealous and excited.

‘You get to meet Nadiya!? Oh wow, you lucky thing.’

‘Can you tell her I love her? Like, really?’

‘Oh my god, and me! Tell her I love her too!’

Anyone familiar with this blog will remember that I spent ten weeks baking along with the 2015 Great British Bake Off and going on (and on, and on, and on…) about how happy I was to see Nadiya do well, how hilarious I found her, how much I adore her, and how much I thought she deserved to win. I’m actually a bit surprised they let me meet her at all, considering it’s clear I was a crazed fangirl and borderline gibbering fawning obsessive.

And yet, they did let me meet her.

My fellow student Tassy and I were given a cheeky five minutes with Nadiya before she did some filming for a TV show at Leiths. It’s not surprising they could only spare her for five minutes: she’s a terrifyingly busy person. Seemingly needing no rest after storming through GBBO, she’s made documentaries, guested on television shows, written for magazines, and put together her own cookbook, as well as meeting and baking for the Queen. She was also very kind and tolerant as I babbled at her nonsensically. Here’s what she had to say about Bake Off, self-confidence, and Benedict Cumberbatch…

Credit: S Meddle/ITV/REX Shutterstock (5239214u)

So, it’s been a year since Bake Off – what do you think is the most exciting project you’ve worked on since? 

Well, I’ve worked on a lot of things. Obviously the cookbook is the thing I’ve worked on the longest, but I think one of the most exciting things I’ve done would have to be baking the Queen’s 90th birthday cake. For me, that’s making history. I can’t believe that I actually got to do it: sometimes I have to pinch myself. It’s probably the most memorable thing that’s happened.

How did you manage to get that commission? 

I was actually doing a shoot for my cookbook and my agent called and told me about the email. I was like ‘No, somebody’s pulling your leg, there’s been a mix-up – they want someone who’s a proper baker to do it!’ Then when I realised it was for real I was like ‘…can I say no?!’ But of course, I didn’t want to say no! I was really nervous though; the pressure suddenly just kicked in. It was a big commitment.

Are you still in touch with all your fellow Bake Off contestants?

It’s really hard – we’re twelve very different people! We’ll have a reunion every year, I’m sure. But we do have a group phone chat. Randomly I’ll say ‘How good looking is Benedict Cumberbatch?!’, and then Flora and I will get into a conversation, and everyone else is like ‘Just shut up about Benedict Cumberbatch please both of you’.

You’ve spoken a lot about struggling with confidence – do you think winning Bake Off helped you overcome that? 

When I went into Bake Off I didn’t have a lot of confidence, but I don’t think it’s the winning that gave it to me – I think it was the things I had to go through to get through it, week by week. The process of doing things that I wasn’t comfortable with, and doing things alone without my children and my husband, really gave me that confidence. The win was just the cherry on the cake. It was great, but by that point, I already thought ‘Well, I don’t need to be that nervous, anxious person anymore.’

Obviously, you won Bake Off and then became an instant baking celebrity. Were you prepared to be suddenly famous? Have you enjoyed it? 

No, I definitely wasn’t prepared for everything that came after Bake Off! I did genuinely think I would fly under the radar and go back to normal life. It’s a new world, and it’s not something I know or recognise or am comfortable with. But I’ve kind of taken everything in my stride, and tried to enjoy it. I know there’s a sell-by date and I know there are going to be more Bake Off contestants, and so I want to enjoy what I’ve got and have no expectations.

Did Mary Berry give you any advice after Bake Off?

She always says ‘Just look after your family’. She’s the grandma you want to adopt. I mean, I have one, but I’d still like her! You can tell she is such a family orientated person and I think we had that in common, being in the spotlight, and having a family to look after.

Desert island dish? Marmite! Marmite crisps! I literally can eat six packets in one go.

Dream dinner party guest? David Attenborough. Every time.

Two kitchen essentials you couldn’t do without? My mixer and a good spatula.

Favourite cuisine to eat? Vietnamese.

Mary or Paul? Neither! I’m not answering that – no way!

Credit: photographed in London by Pål Hansen for The Guardian.

At this point, Nadiya was dragged away to do her actual job, but not before letting us get a quick picture with her. Meeting her was definitely one of the most exciting opportunities I got while I was at Leiths, although I am going to have to focus on learning to be a little bit more relaxed and a little bit less starstruck if I ever get to meet any more of my food heroes in the future.


