Rum Babas

Week 9 of the 2020 GBBO and the bakers were tasked with making Savarins for their signature bake. Savarin dough is wetter and stickier than a regular dough, making it almost impossible to knead by hand, something that I wished I had known before starting. The end dough is therefore piped into the moulds. One of the most well known savarins would be the rum baba, which is what I attempted to make yesterday.

I found a recipe on the BBC Food website by Paul Hollywood, which isn’t a good start for me as I always seem to struggle with his recipes. Anyway, everything about making rum babas would be steps into the unknown for me.

First step was to make the enriched dough. I have made bread a few times in the past and not having a food mixer at the time I’ve always done it by hand. First mistake, I should have used the food mixer that we know own. I should also have read up a little more about savarin dough so that I would have known what to expect. Because I couldn’t knead it by hand I ended up adding lots more flour until it behaved more like a regular dough. I will admit that I became slightly frustrated. To calm down I took Nelly our Pointer to the park while the dough proved.

Upon returning the dough had nicely risen, so I rolled it into the savarin moulds. I should have been able to pipe the dough. After a short prove they were put in the oven. After five minutes they had risen amazingly. Due to the wetter nature of a savarin dough, it shouldn’t rise too much more, and not above the level of the mould, which mine had.

While this was going on I could make the rum syrup, another new step for me, although this was quite easy. Water, sugar and rum into a pan and bring to a rolling boil until the mixture is nice and syrupy.

After nearly 25 minutes I could bring the savarins out of the oven to cool on a rack. I carefully popped them out of their moulds and poured the syrup over them, turning them over to repeat on the other side.

Next up was to make Chantilly cream. Another new step for me, although once again this was nice and easy. Double cream plus icing sugar with a little vanilla essence was whipped up until nice and firm. The cream was then piped into the centre of the savarins, adding fresh raspberries and a light dusting of icing sugar.

Arty photograph once again courtesy of my lovely wife, and as you can probably tell, my rum babas look nothing like rum babas. However they did taste really good, much like a rum soaked brioche. Definitely not a waste of time or ingredients, and at least I know where I went wrong. Another bake which I will be trying again over the winter.

Next weekend me and Helen will be attempting the technical bake from the final, namely making Walnut Whips. This involves making walnut biscuit, chocolate ganache, marshmallow and tempered chocolate. What could possibly go wrong 🙂

All of my other bakes can be found here.

Baked Cheesecake

The most recent week on Bake Off was week 9, however I am now a week behind with my baking as we went 10 days without a kitchen. Salads and take-outs only, but we are now the proud owners of a brilliant new kitchen, with plenty of space for baking. It is very exciting.

I will be honest and say that cheesecake is probably my favourite pudding, so when the bakers were tasked with baked cheesecake for their signature bake in week 8 it was an obvious choice for me. I have made a non baked cheesecake a couple of times in the past, so once again this is another first for me.

A quick search online and Delicious Magazine had 20 recipes to chose from. Trying to keep it simple I went with blueberry. The ingredients were fairly simple; mascarpone, cream cheese, blueberries, sugar, zest of an orange, three eggs and then crushed biscuits with melted butter for the base.

I have to say that this was one of the easiest bakes I’ve done. Put everything into a bowl and let the food mixer do its thing. Once the mix is nice and smooth add most of the berries. Pour into the springform cake tin on top of the biscuit base, add the last few berries and bake in the oven on a medium/low heat for 50 minutes.

It didn’t look too bad and the good quality arty photo was taken by my amazing wife. Thank you Helen.

How did it taste? Bloomin’ amazing! It was still nice and light inside and the orange zest complimented the sweetness. Possibly it could have done with a couple more minutes in the oven, but I was worried that it might burn. Another success.

Week 8 also saw the departure of Lottie, our favourite baker. Sad but it was the right decision after her ice cream cake collapsed.

Week 9 was patisserie week and the signature bake was to make six savarins, which are a light cake made with yeast and soaked in liquer-flavoured syrup, or just use some alcohol. I have a love for rum, so next weekend I will have an attempt at a Rum Baba.

All of my previous bakes can be found here. Who else is looking forward to the final on Tuesday?


Week 7 already, and it was 80’s week. The signature bake was quiche, the technical bake was a filled finger doughnut and the showstopper was an ice-cream cake. Not having an ice-cream maker of a deep fat fryer the only bake left was for me to have a go at a quiche. Obviously from a baker’s point of view the pastry is what it is all about, but for regular people the filling is equally as important. I opted for a Lottie inspired recipe of beetroot, walnut and feta cheese. Over the 7 weeks Lottie had become one of our favourite bakers, so we were both sad to see her depart.

