Sunday, 23 August 2015

GBBO Week 3 - Chocolate and Pecan Quick Bread in a Bread Basket

This week on the Great British Bake Off it was all about bread. My boyfriend adores baking bread since watching the last series of Bake Off, so we were both very excited about this week's episode.

The first challenge were quick breads – breads made without yeast, and instead rise because of the addition of bicarbonate of soda and/or baking powder. They also usually contain buttermilk – the traditional quick breads are known as soda bread, but this seemed too plain for the bakers. The savoury offerings were very interesting – Nadiya and Mat both did Mexican themed quick breads, and Alvin’s manchego cheese, prosciutto and balsamic onion quick bread looked fab. However, given my sweet tooth, I was more inclined towards Ugne’s chocolate and pecan quick bread with a salted caramel sauce, and I decided to try out this recipe, with a few adjustments.

The bread was one step away from a cake in my opinion, the only difference being that it was not quite as sweet, and how it is baked (free-form as opposed to a tin). Whether it is bread or cake however, the taste was cocoa-y, and the caramelized pecans really made a big difference, as did the amazing salted caramel sauce.

The second challenge were baguettes.This looked fiendishly difficult, but I couldn't find the couche linen required for the proving stage to attempt these :(

The third challenge was all about 3D bread sculptures, but most of these seemed too epic for us to get a good result on a first attempt. Instead we plumped for making our own bread basket :D
The basket was a little tricky to make, but the end result looked good, and the bread had a really tasty crunch on the outside and fluffy center.

The recipe makes one large chocolate bread, and one basket to hold it.


For the basket:
  • 200g white bread flour
  • 4g fast-action yeast (usually half a sachet)
  • 20g granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 100ml water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 20g butter, melted

For the chocolate quick bread:
  • 450g plain flour
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 115g butter, melted
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200ml buttermilk
  • 2 eggs

For the salted caramel sauce:
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 10g butter
  • 120ml whipping cream
  • ½ tsp salt

For the caramelized pecans:
  • 20 pecan nuts
  • 200g caster sugar


1. First make the dough for the bread basket. In a mixing bowl combine the bread flour and sugar. On one side of the bowl add the yeast, and the other the salt. Mix briefly.

2. Add the water and half of the beaten egg. After the flour has been incorporated, add the melted butter. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, until it is smooth in texture, and elastic.

3. Place the dough in a clean bowl, and cover with cling film. Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

4. Whilst the dough is rising, make the chocolate quick bread. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/ gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

5. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar. Mix in the chopped pecan nuts.

6. In a jug, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Pour onto the dry ingredients, and use your hands to bring together the dough. Once all the dry ingredients have been incorporated, form into a ball, and place onto lined baking tray.

7. Score the top of the dough (like a cross). Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the base sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Before baking
After baking

8. Whilst the chocolate bread is baking, the dough for the bread basket should have risen (about 2-3 times the size of the initial bread dough). At this point, knock the dough back (by punching down on it), and then make a round ball. Cover the dough again and leave it to rise for a further 10 minutes.

9. Roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness, into a rough square. After trial and error, we found it best to roll it between two pieces of cling film.

10. Cut the dough into 11 strips. Lightly grease an oven proof metal bowl, and place the strips onto the bowl, criss-crossing them like a lattice. We wanted to do a more intricate weaving pattern, but found the dough far too sticky for this. If there is any remaining dough, place it around the base of the bowl.

11. Leave to rise for 35 minutes, before brushing with the remaining egg, and baking for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool. Then very carefully tease the bowl away from the basket (this can be a bit fiddly but have patience!).

12. For the salted caramel sauce, heat  the sugar in a saucepan, swirling the pan occasionally (do not stir). Once a medium caramel colour is reached, add the butter, and whisk in. Then slowly pour in the whipping cream, whisking constantly. The sauce will bubble up a lot, so be careful of spitting. Once all the cream has been added, simmer for 5 minutes.

Heat the sugar until a medium caramel colour is acheived

The caramel bubbles up a lot when the cream is being added

13. For the caramelized pecans, line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Heat the sugar in a medium pan (like for the caramel sauce), until a dark caramel colour is achieved (this takes 5-10 minutes). Swirl the pan occasionally as before.

