Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Blogger Bake Off Final - Petit Four: Coffee Victoria & Lemon Meringue Tartlets

And so, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain. My friend, I'll say it clear, I'll state my case of which I'm certain [...]  Yes there were times, I'm sure you knew when I bit off more than I could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spat it out . I faced it all and I stood tall, and baked it my way! 

What's a final without a cheesy ballad thrown in there somewhere? I'm sure the British Bake Off will have one tonight when they announce the winner (RICHARD! RICHARD!) 

This week, I decided after the chaos of the entremet, there was no way I was tackling a croque en bouche, so went for petit four instead. Make a miniature version of anything and it's adorable, so I did these minis of some baking classics, the victoria sponge and lemon meringue pie (I also like to pretend I'm a giant when eating them). 

This entire challenge has been incredible and I would personally like to thank I Love Crafty for organising the entire thing. I've learnt so much from doing this, and don't really want it to stop. That's where you guys come in. If you would like to see the baking continue on Blood, Sweat and Heels then leave a little comment below, because I'm seriously considering making it a permanent feature. Whatever the decision may be, there is a Christmas Blogger Bake Off in the pipeline. 

I really hope you've enjoyed this flurry of baking that's been going on recently and have been inspired to don your apron and get elbow deep in dough. 

Coffee Victoria

225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for tin
225g golden caster sugar
4 medium eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
100ml cold espresso

Filling / Icing
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp cold espresso

1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Butter one large, deep baking tray, and line the base with baking paper. 
2. Using an electric whisk on high speed, whisk the butter in a large bowl for 1-2 minutes until very pale and fluffy, then add the sugar and continue to whisk for another 1-2 minutes. 

3.  Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well with each addition until the mixture is amalgamated.

4.  Sift and whisk in the flour and baking powder in two goes, just lightly, then whisk in the coffee. 

5. Tip the mixture into the baking tray, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when poked. 
6. Whilst that's baking, for the filling cream the butter in a bowl using an electric whisk for about 1 minute until very pale and fluffy, then gradually whisk in the icing sugar and whisk for 1 minute longer. Finally whisk in the coffee. 
7. When the cake is done, remove from the baking tray and peel off the baking paper. Leave on a wire rack to cool. 

8. When cooled take your cake cutter (I used a shot glass and a knife for this as I didn't have a cutter small enough. Remember, petit four are meant to be eaten in one go) and cut out as many circles of sponge as you can get out of your cake. 

9. To get my icing effect, I used a piping bag and a small star nozzle, but how you decorate yours is completely up to you. Add the filling to one circle, and then gently place another on top, and ice. 

Lemon Meringue Tartlets

175g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 egg yolk

2 level tbsp cornflour
100g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest 2 large lemons
125ml fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
juice 1 small orange (or breakfast orange juice)
85g butter cut into pieces
3 egg yolks and one whole egg

4 egg whites, room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
2 level tsp cornflour. 

1.Preheat the oven to 200C 
2. For the pastry, put the flour, butter, icing sugar, egg yolk (save the white for the meringue) and  tbsp of cold water into a bowl. 

3. Using your hands, bind the ingredients together until it forms a dough. This will require you to really work the butter into the mix, so there are no lumps of butter. Use an electric whisk if it helps. 
4. Tip the pastry onto a lightly floured surface , gather together until smooth, then roll it out. 

5. Using the same cutter you used for the Coffee Victorias, or a shot glass and a knife, cut out as many circles as you can get from that piece of dough. Pull all the off-cuts together and roll out again and cut more circles. Repeat this until you're out of dough. 

6. Fill a muffin tray with muffin cases, and place a circle in each one. Using your forefinger, poke the dough right into the corners to create a yorkshire pudding shape. Stab each one with a fork and put the tray in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes. 

7. Once chilled, line each bit of pastry with tin foil, and add baking beans for a blind bake. 

8. Put into the oven for 6 minutes. 
9. Remove from the oven, and remove the baking beans and foil. 
10. Put back into the oven for another 6-10 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. 

11. For the filling, mix cornflour, sugar and lemon zest in a saucepan. Strain and stir in the lemon juice gradually. 
12. Make orange juice up to 200ml with water and strain into the pan. 
13. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Once the mixture bubbles, remove from the heat and beat in the butter until melted. 