Anyway, Mary Berry quiche recipe, and all I needed was some walnuts and baking beans, although 5 minutes after returning home with beans my lovely wife found a jar full of them. My pastry the other week when I made Cornish Pasties was very good, so as expected this time it went really badly. Pastry was too crumbly and too thick, I didn’t use enough baking beans to prevent it rising and the oven was too hot. It went in the bin, which I hate to see.

Second attempt and I used half butter and half lard, which apparently helps, and my lovely wife showed me some tips on rolling out pastry and placing it into a tin.

Blind baking was another new skill for me, and second time around it looked good. I left the pastry to cool for a bit before adding the beetroot, walnuts and feta. Then I poured on the cream and egg mixture. Mary Berry recipe was all cream rather than half cream, half milk. Very indulgent.

What was the final result? In short, very tasty. Crumbly short pastry, rich and tasty filling. As usual with me it looked a little disheveled, which is something I definitely need to work on. I liked how the beetroot added a splash of colour. There was some leakage through the pastry but fortunately the tin kept it from leaking any further. I should probably also practice making pastry with a food mixer instead of doing it by hand. Finally, as the tin was so large I probably could have added more filling. I tend to be overly critical of everything I cook.

Overall I was very pleased with my first attempt at making a quiche, especially one without a dish or tin to keep it in place once cooked. When Bake Off is over I will continue baking something every weekend, and hopefully one day I will feel confident to enter the GBBO (not next year, too soon).

Cotton Cheesecake

Week 6 of the GBBO and it was Japanese week, an unusual first to celebrate 100 episodes of possibly the greatest show on the television. The signature bake was steamed savoury buns, an Asian staple. However, as last week I had made Cornish Pasties I decided to give the buns a miss. The technical bake was a ridiculous multi-layered pancake cake, which like last weeks pastry cage, nobody in their right mind would ever make. For the showstopper, Lottie, this weeks star baker, made a Japanese style cotton cheesecake to look like a toadstool. This was my challenge, to make a plain and simple cotton cheesecake, also known as a ‘jiggle’ cheesecake.

Definitely the most complicated bake that I had ever attempted, with many stages, most of which were new to me. First off I had to separate 5 eggs. Then melt butter, sugar and cream cheese together, take off the heat and add plain flour and cornflour, the egg yolks and some milk. Gently stir it together. Then make meringue, something which I had never done before, but managed with some expert tuition from my amazing wife. Carefully fold the meringue into the other mixture.

The baking is also complicated as the cake tins have to be placed into a Bain-Marie, which meant that the cake tins couldn’t be spring loaded or with a removable bottom, otherwise water would seep in. I also needed to line the cake tins with grease proof paper with a collar above the tin. The oven temperature needed to be quite low, and then reduced, before the cakes are left in the oven for a final ten minutes with the oven off.

I was quite excited about this recipe, and almost out of breath as I popped the cakes into the oven. I was using two small cake tins rather than one big one, and they did rise very quickly. I then adjusted the temperature and left them alone. The problems arose when I tried to remove them from the tins. I hadn’t greased the bottom of the tins enough, and both cakes left a significant chunk behind, and looked a little deflated.

Ignoring what they looked like, how did they taste, and did they ‘jiggle’? There was a certain amount of ‘jiggle’, although this goes as they cool. Taste wise, they were very light and fluffy, but a little eggy. I don’t think I folded in the meringue enough as you can see a few white splodges. This is difficult because if you mix in the meringue too much you will lose the fluffy nature of the cake, not enough and you get what I had.

90 minutes ago I was very disappointed, but on reflection I will take a great deal from this. I used a basic cream cheese and should have used mascarpone. Lottie’s recipe used half milk and half cream, whereas I only used milk, and she added the zest of a lime, which would have helped with the flavour. Also, she advised to use a regular spring loaded tin, but double wrap the outside with tin foil to keep it waterproof. Finally, I might not have cooked the cakes long enough on the high temperature.

As I say, this was my most difficult bake yet, and I have learnt a lot. My wife suggested having another go this afternoon, but I’m going to leave it for a few weeks before I have another attempt.

Anyway, we were both quite sad to see Mark go this week, and we noticed that Dave shed a tear. Next week is 80’s week, which might be prawn cocktails and black forest gateaux.

