Sunday 22 November 2020

Lotus Biscoff Doughnuts for Food 'n' Flix - Knives Out

I used to take part in a blog challenge called Food ‘n’ Flix where the person hosting each month chooses a movie and everyone taking part bakes something inspired by that film. It got me to watch quite a few films I otherwise would never have seen and to try a few recipes I almost certainly wouldn’t have made otherwise!

As I’ve been baking and blogging less it fell off my radar a bit for the past couple of years but I came across it again last month. Wendy from A Day In the Life on theFarm chose the film Knives Out, which had been on my 'to watch' list for a little while, so it was a good reason to bump it to the top!

I wasn't sure what to expect from the film, which stars Daniel Craig as a detective trying to solve the mystery of a family patriarch's death. His family members all seem to have secrets and possible motives for their involvement in what may or may not be a murder, though the police have ruled it a suicide. There is an all-star cast including Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Chris Evans and Christopher Plummer, and the film reminds me of an Agatha Christie-style 'whodunnit' - but at the same time it's also very funny. I really enjoyed watching the film as it made a nice change from the sort of things we usually watch.

In terms of food references and inspiration, there's a lot of indirect inspiration that could be taken from the family setting, but I prefer with this challenge to use a direct reference. There's one scene set in a restaurant where one of the main characters eats sausage and beans - a dish my husband would enjoy but I hate beans so this wasn't one for me. What actually stuck in my mind more was doughnuts!

There's a scene where Daniel Craig's detective Benoit Blanc summarises how confusing the case appears to be, saying: "A doughnut hole in the doughnut's hole. But we must look a little closer. And when we do, we see that the doughnut hole has a hole in its center - it is not a doughnut hole at all but a smaller doughnut with its own hole, and our doughnut is not whole at all!"

After that, all I wanted was a doughnut, so that's what I decided to make! I've never tried to make proper doughnuts as they need to be fried - I don't have a deep-fat fryer and don't really fancy filling a pan with that much oil. Instead, I've made baked doughnuts a few times and have the Wilton doughnut pan which makes these really easy.

I used this recipe for the doughnuts from the Wilton website.

When it came to decorating them, I was missing Doughnut Time (yes I know they deliver but I don't think it's a good idea for my husband and I to have a box of six of their doughnuts between us!) but I still wanted to do some sort of indulgent filling and topping. Lotus Biscoff immediately sprang to mind, since as well as the biscuits, they make a spread which I could eat just from the jar! I used some of the spread to fill the doughnuts (which I sliced through the middle - I wasn't quite up to injecting the filling like shop-bought ones!) and then covered the top in a chocolate glaze which I made from a mixture of chocolate and butter. 

I poured the chocolate glaze over the top and topped with a Lotus Biscoff chocolate biscuit. These weren't as gooey or indeed a patch on the ones I've had from Doughnut Time but they were very good and didn't last long!

I'm sharing this with A Day in the Life on the Farm for November's Food 'n' Flix challenge.

Thursday 19 November 2020

Black Forest Gateau - GBBO 80s Week

It was the time of Kylie and Jason and Bros, drop-waist dresses with puff ball sleeves, Butlins holidays, Queen and Vanilla Ice, My Little Pony and Care Bears, candy necklaces and fizzy cola bottles, and what felt like endless summers running around outside with friends from your estate, running home just in time to watch 80 Days Around the World with Willy Fog or to beg mum for a coin p as you heard the ice cream van music playing.

In other words, I was a child of the 80s and so was really looking forward to Great British Bake Off’s 80s themed week. I wondered beforehand what they could be asked to make - these are the foods I most remember!

  • Viennetta
  • Vol au vents
  • Chicken kiev
  • Battenburg
  • Frozen pizza (deep pan, served with chips)
  • Black Forest Gateau
  • Melon slices with cherries on cocktail sticks
  • Speaking of which, cheese and pineapple cubes on cocktail sticks
  • Angel delight
  • Space invaders crisps
  • Panda pops
The list goes on.... if you remember the 80s, what were your favourites?

