Chocolate pithiviers

This month, two of my favourite blogging challenges (hosted by two of my favourite bloggers) teamed up to create one behemoth of a challenge – We Should Cocoa meets Random Recipes.

Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog and Dom at Belleau Kitchen wanted us to randomly select a recipe to bake this month, but it had to be one involving chocolate. As I have three books dedicated solely to chocolate, I used a random number generator to pick one of them, and then asked my housemate to choose a page number to select my bake.

The book chosen was Green & Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes, and the recipe was Simon Hopkinson’s Chocolate Pithiviers.

Initially I was a little daunted – it involved time consuming homemade puff pastry, and creme patissiere which I’ve never tried making before, but in the spirit of RR I embraced the challenge and dedicated my Sunday to baking.

I was super happy with how these turned out – the creme patissiere was easier than I expected, lump-free and lush tasting, and the pastry puffed properly, with actual discernible layers!

The only thing I felt that let it down was the filling, which could have just done with another depth of flavour, but overall they were definitely a success.

Thanks Choclette and Dom for making me try a recipe I would have never chosen otherwise!

Chocolate pithiviers (from Green & Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes)

For the pastry:

  • 225g butter
  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 250ml iced water
  • juice of half a lemon

For the filling:

  • 250ml milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 75g sugar
  • 25g plain flour
  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 110g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 egg beaten, to wash

To make the pastry, finely chop the butter and mix into the flour and salt, but don’t rub it in – leave the butter in lumps. Stir in the water and lemon juice and bring together into a dough. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and roll into a rectangle, roughly 18x10cm. Fold the top third down lengthways, then fold the bottom third over that. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then take it out, turn it 90 degrees, and repeat the rolling and folding. Do this 5 more times – that’s an hour of chilling, rolling and folding!

For the creme patissiere, heat the milk and vanilla in a saucepan until it reaches boiling point. Whisk the sugar, flour and egg yolks until light and fluffy, then slowly pour in the milk, whisking as you go. Return to the saucepan and stir over a low heat, until it thickens to a consistency a bit thicker than custard. Leave to cool completely.

Beat the remaining 110g sugar with the butter until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the cocoa powder and almonds, then finally fold in the cooled creme patissiere and the chopped chocolate, and chill again.

To make the pithiviers, roll out the pastry and cit into four 10x10cm squares and four 15x15cm squares. Place the smaller squares on a baking sheet and dollop a good amount of the filling in the middle (you will have way too much filling though so don’t try to use it all).

Brush the beaten egg around the edges of pastries, then place the larger squares on top and press down to seal. Cut into circles, leaving about 1cm around the filling. Remove the trimmings, then press down all around the edges with a fork. Re-roll the trimmings into another 10cm square and another 15cm square and repeat the process, so you have 5 altogether.

Brush the pithiviers with more egg wash, then score them lightly to get the sort of spirally pattern you can see on mine. Dust with icing sugar, then bake at 200 degrees – the recipe says for 15-20 minutes but mine took nearly an hour to crisp up underneath, no idea why! Serve hot with a dollop of cream – delicious 🙂


As this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, is all about chocolate I’m going to enter these for that as well – three challenges in one, brilliant!

tea time treats

Apple, marzipan and chocolate rolls

Time has really gotten away with me this month, and of all the baking challenges I had hoped to take part in, Random Recipes, hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, is the only one I’ve actually gotten around to baking for – I’m hoping April will be a bit less hectic, but I have a rather strong suspicion it will be just the same!


The theme for this month’s RR is one of my favourites – cuttings, memories and clippings. I rarely delve into my cuttings so it’s always good to get a bit of a nudge, so I dutifully handed over a stack to the pony and asked him to choose.

I’m never entirely certain how random his selections are, but the spiced apple rolls he picked, from an old Waitrose Seasons magazine, certainly appealed to me to bake and to him to eat.

I did alter the recipe a little, swapping raisins for chocolate and omitting the spice, but I think that’s ok because in the RR rules it does state that you can alter the recipe for dietary requirements, and as far as the pony is concerned keeping his chocolate intake up is a necessity rather than just a desire…

The dough seemed a little on the dry side when I was kneading it, but it rose well, made it easy to roll, and baked up lovely and fluffy, so it may well be a recipe I end up going back to in the future. It also seemed like too much apple when I was trying to roll them, but they held together once baked and all the apple juice that came out in the cooking helped to keep the rolls soft and moist.

The flavour combination worked really well – I’m not the biggest fan of apples and chocolate together but in this, with the marzipan, it all came together, and the pony said they would be perfect for his breakfasts this week, so all in all a success!

