Heaven and Hell Cake

Heaven and Hell Meringue Cake


This week’s recipe is a variation on a meringue cake, where sponge and meringue are baked at the same time, on top of one another, and then sandwiched together with any of a range of fillings.

The first meringue cake I ever saw was a glorious chocolate-hazelnut-raspberry flavoured one by Miranda Gore Brown on Season 1 of The Great British Bake Off.

I discovered this German version in a rather roundabout way, on a Croatian cooking site. Loving both the name (Himmel und Hölle Kuchen) and the striking appearance, I decided to try my hand at it, since there was suitable fruit in the freezer and I needed some space for this year’s harvest. It’s a cake of contrasts – my favourite kind of cake: sharp, red fruit in jelly, smooth sweetened cream, crunchy meringue and moist sponge. Delightful!

I didn’t actually get as far as the fruit, initially, because the sponge and the meringue required a bit of work: the original sponge was too dry and the meringue went soggy within an hour. So I opted for recipes that I have more faith in, viz: the cream cake recipe of a few weeks ago, and a French meringue recipe from a professional French patisserie site. One of these days I shall compile a chart of how various sugar and egg-white ratios perform with the different meringue methods but, as a famous Braavosi once said, not today.


With the cake and meringue sorted, I could turn my attention to the fillings. The name Heaven and Hell comes (I’m assuming) from the contrast between the red ‘hell’ of the fruit and the white ‘heaven’ of the cream. The red fruit is a mixture of raspberries and redcurrants and is set with gelatine. The white cream was originally a sweet Chantilly, but for the above cake design, I felt it needed something a little more robust, so I’ve substituted a variation I used to fill my mille feuilles in the GBBO.

Which reminds me – the above cake design – don’t. I decided to make the cake/meringue as a tray bake and then cut and constructed it in a rectangular, spring-form tin. It makes for an elegant slice, but, on reflection, it would have been much less complicated to use two sandwich tins and then construct in a regular spring-form tin. Additionally, you’d only have to pipe one layer of meringue ‘kisses’ for the top layer, and make the second layer just smooth meringue, thus allowing the cakes to get into the oven more quickly. So I highly recommend that course of action.

Although the red and the white form a great contrast, I think an equally great combination would be blackberries and blackcurrants – one which I shall be trying shortly – and this time in round tins!

Heaven and Hell Cake

There are four elements to this cake: sponge, meringue, fruit filling, cream filling. Once all four elements are ready, the cake can be constructed. The slightly tricky part is the meringue mixture and the cake mixture need to be ready at the same time. Whilst practicing, I made the cake first, then the meringue, but I think for future reference, making the meringue first might be the better way to go, hence the following recipe order.

French Meringue

150g egg whites
20 g caster sugar
125 g caster sugar
125 g icing sugar

  • Put the egg whites into a bowl and whisk until soft peaks.
  • Add the 20g caster sugar and whisk until firm.
  • Mix the remaining sugars together and gradually add to the egg-whites.
  • Whisk until firm, at least 5 minutes.
  • Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain tip.
  • Set aside while you mix the cake.

Vanilla Cream Cake

150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125ml cream – double or clotted
150g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder

1tsp vanilla extract

  •  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line 2 sandwich tins with baking parchment – the size can be small – 20cm – for an impressively tall final cake, or up to 24cm for a lower-level affair.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Beat with a balloon whisk (or by hand or stand mixer) until the eggs are frothy and the sugar dissolved – about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and vanilla and whisk in.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the rest of the ingredients
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the baking tins. Smooth over.
  • Pipe meringue ‘kisses’ onto the top of the cake mixture in one tin, and pipe an even layer of meringue over the cake mixture in the other tin.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake is risen and cooked and the meringue lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Red Fruit Filling
150ml redcurrant juice [1]
450g fresh raspberries
sugar to taste
1 sachet powdered or 4 leaves gelatine

  • Put the juice and 300g of the raspberries into a pan and warm gently over a medium-low heat, mashing the raspberries into the juice.
  • Taste and add enough sugar to take the edge from the sharpness.
  • Soak the leaves of gelatine and then add to the pan, or sprinkle over the powdered gelatine and stir until dissolved. NB The quantities given normally set a whole pint of liquid, and you might therefore think it a bit excessive. The reason behind this is that gelatine isn’t overly fond of acidic mixtures, so a little extra concentration is helpful in encouraging it to set up properly.
  • Set aside to cool.

