Charlotte Royale – Or Charlotte Soup

Every week I (Babs) seem to present a story of how I manage to mess up a desert. It’s strange because I’ve always loved baking and I’ve never really had disasters before. Maybe I did but I didn’t notice. Even if it’s annoying to read, it really is impossible to bake with an oven that can’t do different temperatures and is impossible to tell what temperature it is at. Things definitely escalated with the lack of scales. So this week I had to make Charlotte Royale.

I’ve never made it but I’ve made Charlotte Rousse, in fact we have it every Christmas. Everything was going ok until I managed to get a vanilla measurement wrong.  It went something like this:

“That seems like a lot of vanilla extract” I thought, as I lobbed it in.

Then when my flat mate entered and I said how “maybe I should trust my instincts cos it seems like a lot of vanilla extract, a teaspoon” *heart stop. “Ummm I may have put a tablespoon of vanilla extract in. O god. We’ll be poisoned…”

I ignored this issue, figuring that I’ll slap on the jam, that’s bound to balance it, right?

The bottom of the swiss roll was black but the rest seemed ok. Couldn’t cut off the bottom because it’s thin. Unfortunate accident two, was not reading the word “quickly”. As in “Place a second cake pan over the towel and quickly invert the cake, removing the pan it was baked in”. As I ducked into presses and drawers trying to find a second pan to do the magic inversion the swiss roll hardened a little which meant it cracked when rolled. Do I care? –non! I mean as my mistakes go – I can live with that! There’s also something comforting in the fact that it is entirely my own fault and I should have know better. It’s easier to handle than feeling like you’re cursed by an oven that clearly hates you.

So the cake was done! A strong presence of vanilla, a lashing of raspberry jam, a blackened bottom – complete with a few cracks, finito!

Now it was time for the Bavarian custard. This was MUCH easier. I made custard. There was only one tiny issue and that’s the recipe called for powered gelatin. I couldn’t find that so I bought leaf gelatine. The packet said 4 sheets for a pint, so I made 1 sheet in a ¼ of a pint.

Of course it looked atrocious – that’s a given. In fear of the vanilla overload I made raspberry coulis. – just in case!

The recipe suggested six hours to set. I had less than four left. So that was a no go, but Charlotte soup is the new thing. I swear. I also forgot to line the bowl with cling film. But as it was a soup that didn’t matter! And everyone took a second helping. Hurray Hurray!! 


Ball of Twine Girl… Meets Lemon Cake Disaster

This week I (Babs) made a dairy free cake. Somewhere in the translation of GBBO voice over to Babs’ brain I missed the vegetable part of this bake. So there were no vegetables in my cake. Which is a pity because I happen to know (and live with) a gal that makes a mean beetroot cake. So I made THE WORST CAKE OF MY LIFE. I mean this. I went to the internet, to get an American recipe (After my weighing scales broke I’ve been left dependent on the internet and American recipes – it’s all about the cups) and found a lemon cake. As I made it I did think there was an enormous amount of flour in the recipe. When I tasted the mix I thought it tasted very floury and then I looked at the time (19:20) and thought quick bake, bake you don’t want to miss the show…
Why I rushed is beyond me. The boys were both away, I could have watched it on catch up… but rush I did and the result was a terrible floury (not flowery which would have been delightful) cake. I sat alone, with the most minging cake I’ve ever eaten, never mind created and watched a show about vegetable cakes… I felt like the ball of twine girl… I think the video says it all.

This is a sad cake, made all the more toxic by yellow food colouring.

photo 1 copy photo 2 copy

This is what cheered me up. Using the remaining frozen raspberries from the raspberry swirls, I made a raspberry cake and then loaded white chocolate buttons on top.

photo 1 photo 3

Puff Pastry

As I (Babs) searched for a recipe for this weeks challenge i was reminded I haven’t updated last weeks puff pastry. This is partly due to laziness and partly due to illness. As Aodh was away we decided to have a savoury and a sweet dish. This screamed salmon en croute. Only problem seemed to be the user comments of every recipe said they were bland. So I got creative. I found a maple mustard glaze recipe. As the proud owner of a proper Canadian maple syrup, bought on a proper Maple farm, this was the recipe for me. I cooked some onions and had them with it. And then I wrapped them all in the pastry I had made the night before. = the glaze

I also made a pomegranate and veg I have in my fridge salad, which was really lovely, if I do say so myself!



