Salted Caramel Chelsea Buns

salted caramel chelsea buns

We all have ingredients we can’t do without. The ingredient that appears in nearly all the dishes we make and our cupboards are full of its variants. For me,and probably a great deal of the population, it is salt. Fish & chips are not the same without the salty tang and bread made without salt is not worth tasting. I usually have three types of salt to hand. Table salt – for all sort of cooking (and defrosting the drive at this time of year!), rock salt – for the table grinder and flaky sea salt – for flavour and garnishing. Maldon is one of my favourite flaky sea salt. I always love the shape of the crystals, it satisfies the maths geek in me.

Along with the ingredient we can’t do without we also all have a desert island dish and Maldon have asked various people for their desert island dishes. For me it has to be an enriched dough stuffed with some fruit with an added bonus it has been soaked in rum. Quite appropriate for being stuck on a desert island don’t you think?

salted caramel chelsea buns

Due to our love of all things food and drink we are often given alcohol as gifts off friends and family. Globetrotting brother always brings us back rum from his travels in the Caribbean. He has very good taste in rum, some would argue he’s a bit of a rum snob so how a spiced rum, he’s denying he spend his cash on, ended up in our possession I don’t know.  It’s a monster sized bottle and I find it too sweet and fragrant for drinking but it’s turning out to be the perfect alcohol to bake with. The strong spicy vanilla scent in the rum works well in most sweet recipes and could even work in the odd savoury recipe.

Over the last few years I’ve tried different Chelsea bun recipes but always come back to Quirky Cookies recipe as a base as it works so well. This reincarnation worked so well Hubs came home from work, chain-ate two then offered to do the washing up. I’ll have to make them more often. I use four different sugars in this recipe for the different flavours and  textures they give. The demerara sugar on the topping gives a satisfying crunch.

Maldon desert island dishes cookbook

To mark Maldon Sea Salt’s 130th birthday they have released a cookbook with chefs’ desert island dishes. I have my eye on the burnt cream recipe as quite frankly that would probably be my second desert island dish.

Salted Caramel Chelsea Buns
makes 9

For the dough

225g strong white bread flour

25g caster sugar

1/4 tsp salt

25g softened butter

1 1/2 tsp fast action yeast

1 medium egg, beaten

90ml  warm milk


For the filling

75 ml spiced rum

50g sultanas

30g glace cherries, chopped

20g mixed peel

25g butter, softened

30g soft dark sugar

30g demerara sugar


For the topping

10g soft dark sugar

20g demerara sugar

25g softened butter

100g icing sugar

Pinch of flaky sea salt


1) Put all the dried fruit in a saucepan with the rum. Bring to the boil then take off the heat. Allow the fruit to soak up the rum. When you are ready to use the fruit drain off any remaining rum.

2) Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the softened butter, egg and milk. Mix to make a soft dough then knead until smooth.

3) Cover and prove until doubled in size. Due to the amount of yeast in the dough this does happen quite fast.

4) Flour your work surface, and roll out the dough, (no need to knock it back) to a rectangle measuring about 12 x 9 inches. If you get the edges as square as you can it will help to make your buns look even.

5) Spread the softened butter for the filling as evenly as you can over the dough. Sprinkle the two sugars and the rum soaked fruit on top.

6) Roll up the dough along the long edge, as though you were making a Swiss Roll. Turn the roll over so that the seal is underneath and divide the roll into 9 equal buns.

7) Place the buns, swirl side up, into a lined 8in x 8in tin, and leave to prove until the dough has doubled in size, and the buns have all joined together. Sprinkle the demerara and soft dark sugar over the top of the buns the dot with the softened butter.

8) Bake at 180°C, for 15-10 minutes until buns are risen and golden. Once cooked, cool on a wire rack. Mix the icing sugar with a small amount of boiled water to make a glace icing then drizzle this over the buns then sprinkle with the flaky sea salt. I should confess I think Chelsea Buns taste best warm from the oven.

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Chilli & Blue Cheese Bread

chilli blue cheese bread

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut with bread falling back on my favourite recipes. In local markets Claybrooke Mill often have a stall. They are a Leicestershire based mill that has milled award-winning flour since 1987 and are well-regarded locally. Many local producers use their products. As well as regular flour they sell strong flour mixes that are great for bread making. A few weeks ago I bought some of their chilli mix flour to experiment with. I want to try their Woodhouse flour mix (poppy & fennel seeds) next.

chilli blue cheese dough

The chilli flour I’ve used here is a white flour with chilli powder, bell peppers and mixed herbs. Of course you could make your own chilli mixture but sometimes it;s nice to cheat. The first loaf with this flour was just a bit too spicy for my liking so after a bit of tweaking I found that 50:50 strong white to chilli flour mix works the best for us.

dough knot

We have a fridge full of cheese at the moment thanks to a hamper I’ve been sent so I decided to try this bread with some Oxford Blue in i,t as inspired by an amazing Stichelton bread I’ve tasted from Welbeck Bakehouse. The Oxford Blue works well and isn’t over-powering. It gives a nice earthiness to the bread and works well with the chilli.