Thanks Dom for encouraging me to bake from my cuttings selection, and apologies to all the other challenge hosts who I haven’t been able to bake for this month – I will try harder next month, I promise!

Apple, marzipan and chocolate rolls (adapted from a Waitrose Seasons magazine recipe)

  • 350g strong plain flour
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 7g fast action dried yeast
  • 1 medium egg
  • 100g butter
  • 75ml (ish) warm water
  • 2 apples (I used Golden Delicious)
  • 200g marzipan, chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped
  • icing sugar to dust

Mix together the flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl, then make a well in the centre and add the egg. Melt the butter in a heatproof measuring jug, then add enough water to bring the total volume of liquid up to 175ml. Pour this into the well with the egg, then stir it all together using a metal spoon until the mixture forms a rough dough. Turn it out onto your work surface, and knead for a good 10 minutes, then place back in the bowl, cover, and leave to rise for about an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.

Once risen, knock back the dough and roll out into a rectangle roughly 50cm long, 15cm tall. Peel,core, and dice the apples, then scatter over the dough with the chopped chocolate and marzipan, making sure they’re all spread out evenly, right the way down the length of the dough but leaving a 1cm border along the top and bottom (long edges) of the dough.

Roll up the dough from one of the long edges, into a long sausage shape, then cut into 9 equal pieces. Place the rolls in an 8×8″ square tin (greased if it’s metal, mine was silicon so I didn’t bother) and leave to rise for another 30 minutes – 1 hour, until risen again. Bake at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a serving plate, dust with icing sugar, and serve warm.

Chocolate, hazelnut and marzipan torte

Chocolate, hazelnut and marzipan torte

My ‘to-blog’ list is just ridiculous at the minute, I have such a backlog to get through!

I don’t want to complain too much, because I’m glad to have lots of successful bakes to share as well as a couple of reviews which I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to carry out, but it does mean that I’m somewhat behind on posting and only just on time for entering two of this month’s blogging challenges.


This month’s Random Recipes challenge, set by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, was a little different to usual – the choice of book was completely down to us.

I had a little moment of panic at the thought of such freedom, but quickly decided it would make sense to choose something from my most recently purchased recipe book, Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen.

I handed it over to the pony for the random selection, and was very pleased with his choice as it was one that had stood out to me the very first time I flicked through the book – a chocolate hazelnut torte, topped with a layer of marzipan and chocolate ganache.

Which brings me nicely onto the second challenge I’m entering this for – Classic French, hosted by Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes. Ganache is the theme so this torte works perfectly!


The cake itself is delicious and went down very well with all my taste testers – a really moist yet light textured sponge with a great balance of flavours – it sounds like quite a lot going on with chocolate, hazelnut, rum and the marzipan, but they all complement each other perfectly.

I had heard good things about Boutique Baking and based on this recipe I’m not disappointed – I can’t wait to try some of Peggy’s signature pretty cupcakes and triple-layer cakes as part of my mission to improve my decorating skills this year.

Chocolate, hazelnut and marzipan torte (from Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen)

  • 150g whole hazelnuts
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 150g butter
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 3 medium eggs, seperated
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 20g caster sugar

To finish:

  • 200g marzipan
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 60ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp liquid glucose

Start by blitzing the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground, then add in the chopped chocolate, cinnamon and flour and blitz again until the mixture has a sand-like texture. Beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy, then add in the egg yolks and rum and beat again to combine. Fold in the chocolate and hazelnut mixture, then whisk the egg whites and caster sugar into stiff peaks and fold in, a third at a time. Spread the mixture into a greased and lined 8″ round cake tin and bake at 150 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until risen, springy to the touch and starting to crack around the edges. Leave to cool before removing from the tin.

To make the ganache, heat the cream until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate. Stir to melt the chocolate, then add in the liquid glucose and leave to cool. Roll out the marzipan on a surface dusted with icing sugar, to a little larger than an 8″ circle. Spread the ganache on top (saving about 2 tbsp) and chill in the fridge until completely set.

Use the cake tin to cut out a perfect 8″ circle from the marzipan. Turn the cake upside down onto a serving plate so the perfectly flat bottom is on top, warm the remaining ganache and spread a thin layer on top of the cake for the marzipan to stick to. Carefully lift the marzipan circle and place on top of the cake – then you’re ready to serve, enjoy!

Koulouri – Cypriot village bread

Cypriot village bread

For this month’s Random Recipes challenge, Dom asked us to select a book we received as a gift last Christmas, and randomly select a recipe.