Raspberry and Passion Fruit Iced Buns – Bake Off Bake Along Week 10

So here we are. The Great British Bake Off 2015 has finished, and I am limping along into Week 10 of this bake along. I have had triumphs and disasters – thankfully more of the former than the latter – and I am proud to say that I baked every single week.

Did anyone else get a bit teary when they announced that Nadiya was the winner? Incredibly well-deserved, I think. When the final started I initially thought it could go any way, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that she had it in the bag. It’s always so gratifying to see someone really progress and change and grow in confidence: compare Nadiya of the final to Nadiya of Week 1. A metamorphosis.


I’ll miss having the show to watch but, although I’ve enjoyed doing it, I’m glad to be at the end of the bake along. I really don’t have time to do it any more, and although I pushed myself to finish this week it would have been the last one even if it hadn’t been the end of the show.

So, here we are. Raspberry and passion fruit iced buns. They aren’t perfect, and they look pretty messy, but they tasted delicious, and that’s all I really wanted. If anyone else made iced buns this week, I’d be interested to know how you found it. My dough was very, very wet and incredibly difficult to work with, almost impossible to knead. Part of the reason that these buns are chubby and misshapen instead of long, elegant fingers is because the dough was too wet to shape in any meaningful way. But the buns came out light and soft, and I think that’s because it was such a wet dough, so perhaps that’s the price you pay.


Here’s the recipe I used for the dough: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/iced_fingers_34133

I added my own home-made passion fruit curd, and crushed some raspberries to fold through the cream, then finished off the icing with some freeze-dried raspberries.

Thank you so much to Amanda and Ala for running this bake along and inspiring me to get involved. I’ve loved seeing all the other incredible bakes everyone else has made, and it’s been a pleasure to discover lots of new blogs over the course of the last ten weeks.

Until next year, my darlings. À bientôt, j’espère.


Chocolate Soufflés – Bake Off Bake Along Week 9

Ah, chocolate week. They really made us wait for that one, didn’t they? I feel that, after eight weeks of doing this bake along, I really earned the right to enjoy chocolate week. Also, remember back in the first week when I predicted Marie, Tamal, and Flora for the final? In a way, I didn’t do too badly. Yes, Marie had a shock early exit, but Tamal made it through and Flora was almost there. I am so glad Nadiya is in the final though – I adore her.

Week 9 of the Great British Bake Off was also the week I started commuting to culinary school in London, full time. During the week, I have zero spare minutes, and on the weekend it happened to be my lovely Dad’s birthday, so back down to London we went so that I could get a break from school by, er, cooking dinner for twelve. I thought I might have to give up on the bake along this week simply due to lack of time, but luckily soufflés were my saviour.

I know they are notoriously tricky, but for me, soufflés were a godsend. Fifteen minutes to make the batter, ten minutes in the oven, two minutes to photograph them before they fell and boom, job’s done. You literally have no choice but to make these quickly. I fear that next week I might not be so lucky, as I doubt the final will involve any recipes that you can knock up in half an hour.


I mean, I made these in half an hour, but it was a terrifying half hour. I’ve not made soufflés before, I only had the ingredients for one batch, and I knew that I’d have to get the photographs done within two minutes if I wanted to catch the rise. It was frantic. But I was actually really happy with them in the end. Quick, effective, and delicious. It was basically the exact opposite of the mokatine challenge last week.

The first photo sort of shows the rise I got, although not quite as it was taken about three minutes after I got the soufflés out of the oven and they had started to sink. They were great though. See that bottom photo? That was me ‘digging into the soufflé for photographic effect’ but then I just ate it all. And, um, maybe another one after that. To be thorough.


Once again, I am not going to write out the recipe, partly because I have no time and partly because I didn’t change the recipe one jot. I usually try to put a twist on these bakes, but not for the technical, and certainly not for the first time I made souffles. Here is the recipe I used, although I didn’t even bother with the sauce.

We made it, team! Bring on the final.


Mokatines – Bake Off Bake Along Week 8

Bloody hell. When I started this bake along, I sort of forgot how tricky The Great British Bake Off gets near the end. At the beginning, it was all ‘Madeira cake!’ and ‘Biscotti!’ and everything was happy and the world was a just and lovely place. Now it’s all ‘Cream horns!’ and ‘Bloody massive éclair sculpture!’ and… yeah. Shall I start on the excuses now? I don’t have any metal horn shapes to make cream horns (I mean, obviously. Who the hell has those?!), and while I love éclairs I have no desire to give myself a panic attack and/ or heart attack by trying to make a tower out of them. Mokatines are basically cake. I mean, incredibly fiddly cake. With three types of icing. And I have never made a genoise before. But I still thought it was the ‘easy’ option.