To give the rolls a bit of festive cheer I decided to make wreaths use the pain d’epi method. Simply roll in to a sausage, turn in to a ring, make slits at 45° angle, then spread the cuts outward to give the look of a spiky wreath. I also had a go at making a knotted roll. Simply bend a short bread plait to make a circle. As the bread rises it closes in the centre and knots in the centre.

This bread is perfect warm from the oven and dunked in a steaming bowl of soup.

Chilli & Blue Cheese Bread
Makes 6 rolls

250g strong white bread flour

250g Chilli flour mix

5g fast action yeast

8g table salt

300ml warm water

1 tbsp olive oil

80g blue cheese, cubed


1) Mix all the dry ingredients together then add the water and olive oil.

2) Mix the ingredients until you have a dough then knead for 5 minutes.

3) Add the cubed blue cheese to the dough and knead for a further 5 minutes. If the dough gets too sticky add a small amount of flour.

4) Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Allow to rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in size.

5) Split the dough in to 6 equal pieces and shape the dough how you wish. Place on a floured baking tray and allow to rise for 30 min.

6) Bake at 220°c for 10 minutes then turn down the oven to 180°c and bake for a further 10 minutes. The rolls are cooked once they are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Once cooked transfer to a wire rack to cool.


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Vanilla Pork Tenderloin

Here we love a good roast dinner. At least two Sundays a month are finished with roast meat and the trimmings. I find it a great way to wind down the week and the leftover meat is then used for meals the following days. All in all it can make quite frugal cooking.

Nielsen-Massey sent me a hamper of their vanilla and flavourings and asked me to make something that would be a bit different with their flavourings. I’m a huge fan of their products, especially their vanilla paste. I use their products in by business recommend their vanilla to my pupils in classes. While I use vanilla is most of my sweet baking I have never thought about using it in savoury dishes.

While searching through their website for recipes I came across this recipe for Savoury Pork Tenderlion. It used some of the vanilla I had been sent and would be perfect for Sunday dinner. Just note all of the recipes on the site are in american measurements and feature the odd ingredient hard to find in the UK or at least hard to find in Derbyshire.

Usually if we have pork for roast dinner I slow roast it using a Jamie O recipe. This recipe uses tenderloin and if you’re wondering why you can’t find it on the shelves the cut is sometimes called pork fillet. It is lean, tender and doesn’t have as much flavour as a shoulder of pork so marinating it really helps give depth to flavour. I roasted rather than grilled the meat, as the recipe suggested, so added some stock to the baking pan half the way through to stop the tenderloin drying out. This has the added benefit of making a sauce for the meat. We had it with Big Spud’s Pinot Grigio potatoes.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well this recipe worked. I admit I was a bit dubious adding the vanilla to the marinade, but it gave lovely flavour to the meat and I will certainly cook meat again this way. The leftovers made rather delicious sandwiches the next day. Now what shall I use the rose, orange, peppermint & chocolate extract in the hamper for?

Vanilla Pork Tenderloin
Serves 4
Based on Nielson-Massey Savoury Pork Tenderloin

80ml soy sauce
60ml cider vinegar (I’d ran out of rice vinegar used in original recipe so used cider vinegar)
2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 pork tenderloin/fillet, trimmed (usually around 500g)
400ml chicken or pork stock

1) Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, vanilla extract, garlic, pepper and brown sugar in a sealable plastic bag and mix well.

2) Add the tenderloin and seal.

3) Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally. Drain, discarding the marinade.

4) Place the tenderloin in a baking pan and bake for 180°c for 40 min. Pour the hot stock in to the pan then return to oven for 20 minutes. Once cooked remove from the pan, wrap in foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Big thanks to Nielsen-Massey for the hamper of goodies. 

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Gingerbread Advent Calendar


Here for the festive season we’re in a bit of limbo. Not sure where we’ll be this year means shockingly I’ve not made of my traditional Christmas cakes or puddings as I may have nowhere to store them. However I wasn’t going to let Christmas go by without one special bake.