For me, this was a great theme as it brings my year of Random Recipes full circle – the very first challenge I took part in was in January, when we also had to bake from a Christmas-gifted book.

The only book I was given was 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood (thanks pony!) and in all honesty the book could do with redeeming itself – the recipe I picked last time didn’t exactly turn out perfectly!

This time the pony opened the book at a random page and landed on Koulouri, which is apparently a Cypriot village bread. I had to make quite a few alterations to the recipe to use what I had on hand rather than buying a whole set of new ingredients.

Into the dough was supposed to go a pinch of mastika and a pinch of mechlebe – umm what?! As Paul says they’re similar in flavour to aniseed or fennel, I got creative and went for Chinese 5 spice which seemed to go ok, although never having tried the original recipe I can’t say how close it is.

For the outside of the bread, sunflower seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds were called for – sunflower I could do, but cumin and caraway I swapped for poppy seeds and a teaspoon of ground cumin – again it seemed to work ok!

After loving spending an afternoon making this bread, I was a little disheartened when the pony declared “It tastes like shoes”, but I actually rather liked it. Freshly baked we ate it with a greek salad inspired omelette and olives to keep with a vaguely Cypriot theme, but since then I’ve had it simply toasted with butter, which really lets the flavours come through.

It keeps incredible well too – a whole week later and I was amazed to find it was still ok for toasting!


Thanks Dom for a great year of Random Recipes and for getting me to try recipes I never would have picked out otherwise – some have been great and some have been awful, but that’s why I love it!

Koulouri – Cypriot village bread (adapted from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads)

(this makes half the original quantity of bread, but still a pretty hefty loaf)

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • pinch Chinese 5 spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 14g fast action dried yeast
  • 25ml olive oil
  • 150ml warm water
  • 50g sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Add the flour, 5 spice, salt, yeast, oil and water to a large bowl and stir until combined. Turn out onto the work surface and knead for about 7 or 8 minutes, or until the dough is springy and elastic. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Tip the sesame seeds, poppy seeds and cumin onto a plate and pour over a tablespoon or so of water to moisten the seeds. Once the dough has risen, shape into a ball then roll in the seeds to completely coat the bread. Place on a baking tray and leave to rise again for another hour, or until doubled again.

To get the shape (which didn’t work perfectly for me but nevermind) score a line all the way around the side of the bread and add two slashes on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 220 degrees until crisp and golden, then leave to cool before slicing.

Apfelstrudel and baking with Truvia

I have the lovely Dom at Belleau Kitchen to thank for this strudel – it was a huge hit with the pony and I probably wouldn’t have thought about making it if it hadn’t been for Random Recipes – so thanks!

This month’s RR challenge was to dig around at the back of your cupboards to pull out a forgotten ingredient, then randomly select a cookbook and find a recipe that could use it.

When it comes to the kitchen, I’m generally pretty organised and know where everything is, so I put the pony in charge of selecting my ingredient, which ended up being a tin of ready-made custard – very gourmet!

The randomly selected cookbook was Two Greedy Italians, by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, who funnily enough don’t use ready-made custard in any of their recipes. Luckily I did find a recipe that would be perfect accompanied by custard, and so I give you their Tyrolean Apfelstrudel.

As long as you don’t go crazy and try to make your own filo pastry, this recipe is super simple but gives great results.

I swapped the sugar in the recipe with Truvia, a calorie-free sweetener which I was very kindly sent a tub of to sample. I think it’s perfect in a recipe like this, where the sugar is literally just for sweetness, rather than altering the structure of the dish, and no one would ever tell the difference.

I’ve also tried Truvia in a crunchy granola bar recipe, which will be appearing here soon and in which it worked fine, but I think the real test will be using it in a sponge cake – once I’ve tried it out I’ll let you know how it goes!

Apfelstrudel (adapted from Two Greedy Italians)

  • 4 sheets filo pastry (estimate this to be about 75g, but depends which brand you use)
  • 4 large cooking apples, peeled cored and chopped (weight of chopped apples 560g)
  • 50g butter
  • 100ml water
  • 30g Truvia (or 100g sugar)
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • handful ground oats
  • 3 tbsp sultanas
  • 50g butter melted, to brush the pastry

Add the chopped apples to a large saucepan with the butter, water and sweetener and cook over a medium heat until the apples have softened, but not completely lost their shape. Remove from the heat, then stir in the sultanas, cinnamon and ground oats – add just enough to absorb the liquid and make the mixture come together.

