Baking · Cake · Pastry

The Hartlepool Townie

You’ve heard of cronuts, the doughnut-croissant hybrid right? Well, over the last few months it has been toppled from its lofty pastry perch by no less than a British contender! Yes, that’s right, BRITISH! We may have been beaten to the front by the cupcake, the doughnut and the elusive cronut itself, but we won this one!

Townie 1

And boy, what a one to win!, Whilst the cronut is like a chinese takeway – something you eat once in a blue moon and which your weight does NOT thank you for later! – the townie is the Italian buffet, the delicious meal that you finish and can’t wait for the next. I can’t promise it will make you feel any less fat, but at least it’s not deep fried.

townie 3

The original townie was made in London by Bea Vo of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, after a request to create as many rival mash-up pastries as possible. However, as with many of these things, the recipe is a closely guarded secret, so I decided to make my own version, by combining my favourite recipes for the various components. The pastry is taken from the queen herself (Delia Smith), whilst the brownies are originally a Jamie Oliver recipe. Whilst made as a large tart, you could also make smaller, muffin-sized versions as per the original – just fill greased muffin tins with a circle of pastry and fill with the brownie mix.

Townie 2

Whilst the basic tart is delicious on its own, I also tried out a version with added toppings – more ideas to follow…

The Hartlepool Townie


Sweet Pastry:

  • 90g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 3 free range egg yolks
  • 200g plain flour


  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 80g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 60g self raising flour, sifted
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • zest of 1 orange


First make the pastry by creaming together the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until fully combined. Sift the flour into the mixture and stir until the mixture comes together into a ball of dough. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and briefly knead until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm. Grease and flour a 10in loose-bottomed flan tin. Place the pastry over the top and press into the corners to fill the tin. Fill the tin with baking beans or rice (you may find it easier to place a piece of tinfoil over the pastry first) and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Whilst the pastry shell is baking, make the brownie mix. Melt the butter and chocolate over a bain marie (a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) and stir until smooth. Stir in the nuts. In a separate bowl, stir all the dry ingredients together, before adding to the chocolate mixture, spoonful by spoonful. Finally, mix in the eggs one at the time, beating well until fully combined.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case (having removed the beans/rice first!) and bake in the oven for 25 minutes (still at gas mark 4) until the brownie mixture is cooked. Remember that brownie mixtures will still by squidgy when completely baked, so don’t worry if it’s still sticky! Remove from the oven and leave to cool before slicing into wedges and serving with whipped cream and berries if desired (or if you are me, eating wedge after wedge from the fridge…)

Baking · Desserts · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry

England (Derbyshire): Bakewell Tart

Derbyshire flag

The Bakewell tart can be viewed as the epitome of traditional regional English baking, and as such can ignite a lot of controversy over the correct recipe. A very interesting article by Felicity Cloake from the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog (from which the basic recipe for this tart is taken from) expounds on the different variations of this recipe throughout its written history, and is well worth a read.

Bakewell Tart

In the interests of honesty and transparency I should say now that this tart is not technically a Bakewell tart as it does not include frangipane. The reason for this arose due to the fact that I was making this in Scottsdale, Arizona, where ground almonds are non-existent. This lack of ingredients was something that had not even occurred to me, so you can imagine my consternation having agreed to make a bakewell tart, yet now wandering around Walmart summarily failing to find the key ingredient. I also managed to completely confuse a helpful supermarket assistant who obviously had no idea what I was talking about. Finally I decided that I would replace the frangipane layer with an almond-flavoured sponge cake, which whilst not traditional, served the purpose very well.

Decoration for this tart is a subject of much debate – whether to leave it plain or to top with the customary white glace icing and cherry, a la Mr. Kipling. My tart represents a compromise, due to the request for the latter style, however feel free to leave this off if you prefer.

Bakewell Tart


The Pastry:

  • 140g plain flour, plus extra to sprinkle
  • 85g cold butter, plus extra to grease
  • Pinch of salt
  • Ice cold water

The Sponge Topping

  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 4oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp almond essence
  • 100g raspberry jam
  • 25g flaked almonds


Preheat the oven to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5 and grease and flour a 23in flan tin.

First make the pastry by mixing the flour and salt in a bowl, before grating in the cold butter. Stir just enough cold water into the mixture to bring it together into a ball and wrap in cling film before chilling or an hour.