Cream Filling
200ml double cream
200g cream cheese
200g low-fat creme fraiche
1 tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar to taste

  • Put the creams, cheese and extract into a bowl and whisk together until firm.
  • Add icing sugar to sweeten. It won’t need much – 2-3 tablespoons is about right.
  • Set aside.

To assemble the cake

  • If available, line the spring-form tin you’re using to construct the cake with food-grade acetate around the edge. This will allow the fillings to form clearly defined layers and not smudge when you remove the cake from the tin for serving. Alternatively, use clingfilm, and cover the whole of the bottom/sides.
  • Lay the cake with the flattened meringue into the bottom. There are two options available: meringue up or meringue down. Meringue up makes it easier to move/serve, meringue down might be more aesthetically pleasing, being a mirror of the top meringue/cake layer. You also need to bear in mind the effect the fruit layer will have on either the meringue or the sponge.
  • Once the fruit mixture has cooled a little, it will start to thicken. Fold in the remaining raspberries, trying to keep them as whole as possible, then spread in an even layer over the bottom sponge/meringue layer.
  • Put the cream mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle and pipe a thick line of cream all around the edge of the cake tin, then fill in the middle. Strictly speaking, the piping bag isn’t compulsory, but I find it’s the best way of getting the filling nice and even around the edge.
  • Place the top layer of sponge and meringue on top of the cream and press gently.
  • Chill in the fridge until the gelatine has completely set.
  • When set, remove the cake from the tin and place onto your serving dish. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then dust with icing sugar and serve.


[1] I thawed 400g of redcurrants and then sieved the softened berries. It doesn’t need to be all juice – a mixture of pulp and juice is fine, just so the gelatine has something to dissolve into.




Another holiday-ish inspired post – Brissants!

“Quoi!?” I hear you exclaim. Quite. Allow me to elaborate.

Picture the scene…



The sun is barely over the horizon and the first decision of the day is already upon you: Brioche? Or croissant? Even the soothing balm of fresh coffee fails to make this no less stressful a judgement.

Brioche: so rich, doughy, soft and comforting – but there’s no crunch!
Croissants: so flaky, buttery and crisp – but there’s no substance!

I’d be willing to bet even Solomon himself would have chewed his lip a bit over this dilemma – but no more!

For here lyeth the answer……*drumroll* Brissants!

A  name cleverly thought up by my daughter to describe this fabulous combination of buttery brioche dough and buttery, flaky croissant layers.

Buttery, buttery, buttery.


Flaky spirals

More substantial than a croissant, lighter, crispier, flakier than a brioche.

Confession: Apart from the name, there’s nothing new about this recipe. If you want to get all nit-picky, it’s proper name is “Brioche feuilletée au beurre”  but that isn’t very descriptive if your French is a bit rusty, and “Brioche made-all-layered-and-puffed-and-stuff with butter” is a bit long-winded. (I may have missed my calling as an international translator of unique repute.) Not sure who came up with the idea – I like to think whoever it was was working from an old baker’s book whose pages were stuck together: started off as a brioche, unwittingly ended up as a croissant method. Win!

Voila Brissants![1]

It’s the Cronut for 2015 without all that greasy deep-frying. *shudders*

They are made with fresh yeast. *waits until you’ve stopped running round shrieking a la Edvard Munch*


Oh no! Not fresh yeast!

Be not alarmed – it’s a ‘throw it all in the mixer’ method. No sponges, no Faff™.

The only downside, if any, is the rising time. Brioche, with it’s enrichment of butter and eggs, already takes longer-than-average to prove. Add to that the layers of butter and it rises (see what I did there? </subtle>).  You can’t – let me rephrase – you shouldn’t put it in a warm place to prove, because the interleaved butter will melt and run out and all your hard work will be for nothing. Best to accept it’ll be about 2 hours and plan accordingly.

These Brissants are unflavoured, apart from the richness of the eggs and butter, but as such are infinitely customisable.

