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 · 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.