Getting puffed.



Photo not representative of delicious taste…



Hands trembling with excitement



Oven ready


                                                                           Fin               (does not contain fin)          


And now to search for something to make tomorrow!

Cake for the Gummy Bears (Tea Loaf)

I (Henry) seem to get landed with recipes I wouldn’t choose to eat myself. This week it was Tea Bread, or Loaf or Snooze.

I’ve never been a fan of a cake where the main ingredients are raisins (which are just grapes that couldn’t hack it in the real world). Some people spend all year looking forward to their Christmas Pudding. Some people drill holes in their cranium for kicks. Maybe these people would all get along.

The loaf concept I was ok with. Making a loaf always sounds like a hearty activity redolent of sunny afternoons in country houses. I made mine between Sunday evening and Monday evening, dragging my feet as I moved through the various stages/ already determined that I wouldn’t enjoy the end result.

As Babs would say, “Ah, sure, it was grand”.

And it was.

I’m not going to follow up with any baking advice for the kind of dessert you can find a recipe for on the Cbeebies website. Much like my trifle post, if you can’t make a tea loaf, then you don’t deserve to be the metaphorical bake-off tent.

What I will say is that I soaked my dried fruit for about 24 hours in tea, orange zest, and juice, and this gave the cake a very lovely crumbly texture. I was a little saddened that the loaf didn’t rise very much. In terms of proportion it looked more like a cake than a loaf.

I brought some of the cake into a work meeting the next day and tried to entertain my German clients with it. They weren’t fooled by its pretence as a dessert you would actually choose to make, agreeing that it was the kind of cake an old lady would get a kick out of. And they’re right.

Tea loaf is a perfectly respectable afternoon treat, easy on your gums as your dentures soak in the jam jar close-by.



Sweet Buns – Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls

I (Babs) used this recipe.

For sweet buns I was happy that I found a recipe using yeast again. And it was fun to revisit kneading.  This time I used the dough hooks on our electric hand-mixer. This nearly killed the geriatric hand mixer and after I’d used it for 10minutes of kneading it was roasting hot and couldn’t go as fast as before. Thankfully the mixer is the oldest resident of my flat and no one knows who owns it, so I haven’t upset any flatmates.

The recipe wasn’t too difficult. It’s mostly about timings. But they turned out ok. If you ignore how insanely burnt they were. The bottom had caramelized and then burnt so I sawed them off individually. The tops were more difficult because chopping them off would make the dish look gross but leaving them there showed how burnt they were. Catch 22. Well no not really. I just chopped the top off one and then decided they looked better burnt.

I blame ‘some girls’ from BBC three because I was busy laughing at that when I could have been staring into my oven. Also I blame the oven that can only do one heat.


I may have been in some way responsible…


This recipe is really easy. There are two, two-hour proofs but really that just means you can crack on with your day in-between baking. I have to say this is definitely a recipe I’ll be making again. 

To quote Aodh “they actually spring back” (see we’re listening Mr. Hollywood and Ms. Berry!) So even though they look darker than you’d expect, they tasted lovely and were fine inside!


Episode 5: (Pear and Sage) Biscuits (and Traybakes)

This post includes no traybakes.

So, beginning on the backfoot: Unsalted butter is actually terrible and an affront to toast. Dairy and salt: classic combination (though I (Aodh) say that as somebody who has, in reality, just poured cream on his pizza)

Also, on the double backfoot: I didn’t write up the English custard tart because I am actually a youthful go-getter achieving a lot in the world and it turned out as planned with few fissures of despondency to exploit for yuks and was executed in the hey-ho simple spirit of the Delia Smith recipe that is the first page up when you google it.

Now that I have returned myself to my original, manly posture, though slightly behind where I was, let’s talks about biscuits!

My idea was to build a pear biscuit tower that was pear-shaped so that if things went askew, I could in my imaginary scabrous dealings with Paul Hollywood turn around and say “He just don’t understand the concept, Laverne!” (Laverne is my sassy, sass-enabling imaginary friend) If this baking lollapalooza has thought me anything it is that I should know my limits and I know pun-based self-defensive rhetoric is firmly within them.

Before we embark on what was some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants food-preparation, I didn’t really like the biscuits but Henry and Babs did so average that out according to a weighting principle best devised by you.