  • Philippe Conticini adds a sprinkling of nibbed sugar in his recipe, before rolling up the dough.
  • Maple sugar is another option, as indeed are all the caramel, dark sugars such as Muscovado and Demerera.
  • If your butter tends towards the ordinary, try whipping in some citrus zest. NB If you try this, do it far enough ahead so that it has time to chill thoroughly to firmness before adding to the dough.
  • Flavouring the dough with orange-flower water, vanilla, cocoa (remember to remove an equivalent weight of flour), chocolate chips…. Have at it!


I use my stand mixer and a dough hook to mix, but you can also use a bread maker or do it by hand.

500g strong white bread flour 
60g caster sugar 
10g salt 
15g fresh yeast
75ml warm water
4 large eggs
100g butter, cut into cubes

For the lamination
150g butter

1 large egg to glaze

  • Put the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and stir to mix. Crumble in the yeast and add the water and two of the eggs. Mix.
  • Add the rest of the eggs once the mixture has started to come together.
  • Knead thoroughly for 5 minutes.
  • With the mixer running, add the butter piece by piece. You don’t have to wait until it has been worked in before adding the next piece, just don’t dump it all in at once.
  • Knead until the butter is fully incorporated, about another 5 minutes.
  • Tip out onto a floured surface, shape roughly into a flat square and wrap in plastic.
  • Put into the freezer for 10 minutes. NB  No more than 10 – this is important – you want it chilled enough to match the consistency of the butter, but not so cold as to kill the yeast, so SET THE TIMER.
  • While the dough is chilling, prepare the butter. Flatten it roughly, then wrap it in an envelope of baking parchment, making a 15cm square. Make sure all the folds are underneath, then use a rolling pin to roll the butter out. The envelope will contain the butter very effectively, allowing you to spread it right to the edges to make a very neat square. Chill. The butter that is, not you. Unless you’re becoming a little frazzled making an enriched, laminated dough, in which case – Chill!
  • Remove the dough from the freezer and roll out to a square large enough to hold the butter.
Butter and dough placement

Butter and dough placement

  • Fold the corners in and pinch the edges to seal.
  • Roll out into a long rectangle and then make a book fold – that’s folding the edges into the middle (or preferably a little off-centre), and the folding them in again, like a book.
  • Turn 90 degrees so the fold is on the left and the edges on the right and repeat.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill in the freezer for another 10 minutes. Set the timer.
  • Prepare your tins – I used mini pudding cups like this, but you can also use individual foil cases. Brush with butter or spray liberally with cooking spray.
  • After chilling, roll out the dough to a rectangle 0.5mm thick. Roll up from the wide edge into a sausage, as you would cinnamon buns.
  • Cut into 12 thick slices and place end-up into your prepared tins, so the spiral is visible. The dough should half-fill your tins.
  • Set aside to rise for about 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C Fan.
  • Whisk the egg and lightly brush the top of the dough. Try not to get it dripping down the sides – it’ll glue your dough to the tin and impede the rise as it bakes.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until risen and brown and glossy.
  • Cool on a wire rack and devour with gusto! Or a fresh coffee. Your call.

[1] Or Crioches,  as my far-too-clever-for-his-own-good friend Dr Dan suggested *shakes fist at his cleverness* ;)

Cream Cakes

Cream Cakes and strawberries


I spent a lot of our holiday in France prowling around patisseries and artisan boulangeries with eyes like saucers, admiring the delicate and stylish combinations of cream and fruit and chocolate and truffle and glaze and, and, and…. More of which will, no doubt, surface later on the blog as I shamelessly appropriate their ideas and flavour combinations for my own.

However, in order to get there, it is rather a mammoth road trip, so I generally make sure I’ve got a handful of recipe books with me in the car to while away the hours – eyes on the road at all times is SO overrated….

Yes, I’m kidding. I’m actually in charge of sitting up front and paying the tolls at the end of various motorway stretches, because all the machines are on the left-hand side.


With no other reading matter to hand, I find it’s a good way to make sure I actually READ some of the hundreds of books on my shelves and I invariably discover something I’ve overlooked before. Sure enough, this year, yet again, I have re-discovered a recipe in a dusty housewives’ pamphlet from umpty-plonk years ago that reveals itself to be a real gem and, despite my hopeless and complete admiration for the exotic and awe-inspiring patisserie creations of France, I am enchanted all over again by British simplicity.