13. Once the caramel colour has been reached, pour in the whole pecan nuts, and take off the heat. Stir to fully immerse the pecans in the caramel, then pour onto the prepared baking tray. Leave to cool before breaking into shards.

14. Top the bread with the caramelized pecans. Serve in slices, in the bread basket. Enjoy alongside the salted caramel sauce.

15. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

GBBO Week 2 - Orange, Almond and Goji Berry Biscotti

Here’s another recipe inspired by watching The Great British Bake Off last week! The signature challenge was all about making biscotti, known in Italy as cantuccini, a twice-baked biscuit that are perfect dipped in coffee. Although I loved the look of Ugne’s white wine biscotti, I couldn’t find a similar recipe for them anywhere :( So instead I decided to adapt Ian’s recipe of orange, almond and rosemary biscotti (found here). I didn’t like the idea of the rosemary, so left it out, and added goji berries for an added health kick (and Ugne used them very successfully).

The recipe is slightly more complex than the classic, making an orange caramel that is then crushed to form the sugar component of the biscuit. HOWEVER, it gives the biscotti an unbelievable orangey flavour, and when drizzled with chocolate it’s like eating a biscuit version of a Terry’s chocolate orange. Heaven.

The recipe makes 36, but I have tried halving the recipe (using two medium eggs instead of three large ones), and this worked perfectly as well.

  • 160g blanched whole almonds
  • 4 large oranges
  • 420g caster sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g goji berries
  • 100g dark chocolate


1. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4. Roast the almonds on a baking tray for 3-5 minutes, until they start smelling lovely.

The next few steps seem lengthy, but trust me – they are very worth the effort.

2. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off 1cm wide strips off zest from the oranges. Cut the strips into pieces approximately 5mm wide. Boil for 2 minutes, before draining. Repeat this boiling and draining process three times – this blanches the peel and removes the bitterness the zest normally has.

3. In a pan add 150ml water, 300g of the caster sugar and boil the peel in the syrup until the pieces are soft. This took me about 5 minutes – the peel becomes chewable and very shiny. Drain the syrup into a jug, and leave the peel to one side.

4. Place the syrup back in a pan and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until the syrup becomes a caramel colour. Keep an eye on the pan, and swirl the pan regularly (but don’t stir). Once caramelized, pour onto a lined baking tray, and chill. Within 5 to 10 minutes, the caramel will have solidified.

5. Once solid, put the caramel into a food processor, and blitz to a fine dust. Weigh out 200g of the sugar and blend with 100g plain flour. If you don’t have 200g, make up the rest with caster sugar.
After blitzing, the caramel dust has a texture similar
to caster sugar

6. In a large bowl, mix the sugar/flour mixture with 250g plain flour, baking powder, and the remaining caster sugar.

7. Add the eggs, almonds, orange peel, and goji berries, and stir together. This is easiest done with your hands. Pat  your hands in flour first to help prevent the dough sticking. Bring together to a ball.

8. Split the dough into two pieces, and roll each piece into a sausage shape about 5cm thick.

9. Place onto a lined baking tray and flatten with your hands slightly. Bake for 30 minutes.

10. Leave to cool -  this is important to prevent cracking! If you are in a hurry, place them in a well ventilated spot, or by a fan – don’t be tempted to refrigerate.  Once cool, slice diagonally into slices around 1cm thick.

11. Bake for 20 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

12. Once cool, melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag, and pipe lines of chocolate over the biscotti.

13. Devour.

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

GBBO Week 2 - Arlettes

Week 2 of the Great British Bake Off, and it’s biscuit week! The first challenge were biscotti, with a huge variety being displayed. Paul’s chocolate and hazelnut biscotti looked very tempting, and I loved the idea of Ugne’s white wine biscotti! Ian’s orange, rosemary and almond biscotti looked amazing (though I personally wouldn't put the rosemary in)…and in a few days I’ll be posting my attempt at biscotti.

The technical challenge were something I had never heard of before – Arlette’s. They reminded my of a very flat cinnamon swirl,  being made up of puff pastry swirled with cinnamon. The puff pastry however is made using a reverse method, whereby the butter is outside of the dough when folding! It sounded difficult but delicious.