Vegetarian Cornish Pasty

Week 5 of the GBBO and this week it was pastry week. Linda was incredibly excited and then promptly managed to mess up all three challenges, which was a shame as I liked her. But, that’s the way the pastry crumbles. Both me and my lovely wife, Helen, are enjoying this series, probably because the bakers and challenges are a bit more normal. However, no one would ever in their right mind make a pastry cage.

This week the signature bake was Cornish Pastries and the technical bake was eclairs. I have never made Choux pastry and it must have been over 20 years since I made regular savoury pastry. Therefore we decided that my challenge today was to bake some tasty Cornish Pastries.

First up I chopped and roasted some potatoes, carrots, onion, squash and cauliflower, tossed in turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli powder. Once softened I added some frozen peas and fresh chopped coriander. I then left it too cool.

Next up was the pastry. Using a Mary Berry recipe it came together easily and quickly. While I mentioned that I haven’t made pastry for years, I do often make crumbles, so I knew the basics. The pastry was then left in the fridge for 20 mins.

I then split the pastry into four pieces, rolled each one out, spooned in the filling and tried to seal and crimp the pasties. Again, this is where I came unstuck as they all looked different and only one of them looked good. I had also made far too much filling (or not enough pastry). I egg washed them and popped them in the oven for 25 minutes.

As you can see my egg washing was very slapdash.

The inside did look good, and the pastry was very good, in fact my amazing wife said that it was the best pastry and the best pasty that she had ever tasted. Proud moment for little old me, especially as once again it was my first attempt.

Next week is a first for Bake Off with Japanese week, whatever that means.


Week 4 of the GBBO was chocolate week, with the signature bake being Brownies. However, the technical bake was Babka which my lovely wife liked the look of, so today I have been making my very first Babka.

First off, what is Babka? It is a Jewish celebration cake, made with an enriched dough, filled with chocolate and hazelnuts. I’ve never made an enriched dough, but it wasn’t too difficult, especially when using a food mixer fitted with a dough hook. Enriched dough means that along with the flour there was eggs, butter and milk. Once finished the dough is rolled out and a layer of chocolate added and then a layer of nuts. This is all rolled up, cut down the middle length-wise and plaited. It’s then left to prove for a couple of hours before baking. Once out of the oven the final touch is to coat the top in syrup.

I was using a Paul Hollywood recipe and once again I didn’t find it as easy as a Mary Berry recipe. This might just be me as this was first time making an enriched dough. My dough was very sticky and I struggle to roll and plait it, but it did almost double in size when proving. A proper Babka should have definitive swirls running though the loaf, which mine doesn’t. However, it tasted bloody brilliant.

Bring on week 5.

Bakewell Tart Soda Bread

A few days ago I made a savoury soda bread (read about it here), as was half of the signature bake in week 3 of the GBBO. The other half of the challenge was a sweet soda bread, which I have never attempted before.

I had some marzipan left over from my week 1 Battenburg cake (read about it here) and some glace cherries left over from week 2 Florentines (read about it here), so it seemed like a good idea to combine them and attempt to make a Bakewell Tart flavoured soda bread.

I won’t go into detail of making it, but it took longer to bake than expected, hence why it looks a little burnt, although it wasn’t really.

My first taste and I wasn’t very impressed. It didn’t seem to work for me. However, my lovely wife thought that it was really good, and even preferred it to the savoury soda bread from the weekend. It grew on me, but my overriding feeling was that if you wanted a sweet soda bread, especially one full of cherries, you would be better off making some cherry scones.

Moving on and last night’s GBBO was chocolate, with the signature bake being brownies. I’ve made brownies in the past many times, and even made some that were ‘the best brownies in the world’, but I have never made a Babka, which was the technical bake. This weekend then, I will be having a go at creating a Babka, albeit using the complete recipe and not the paired down version that the contestants were given.

Both me and Helen are enjoying the new series of Bake Off, especially as they appear to have simplified some of the challenges. Remember the time they had to bake over an open fire, or the multi-layered grilled cake!

Are you enjoying the new series, and have you baked anything from the show?

Cheese and Chorizo Soda Bread

Week three of the Great British Bake Off and it was bread week. The technical challenge was to bake two soda bread loaves, one savoury and one sweet, plus make some butter. I’m definitely not going to be making any butter, and time kind of got away from me this weekend, so no sweet soda bread either. If I have time I might attempt it during the week.