The recipe for these cakes was so brief I almost passed it by, yet curiosity caused me to pause and read it over, wondering what ‘trick’ there was; surely the small paragraph didn’t contain making, baking AND decorating instructions?

Sure enough, it didn’t, because the recipe was for cakes MADE with cream. Specifically, substituting cream into the mix instead of butter.

So simple – flour, sugar, eggs, cream, baking powder. I just had to try them.

And they were delicious, and a complete breeze to make; no fretting over whether the butter is soft enough, or whether the sugar is dissolved sufficiently. They rose magnificently domed in the oven and are as light and tender of crumb as….. well, a very light and tender thing. Hey, I haven’t had any coffee yet today, gimme a break!

If I had just one niggle, it was that they were sweet. Tooth-achingly so. I couldn’t resist tweaking them a little. Even the sugar-pop posing as my daughter prefers this version. Of course she ate the sweet batch too, but she prefers these.

There’s no added flavouring – you could add some if you like, but I urge you to try the recipe just once, with farm-fresh eggs and rich double – or even clotted – cream.

The simplicity, lightness and flavour will be a delight.


Cream Cakes

The cakes in the photo are made in mini layer tins I bought in my local The Range, 4 x 10cm diameter pans for £2.50 (also fab for Yorkshire Puddings) and I put 100g of batter into each one, and made six. If you’re using large cupcake/muffin tins, I suggest just 50g of batter per ‘hole’, and thus twelve cakes. Cooking time is the same for both sizes.

150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125ml cream – double or clotted
150g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder

  •  Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Beat with a balloon whisk (or by hand or stand mixer) until the eggs are frothy and the sugar dissolved – about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and whisk in.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the rest of the ingredients – the balloon whisk/attachment is best for this, less washing up too!
  • Grease and line your tins, or use cupcake cases.
  • Spoon your mixture into your tins. Spread the batter to the sides, leaving a hollow in the middle. They will still dome up during cooking, but this way it should be a little more controlled.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • I think these are delicious served warm, lightly dusted with icing sugar and with a drizzle of cold cream poured over and a few fresh berries on the side. You can also split them and fill with whipped cream and berries or jam, or indeed any way that takes your fancy!

Baking Powder Bread

White Baking Powder Bread


Here’s a fun – and useful – project for you to play around with over the summer – Baking Powder Bread!

Similar to, but also different from Soda Bread, this loaf actually works out to be a little bit slower to make than Soda Bread, but the extra time is worth the wait because it is also lighter.

As a bonus, it doesn’t require buttermilk, using instead a 30 minute ‘lactic ferment’ (ooh, get me with all my bakey jargon!) of ordinary milk and plain flour to mix the ingredients together. Allowing the mixture to stand for 30 minutes stimulates the enzymes that help produce the lift in the finished loaf. And it has to be 30 minutes – no longer. And definitely don’t try and make it less because the results are immediately visible – and not that fun to eat!

One final tweak was to bake it under a pan. In a tin, but also under a pan. Much like the Overnight Bread and Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, an enclosed baking space keeps in the steam, helps the rise and protects the crust from becoming overly dark. The results can be seen below.

side by side1

Side by side comparison of three different baking conditions.
Left: Mixed without the 30 minute wait. Middle: 30 minute ferment, baked uncovered in a tin.
Right: 30 minute ferment, baked in a tin covered by an inverted saucepan.

Here’s a closer look at the crumb of each loaf:

Loaf mixed without the 30 minute ferment

Loaf mixed without the 30 minute ferment
The loaf hasn’t risen much at all and consequently has retained a great deal of cragginess on the top.
The dough did not expand to fill the tin, causing rough and uneven sides.
The crumb is very dense and noticeably yellow in colour.


Baked Uncovered

Loaf mixed with 30 minute ferment, baked uncovered in a tin.
A dark crust, but well-risen and most of the cragginess has been smoothed by the rise.
Crumb fairly open, but loaf noticeably flat across the top.

White Baking Powder Bread

The most impressive result. Baked with the 30 minute ferment, in a tin, covered by an inverted saucepan.
The crust isn’t overly dark and the crumb nice and open.
The rise has allowed the top of the loaf to be pleasantly crusty and for the dough to fill the tin, as demonstrated by the smooth sides of the loaf.