Me and my boyfriend made these this weekend, and didn't need to modify the BBC website’s recipe too much. Here is our recipe :D

In our opinion they tasted delicious – with a crisp pastry and sweet cinnamon flavour. 

Perfect alongside a cup of tea.

The original recipe makes 8 biscuits, but ours ended up slightly smaller, and we got 10.


For the dough:
  • 60g white bread flour
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 40g butter, melted

For the butter layer:
  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • 25g white bread flour
  • 25g plain flour

For the filling:
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Icing sugar, for dusting


1. First, start the dough. Put the flours, salt, butter and 50ml cold water into a mixing bowl, and gently mix (with a wooden spoon) to form a dough.

2. Lightly dust a surface with flour, and tip out the dough on to it. Knead it for about 5 minutes – the dough will become super smooth. Shape the dough into a square, then wrap in cling film, and freeze for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for an hour).

3. Whilst the dough is chilling, make the butter layer. Cream the butter and flours together in a bowl until well incorporated. Place onto a layer of clingfilm, and cover with another clingfilm layer. Spread out to a rectangle roughly twice as long (but the same width) as the dough square. Chill in the fridge for 25 minutes.

4. Unwrap the chilled dough and butter. Place the butter on a lightly floured surface, and place the square of the dough in the centre of the butter sheet (making sure it is neatly positioned and is nearly at the edges of the butter).
Lift the exposed butter sheet at the top and fold it down over the dough, then take the bottom exposed sheet and fold it over the top (the dough is completely enclosed).
Roll out the rectangle (so it’s back to the size it was pre-folding), and then fold the top quarter down and the bottom quarter up so that they meet neatly in the centre.
Fold the dough in half (along the centre line). This is a book turn. Cover in cling film and chill for 25 minutes.

5. Remove the dough from the fridge and do another book turn. Wrap again in cling film and chill for 25 minutes.

6. Make the filling. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Take the dough out of the fridge again and roll out the dough to a rectangle (as previously). Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon, before making another book turn.

7. Roll out the pastry to 1cm thickness, about 12 x 20 cm in size. Roll up the short end (to get the maximum number of swirls), and roll tightly (like a swiss roll). Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 25 minutes.

8. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas mark 6. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

9. Once chilled, trim the edges of the roll and cut 1 cm thick slices. Place a sheet of cling film on a surface, and place the slice on the cling film. Cover with another layer of film, then roll out very thinly. Take off the top layer of film and dust with icing sugar, then place onto the baking tray, and remove the second layer of film. Dust with icing sugar. Repeat for the other biscuits. We found that the cling film helped prevent the dough sticking to the rolling pin (due to the high amount of butter, it is very sticky!).

10. Bake for 5-10 minutes. The BBC recipe says 5 minutes, but we found with our oven slightly longer was needed. Remove from the oven and very carefully (using a metal spatula or fish slice), flip the biscuits. IF they seem to soft, put them back into the oven for a minute or so. Bake for a further 3-4 minutes, until they are golden brown. Leave to cool completely.

11.Dust with more icing sugar, then devour.

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Sunday, 9 August 2015

GBBO Week 1: Black Forest Gateau

So it’s back!!! The Great British Bake Off :D As the title credits rolled, I was literally bouncing around my room in excitement.

The first challenge was the simple madeira cake – I for one never realised there had to be a crack in the cake! I really liked the simplicity of some of the bakes – Marie’s cake for instance, was a simple zesty cake that Mary and Paul loved. I was also intrigued by the gin and tonic cake made by Mat – sadly there wasn’t enough of a gin kick, but it was one I’d love to experiment with.

The second challenge was a frosted walnut cake, which was a sponge filled with walnuts, and topped with an interesting white frosting. Ugne got first place with an immaculate cake, and even had time to do extra caramel decorations! She is definitely by favourite baker so far (and not just because she is a cool bodybuilder!) Although the walnut cakes looked great, and I will try out the recipe in the future, I turned my attention to the third challenge, the showstopper.

The third and final challenge was the black forest gateau. I was massively impressed by Flora’s cake, where she used cherry powder to get two layers of pink cake, between two layers of the standard chocolate cake. I also adored the look of Nadiya’s cake, where she used a fancy mirror glaze to give the cake a real sheen. Another advantage to trying out one of these bakes was that I wanted to practice my tempering technique. The bbc website had Nadiya’s recipe online, so I decided to experiment with that.