14. Beat the egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue) and whole egg together, stir into the pan and return to a medium heat. 
15. Keep stirring vigorously for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens and plops from the spoon (It will bubble, but won't curdle). Take off the heat and set aside while you make the meringue. 

16. For the meringue, put the egg whites in a bowl. Whisk to soft peaks, then add half the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking between each addition without over-beating. 
17. Whisk in the cornflour, then add the rest of the sugar as before until smooth and thick. 

18. Using a teaspoon, add the lemon filling to your cases, filling just to the brim. 
19. How you want your meringue to appear is completely up to you, I used a piping bag and a small star nozzle, piping the meringue in tiny blobs. 

20. When you've piped the meringue, turn the grill onto it's highest setting, and set the tartlets under it until the tip of meringue start to brown. Keep an eye on them because this process happens quite quickly. 


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 7 - Rhubarb and Custard Mille Feuille

I am so flippin' proud of myself this week. Not only did I pull of making puff pastry from scratch, but creme patissiere too. I think I've been playing it safe with my bakes up until now, sticking to things I know I can manage, so I decided this week to push myself a little bit further, and tackle Mille Feuille. 

It was really difficult recipe wise, considering most recipes tell you to use shop bought pastry, and whipped cream instead of creme patissiere. I was also expecting such a wide range of flavour combos when I was searching for some inspiration, considering mille feuille is only sweet pastry and cream/custard, but kept stumbling across boring old strawberries and rasberries, so I decided to wing it and do one of my all-time fave flavour duos. Nothing can beat good ol' rhubarb and custard. 

If I was to do this again, just from a presentation point of view, I would use raw rhubarb and stew it myself to maintain the pink colouring, because the green of the tinned rhubarb really isn't that appealing. 

Taste-wise though it was spot on. The sugar that's sprinkled over the pastry before it's baked adds just the right level of sweetness, and the tartness of the rhubarb combats any added sweetness that comes from the creme patissiere. It actually tasted like rhubarb and custard sweets. 

Despite having to piece together multiple recipes to create my own, this was actually a really easy bake to pull off, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning two brand new skills. 

So if you've ever been a bit intimidated by this multi-layered treat and are a sucker for old school penny sweets, why not give it a go!


Puff Pastry
250g strong plain flour 
1tsp fine sea salt 
3 tbsp caster sugar
250g butter, at room temperature, but not soft
about 150ml cold water
Creme Patissiere 
4 medium egg yolks 
65g caster sugar
15g plain flour
15g cornflour
350 ml whole milk 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste 
icing sugar, for dusting. 
1 245g tin of rhubarb chunks in light syrup. 
Icing sugar to decorate. 


1) Heat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas 6. 

2) Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Roughly break the butter in small chunks, add them to the bowl and rub them in loosely. You need to see bits of butter. 

3) Make a well in the bowl and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water, mixing until you have a firm rough dough adding extra water if needed. Cover with cling film and leave to rest for 20 mins in the fridge. 

4) Turn out onto a lightly floured board, knead gently and form into a smooth rectangle. Roll the dough in one direction only, until 3 times the width, about 20 x 50cm. Keep edges straight and even. Don't overwork the butter streaks. You should have a marbled effect. 

5) Fold the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that. Give the dough a quarter turn (to the left or right) and roll out again to three times the length. Fold as before, cover with cling film and chill for another 20 mins in the fridge. 

6) On a lightly floured surface scattered with a little sugar, roll out the pastry to a rectangle slightly larger than 28 x 30cm. Line a large baking tray with parchment and scatter with more sugar. Use the rolling pin to lift the pastry onto the baking parchment. 

7) Scatter more sugar over the pastry and cover with another sheet of baking parchment. Lay another heavy baking tray (or a heavy oven dish) on top and bake for 25-30 mins until the pastry is golden and crisp, then set aside to cool. 

8) To make the creme patissiere, whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl until they turn a pale golden colour. Whisk in the flour and cornflour and set aside. 

9) Place the milk and vanilla bean paste in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 30 seconds.