Baking Powder Bread

Recipe adapted from MANNA by Walter T. Banfield, 1938.

For the ferment:

285ml cold whole milk
225g plain white flour

For the rest of the loaf
150g plain white flour + 40g (maybe)
12g cream of tartar + 6g of bicarbonate of soda OR 24g baking powder[1]
25g lard or butter
1/2 tsp salt
10g golden syrup, agave nectar or mild-flavoured honey

  • Whisk the milk and flour together and cover the bowl with plastic. I use the bowl of my stand mixer, so that I can use the machine to mix in the rest of the ingredients later.
  • Set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 210°C, 190°C Fan.
  • Grease a deep, 20cm, loose-bottom cake tin or similar.
  • Put the remaining ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine. Make sure the sugar syrup mixes in thoroughly and isn’t left stuck to the side of the bowl.
  • When the milk mixture has sat for 30 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. If the mixture seems a little too wet, add up to 40g more flour, until it is dry enough to handle.
  • Working quickly, knead the dough a few times to smooth it out, and shape it into a disk.
  • Drop the disk of dough into the prepared tin and put the tin onto a baking sheet.
  • Invert a large saucepan or casserole over the top of the tin to keep in the steam. Make sure the rim lies flat against the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pan covering the loaf and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until crisped and brown and sounding hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack before using.


You can use this basic method to make any number of different flavoured loaves, merely by mixing up the types of flour you use in both the ferment and the remaining ingredients: barley flour, oat flour, wholemeal, brown, etc.

Also consider adding interesting texture in the form of flax seeds, pinhead oatmeal, bran, wheatgerm etc.

The sugar syrup can also be varied by using treacle, maple syrup, malt, and so on.

Whatever changes you decide on, just make sure the overall quantity of flour remains constant.

Here are a couple of combinations to get you started. These loaves are slightly denser, so they have the enrichment of a little beaten egg to help lift the texture. I know half an egg is a ridiculous amount – sorry about that. Use a small egg if you can find them, or double the recipe and make 2 loaves (as long as you’ve got 2 large pots to cover them as they bake) or one giant loaf.

  • Wholemeal/Granary Bread
    • 285ml cold milk
    • 150g brown flour
    • 75g plain white flour
    • ——
    • 150g wholemeal or granary flour
    • 12g cream of tartar + 6g of bicarbonate of soda OR 24g baking powder
    • 25g lard or butter
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 10g treacle or molasses
    • ½ large egg – whisked
  • Oat Bread
    • 285ml cold milk
    • 150g brown flour
    • 75g plain white flour
    • ——
    • 150g oat flour
    • 12g cream of tartar + 6g of bicarbonate of soda OR 24g baking powder
    • 25g lard or butter
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 10g treacle or molasses
    • ½ large egg – whisked


Happy Baking! :D


[1] Commercial baking powder is usually 25% rice or corn flour, to keep the active ingredients from clumping. The cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda are the actual active ingredients, and therefore all you need to add. If, however, you’re using commerical baking powder, you’ll need to add 24g in order to get the above quantities of active ingredients.

Russian Zupfkuchen

Russian ZupfkuchenWotchers!

Bit of a quirky recipe this week, since Russian Zupfkuchen is actually a German dessert and practically unknown in Russia. Many thanks to Florian Fischer (@MaddingKraut on Twitter) my official German culinary attaché, for his help and advice.

OK, if I was pressed, I’d say it was a little like a baked cheesecake, but before any cheesecake-haters run screaming for the hills, let me assure you that it’s textures and flavours are so much lighter and fresher than a traditional, say, New York Cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, a New York style cheesecake can be an absolute delight, but no-one can deny that it’s incredibly rich and filling and a little on the heavy side.

This Russian Zupfkuchen has a crisp, intensely chocolatey biscuit-like crumb and topping, surrounding a light, almost melt-in-the-mouth, creamy filling, delicately flavoured with vanilla. The real star of the piece, however, is Quark, an acid-set soft cheese, very common in many north-European and Slavic countries.

