Tuesday, 30 October 2012


I promised I’d master my cinder toffee tart before bonfire night and here it is, early enough to be made in advance, or even for Halloween. Cinder toffee is what we call honeycomb in Yorkshire and it’s a tradition to eat it, alongside bonfire toffee, on bonfire night. I wanted to make this into a proper dessert, and chose to invent a tart with a dark caramel filling which has the taste of bonfire toffee, topped with the crisp and golden spectacle that is cinder toffee.

For the pastry
250g flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
125g cold butter, cubed
1 cold egg

For the Filling 
30g butter
40g flour
300g dark brown sugar
250ml milk
2 egg yolks
1tsp vanilla extract

Cinder Toffee 
75g sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

To make the pastry, blitz the flour, icing sugar and butter together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg with a fridge cold knife (I put it in the freezer for a few minutes) until a dough just about starts to form. You may need 1-2 tbsp of cold water as well, depending on the size of the egg. Turn out onto a piece of cling film, and with the cling film, squash the dough together to form a ball, then flatten a little to make it easier to roll. Pop in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

During this time preheat the oven at fan180°/200c/6. Once rested, remove the pastry from the fridge and leave to warm up a little before rolling it out on a lightly floured surface. Use the pastry to line a medium tart tin, fluting the edges with the back of a wooden spoon and pricking the base with a fork. Trim the excess pastry to fit the tin. Screw up a piece of baking paper and use it to cover the pastry base, covering above the edges of the tart dish. Fill with baking beans or rice (I actually use dried chickpeas because they were the cheapest thing I could find) and bake for 10 minutes before removing the beans and paper and baking for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. The oven can now be turned off.

In the meantime make the filling by melting the butter in a pan before adding the flour and mixing into a paste. Add the sugar, milk, egg yolks and vanilla and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring continuously until thick and glossy. Pour the filling into the baked pastry case, levelling out as much as possible. Leave to cool for around 30 minutes. 

Make the cinder toffee by mixing the golden syrup and sugar in a small pan then bring to boil and cook for around 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and whisk in the bicarb, don’t be alarmed by the growing foam substance, this will make the air pockets in the cinder toffee. At this point, pour the molten cinder toffee straight onto the tart, teasing it towards the edges to cover the whole filling. This can be done with a knife but try to work fast because it will harden rapidly.

The cinder toffee forms a hard shell on the top of the dark caramel filling which gives a fantastic contrast in texture. To serve, bash the topping to break the surface before attempting to cut or else the filling will just ooze out from the pressure. After the first day, the cinder toffee does soften and becomes an as-equally appealing chewiness which blends well with the dark caramel.

This is one of my favourite recipes I’ve created, so don’t be put off by how unconventional it sounds, it does work.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


It’s the time of year when parkin is necessary. This recipe is for traditional parkin, not the really sticky one which people associate now (though that is equally as good) but the one which you make into a loaf, slice and then leave for 3 days before eating. The recipe here is one of my great-grandma’s which I found and converted from ounce to grams (by using old scales to new, no online-converter short cuts!) then tweaked a bit to ensure maximum moisture. I don’t know what it is about parkin that makes this time of year one of the best, teamed with the smoky bonfires and dark nights, but it defiantly is an October/November necessity.

225g butter
4 tbsp black treacle
2 tbsp milk
200g flour
200g oatmeal
115g dark brown sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarb
1½ tsp ginger
2 Eggs

Preheat oven to fan160/180C/4
Line and grease a small loaf tin. Melt together butter, treacle and milk until a dark, thin syrup but don’t allow to boil. Set to one side.

Mix the remaining dry ingredients then make a well in the centre. Beat in the eggs to form a rough dough, then pour in the treacle and butter mixture. Mix into a smooth batter. Pour mixture into the tin and bake for 45minutes.