I’m an idiot.

I hated this bake from start to finish. I have enjoyed this bake along immensely so far, but this week was dire. The mokatines were fiddly and had absolutely loads of processes, which is to be expected from patisserie, but they were unrewarding too. Not only did mine come out looking terrible – which, I admit, is partly because I was angry with them by the end and thus ended up rushing – they actually didn’t taste good. See that mokatine in the foreground of my pictures? That was seriously my best-looking one. If I make something that looks a mess but tastes delicious then I can live with that, because at least I don’t feel like I have wasted my time. But this week, I made something that looked dreadful and didn’t even taste all that nice and was no fun at all. Ugh.


You may notice that I haven’t piped the little rosettes around the bottom of the mokatines. That is because a) I was completely fed up by that point and couldn’t be arsed and b) the recipe for the crème beurre au moka only made just about enough to pipe the rosettes on the top, and there was no bloody way I was making that thing again. I had to rush the piping because the crème beurre au moka was too thin, and even though I put it in the fridge to firm up, the heat of my hands around the piping bag made it go all runny again. So I did the piping very fast, hence the messiness.

I also did the photos in a rush, so they are dreadful too, and I didn’t have time to wait for the fondant to set (as you can see), so I made the situation even worse. I suppose the lesson I can take from this is ‘take your time, stay calm, don’t rush’, but to be honest, I already know all that. I just ignored my own advice while I was doing this because I was in a huff.

On the plus side, I picked up that plate in the pictures at Sainsburys this week for about £3. Isn’t it pretty?


I’m certainly not going to bother to write up this recipe, as I definitely won’t be making these again, but here it is in case any of you are far braver and more skilled than I. That would not be hard.

Next week is chocolate week. THANK GOD. At least if I make something that’s a complete mess it still has a good chance of tasting good because, you know, chocolate. Did you hear that bit in the teaser about staggered start times for the technical? I think that must be soufflés, or something else that has to be eaten pretty much immediately. Obviously something horrifically complicated, because that’s the way things are now.

Now I have to go and make two batches of cupcakes in two hours. Argh.


Game Pie – Bake Off Bake Along Week 7

It has come to something when a game pie is the easy way out. The tennis cake didn’t look horribly difficult- if you had the time to do it slowly and carefully and had some proper instructions then I am sure it would be doable – but fruit cake is my least favourite cake. I mean, it’s still cake, but I didn’t want to put a huge amount of time and effort into making one. I only know what a Charlotte Russe is because of Jacqueline Wilson’s book, The Lottie Project, and I had neither the time nor the freezer space to attempt it this week.

But game pie? Delicious. I love this sort of thing.


So, here’s my… well, I won’t call it a masterpiece. There are lots of things I would do differently if I was making it again. I probably won’t make this exact pie next time because game is so expensive, but I will definitely attempt to make something else using hot water crust pastry in the future.

I was irrationally scared of hot water crust, mostly because it’s such an odd pastry and I’ve never made it before. The recipe I was working from said that you had to shape it as quickly as you could before it dried out and started to crumble. I actually think I went too quickly and rushed it, and the pastry would have been fine if I had taken an extra five minutes to make sure it was more even.


It’s certainly not the prettiest thing in the world, but it did taste great, and considering it was a first attempt with a few new techniques, I am pretty happy with it. I know that Mary and Paul specified that the pie needed to be elaborately decorated, but I am not at all artistic and was also rushing so much with the pastry that I didn’t want to do anything too fancy. So, I just thought… game pie… game… playing cards… playing card symbols… game pie. I know, I know. I will show myself out.

This week, for once, I am simply going to link to the recipe I used rather than writing out my edited version. This is just because I felt so unsure about this challenge that I didn’t feel confident free-styling and putting my own twist on the recipe, and instead followed it to the the letter and the gram. I chose to use rabbit, venison, and pigeon in my pie, along with the pork belly and bacon, purely because it was what I could get my hands on. I would be such a rubbish vegetarian.