It is available in supermarkets in the UK, at around £1.00 for 250g and is naturally fat-free. After mixing with eggs, sugar, flavouring and a little cream, during baking it puffs up like a soufflé, gently settling back as it cools. Once chilled, the result is light, creamy without being cloying, and a wonderful contrast between the softly-set filling and the richness of the pastry.

Which brings me to the single slight downside to this recipe – the pastry. It tastes incredible – SO crisp, SO friable and SO richly flavoured  – and is a bit of a devil to work with. Once made, you need to chill it for several hours, rather than the more usual 30 minutes, and it softens very quickly, so lining the baking tin can become a rather drawn-out affair if the day is warm, as it needs to keep going back into the fridge/freezer to firm up almost every few minutes.

Which is why, gentle reader, the picture at the top of this post aint lookin’ too purdy. And I did try my best, several times. I suspect my mistake was trying to make the pastry too thin that was my downfall. If you fancy an easier alternative, try the chocolate pastry from The Midnight Meringue instead.

Russian Zupfkuchen

For the pastry:

200g plain flour
50g cornflour
120g icing sugar
170g butter
1 large egg
50g cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:

140g icing sugar
3 large eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla pod, or vanilla extract to taste
500g quark
2tbs cornflour
1 pinch salt
175ml double cream
60g unsalted butter, melted

  •  Put all of the ingredients for the pastry into a food processor and blitz.
  • The mixture will eventually come together into a very soft paste.
  • Tip out, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours.
  • Remove 1/4 of the dough and put it in the freezer to chill
  • Grease and line a 24cm spring-form cake tin with parchment.
  • Roll out the remaining chilled pastry to between 5-10mm and use it to line the cake tin.
  • Chill the lined tin in the fridge while the filling is made.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Whisk the eggs and the icing sugar until pale and frothy.
  • Stir in the quark, vanilla, salt and cornflour.
  • Whisk the double cream until thickened and stir though, together with the melted and cooled butter.
  • When everything is smoothly mixed, pour into the prepared baking tin. It will rise during baking, so don’t fill the pastry case too full.
  • Take the remaining pastry from the freezer and grate it, coarsely, over the surface of the filling.
  • Bake for 1 hour. Turn the tin around after 30 minutes to help bake evenly.
  • Cool completely. Cover with foil, then chill in the fridge.
  • Remove from the tin and cut into portions when chilled.

Roasted Cauliflower Quiche

roasted cauliflower quiche


The recipe this week is actually one I made on Week 2 of The Great British Bake Off, and is in response to a request from a blog reader. I thought the recipe was already online somewhere, but it seems not.

With a 2-hour time limit, the brief was for ” a large quiche with a savoury flavoured pastry” and, as a Signature Bake, the other criteria were for it to be:

  • something that showcases your personality, creative flair and baking ability
  • a favourite tried and tested home recipe
  • well presented and original

Consequently, I made a point of making my version of this seemingly simple combination of cauliflower, eggs, cheese and pastry a little treasure trove of unexpected details and flavours, not all of which were picked up on by the judges, but for posterity’s sake, I’m going to list them here:

  • Suet pastry flavoured with caraway and cheese. Yes, suet can be used for regular pastry as well as the boiled/steamed variety. Made with commercially prepared suet, it is much quicker and easier to prepare than other types of pastry: everything is mixed in a bowl and stirred together with cold water until a paste is formed – rather like making a stiff scone mixture. Fresh breadcrumbs and baking powder add lightness and the caraway seeds pair well with the cheese. The result is very light and crisp. Obviously the suet makes it non-vegetarian, but vegetable suet is available, if preferred.
  • Cauliflower: roasted in the oven to give touches of deep, rich caramel to the naturally sweet and delicate flavour.
  • Onions: slowly caramelised in oil to intensify both the flavour and sweetness.
  • Mustard: brushed over the blind-baked pastry to bring a little zing amongst the richness of the cheese and eggs.
  • Cheese: A mixture of grated Gruyère and Parmesan – Gruyère for meltiness (What? That is SO a word!) and nuttiness, Parmesan for a big wallop of cheesey flavour.
  • Crème fraîche: Selecting the low-fat version is both less rich than the traditional double cream, and the slight tang also helps cut through the richness of the cheese to give the cooked quiche a much fresher-tasting bite.