10) Slowly pour half of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time, then return the mixture to the remaining milk in the pan. It is important to slowly pour the hot milk onto the cold eggs before you return the mixture to the pan to prevent the eggs from scrambling. 

11) Bring the mixture back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking continuously, or until smooth. 

12) Pour the cream into a clean bowl and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming. Cool as quickly as possible, by sitting the bowl of pastry cream in another large bowl of ice water. Leave to cool for 20 minutes. 

13) Using a ruler and a sharp knife, carve 10 x 6cm rectangles out of the pastry. You should be able to carve out 12 rectangles. 

14) Tip the cooled cream into a piping bag or a standard sandwhich / freezer bag, and snip off a tiny corner with a pair of scissors. Practice piping on some kitchen role to make sure the hole is the right size and the cream is at the right consistency. 

15) Drain the rhubarb. If it's too wet, it will make the rhubarb soggy. The best way to prevent this is to dry each individual piece of rhubarb before cutting it on some kitchen roll. 

16) Take your first rectangle, placing it horizontally in front of you, and pipe a thick line of the cream from the top to the bottom. Take two chunks of rhubarb, cut them in half and place them next to the the cream. Continue to alternate the cream and rhubarb until the pastry is covered. 

17) Place a piece of pastry on top of this and repeat the cream and rhubarb process, maybe alternating with the below layers so as to create a checkerboard effect. 

18) Place another layer of pastry on top of this to complete one mille feuille, and dust with icing sugar. 


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 6 - Sachertorte

I'm not sure about the rest of the bloggers taking part in this Blogger Bake Off, but when they announced this week would be European cakes, my mind went blank. All I could think of was Tiramisu, which I made in week 4, and Croque en Bouche (way too technical for me). I've been doing so much research this past week as to what I could bake, and on my way I've come across some amazing looking cakes I never knew existed (my cake has a slightly more complicated pastry brother called the Fachertorte. It looks so scrummy!) However some of them looked extremely complicated, and as much as I would love to have given them a go, I really would have needed more practice. 

It was one evening that I had an epiphany and remembered last year's Bake Off contestants having the grueling task of making Mary Berry's Sachertorte with a very vague recipe, for the technical challenge. I remember thinking that it looked so glamorous and actually not too complicated once you have the full recipe, so I decide to give it a go. 

I found Mary Berry's recipe to be very simple and easy to follow, however I did have a bit of trouble with the piping. I've always veered away from piping because it terrifies me. I take it to heart when I try and get all creative with baking and it turns out looking poop, so this is the first time I've really donned my piping bag (I actually used a sandwich bag), closed my eyes and gone for it. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, but it would have been a disaster if I'd piped straight away. The best advice I can give to anyone with similar piping fears is PRACTICE. Just have a little squiggle on some kitchen roll just so you get the hang of handling the bag. 

I'd like to think if I was on the show tomorrow, Mary Berry would be happy with my shiny chocolate and piping skills. 


For the topping and the icing


1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a deep 23cm round cake tin then line the base with greaseproof paper.

2) Break the chocolate into pieces, melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally, then cool slightly. Beat the butter in a bowl until really soft, then gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the cool chocolate and the vanilla extract and beat again. Add the egg yolks, then fold in the ground almonds and sieved flour. The mixture will be quite thick at this stage.


3) In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add about one third to the chocolate mixture and stir in vigorously. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. 

4) Bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until well risen at the top and the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the paper and finish cooling on a wire rack.

5) To make the topping, heat the apricot jam in a small pan and then brush evenly over the top and sides of the cold cake to build up a layer. Allow to set

6) Make the icing by breaking the plain chocolate into pieces. Heat the cream until piping hot, remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted, then cool till a coating consistency. Then pour the icing on to the centre of the cake. Spread it gently over the top and down the sides, and leave to set. 

7) For the 'icing' writing, break the milk chocolate into pieces then melt gently in a bowl set over a pan of hot water. Spoon into a small paper icing bag or a sandwich bag if you don't have one and snip off the corner. Before piping onto the cake have a little practice on some kitchen role, just to make sure the consistency is right.  Pipe 'Sacher' across the top and leave to set.