Thanks to a certain episode of Great British Bake Off we did begin to hatch a plan to make a gingerbread house to end all gingerbread houses with Design Engineer Hubs using Solidworks to design the template but various things threw a spanner in that works. Then Hubs decided he HAD to have the Star Wars Lego advent calendar and I had to have my own. As much as I lusted over the idea of a Paul A Young advent calendar I just couldn’t justify the £65 . During a trip to the wondrous Swedish warehouse of Ikea I spotted the set of Drömmar biscuit cutters. Yes I could have had their Christmas set, but frankly there isn’t enough squirrel and snail shaped baked goods in this world. I decided I would bake my own advent calendar as it would also be a perfect excuse to eat a daily biscuit and chance to practice my royal icing skills.

I initially planned to pipe the numbers on to the biscuits but after seeing the cakes The Vanilla Pod made for our Bonfire Party I decided to break with my fancy cutter ban and use my Tappit alphabet cutters. I usually don’t like the over-use of cutters on cakes and biscuits preferring to model or pipe by hand but I like the cleanness of the font. Don’t worry, you’ll never catch me using the Curlz font tappit cutters on my baking.

I was going to use lots of different colours, but ended up sticking to just red and white. I’m glad I did because sometimes the simplest colours scheme looks the best, plus it gives it a bit of the Scandi look to it.

This isn’t the quickest project and I did it in stages. Baked one day, iced the next then added the numbers the day after. I wanted the royal icing to set hard before sticking the numbers on. I now have big respect for Quirky Cookies & Biscuiteers as piping biscuits takes a great deal longer that I anticipated.

You must use Royal Icing to decorate biscuits as it needs to dry hard. I cheat and use the Silver Spoon Royal Icing mix as I find it works perfectly for me and it saves using egg whites. For the numbers I use a mixture of sugarpaste and floral (gum) paste. This works best in the Tappit cutters and dries quickly.

I am now addicted to piping royal icing. If it sits still for long enough it’ll get something piped on to it. Watch out business clients, friends and family. Guess what you’ll all be getting for Christmas?

Gingerbread Advent Calendar
Depending on the size of cutters you use this could make up to 40 biscuits. The leftover dough can be frozen either as a ball or in shapes ready to be baked straight from the freezer.

350g Plain Flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1-2 tsp of ground ginger

115g unsalted butter, cubed

170g soft dark brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp (40g) of golden syrup

milk (may not be needed, see recipe)

250g royal icing sugar

food dye

1) Preheat the oven to 180°c and cover 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

2) Rub together the flour, butter, ginger and bicarbonate of soda until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.

3) In a smaller bowl mix together the sugar, egg and golden syrup. Pour this in to the dry ingredients. To start with mix the dough with a spoon then once it is well combined use your hands to knead the dough. At first the mixture can seem quite dry but keep kneading. It will become soft and pliable. If required add a splash of milk to help the dough to come together. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 min.

4) Roll the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Cut out the shapes and place on baking sheet. Put the baking trays back in the fridge for another 30 min. This chilling stage is essential to stop the biscuits spreading.

baked gingerbread

5) Bake this gingerbread straight from the fridge for 15 min until slightly risen, beginning to colour and harden. If you are unsure, it is better to slightly over-bake (Don’t read that as burn!) than under-bake as you want quite hard, dry biscuits. They need to last for a month. Leave for 5 min then continue to cool completely on a wire rack. As they cool down they will continue to harden.

6) Make up your royal icing following instructions on packet, colour the icing as required and fill icing bags with size 0 piping tips.

7) First pipe the outline of the shapes. Allow to dry for 10-30 min.

8) Take the icing you have used for piping the outlines, squeeze into a bowl and add a small amount of water to make the icing thinner. This will be used to flood the gingerbread. It almost acts like self-levelling concrete. You want it thin enough to flood the spaces, but not too thin that it dribbles off the biscuit.

9) Flood the biscuits with the icing. If need be use a cocktail stick to help guide the icing in to corners. Allow to dry until hard. I usually give them a minimum of 12 hours to dry.

10) Decorate with the numbers. Store in a tin or airtight box and they should last until Christmas eve.


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Cherry & Chocolate Profiteroles

Last weekend I made profiteroles for the first time in ages. I’d forgotten how quick they are to make. Eclairs, that are also made from choux pastry, mean ‘flash of lightning’ in French. Of course they are not lightning fast to make, but are a great deal quicker and easier than some other pastries.

Anyone who has every made choux pastry will be surprised to know that profiteroles often appear in cookbooks aimed at children. Yes I suppose they are quick easy to shape, but the elbow grease that goes in to them is anything but child’s play. It involves a lot of beating to get the pastry to the right consistency. You can apparently make choux pastry in a food processor but it is not something I’ve tried.