Roll out the chilled pastry until about 5mm thick and use this to line the tin. Place a piece of baking parchment on top and weigh down with either baking beans or rice. Bake the pastry shell for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Whilst the pastry shell is baking, make the sponge topping by creaming together the butter and sugar before mixing in the eggs, flour, baking powder and almond essence until well combined. Remove the blind-baked pastry shell from the oven and remove the beans/rice and baking parchment. Spread the base of the shell with 100g raspberry jam before topping with the sponge mixture, ensuring a smooth top. Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown and well risen. 5 minutes before the end of the baking time sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and return to the oven for the last five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

If wished, the tart may be decorated with white glace icing and maraschino or glace cherries, however these are not traditional and may be omitted.

Baking Research · Nation Cake Challenge · North America · Pastry

Hunting for Cronuts

Arizona Flag

When visiting America, one of the items on my ‘must-eat’ list was the wonderfully strange hybrid pastry that has been taking America by storm. That’s right, I wanted a cronut! Now there was a slight issue with this – I was visiting the west coast and Phoenix, whereas the original trademarked pastry is from New York, the creation of the renowned chef Dominique Ansel. However, small details right?

So anyway, I got to Phoenix, and we were planning out our cupcake tasting challenge (more on that to come!), and wondered if there was anywhere that did the elusive cronut. So being a modern person, I turned to the Internet, asking on twitter if anyone could recommend a location. Lo and behold, I got two suggestions, and one in a good location! Sold!

The next morning we piled into the car to head over to the Victorian Cake Company and Candyland Cupcakes for a cronut breakfast. Despite the suggestion that as we could get them at Dunkin’ Donuts (which was closer to home) we persevered, and arrived, preparing to queue up for the elusive cronut! However, excitingly, there was no queue! Less excitingly, this was because it was not open yet… However the owners were lovely, and let us come in, order our cronuts and get them hot out of the oven!

Cronuts 1

The cronut itself was less a combination of the two pastries, and more a completely different cake. a round pastry, consisting of layers of a fried pastry. The croissant influence was evident in the buttery taste, though the doughnut element was harder to identify – possibly the fried element of the pastry? The pastry was then halved and filled with a flavoured cream, and a small amount of icing was added on top. The bakery made three flavours so naturally we sampled all three! The flavours were (from the top) strawberry champagne, french vanilla and cookies and cream. We were pleasantly surprised by the whole concept – it was far less greasy that predicted, and the creme patisserie filling was a great contrast to the fried layers of flaky pastry. Or favourite by far, was the French vanilla cronut, which had a really beautiful fragrant vanilla flavour – I could have eaten the cream with a spoon!

Cronuts 2

Overall conclusion – very good! I can’t honestly say that I would be one of the people who queues up every morning to buy a cronut (they are just so rich!), but as an occassional treat – and in this case holiday breakfast! – they were completely delicious. If you are in the vicinity of Phoenix, The Victorian Cake Company is worth a visit juts for these lovely things!

Baking · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry

Greece: Baklava

Co-national flag for use on sea and abroad. Fr...

Cakes can be instrumental in making you eat healthily. This is a clear example of a cake that will ensure a perfect healthy eating record for at least a week. Impossible you cry? How can a cake help you eat healthily?

Well my friends I will explain.

Baklava 001

In this cake it comes down to the construction. After spending  upwards of 30 minutes, brushing layers and layers of thin, crisp filo pastry with melted butter and then drowning the resultant baked pastry in enough honey/sugar syrup to drown a beehive, you will only ever want to eat salad. Case in point; after making this cake all I could face eating was vegetable salad – even protein felt like it would not be a good choice!

Baklava 2 001

Having said all that, when you sit down to eat one of the tiny, sticky chewy delicious morsels, the laborious, butter-filled work becomes worth it. That small piece is not only sweet pastry perfection, but also lasts for a long time – one tray makes a staggering amount of pastries which unless you have a stupendously high sugar tolerance will last you for many days to come.

Baklava 3 001

Health-giving and long-lasting – what more do you want?


For the Syrup:

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 strip orange peel

For the Pastry:

1 pound walnuts, toasted
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 (16-ounce) package phyllo dough, thawed
1½ cups unsalted butter


To make the syrup, combine the water, sugar, honey, cinnamon stick and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, before reducing the heat and simmering for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Process the walnuts, cinnamon and cloves in a food processor until finely chopped.