So, here is Master Hollywood’s Raised Game Pie. The things we do for this show, eh?


Raspberry and Nectarine Frangipane Tart – Bake Off Bake Along Week 6

So, flaounes. What a random pick for a pastry technical, no? I suppose that now that they’re on Season 6 of Bake Off they are running out of obvious things to pick. Mastic? Mahlepi? If I had infinite time and resources then I would probably be more inclined to hunt for obscure ingredients to make the technical challenge recipe but, you know, we don’t live in a perfect world. The full list of ingredients for the flaounes is pretty extensive. Plus I was rather put off by the bakers smelling the mastic and retching. Pretty much the minimum I expect from baking is for the process not to make me sick.

Every week I adore Tamal more. Just putting it out there. Quote of the week is surely ‘This is basically inspired by a sandwich that I had a few years ago. It was in the top two sandwiches of my life… I think about that sandwich quite a lot.’ Also Nadiya is great and hilarious.


So, I made a frangipane tart. Even I am not very excited by this, to be honest, because I’ve made them before. But I’ve already said why flaounes weren’t going to happen, and I have no idea what I would do with 48 vol-au-vents either. Giving away cheesecakes was one thing, but for some reason giving friends armfuls of vol-au-vents seems a bit odd. They will probably all chime in now and say I’ve given them weirder things in the past.

Anyway, I love nectarines and I don’t think I have used them in a dessert before, so here we go. I thought raspberries would be a good accompaniment both taste and colour wise. And they were. This tart was nice. Not particularly exciting, or groundbreaking, or challenging. But quite nice.

Things could definitely be worse.


Source: I took the basic frangipane tart recipe from Leiths: How to Cook, but have adapted it and added my own fruits and flavourings.

Notes: It sounds weird, but I think the thing that makes this tart is adding almond extract. In with the almonds. It seems a bit belt and braces, but since I was using ready-ground almonds rather than toasting and grinding my own, I think they needed a bit of a flavour boost. I mean, really you should toast and grind your own, but it was what I had in the cupboard.


for the pastry

250g plain flour
20g caster sugar
pinch of salt
140g chilled butter, cut into small cubes
2 egg yolks
3-4 tbsp cold water

for the frangipane

1 egg and 2 egg yolks
150g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
1 tsp almond extract
40g plain flour

1 large ripe nectarine (or 2 small ones)
handful of raspberries
raspberry jam (optional)
apricot jam (optional)


  1. First, make your pastry. Put your flour, sugar, salt, and butter into the food processor and pulse until they reach breadcrumb stage. Whisk your egg yolks with your cold water and slowly drizzle the liquid into the breadcrumb mixture with the food processor running until it starts to come together. Stop when it starts to come into a ball. It should not feel wet or sticky. Gently and briefly knead the pastry together (I normally tip it into a bowl to do this) and then wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  2. While it’s chilling, make your frangipane. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and egg yolks together, then beat them into the butter and sugar. Stir in the almonds, almond extract, and the flour.
  3. Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to around a 3mm thickness. Line your tart tin – mine is 22cm. Ideally, you should now cover it with cling film and pop it back in the fridge for another half an hour to chill but I never have time for this. You could also pop it in the freezer for ten minutes. While you’re waiting, you could prepare your fruit – stone your nectarine(s) and cut them however you want to present them.
  4. Heat your oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. Pop your tart case on a baking tray, line it with baking parchment and baking beans, and bake for fifteen minutes. Remove the parchment and beans and bake for five more minutes.. Take it out of the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4. If you’re using jam, spread this over the base of the pastry case. Cover with the frangipane. Arrange your fruit as you wish, and push this down gently into the frangipane.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the frangipane is well-risen, golden, and set. Remove from the oven. If you want to glaze it, do so while it is still warm. Sieve around 5 tbsp apricot jam and gently warm it in a pan until runny, then brush it over the tart.

Sugar Free Rhubarb, Strawberry, and Hazelnut Cake – Bake Off Bake Along Week 5

Okay, so I realise I am essentially begging the universe to smite me down now, but when I saw last week’s episode, I thought ‘Well, that’s doable!’. I mean, not the dairy free Arctic roll, because I don’t have an ice cream maker. And I wasn’t hugely keen on making the gluten free pitta breads, because they didn’t look massively thrilling and any gluten free pitta I made would be immeasurably worse than one I could buy. But sugar free cakes? No problem. Anyway, I did the technical challenge last week, so I figure that gets me off the hook for a little while.