1. Decide that your pears will need a stalk and a leaf sticking out of them so they will look like pears and therefore settle on making pear and sage biscuits with real-vanilla-pod-vanilla caramel sauce.

2. Find a vanilla caramel recipe online. This one should do;

3. I can be cavalier in deciding on a recipe because I didn’t really follow it at all. I put 220g of water and 220g of caster sugar in a sauce pan and brought it to a boil, peering nervously in periodically as is practically ascribed when doing this. When it starts to turn a golden brown, 8 or so minutes in, I, in three waves, poured in 300g of double cream and stirred, stirred, stirred; the first wave incited a violent kerplowy reaction that you could easily overstate – there was not caramel on the ceiling. Then I split a in-currency-terms-gold vanilla pod, scrapped its seeds free and stirred them into the caramel. Then I poured (Laverne: God, could you use the word “poured” any more?) into a pot and fridged it overnight.

4. I made the pear and sage biscuits with this recipe which is for cookies and includes no sage but cinnamon instead like I’m an idiot. I also didn’t bind them in pieces of twine because twine reminds me of calves being birthed because that’s what it’s used for when it’s not appearing in artisanal food photographs. (Man, I sound horrible; thank you Ali for taking the time to present your recipe)

5. The recipe calls for:

250 grams of plain flour

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

4 finely diced leaves of sage

1 diced pear

12 tbp of pure, unusable unsalted butter

220g of brown sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yoke

6. I mixed the flour, baking soda, salt and sage in a bowl together.

7. I melted the butter and left aside until cool and then I creamed the sugar and butter with a mixer. Then I added the egg, bit of egg and sedimentary material I scrapped from the inside of the depleted vanilla pod. Whatever. I didn’t even include it in the ingredients.

8. Then I add the the dry ingredients to the wet with the pear.

9. I shaped the resultant mixture into circles ascending in size and baked them at 180 degrees for as long as it took for them to go biscuit-y. It varied from size to size but I’d say from 12 to 20 minutes.

Here’s what they looked like, assembled into a tower (shut up; I just want you to know that I didn’t get to watch Breaking Bad tonight because I wrote this <descends into pile, sobbing>)


And if you listen very carefully you can here the sound of a wagging finger and the gentle wheeze of Laverne’s “You go, girl”


Making tuile. I (Babs) thought it would be really difficult and then I read a recipe and thought, this won’t be difficult at all.

It was difficult.

The night before the bake off I had a call asking me to work in Liverpool (I’m based in London) the next day. A day that I had off, so suddenly Tuile making, including a dash to the supermarket had to happen starting at 11pm.  As the night wore on I cared less and less about Tuile shapes and more about how fast the fast train to Liverpool is. Also, in case anyone is wondering, I didn’t see Paul. Yes I was disappointed.

I used a recipe from BBC

The mousse was really simple and undoubtedly the best part, well the vanilla cream was good with the mousse and needed because it was so chocolatey. And who doesn’t love a load of raspberries with anything?!

Reading through the recipe I realised I needed to use a million bowls to get the ingredients ready and to create the different components. Image

I then read the section on how to make the tuile.

“For the tuile, you will need six small round biscuit cutters. Roll one of the cutters along its side onto a piece of thick card, one complete turn, to gauge its circumference. Cut a long thin rectangle the size of the cutter out of the card to leave a rectangular-shaped hole. Now cut a circle-shaped hole from the card (the same size as the cutter) from the centre of the cutter.”

That sounded waaayyy too difficult, so I thought I’ll just make a massive tuile and place it over a bowl and then have a bowl to place all the mousse in. This took a few attempts, in fact it didn’t turn out too badly once the mousse was placed in it the day after. It probably could have done with more time in the oven, but well you know the way; it was late. That night as I stared at the 3 ‘bowls’ and took a picture I was really unsure this recipe was going to work. I even thought if I got home a bit earlier I could have another go. – I was crazy I barely made the bake off.


As I looked at the tuiles (I use the term lightly) I was sure I’d seen them sone where before, then I remembered… didn’t one of these play Bette Midler‘s ‘book’ in Hocus Pocus???

When I got home, wrecked. I just picked the rectangular bowl and placed the mousse in it, vanilla cream on top and then the raspberries. The finished product didn’t look so bad (in the sense that it didn’t immediately evoke the image of a book from the devil made from human flesh, not by actual presentation standards).