Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Quite a few weeks seem to have passed since my last post. I’m not entirely sure where the time has gone except to say it has been rammed packed. Week 7 started with our first full day in the kitchen. Seven hours baking delicious Chelsea buns, making pate sucree and creme patisserie for individual fruit tarts, steak with Bearnaise sauce, rosti potato and tenderstem broccoli and espagnole sauce ready for a madeira sauce to go with rose veal the following day. It was tiring and my feet ached by the end of it but it was great to be in the kitchen for the whole day and get more of a taste for what it will really be like.

We have had the opportunity to flex our creative muscles where a little like Masterchef we are presented with a load of ingredients to turn into a culinary masterpiece but, unlike Masterchef we have days rather than 20 minutes to think about what we are going to do. In creative lamb I cooked lamb steaks marinated in Chermoula, a butterbean and caramelised onion puree, roasted red peppers and wilted spinach which was described as a very flavoursome plate (whoop!). I didn’t have the chance to take a photo but next time I cook it I shall post my recipe.

What I have photographed is my genoise commune cake smothered in coffee buttercream.

But this is no ordinary butter cream. For this very smooth, rich and exceptionally buttery butter cream, a creme anglais is made which is then mixed with butter and flavoured with coffee, chocolate or whatever takes your fancy. It’s a lot more faff that an ordinary butter cream but the smooth result justifies the extra effort for a special cake.

The birthday boy certainly enjoyed it!

Leiths Coffee buttercream

170g sugar
225ml milk
3 egg yolks
170g salted butter
170g unsalted butter
coffee essence to taste

Gently bring the milk and half the sugar to the boil.

Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar.

When the milk has come to the boil, pour it on to the egg mixture and mix well. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir over a low heat without boiling until slightly thickened. To test it has reached the correct consistency, coat the back of a wooden spoon with the mixture and run your finger up the back. If you rock the spoon from side to side the line should remain. Once thickened strain into a bowl and leave to cool.

Beat the butter until creamy and gradually whisk the custard mixture in to it. Flavour with coffee essence


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I had so much fun making this gingerbread house with the architectural expertise of Mr W. From mixing the gingerbread to icing and assembling, and finally, seeing the grin on our two year old goddaughters face when she saw it!

The gingerbread mix is from the BBC Good Food website and it behaved perfectly when baking, however, you do have to work quickly with it as it becomes crumbly, so make sure your baking sheets and templates are prepared in advance. I upped the spices to give it a bit more of a ginger kick and a hint of warming spices. There was plenty left over to make Christmas trees and stars for stocking fillers.

The  royal icing was left over from icing the Christmas cake and had been whisked to stiff peaks so it was nice and thick and stayed where I put it. It also gave me a chance to practice my new found piping skills.

Finding brightly coloured boiled sweets at the local newsagents and supermarket proved a bit of a challenge so the stain glass is not as bright as originally planned but overall I’m very pleased with the end result.  In fact, it turned out better than I could have hoped!

The gingerbread house was placed on a silver tray which was dusted all over with icing sugar. Trees were stuck to the tray with more royal icing, though a few blocks of mini toblerone were required to help it stay in place while setting. Inside the house was a gingerbread tree decorated with green icing, surrounded by marzipan presents.

I’m entering my Gingerbread House into the Great British Baking Club December Challenge

Fingers crossed!


250g butter
200g light soft brown sugar
105ml golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
11/2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut out 3 sheets of baking paper to fit your largest baking tray.

Melt the butter with the sugar and syrup in a saucepan over a low heat.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the butter mixture into the well and quickly bring together with a wooden spoon to make a dough.

Take about 1/4 of the dough (cover the rest with clingfilm to prevent it from drying out) and roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Lay the two roof panel templates on the dough and cut round with a knife. A metal ruler will help you gain straight edges. Stamp out trees, stars or any other shape that takes your fancy into the dough around the edges.

Remove the excess dough from around the cut outs and remove the templates. Lift the baking paper with the cut outs on it on to the baking sheet. Bake in the top of the oven for 8 minutes or until golden brown (your oven may vary, the original recipe for this mix suggested 12 minutes, you may wish to do some tester biscuits first – chef’s perk :)).

Repeat with the walls and side panels. If you wish to create stain glass windows. Cut out your shape, remove the dough and fill with crushed boiled sweets.

Allow the gingerbread to cool and harden before placing on a wire rack. Once completely hardened and cool you are ready to decorate and then stick your house together with thick royal icing.


First pipe royal icing along the edges of the front wall panel and push the side panels into them. Repeat with the back panel. Support them with a big ball of icing wrapped in clingfilm or whatever you can find in your kitchen – in my case forks and ramekins worked well. Once hardened and set pipe along the top edges of the walls and put the wall panels in place. Support until set.

Pipe icing to create icicles and stick on any chocolate or sweets you wish to decorate your house with.

I think I might make this a Christmas tradition, it certainly seems more popular than Christmas cake.

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