They were actually playing it pretty fast and loose with their definition of ‘sugar free’, I reckon. I mean, just because a cake doesn’t have actual granules of caster sugar or muscovado sugar or whatever in it, it doesn’t necessarily make it sugar free. Agave is still a processed, refined sweetener. Fruit has sugar in it (annoyingly). By the show’s definition, I actually make sugar free cake fairly regularly. The very first recipe I posted on this blog is sugar free. I bake sugar free banana bread for James every couple of weeks. I mean, you basically just substitute sugar for an equal weight of maple syrup or honey and go along with a regular cake recipe.

Wasn’t it great to see Nadiya win star baker? She really deserved it, and it obviously meant a huge amount to her. Plus, you know, it was boring seeing Ian win it every week.


I’ve wanted to make a cake with roasted rhubarb for a while, and I know we’re just about out of the season now but I couldn’t quite resist it. Strawberry and rhubarb is a classic pairing – very American, I believe – as sharp rhubarb is rounded out well by something very sweet. The vanilla goes well with both and provides a complementary background note, while the hazelnuts are a strong and textured base.

I have to say, I am loving this bake along. Not only is it great getting to see what everyone has made each week, but it’s also wonderful being challenged to make new things. I find I am watching the programme in a different – more involved – way, because I am planning what on earth I am going to scrape together every time. Thanks so much to Amanda and Ala for setting it all up.

Source: This recipe is adapted from Amber Rose’s Love Bake Nourish, which is an excellent place to go if you are looking for more sugar free cake ideas.

Notes: I don’t know whether to blame my oven or my inattentiveness, but these cakes browned incredibly fast: I admit, I wasn’t watching them like a hawk. I don’t know if the honey or even maybe the nuts make the cakes prone to catching, but I had to cover them with foil for the last ten minutes of the bake. They came out fine; just a little darker than I would have liked.


115g blanched hazelnuts
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
260g butter, soft
4 eggs
130g honey
130g maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

to decorate

350ml double cream
3-4 tbsp honey
100g strawberries, hulled and halved
100g rhubarb


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas mark 4, and grease and line two 20cm cake tins. If your hazelnuts aren’t toasted already, do that now. Whack them in the oven on a baking tray for about 5 minutes, until they are just starting to change colour and are smelling delicious and nutty. Then, using a food processor, grind them into a fine meal. Watch you don’t blend them for too long and make hazelnut butter.
  2. This is an all-in-one cake, so sift your flour and baking powder into a large bowl and then beat in your hazelnuts, butter, eggs, honey, vanilla, and maple syrup until everything is evenly incorporated. Divide the mixture between your tins and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven.
  3. When your cakes are well risen, golden, and pass the skewer test, take them out and leave them to cool. Leave the oven on. Cut your rhubarb into even pieces an inch or two long, and place them in a baking tray. Toss them around with 1-2 tbsp of honey, and then cover the baking tray with foil and pop it in the oven. Roast your rhubarb for 10-15 minutes, or until soft but still able to maintain its shape.
  4. When the cakes and rhubarb are completely cool, assemble your confection. Whip the cream into peaks, and the whip in the remaining honey. Add more if you prefer a sweeter cream. Spread half of the cream onto your base cake, and top it with half of the strawberries and rhubarb. Pop your other cake on top and finish with the rest of the cream and fruit.

Trio of Chocolate Cheesecakes – Bake Off Bake Along Week 4

Confession: before this week, I had never made a baked cheesecake. It was one of my page-turners. Everyone must have page-turners, right? You know when you’re flicking through a recipe book (or, in this day and age, more likely a blog or online magazine), and you see a certain ingredient or instruction and automatically think ‘No, thank you!’, turn to the next page, and move swiftly along? Well, every time I see instructions to wrap a springform tin in cling film, then in foil, then fill it with cheesecake mix, then sit it in a water bath, then bake the cheesecake, then leave it to cool with the oven door oven, then let it sit overnight… well, I tend to think ‘Sod that’, and go and make a fridge-set cheesecake instead. It’s a combination of fear and laziness, really.


So, I thought this week would be a good opportunity to finally get over my baked cheesecake prejudice and make one. Well, make three. I don’t have enough ramekins for crème brûlée, and I’m certainly not going out to buy them. And although I do like meringue, I don’t think anyone could really like meringue enough to get through a whole Spanische Windtorte. Also, it would leave me with a dozen egg yolks that I wouldn’t know what to do with. Somehow, making three cheesecakes started to seem like the most sensible option.