Lay one of the sheets of filo out on a baking tray and brush all over with the melted butter. Place another sheet on top, and repeat with all four sheets. Spoon the apple mixture into a line lengthways down the centre of the pastry, leaving a couple inches at each end. Fold in the short ends first, then roll up from the long side. Brush the top with butter, then bake at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

Serve hot with your ready made custard, cream or ice cream!

Random Recipes does Through the Keyhole

Did anyone else use to love through the keyhole?! I’m pretty sure I never knew who any of the ‘famous’ people were, but snooping around someone’s house is just so much fun!

For this month’s Random Recipes challenge, Dom has decided to do something a bit different and has asked to see where everyone keeps their cookbooks – so here are mine…

I live in a TINY 1-room studio flat, with very limited storage space, so the fact that I have a whole shelf for books is actually pretty amazing. When added to the baking ingredients shelf and baking drawer, there’s not really a lot of room left for practical things like saucepans or plates…

Wedged in with the books at the minute is a Celebrations tin – sadly empty, but a handy cupcake transporter. A few phone chargers are also thrown on top, due to lack of anywhere else for them to live!

On the far left are magazine cuttings and ‘proper meal’ books, then on the right are the baking ones. My latest additions are the Two Greedy Italians book, which has already turned up two top recipes, and the Home Made Sweet Shop, which I haven’t made anything from yet but may come in handy with another blogging challenge later this month…

So that’s my recipe book collection, look forward to having a nose at everyone else’s pictures in the round up!

Sugar elephant – a rather random recipe

I’m not sure I can really call this a recipe to be honest – it involves one ingredient, and no cooking – but I didn’t want to cheat, and so for this month’s Random Recipe I give you the fondant icing elephant!

The theme for May is ‘First and Last‘. Dom at Belleau Kitchen set the challenge of randomly picking a book and then making either the very first or very last recipe.

My randomly chosen book was ‘Sugar Animals’ by Frances McNaughton, which gave me the choice of making either an elephant or a frog – both looked cute in the book but I decided to go for the elephant (sorry frog, I’m sure I’ll make you soon!)

I’m not sure mine is looking quite as cute as the one in the book, but you can definitely tell it’s an elephant so I’m calling this a success! I think my animal making skills are ever so slightly better than my people making skills

Sugar elephant (from Sugar Animals by Frances McNaughton)

Take 80g fondant icing and add in a little food colouring – I went for a bluey-grey but elephants look good in any colour.

Split the icing in half, and roll one half into a sort of egg shape, like this:

Cut the other half of the icing into quarters – one for the head, one for the arms, and one for each of the legs.

To make the legs, roll a fat sausage shape with a point at one end and pinch it flat at the other. Use a cocktail stick to draw on 3 semi-circles for toes.

Repeat with the second leg piece, then attach to the body.

Roll the arm piece into a long thin sausage, pinch the ends flat and draw on toes as with the legs. Wrap the arms around the top of the body.

Finally, roll the head piece into a ball. Roll one end between your fingers to make a trunk, then curl it upwards. Add two nostrils with a cocktail stick and some wrinkle lines underneath. Cut a v-shape under the trunk for the mouth and poke two eye holes either side. To make the ears, pinch the icing at either side of the head and gently pull it out and flatten Attach to the body, and your elephant is good to go!

Homepride chocolate chip cookies – a Random Recipe

This month’s random recipe challenge, set by Dom of Belleau Kitchen, was to pick a random recipe from the 17th book in your collection.

For me, this was ‘Baking with Homepride Flour’, my oldest cookbook.

Now, I have a confession to make – the selection of these chocolate chip cookies wasn’t completely by chance.

Not because I cheated at all, but because I have made the recipe so many times I think the book automatically falls open at that page…

As much as I love chewy, American-style chocolate chip cookies, these will always hold a special place in my heart as I’ve been making them for as long as I’ve been baking.

They’re almost shortbread like in texture, quite crumbly and soft, studded with delicious chunks of chocolate (I double the amount stated in the recipe – it’s better that way, trust me!

I probably wouldn’t have thought about making these old favourites if it hadn’t been for Random Recipes, so thank you Dom!

Homepride chocolate chip cookies (from Baking with Homepride Flour)

Makes 20 cookies

  • 50g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g plain flour
  • 75g self raising flour
  • 100g chopped milk chocolate
  • 100g chopped white chocolate

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then sift in the two flours and fold in with the chopped chocolate. Roll the mixture out into two long sausage shapes, about an inch thick, and wrap in cling film. Chill until ready to use (they freeze well if you don’t want to make them all at once.)

Heat the oven to 220 degrees. Slice each sausage of dough into 10 pieces, then flatten them out on a lined baking tray. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden. Leave on the tray for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.