Soggy Bottom Rescue

Sometimes, despite all your best precautions (see below), the pastry does not stand up well to the deluge of wet filling. Coupled with the cooler oven used to just ‘set’ the quiche, whilst the edges of your tart might be crisp and golden, the underside might turn out to be soft and doughy. There IS a remedy, and one which I should have employed in the Bake Off, but I recall that at the time, the remaining cooking time being a bit tight, so I didn’t and paid the price in the form of Mary Berry’s ‘disappointed’ face.

If you find yourself in such a situation, don’t despair, do the following:

  • Allow your quiche to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
  • Lift the rack up and check the underside.
  • If it’s not cooked to your satisfaction, slide the quiche onto a piece of baking parchment.
  • Put a large, heavy frying pan over a medium low heat.
  • Lift the quiche using the baking parchment and put the whole thing, parchment included, into the frying pan.
  • Allow the heat to bake the bottom of the quiche until crisp and golden. You will need to lift the tart out in order to check – don’t try lifting the edge whilst in the pan as you run the risk of the pastry breaking. If not done, simply place it back into the pan for a few more minutes.
  • The pastry will not stick to the pan, because of the parchment. The low heat will also keep it from scorching.
  • When crisped, simply transfer the quiche back to the cooling rack using the parchment, and then slide the parchment from underneath and allow to cool as normal.

Voilà quiche!

Roasted Cauliflower Quiche

100g suet
200g self-raising flour
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 tsp caraway seeds
50g Parmesan

iced water to mix

beaten egg for glazing

1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions
1-2 tablespoons mustard – Dijon, wholegrain, whatever you like best
3 large eggs
200ml low fat crème fraiche
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Whole nutmeg for grating
100g grated Gruyère cheese
75g grated Parmesan cheese

  • Heat 1½ tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over low heat.
  • Chop onions and add to pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Cook until onion is caramelised and a deep golden brown, stirring occasionally (about 40 minutes).
  • Put a baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven; preheat to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil in large bowl. Spread on large rimmed baking sheet, spacing apart. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast 15 minutes; Turn florets over. Continue roasting until tender, about 15 minutes longer. Set aside
  • Line a large quiche or tart tin with baking parchment.
  • Mix together all the pastry ingredients.
  • Stir in enough water to make a firm but not sticky dough. Roll out and line the quiche tin.
  • Line the inside with parchment and fill with beans or rice.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the parchment and filling and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with beaten egg and bake for a final 3-4 minutes. The egg glaze will form a  barrier between the filling and the pastry and help keep the pastry from becoming sodden.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C, 140°C Fan. Put a baking sheet into the oven to get hot.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with the mustard. If you’re a fan, you could even use English mustard, but it is very fiery indeed, especially if you’re not expecting it. Equally ‘surprising’ would be horseradish or wasabi – but do warn people before letting them take a bite!
  • Sprinkle over a layer of caramelised onions.
  • Arrange the roasted cauliflower florets evenly.
  • Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour into the pastry case. Jiggle the tin a little to make sure the liquid gets into all the nooks and crannies. You can also – carefully – drop the tin onto the worktop from a height of 5-6cm to get rid of any air pockets.
  • Put the tin onto the heated baking sheet and bake until tart is golden and almost set (still jiggly) in the middle, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Transfer to rack; cool.

Retro Tarts

Three sweet tarts

Dark Butterscotch (back left), Toffee (back right) and Gypsy Tart (front)


Despite the above picture, this post is really all about pastry. Sweet, shortcrust pastry.

Some time ago *waves hand vaguely* I introduced you to an all-butter pastry which I had adapted from an old Victorian commercial baker’s book. The crust for my Cheese and Potato Pies has about 25% cornflour, which makes it fantastically silky-smooth to handle and which also bakes beautifully crisp and dry.

The recipe this week is for a sweet version, also from the same baking handbook: slightly different flour/butter proportions and enriched with the yolk of an egg, it is both more crisp and more delicate than the savoury version and a perfect foil for the three sweet fillings I’ve lined up for you, because I thought it rather a cheek to give you just a pastry recipe this week and let you get on with it. Plus I couldn’t get a lump of pastry to look tempting all by itself, so here we are.