The actual challenges in GBBO were quiche, custard doughnuts and ice cream cake. I didn’t realise quiche was an 80s trend, though I do remember seeing one for the first time in the local bakery when I was a child and reading the label, getting the pronunciation wrong as I’d never seen the word before and asking my mum what a ‘quickie’ was, to her mortification! Though as someone with a modern languages degree I’m quite impressed that eight or nine-year old me read ‘quiche’ as ‘quickie’!

I didn’t think those kind of doughnuts were particularly associated with the 80s either, and other than Viennetta I don’t think I ever saw an ice cream cake in the 80s - and Viennetta isn’t really cake, it’s ice cream and thin layers of chocolate.

So when it came to my own bakealong I decided to make something different. I have strong memories of going to a couple of aunts’ weddings in the 80s and Black Forest gateau featuring prominently on the buffet table. I absolutely loved Black Forest gateau apart from one thing - I didn’t like cherries. But the cake was so moist, so chocolatey, I couldn’t resist - so I would always have a slice if it was on offer and carefully prise apart the layers and scrape the cherry filling out, then scrape the cherry off the top, then deposit both on my mum’s plate and wipe my fork with her napkin!

I still don’t like cherries and haven’t eaten Black Forest gateau for years - and have never made one, so it seemed a good idea to make for my GBBO bake along!

I used this Eric Lanlard recipe but didn’t use kirsch as I wanted my daughter to be able to eat the cake; instead I brushed the cake layers with cherry juice. I also didn’t want to use black cherries so bought a tin of black cherry pie filling, which did contain whole cherries but also a thick syrup that I used to sandwich between the layers of the cake. I saved the actual cherries to decorate the top of the cake - and of course picked them off when I came to eat it!

I think I might have forgotten to add the sugar to the cream and I didn’t think I could actually taste any cherry in the cake either from the juice or the filling! Which essentially made it quite a lot of faff for a chocolate cake with a fresh cream filling. But the grated chocolate around the outside and the cherries on top made it feel very 1980s! So I was fairly happy with this cake but if I made it again I might just use the cake recipe and skip the cherries entirely and fill it with chocolate instead!



Sunday 8 November 2020

GBBO Japanese Week - Wagamama's Tori Kara Age and Chicken Katsu Curry

I was a bit surprised when I saw Great British Bake Off was doing Japanese week, as I didn’t think Japan was a particularly easy theme for cakes and bakes. Of course, I’ve never been to Japan so could be completely wrong – and a few years ago I did go to the opening of a Japanese cafe in central London which was really nice. But when I googled Japanese desserts, the main things that came up used flavours that are quite hard to get hold of unless you can go to a specialist shop, like yuzu, matcha and red bean paste. One recipe I kept coming across was a really light wobbly cheesecake that looked quite difficult to make – which is what Lottie actually made on GBBO that made her star baker.

I have made mochi before which was interesting – quite nice but not something I’d eat regularly – but since I couldn’t get hold of any matcha or yuzu in time I couldn’t think of anything I could bake that wouldn’t be really complicated. So I decided to do dinner from my Wagamama cookery book instead! I picked out Tori Kara Age which is essentially a marinated fried chicken recipe. I didn’t realise it was actually a side dish as I have never ordered this in Wagamama’s, but I think it also goes well with rice as a main course.

It is a little time consuming to make since you have to make the marinade (which is a separate recipe) first, and then a dipping sauce (another separate recipe). Luckily I already had most of the ingredients, including sake, from a previous recipe; this uses quite a lot of soy sauce as well so make sure you have plenty! Once I had marinated the chicken pieces they were coated and fried; the dipping sauce added an umami sort of taste that was really quite more-ish!

My favourite Wagamama recipe though is the dish I order almost every time I eat there (which is only once every couple of years, if that, as my husband doesn’t like that cuisine) – chicken katsu curry. So I was quite pleased when the restaurant chain decided to publish their recipe during the first lockdown, for people to make at home. It is surprisingly easy – you need quite a few ingredients but all ones I already had in the cupboard. I tend to take a shortcut and buy breaded chicken goujons rather than make my own, but the sauce tastes exactly like the real thing and has quickly become a firm favourite in my household!