The un-altered recipe is here

Getting the Ingredients...

Normally I wouldn’t need to have a section on this…but I felt it important to mention some of the ingredients I couldn’t get.
I couldn’t get hold of any black cherries in syrup in my local supermarket…I thought to look for kirsch (a cherry liqueur commonly put in black forest gateaux) but they didn’t sell this either. They also, unsurprisingly, didn’t see the chocolate and cherry syrup or cherry essence. Therefore we bought cherry jam, and for the syrup, tried melting some of the jam down and spreading it on the cake. HOWEVER, this made the cake much more delicate, which I will come on to later.

Here is my slightly adapted recipe.

Makes one huge (4 tier) 20cm cake


For the cake:
  • 225g plain flour
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 85 cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 2 tsp icing sugar
For the filling:
·         One jar (354g) cherry jam

For the chocolate mirror glaze:
  • 10g powdered gelatine
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • 125ml glucose syrup
  • 50g cocoa powder
For the chocolate buttercream:
  • 50g dark chocolate 
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 200g icing sugar
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200ml double cream
For the whipped cream:
  • 400ml/14fl oz double cream
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp cornflour, sifted
For the chocolate decorations:
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • Clear plastic wallets or acetate


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line two 20cm/8in sandwich tins.

2.For the cake, do an all-in-one mix, where you put all of the ingredients except the icing sugar and boiling water into a bowl and stir until just combined. Add the boiling water and stir again. 

3. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Before baking

After baking
4. Once cooked, cool in the tins for 10 minutes, before turning the cakes out onto a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and dusting lightly with icing sugar. Leave to cool, then cut each cake horizontally to make four layers.

5. For the chocolate mirror glaze, mix the gelatine with 3 tablespoons water leave to dissolve. In a saucepan, bring a mixture of the double cream, sugar and 6 tablespoons of water to the boil. 

6. Remove from the heat and add the glucose and cocoa powder. Stir in the gelatine, mix well and strain through a fine sieve. Leave to cool.

7. For the chocolate buttercream, melt the chocolate in a microwave (on short bursts to prevent the chocolate burning). Add the softened butter and icing sugar to the same bowl, and cream together (this is different to the bbc recipe – I found it better as it softened the butter quicker). Add a dash of milk to loosen the buttercream, to allow spreading around the cake later.

8. For the chocolate ganache, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Gently heat the cream in a saucepan until it just comes to the boil, and then pour it over the chocolate. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted. Set aside in a cool place (the ganache will have a spreadable consistency when it’s cool). If you didn’t heat the cream to a high enough temperature, so not all the chocolate melts, don’t worry. Just place the cream/chocolate back into a pan and VERY GENTLY heat until the chocolate melts.

9. For the whipped cream, whisk the double cream until it reaches soft peaks. Then add the icing sugar and cornflour. In our attempt, we slightly over whipped the cream…but the end result was still awesome.

10. For the chocolate decorations, melt 100g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. Heat until the temperature reaches 55-58C, at which point take the bowl off the pan, and add the remaining 50g dark chocolate. Constantly stir until the temperature drops to 27-28c. Place into a piping bag.

11. On a piece of paper draw out the shapes you want to create. Place the paper in a plastic wallet. Pipe the tempered chocolate into the shapes, and set aside to allow the shapes to set.

12. When assembling the cake, I had a big disaster. The combination of too syrupy cake and cream meant that the four layer cake had to turn into a two layer job, so be careful! Make sure the cakes are completely cool before assembling, and don’t over-soak the sponge. After doing the recipe I would recommend using either the syrup from a jar of canned cherries, or kirsch, to slightly soak each of the four sponges.

13. Place the first layer of cake onto a serving plate. Spread a layer of chocolate ganache then a layer of whipped cream. Spoon over some cherry jam. Repeat with two more layers of cake and place the final layer on top.

14. Cover the whole cake in butter cream. Pour the chocolate mirror glaze over the top of the cake. Decorate with your chocolate shapes (in our case, we made trees and rabbits).

15. Enjoy!

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