The fillings are very much variations on a theme of dark muscovado sugar and I’m really pleased with the three differing flavours that resulted. The Butterscotch is really dark and very much a ‘grown-up’ flavour – you could even add a slosh of real scotch to ramp it up to dinner-party level. The Toffee is very child-friendly in flavour – almost mild – and a real comfort food. The Gypsy Tart is a 2-ingredient classic that harks back to memories of school dinners. There are many recipes for the filling ‘out there’, most of which generally have too high a proportion of sugar and too much milk, resulting in gigantic pies of tooth-aching sweetness. This version makes for a light and frothy filling with just the right balance of flavour and sweetness. It is the only one of the three that needs any further cooking once poured into the pre-baked pastry shell, but at just 20 minutes in a cool oven, these too are ready in a flash.

I’ve left all three unadorned, but you could add embellishment if you like – unsweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche rather than more sweetness in a chantilly or buttercream, is my recommendation. A smattering of chocolate sprinkles for the toffee tart, perhaps? Your call.


Dark Butterscotch (left), Toffee (middle), Gypsy Tart (right)

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

This quantity makes enough for one large tart or 4-8 individual tarts.

170g plain flour
56g cornflour
125g unsalted butter
15g caster sugar
1 large yolk

ice water to mix

  •  Put the flours, butter, sugar and yolk into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Roll out thinly and line your greased tart tin. If making smaller tarts, cut the pastry into 4 and roll out individually.
  • Leave the excess pastry hanging over the side of the tin/s and chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes. The pastry will shrink as it chills and then you can trim the excess. If you trim it first, the pastry will shrink down inside your tart cases, probably unevenly, and your pastry cases won’t have a nice finish.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
  • Prick the bottom of the tart/s with a fork to prevent blistering, line with baking parchment and fill with beans/rice/beads.
  • Bake for 10 minutes for small tarts, 12-14 minutes for a large tart.
  • Remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 3 minutes for small tarts, 5-8 minutes for a large tart, until fully baked.
  • Allow to cool.

Butterscotch filling

170g unsalted butter
170g dark muscovado sugar
35g plain flour
100ml milk

  • Melt the butter and sugar in a pan, stirring.
  • Make a paste of the flour with a little of the milk, then stir in the rest of the milk.
  • Pour this milk mixture into the butter mixture and whisk vigorously.
  • Continue whisking until the mixture comes to the boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring, to ‘cook out’ the taste of the flour. The mixture will thicken.
  • Remove from the heat. Add a little extra milk – or scotch! – if it seems too thick, then pour into the bake pastry case/s and allow to cool.

Toffee filling

Warm the golden syrup before measuring it out, it will be much easier to pour accurately.

100g butter
40g plain flour
250ml milk
60g dark muscovado sugar
100g golden syrup

chocolate sprinkles (optional)

  • Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Whisk until frothed and starting to darken.
  • Warm the milk and sugar together and pour into the butter mixture, whisking briskly.
  • Keep stirring over the heat until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and stir in the golden syrup.
  • If the mixture seems too thick, add a little extra milk to loosen it.
  • When you’re happy with the consistency, pour into the pastry shells and set aside to cool.
  • Scatter over the chocolate sprinkles, if using, before serving.

Gypsy Tart filling

1 x 170ml tin evaporated milk
120g dark muscovado sugar

  • Chill the tin of evaporated milk in the fridge overnight. Do not skip this step. It will not whip up to its frothy perfection unless the milk is thoroughly chilled.
  • Get rid of all the lumps in the sugar by pounding it in a pestle and mortar. Work a little at a time rather than trying to get the whole batch lump-free in one go. It’ll give you something to do while the milk chills.
  • Put the sugar and the chilled milk into a bowl and whisk for AT LEAST ten minutes. You want the sugar to dissolve and the milk to increase in volume and become light and frothy, like half-whipped double cream. You can test whether the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the mixture between finger and thumb – it should not feel grainy at all. If you have a stand mixer and a balloon whisk attachment, this might take a little less time, but not much.
  • Preheat the oven to 120°C – NO FAN
  • Pour your mousse-like mixture into your pre-baked pastry case/s. It will not rise much in baking, so you can fill them pretty full.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the filling has set: no wobble when gently shaken.
  • Set aside to cool.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,129 other followers