Over a very low heat, melt the butter in a small saucepan, keeping the pan on the heat to ensure that the melted butter does not solidify.

Brush a 9×13-inch pan with melted butter and place one layer of filo at the bottom. Brush the filo with the melted butter, before adding a second layer, brushing with more butter. Continue this process until 7 sheets have been layered.

Cover the layers of filo with a quarter of the chopped nut mixture. Continue the layering of filo dough, but this time you only need to stack 5 sheets. Spread the next quarter of the mixture over the dough, and repeat the dough layering process twice more. The last layer of filo should have 7 layers of filo, in order to create a thicker top. Finish by brushing the top layer with melted butter. Before cooking cut the baklava into either squares or triangles before baking in the oven for 50-60 minutes until the top is golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and drench in the syrup. Leave the baklava to soak for at least 4-5 hours and preferably overnight before serving – this allows the syrup to soak into all the crevasses effectively.

Baking · Cookies · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry

Latvia: Alexander Torte

Flag of Latvia

Tracing the history of a cake can be tricky, particulary when several countries claim it for their own. Such is true with this recipe. Whilst many feel that it is a Latvian dessert (hence its inclusion here), it has also been claimed by the Estonians, Finnish and Swedish cuisines. The reason for its creation is just as murky; the generally accepted statement is that it was created for Alexander I, yet the reason for the creation of this dessert has eluded me.

Alexander Torte

On the surface, this dessert looks deceptively simple, consisting of two layers of sweet pastry, sandwiched together with a layer of raspberry jam and then coated with a thin lemon glace icing. The tricky part of this dessert is undoubtedly working with the pastry – sweet pastry is notoriously hard work with, being very crumbly, and one false move will lead to this delicate pastry falling apart. I used individual cutters to help combat this, rather than creating one big sheet as is traditional. I love the raspberry and lemon combination, but this recipe could be altered to choose any flavours that you wish. The result is a cross between a pastry and a biscuit, and is delicious served with a strong espresso for afternoon tea.

Alexander Torte 2

Alexander Torte


  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups butter
  • 1 cup raspberry jam
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups icing sugar


Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix briefly before kneading in the butter. Chill for 20 minutes before rolling out and cutting into shapes of your choice. Place on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven (350° F/180° C) for 12 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Spread the pastry with the jam before placing the second layer on top. Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice and spread over the tops of the biscuits. Serve with strong coffee.

Baking · Desserts · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry · Uncategorized

Montenegro: Krempita

montenegro-flag-167-pWhen visiting Dubrovnik, one of the excursions that we made was to have a day tour of Montenegro (or at least such parts as can be reached in the course of one day!). For us, the main parts of this focused on the cities (towns?) of Kotor and Budva. Now besides having an extremely delicious bowl of mussels and an extremely entertaining and informative tour guide (who would divert from the standard tour guide spiel with anecdotes about subjects ranging from James Bond to Roman Abramovich’s yacht – complete with two helipads AND two submarines!), one of my aims was to find some Montenegrin cake, and to actually see what they sell in the local bakeries. This delectable delight was one of those treats found. Whilst I didn’t try it on that trip (squishy vanilla slice on long coach trip -bad idea!), I decided that I definitely wanted to try the recipe at home.


Krempita is essentially a vanilla custard slice, made with 2 layers of puff pastry sandwiched with a thick vanilla custard-cream. I used puff pastry leftover from making allumettes, but this will work perfectly well with ready-made pastry – don’t try and make life life two difficult if you don’t want to! If on the other hand you do want to have a go at making your own, check out the recipe from here.



  • 2 sheets of puff pastry
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 32floz/950ml double cream whipped with 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • Icing sugar


Heat oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas Mark 6. Roll out each piece of puff pastry slightly  and score into 9 sections. Sandwich each puff pastry sheet between two pieces of parchment paper and two cooling racks, to keep it flat but stillcrispy. Bake for 15 minutes, before removing the top rack and top sheet of parchment paper. Replace rack and continue to bake until golden and crispy throughout, before leaving to cool completely.

Whip the egg yolks and sugar until thick and lemon colored before adding the cornflour and milk and mixing thoroughly. Transfer to a bain-marie and coook gently until the custard thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Dissolve gelatin completely in 1/2 cup cold water and stir into the hot custard until completely dissolved.