The wonderful thing about choux pastry is that can be piped in to may shapes; be it hearts, swans and even bikes if that’s your thing. If it can be piped, it can be baked but just remember the dough puffs up in the oven.

Judging by the last few blogposts you’d think I have a weakness for chocolate. I don’t, I just like playing around with it. The first batch of these were topped with a sweet chocolate sauce, but I’ve come to the conclusion that they are best with just pure, molten chocolate drizzled over them. Even better if the chocolate is allowed to set giving the profiteroles a bit of bite.

You can fill them with whipped cream or crème patisserie. I’ll happily eat them with either. If using whipped cream you can flavour it. In this recipe you could add a couple of teaspoons of cherry jam to the cream while it is being whipped. Here I have filled them with cherry compote then cream. I like the two different textures and tastes.

The key to nice dry choux pastry is to pierce or cut the pastry as soon as it comes out of the oven to release the steam, this stops it going soggy. When making profiteroles I prefer to piece them on the base partially for aesthetics but also because they then retain their shape better once filled. Try not to fill them too far in advance as they can go soggy. The unfilled choux pastry can be frozen and defrosted when needed.

This tower of profiteroles ended up in a school staffroom, I’m getting a bit of a reputation there as a teacher feeder. Never before have I seen a group of teachers fight over the last profiterole and I’m sure I saw the caretaker lick the plate clean.

Cherry & Chocolate Profiteroles
Makes about 20

75g butter

200ml water

A pinch of salt

100g strong white flour or plain flour

3 large eggs

Jar of morello cherries

300g whipping ( or double) cream, whipped

50g dark chocolate

1) Preheat the oven to 200°c. In a large pan melt the butter in the water.

2) Once it has started boiling turn off the heat then add in the flour and start to beat with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture comes together in a lump and comes away from the sides of the saucepan. When it reaches this stage take off the heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes.

3) In a jug whisk together the 3 eggs. Gradually add the egg to the dough a small amount at a time, beating the mixture well before adding the next amount. You want the dough to become thick and glossy but still hold its shape. Depending on the size of your eggs you may not use all of the eggs.

4) Line a baking tray with parchment. Put your pastry in a piping bag and pipe blobs of the mixture about 10cm apart on the baking tray. You need to leave a good gap to stop them joining up to make one giant choux bun.

5) Bake for 20-25 min until puffed and golden. As soon has they have baked transfer to a wire rack and puncture the bottom of each profiterole to allow steam to escape and to stop them going soggy. Allow to cool completely.

6) Pour the cherries and syrup from jar in a saucepan. Simmer until cherries have begun to break down.

7) Once the profiteroles have cooled, pipe a small amount of the cherries in to a profiterole followed by the whipped cream.

8) Melt the dark chocolate then drizzle over the profiteroles.

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A day at Cake International

I first found out about Cake International a few years ago and have wanted to visit ever since. The Birmingham show is the longest running and features entrants from all over the world in the cake decorating categories. This is a show all about hard-core cake decorating and sugarcraft. Not for the faint hearted who don’t like crowds.

I had been pre-warned that the Saturday was due to be busy so I was one of those keen few who were at the NEC half an hour before the show was due to open. It was great to have the first hour to walk around the stalls and exhibitions without having to sharpen your elbows. By 11pm it’s fair to say it had got a bit manic. I went with a shopping list and managed to get everything on my list cheaper than I could have online. That meant I also blew all my spending money for the day.

One of the best things I found was the new 100% edible glitters by Doric. Most stalls were selling them, but the lovely ladies on the Icing Works stand had a very good deal on with them so much so I came away with 6 pots of the stuff. Look I can’t resist a bit of sparkle on my cakes. I also got some Tappit alphabet cutters and some sugarflair grape colour paste because I’m beginning to realise purple is one of the colours that can be hard to mix by hand unless you want murky grey icing.

There was some serious cake decorating talent on show. This wasn’t about people using cutters or moulds to decorate cakes. This was all about carving, shaping, manipulating icing and cake to produce a piece of edible art. I was in awe and aspire to be able to decorate like many of the professionals and amateurs who exhibited at the show. Ruth from The Pink Whisk was there doing a demonstration and it was fabulous to finally meet her. I really enjoyed it and will certainly be visiting future shows. Who knows I may enter a cake in a few years time.

There are two other Cake International shows in the new year at ExCel centre, London and EventCity, Manchester. If cake baking and decorating is your thing I wholeheartedly recommend a visit.

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Chorizo Pork Pies

Hubs has a hidden talent for Pork Pie making, though the talent wasn’t discovered until he was working with Seasoned to help them trial a pie course. Not a bad talent to have. He may have shouted at Paul Hollywood (on the TV) during the hand raised pie Great British Bake Off episode regarding his pie pastry advice. I suppose it is in his blood. He’s Derbyshire born and bred and pork pies are traditionally a East Midlands delicacy from Melton Mowbray.