Spoiler alert: it was definitely not the most sensible option. It was actually a huge hassle, and all of our friends will be eating cheesecake for days.


Nonetheless, I made three baked cheesecakes and managed to stack them into a tower that didn’t collapse, so I am definitely calling this a win, despite the fact I had to literally buy a kilogram of cream cheese to make this and nobody should ever really be doing that.

I’ll be really interested to see what everyone else tries to make this week, because I imagine lots of you will have the same problems and reservations that I did regarding crème brûlée and Spanische Windtorte, but making three tiers of cheesecake doesn’t exactly feel like the easy way out. Oh, how I miss cake week. Next week is free-from baking – you know, sugar free and gluten free and such – and I can’t imagine that will be any easier.


Can we also just take a moment to mourn the departure of Sandy from the tent? She was never one of my picks for the final, but she was definitely one of my favourite bakers. Some of the things she said literally made me laugh out loud.

Also, Ian winning star baker is now getting boring. Three weeks in a row?!


So, on to the cheesecakes. I will admit that these are not going to be winning any beauty contests. By the time it got to the decorating stage, I was short on time and very stressed, so it was all a bit of a rush job and I am terrible at tempering and piping chocolate, so I basically threw things on top of them and hoped for the best. I also had to move the delicate cheesecakes around so much – first to stack them and then to separate them – that they started to crack a bit. Nonetheless, they were really delicious. Once I have gotten over the trauma of this, I might actually make a baked cheesecake again.

On the show, Paul and Mary kept complaining about fruit bleeding into cheesecake, but what’s wrong with that!? I actually like that, and purposefully mashed up my fruit a bit in the cheesecake batter to encourage the pretty colours rippling into the smooth, pale cheesecake.


Source: I started with a plain baked cheesecake recipe from Leiths How To Cook and then adapted it. A lot.

Notes: I very much doubt that anyone wants to be as insane as me and make this whole recipe start to finish, so I am not going to give any instructions for stacking or decorating, which is all common sense in any case. The method is exactly the same for all three cakes, only with different quantities and some variations on ingredients, so I am going to provide the ingredients for each cake and only write out the method once.

One of the reasons I went for this particular base recipe was that it didn’t ask you to mess around with a water bath or wrapping the tin, and I am inherently lazy. It seemed to work out fine just bunged in the oven like a regular cake.

This would have looked far better if I’d had a smaller top tin, but I didn’t, and didn’t want to buy a new one just for this, so such is life.


for the little white chocolate, blackberry, almond, and ginger cheesecake (16cm)

for the base
50g butter
65g ginger biscuits
20g ground almonds

for the cheesecake mixture
3 tbsp caster
10g cornflour
240g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
2 medium eggs
90ml cream
100g white chocolate
100g blackberries

for the medium milk chocolate, hazelnut, and raspberry cheesecake (20cm)

for the base
85 butter
125g oat biscuits
25g chopped skinned hazelnuts

for the cheesecake mixture
5 tbsp caster
15g cornflour
415g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
100ml cream
200g milk chocolate
150g raspberries

for the massive dark chocolate, apricot, and pistachio cheesecake (23cm)

for the base
100g butter
150g digestives
30g roughly chopped pistachios

for the cheesecake mixture
6 tbsp caster
20g cornflour
500g cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
200ml cream
150g dark chocolate
4 apricots, stoned and chopped


  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6, and grease and line your tin. Melt the butter for the base. Crush the biscuits, either by beating them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or whizzing them in the food processor. Put them in a bowl and mix in your nuts. Add the butter, mix, and then press the mixture evenly into the base of your tin. Bake the base in the oven for ten minutes, then remove and leave it to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 150C/ 130C fan/ gas 2.
  2. For the topping, set aside 2 tbsp of the sugar. Put the rest in a large bowl with the cornflour and beat with the cream cheese and vanilla to combine. Separate the eggs, and then beat the yolks into the cream cheese along with the cream.
  3. In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to medium peaks, and then whisk in the saved 2 tbsp of caster sugar. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently fold it into the cheesecake mixture, along with the fruit.
  5. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until just set with a slight wobble. Leave it to cool in the tin. Chill in the fridge.