Anyhow, soda bread is relatively easy to make, and doesn’t require any proving, where you leave the dough to rise for a few hours. Most commonly soda bread is made with buttermilk, and while I have made soda bread a few times in the past, I’ve always used regular milk. This might explain why my soda breads have been a bit heavy. The main reason why I’ve never used buttermilk is because I’ve never been able to find it in the supermarket. Yesterday my lovely wife came with me to Sainsbury’s and found the buttermilk. Helen was also picking up baking supplies as she was making some florentines as a gift for friends up the road who are moving. (You can read about my florentines here, but trust me when I say that Helen’s looked much more professional.)

After watching the bakers in GBBO I decided to try to keep it simple, and used a slightly modified Paul Hollywood recipe. In the past I’ve always used a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Hugh’s bread book is one of the best around.

Back to the baking, and you begin by sifting flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, add some salt and a little butter, rub it all together, and then add the buttermilk, chorizo and cheese. Add a bit more liquid or flour if too dry or too wet, and then shape it into a round loaf. I was using Gruyere cheese as it is fairly hard and is good to cook with. The oven also needs to be very hot and then leave the loaf in there until the top has almost burnt, resulting in a very crusty crust.

I was very happy with how it looked, with some melting cheese oozing out. It also smelt amazing. Inside wasn’t quite as good. It probably needed a couple more minutes.

Still warm and it tasted better than I could have hoped for. Chrizo and cheese might be an easy combination, and maybe slightly too boring for GBBO, but both me and Helen loved it.

Next week is chocolate week, so who knows what the signature bake will be.


Week 2 of the Great British Bake Off and this week it was biscuits, and the signature bake was to make some florentines. Growing up my Mum often made florentines, so I decided to have a go myself.

On GBBO there were many varieties and flavours. Someone used ruby chocolate while one of the younger contestants baked some white chocolate in the oven to give it a slightly different flavour. Other bakers used sour cherries or even cardamon. Not being a very experienced baker I went for a simple Mary Berry recipe, and I have to say that it wasn’t very difficult.

Roughly chopped hazelnuts, currents, diced glace cherries and plain flour was mixed in a bowl; butter, sugar and golden syrup was then melted in a pan and added to the dry ingredients. Teaspoons of the mixture was then dolloped onto three grease-proof paper lined baking trays and baked for 8-10 minutes, depending on which shelf of the oven they were on.

I left them to cool for a minute and then transferred them onto a cooling rack, losing one in the process. I then had plenty of time to wash up and clear away before melting some chocolate to pour/paste onto the florentines.

They don’t look very neat and they are definitely not uniform in size, but as my lovely wife can attest, they do taste amazing.

As with last weeks Battenburg (read about it here) I am a very long way off being good enough to even think about applying for GBBO, but I am enjoying having a go at the easier bakes. We’ll see what next week brings.

Battenburg Cake

Battenburg has never been one of my favourite cakes, but with the welcome return of the Great British Bake Off (#GBBO) I decided to have a go at making one.

For those of you not up to speed on GBBO, the very first challenge of the new series was to bake a Battenburg, including marzipan. Both me and my lovely baking wife enjoyed the first episode, especially with new host Matt Lucas. His take on Boris was brilliant and he has added a lot to the show. That’s not to take anything away from Sandi Toksvig, as she was also very good. If anything, I think the weak link might be Noel Fielding!

Anyway, back to my attempt at a Battenburg. We already had most of the ingredients, all that we needed was some ground almonds, cocoa powder and some ready made marzipan. Maybe next time I will have a go at that as well. I was using a recipe from Lorraine Pascale, with one sponge vanilla and the other mocha. First problem was that the butter wasn’t softened so creaming it with the sugar was hard work, probably should have used the food mixer! Once the mixture was made it needed to be split into two, with cocoa powder and coffee added to one half. I’m not a baker, but surely the extra dry ingredient will make the sponge less light. We also don’t own a specialist baking tin, so two loaf tins were used.

The vanilla sponge took a few minutes longer to bake, but unlike in GBBO I could leave both sponges as much time to cool as was necessary. I trimmed them and cut them in half, before using warm apricot jam to hold it all together. Next issue was the marzipan. I had rolled it out and measured it using the measurements from the recipe, rather than measuring my cake. Obviously the wasn’t enough, so with some of it stuck to the cake I had to roll the ‘flaps’ a bit thinner.

End result can be seen in the photo below, although the photo isn’t very good.

I left the cake for Helen, who had gone for a longish run with friends, while I nipped out on my bike. Upon returning, Helen told me how good my Battenburg cake was, she even gave me a Hollywood handshake. The neighbours were also impressed.

One small issue I had with Lorraine’s recipe was at the end she states that it would be a great cake to make for your man!

I have to say that while my Battenburg wasn’t perfect, I think it was a mighty fine first attempt.