I was also interested to learn about kawaii from Great British Bake Off - a style of Japanese cake decorating that translates as cute or adorable. If you see a kawaii cake you will know straight away what I mean! I have made a few things in the past that might fall roughly under this category - not strictly speaking kawaii, but I think they are quite cute! Check these out:

Reindeer cake pops

Puppy dog cupcakes


Russian doll birthday cake

Shopkins doughnut birthday cake

Strawberry and white chocolate unicorn cake

Thursday 5 November 2020

Mary's Chocolate Orange Tart - GBBO Bakealong

Chocolate week on Great British Bake Off would once have seen me coming up with some elaborate creation, no doubt a lavishly decorated cake. But I don’t have the luxury of a lot of time any more and wasn’t really in the mood for cake - I fancied making a dessert that would keep for a couple of days. It seemed appropriate to use a GBBO recipe book and having a flick through, I settled on Mary Berry's chocolate orange tart from the Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking.

The chocolate filling is a mixture of chocolate, sugar, butter, flour and eggs - so it's no wonder that it seemed quite cake-y to me. But the trick is not to overbake it and leave it slightly wobbly in the centre - I always have my mum's voice in the back of my mind at times like that, warning me that it isn’t cooked (or half raw, as she would probably put it) which explains why my brownies are usually overbaked! 

There is also an orange filling that you make in a similar way but using egg yolks not whole eggs, white chocolate, and the grated zest of one orange. But for some reason oranges were completely out of stock on my online shop that week (perhaps as we go into lockdown in winter, people are worried they will get scurvy?!) so I made do with a few drops of orange essence instead.

The idea is to swirl the two fillings together inside your pastry case to create a marbled effect. I think this looks quite pretty, don't you?

It is delicious served warm and also very good served cold a day or two later - if it lasts that long!

Chocolate Eclairs - GBBO Bakealong

I’ve been trying to bake along with Great British Bake Off this year and wasn’t particularly looking forward to pastry week as I don’t make particularly good pastry - I’m rubbish at kneading I think! Until I saw that the bakers were making choux pastry and specifically eclairs. Given I have an eclair pan and a book called Secrets of Eclairs - both from the pre-parenting days when I had a lot more time to bake - I had no excuse not to join in!

Eclair pans are not exactly a necessary piece of baking equipment but they do help keep your piping straight and a uniform size and the tin I used is quite heavy with curved edges which keep it stable.

As for the recipe book, it’s a small volume but has some detailed explanations of the equipment and techniques you need to make eclairs, plus recipes for different flavoured pastries and fillings.

I was quite limited by what I had in the house - if I want to bake in the same week as the GBBO episode then I need to either decide before I’ve seen the show what I am going to make (so not really a bake along) or make do with what I have got in the house - I’m trying to avoid extra trips to the shops due to Covid!

That left me with plain eclairs with a chocolate filling and white icing on top - nice and traditional.

Making choux pastry is actually quite straightforward and quick but the tricky bit comes with deciding how much egg to add. The recipe I used said you needed up to two eggs, and to beat them together and add gradually until you get the right consistency. I felt I needed to use all the egg, so wasn’t sure if that was right and I should have used less, but it turned out well!

I did end up having to make two batches and in true GBBO style, bin the first lot and start again. Bizarrely for such a detailed recipe book with extensive explanations of each step, the basic recipe for choux pastry at the front of the book omits any cooking time! So I went by the time in one of the flavoured recipes later in the book and the eclairs came out very overbaked so I started again and reduced the cooking time significantly.

I made simple icing from icing sugar and water which looked ok at first but once it had set it was almost transparent and I think I should have made it much thicker or done a few layers. I would have preferred to make the traditional chocolate icing but didn’t have the ingredients as this was a last minute bake! The texture of the choux was quite good and they did taste nice, though they were a lot smaller than shop-bought eclairs. This was the size guided by my eclair pan so I can only assume that shop-bought eclairs use some sort of industrial equipment and bake in a size that can't really be replicated at home. If that's not the case and you are a whizz with eclairs, let me know in the comments below!