Some pork pies are baked in a tin, but the traditional way is to hand raise them. By this you are slowly working a piece of dough up a piece of equipment called a wooden dolly. As the pie is baked it is essentially unsupported. You can use a wooden dolly to make a hand raised pie, but Hubs prefers to use a plain and simple pint glass. On GBBO Mary Berry mentioned how she uses milk bottles then fills the bottle with warm water when she wants to release the pastry.

Pork pies use a pastry called hot water crust pastry. It is a bit different from traditional pastry and when warm is pliable. If the pastry cools and gets difficult to use Hubs just blasts it for a few seconds in the microwave to warm it back through. To get the right texture inside the pie Hubs uses a mixture of pork mince and diced pork shoulder. You will also need to season more than you think you do. To check the mixture, season it then fry a small amount of the mixture off. Then taste it to see if it is seasoned to your preference.

I don’t like the jelly in pork pies, even before I knew it involved boiling pigs trotters, but do make the exception for these pies. I have eaten a deliberately warm pork pie before that was really nice. It wasn’t the type of warm pork pie that has been slowly heating up on the dodgy looking buffet spread that is increasingly likely to give you food poisoning. Come on, you know the type of buffets I’m talking about: the vol au vents, chicken legs, cheesecake, vol au vents, chicken legs, cheesecake affairs. Avoid like the plague and have more respect for the humble pork pie.

Once you have mastered the pastry you can really play around with the fillings. You can layer up different fillings or add the odd boiled egg to turn it into a gala pie. The cooked pies can be wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil then frozen for up to 6 months. When ready to eat, thaw for 48 hours in the fridge.


Hot Water Crust Pastry
Makes 6 pies

170g lard
125ml water
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg

1) Put the lard and water in to a saucepan and slowly heat until the mixture turns clear. When it reaches this point turn up the mixture until it is at a rapid boil.

2) In a large bowl sift together the flour and salt then pour in the watery lard. Mix until you have a rough dough, then turn out onto a floured surface knead until the dough is smooth.

3) Divide this mixture into 6 balls, then divide each ball into 1/3 and 2/3 (a bit like if you were making a pastry snowman). The 1/3 will be the lid and the 2/3 will be base.

Pork & Chorizo filling

300g lean pork shoulder, diced
300g pork mince
150g chorizo, diced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 egg, beaten

4) Mix all the filling ingredients together. Fry a small amount of the mixture off and check the seasoning. It requires more seasoning than you think. Once you are happy with the seasoning, chill in the fridge (uncooked) until you are ready to use it.

5) Take the largest ball of dough and press flat. Lightly oil the dolly then place the dolly in the centre of the dough circle and slowly work up the sides until it is about 10cm high.

6) Using a sharp knife ease the dough off the dolly.

7) Take a 1/6 of your filling and roll it in to a ball. Firmly throw it in to the centre of the dough cup you’ve made (without destroying the shape!) This bit sounds mad, but it’s essential to do this to get all the filling in to the spaces and help knock out any air spaces.

8) Roll out the remaining smaller piece of dough until it is a few cm larger than the pie diameter. If you are cutting a shape out of the lid do it now. Brush the inside lip of the pie with beaten egg then place lid on top. Crimp the edges to secure it.

9) Cut a hole in the lid (if you haven’t cut a shape) to allow steam to escape and brush with egg.

10) Bake at 200°c for 10 minutes and then turn down the oven to 180°c and bake for a further 45 minutes. The pie is ready once it is golden. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. and store in the fridge while you finish making the jelly.

Pork pie jelly

900g pork bones
2 pigs trotters
1 white onion
2 carrots
2 bay leaves
5 cloves
2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp salt

11) Place all the ingredients in a pan with just enough water to cover them. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 hours.

12) Strain the mixture to rid of all solids, then pass through a muslin to clarify the mixture.

13) Return to simmer until mixture has reduced by 1/3. The jelly is ready when a small amount of mixture put on a plate and chilled in the fridge, sets.

14) Once the mixture is ready, take off the heat.

15) One of the best ways to fill a pie with jelly is with a food grade syringe. A funnel can also be used. Fill the pies until you can see the jelly at the top. Refrigerate the pies for 20 min.

16) After 20 min, if needed, top up the jelly in the pies. The jelly needs to completely fill the pies. The jelly is there to help preserve the pies by making them air tight. Keep the pies in the fridge until you are ready to eat them and eat within 5 days of baking.

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