The parkin is a dark mixture and then loaf due to the black treacle so don’t be alarmed if it looks burnt in the first 5 minutes, but also be more vigilant because of this! When ready, the parkin should spring back when touched and withstand the trusty skewer test. Once baked, leave to cool for a couple of minutes in the tin before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely. Slice the parkin and store in an airtight container for 3 days for the flavors to develop (it is worth the wait), though if you’re greedy like me, no one would really notice that one slice had gone missing


Tuesday, 16 October 2012


I was going to save this recipe for a more summery time, but due to popular demand (well one person- but a significant person, Jason from last year’s bake off who shared my blog on his twitter after I shamelessly plugged it on his blog) I’m adding it now. Its a new take on the classic brownie made using the equally classic combination of strawberry and white chocolate. Being completely honest, how these came about is proper stupid. I was thinking about brownies and blondies and thought there is nothing for ginger people. Then I thought that all ginger people (including myself) go through the period of denying they’re ginger and saying ‘its strawberry blonde’… and that’s how it happened. I know it’s a completely invalid argument considering all the recipes which use ginger as a staple, like parkin which incidentally is coming next week, more fitting of the season. 
100g butter
250g white chocolate
200g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
150g plain flour
150g strawberries, hulled

Makes- 12

Preheat oven fan180°/200c/4
Line and grease a 20x20cm brownie tin Melt together butter and chocolate over a bain-marie, then transfer to a larger bowl and mix in the sugar, eggs and flour. Pour this mixture into brownie tin and set to one side.

Blend the strawberries into a liquid and pour this over the brownie mixture. Pull a skewer back and forth through the mixture until the blended strawberries create a marbled effect against the pale blonde mix.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until strawberry blondes are firm, but still maintain a little gooeyness, the best brownies are always a little underdone. Leave to cool, then cut into 12 squares and enjoy.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012


This recipe was my first ever baking invention, so for old times’ sake I thought I’d include it. It came about when I had two left over ingredients; filo pastry and buttermilk and decided to put them together into mini tarts. Although this creation was a fluke, it was a fluke to be proud of. The texture of these is interesting, the top goes almost deceivingly spongy, but below, encased in the crispness of the filo pastry, is a dense, rich filling. Appearance wise, the tarts fit in with my no-fuss philosophy, I would never mess with something that’s simple, almost pastel look reminds me of the modest treats in my local bakery. The photo attached also was my first experiment with food photography, so it’s not the best composed photo, and yep the cup is empty, but I was young and was, and still am, learning.

1 Egg 
50g butter (plus extra for melting) 
100g sugar 
1 Tablespoon of flour 
100ml buttermilk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
A squeeze of lemon juice 
Filo Pastry Sheets 

Makes 12 

Preheat oven 170⁰ 
Beat the egg until frothy then add the butter, sugar and flour. Mix until smooth, then stir in the buttermilk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. The filling is as simple as that. Set to one side. 

With the sheets, as when working with all filo pastry, you'll have to be quite quick. Melt a knob of butter ready to brush over the sheets to make them stick together. Cut around 3-4 10x10 cm squares for each tart and layer them unequally, with the butter to create a rough star-like shape. Transfer each into a 12-hole bun case and use a small rolled up ball of wet filo pastry to press down to create room for the filling. You can trim the sides if the edges begin to take over the tin.

Once all 12 are complete, fill each pastry case with the buttermilk mixture, being careful to not over-fill. Bake for around 10-15 minutes, laying a sheet of baking paper over the top of the tray after 5 minutes to stop the pastry from burning.
When the tarts are ready, they should be golden brown and the filling should almost look spongy on the surface, as mentioned. Leave to cool in tray for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar (I do this for the
flavour!) before serving.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


Recipes like this are really the nub of the sort of baking I particularly enjoy, and since I promised no fuss baking in the introduction, here you go. Fat rascals are sturdy, delicious, need no decoration and are ridiculously easy. When I bake these I tend to only make enough for 4 (one for each of the family), so you can enjoy them like you would if you bought a scone; a one off treat every so often. With one each you’re also not left with an overwhelming stack of cakes that end up going dry as you try to flog them to anyone who will have them. The recipe can be easily doubled, or tripled if you want more.
I make the fat rascals with a larger amount of fruit and cherries than other recipes I’ve encountered, but this keeps them from being dry as cakes like this are often too claggy. Anyway, a cake which is under fruited is always disappointing.
One last note- give me this over a cupcake any day.

100g self raising flour
50g butter
35g sugar (I always use unrefined granulated sugar)
40g mixed dry fruit
40g glace cherries
1 egg

Preheat the oven at fan 200°/220c/7
Grease a small baking sheet. Rub together flour and butter (recipes like this warrant use of hands) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in sugar, fruit and cherries then add the egg. Stir in to form a sticky dough. Roll mixture into balls and flatten them down a little on tray.

Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown, sturdy, but not rock hard. Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy. It’s as easy as that.

To see me make these on video, click here.