Cool the custard in an ice bath, stirring occasionally. If, for some reason, the custard has lumps (from being cooked at too high a temperature or undissolved gelatin), strain it through a sieve.

When the custard is cool and very thick but not yet set, fold in the sweetened whipped cream. Layer over 1 sheet of baked puff pastry and top with second sheet. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before eating. Cut into rectangles and dust with icing sugar before serving.

When visiting

Baking · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry

France: Puff Pastry and Allumettes

Flag of France

Now as a home baker, there are some recipes that most people agree are just not worth trying, either through difficulty or through the ability to get ready-made equivalents very easily. Unfortunately, those type of recipes bring out my competitive spirit, and my ‘I-can-do-that’ mood. It was this mood that has led to the latest endeavor – making puff pastry.

I know, why? Is it really worth it when you can buy a perfectly acceptable version very easily? I think it’s a bucket-list type thing – it’s nice to be able to say you can do it, even if you don’t for the majority of the time! The timing was perfect – I had just been invited to take part in the Our Growing Edge event by Genie at Bunny Eats Design (hosted his month by Sonya at And More Food), and was looking for something appropriate – voilà! 


Recently I gained my Masters degree from Cambridge and as a gift was given an Amazon voucher, the gift of everything! If, as Bill Bailey says, the Argos catalogue is the ‘laminated book of dreams’, then Amazon must be the digital equivalent – they sell everything! As a baking geek though my choice was the Foundation Recipes book from Le Cordon Bleu – probably the closest I’ll get to actually going there! (though a girl can dream!) The logical thing to do then was to start at the beginning, which was – you guessed it – puff pastry! Whilst very time consuming, it turned out well, and the allumettes given here proved very popular with Max (who is by now getting used to coming home to many different baked goods to try!)


Allumettes are made from anchovies and Gruyere cheese sandwiched in between two layers of puff pastry. Now to be completely honest, the cheese in these is not Gruyere, but Cheddar – I had it in the fridge and I could only buy a massive block of Gruyere which might have ended up going to waste. However, Cheddar works well and you can take your pick when making them – the recipe is the same.


I have included the recipe for puff pastry here, but if you don’t want to make it, then follow the final steps with ready-made pastry.



  • 8oz/250g plain flour (sifted)
  • 1/4oz/5g salt
  • 3 1/2floz/100ml cold water
  • 7oz/200g butter
  • 4-6 anchovy fillets
  • 1 egg (for eggwash)
  • 3 1/2oz/100g Cheddar cheese (or Gruyere, depending on you budget!)


Set out a silicon baking mat on the work surface and lightly dust with flour. Sift the flour onto the work surface and make a well in the centre. Add the salt and water (carefully, ensuring the water doesn’t run all over you, like it did to me!) and mix together with your fingers. Add half the butter and incorporate using your fingers, until the mixture forms a coarse dough (I ended up almost kneading it – probably not conventional, but it did the job!) Shape it into a ball, cut a large cross in the top and refrigerate in a plastic bag overnight.

The next morning, place the remaining 100g of butter between 2 sheets of baking paper, and hit with a rolling pin until flat, before forming into a square about 1cm thick. Remove the puff pastry from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll the pastry into a cross shape, using the cuts as a guide. The centre of the cross should be thicker than the outer arms in order to make a good pastry. Place the square of dough in the centre and fold the two side arms over the butter. Turn by 90 degrees and repeat with the other two arms of the cross. Press the seams well to seal and tap with the rolling pin (just to make sure!)

Roll out the dough to a rectangle three times the length of the original and about 1cm thick. Fold the bottom third up and then the top third down, making sure the edges are even. Rotate by 90 degrees ( a quarter turn), and roll out and fold as before. Turn once more, place twofinger marks in the top left hand corner and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and place with the indents in the top left hand corner. Repeat the previous fold and roll sequence another two times before marking with four imprints (as before) and refrigerating for 20 minutes. Remove and repeat the process once more before placing back in the fridge for a final chill.

Finely chop the anchovies and mix with the grated cheese. Roll the pastry into a large rectangle and cut in half, brushing one half with the egg wash. Spread with the cheese and anchovy mixture, before topping with the second half of the pastry. Cut into strips and taking each end of the strip, twist three times before placing on a lined baking sheet.Brush with eggwash before baking in an oven preheated to  425°F/220°C/Gas mark 7 for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.