Bakewell tart – it’s tasty, easy and nothing beats homemade

You guys know how much I love a slice of Bakewell tart with a cup of tea. I’ve even shared my homage in the bakewell muffin, but it occurred to me this week that I’ve never actually shared my Bakewell tart recipe with you guys. Shocking oversight, so since I fancied a wee slice today, here goes.

Firstly, do not worry, it is actually really easy. Even the pastry and here’s why.

There is no shame in using a food processor. Quick and easy. I know lots of people think it’s cheating, Kate included, but you need cold hands, like really cold to be able to work pastry and some of us just run warm. So you know what, that’s just life and if there is a tool that can help, then why is it a bad thing? After all, the folk who say “just keep running your hands under the cold tap” – notice they are saying the cold tap and not just keep running down to the local stream?

So if you struggle with traditional methods then stay tuned cause I’m gonna use a stand mixer too! To hell with it!

So you will need:

Ingredients for the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • Pinch of slat
  • 100g unsalted butter, Straight form the fridge and diced into little cubes about the size of a pea
  • 1 beaten, free-range egg
  • 1 tbsp milk (if you need it)

Ingredients for the filling

  • 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature this time
  • 150g sugar
  • 3 beaten, free-range eggs, at room temperature again
  • 150g ground almonds
  • Zest of an unwaxed lemon
  • Roughly 4 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Roughly 2 tbsp flaked almonds

The pastry is the most time consuming task and we do that first. I’ll give you both ways of doing this, the traditional and the quick.

Traditional method for making pastry

In a big, cold bowl, sift in the flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Then using the very tips of your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it forms fine bread crumbs. This takes a while, but try not to touch the mixture too much, just your finger tips as you don’t want the butter to melt.

Now add the beaten eggs and milk and gently start to squeeze it together to form a firm dough, again try not to handle it too much. Be quick as you can.

Now wrap that ball of dough in cling film and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Quick method for making pastry

Sift your flour, salt and icing sugar into the bowl of your food processor (with the large blade attached), add the diced butter and pulse until you get breadcrumbs. Add you beaten egg and milk and then pulse another few times to bring it together.

Tip the now very, very, slightly, sticky breadcrumbs onto the worktop and bring together into a ball of dough, You don’t kneed, just bring it together.

Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Once chilled for at least 30 minutes (this will make it easier to roll), get your dough out and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. You want the thickness of a pound coin.

Now grease the hell out of a loose-bottomed baking tin, about 23cm in size. Line the tin with the pastry, but try not to stretch it when tucking it into the edges, let it fall naturally if you can and push down from the top of the pastry if needed.

You want to trim the excess, but not right down to the edge as pastry always shrinks a little bit. It’s better to properly trim at the end, so leave a little wiggle room here, maybe a cm and prick all over the bottom with a fork. This will help to stop it rising in the over.

Chill for 30 minutes again. This helps to stop it shrinking too much.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C with a baking sheet in there.

Cooking your pastry

It’s getting exciting now, we are almost there. Take the pastry out the fridge and line the pastry with scrunched up baking paper (scrunching it up makes it easier to fit to the pastry as it’s more pliable) and fill this with baking beans or rice. This is going to weight everything down and help to stop the pastry rising.

Now put this on the pre-heated baking sheet and bake (this is called blind baking) for 15 minutes. Then remove the beans/rice and paper and cook for another 5 minutes until pale golden and dry on top.

Filling (my favourite bit)

And now I bring in my stand mixer (my favourite kitchen appliance).

By hand

Put your butter and sugar in a big bowl and beat it together with a wooden spoon until pale and fluffy. Be prepared this takes ages and hurts your arm. Once it’s really pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs a little bit at a time, then fold in the lemon zest.

With a stand mixer

Put your butter and sugar in the bowl of your mixer and beat it until pale and fluffy, takes about 5 minutes. Once it’s really pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs a little bit at a time, then fold in the lemon zest.

Now for the jam, spread it evenly across the base of the pastry. I like a nice thick layer, it goes all gorgeous once it’s baked.

Then spoon over the filling mixture, levelling the surface with the back of the spoon or palate knife when you are done.

Lastly scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden, well risen and just set in the centre. A skewer should come out clean.

Now the hardest part, leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then lift onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Then nom with a mug of earl grey and some clotted cream.

A wee alternative

You don’t have to always make this as a tart to slice. What about mini, individual tarts, or tiny bite sized mouthfuls or even a tray bake.

Hot cross buns: traditions and silliness (oh and a recipe)

Kate is a big fan of hot cross buns, I, to be honest, don’t really see what’s so fantastic about them. But hey ho, that doesn’t mean I can’t experiment with making some so Kate can have a treat.

Just in case you live somewhere in the world where hot cross buns haven’t already appeared on supermarket shelves, in bakeries and in adverts, basically they are a spiced bun with dried fruit and citrus which get eaten traditionally around spring time in the UK. They have a cross marked on top which I suppose is why they get associated with easter.

As with most traditional foods, there is no definite evidence of where they originated or when, but tradition says that these originated with a monk in St Albans in the 14th century. The spices and cross were said to be representative of Jesus being crucified and his body embalmed.

Folklore in the UK include:

  • buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or grow mouldy during the subsequent year,
  • if someone is ill a piece of hot cross bun will help them recover,
  • hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck, and
  • If hung in the kitchen, they will protect against fires and make sure that all your bread turn out perfect. You need to replace the hanging bun each year though.

Regardless of how true any of this is, let’s make some buns.


for the buns

  • 250ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 500g bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 80g sugar
  • Tbsp fast-action yeast
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 75g dried fruit (raisons and sultanas)
  • 50g mixed peel
  • zest 1 orange
  • juice of said orange
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom

For the cross (or other decoration)

  • 75g plain flour
  • about 6 tbsp water

For the glaze

  • 3 tbsp marmalade

Let’s bake

Ok first thing, warm your milk. Keep an eye on this as if it boils over, it’s a nightmare to clean up. Once it is warm to the touch, take it off the heat and add the butter to melt into it. Give it a wee stir.

Next, add your dry ingredients to a bowl or your mixer bowl, (flour, salt, sugar and yeast). Add your beaten egg, and the milk / butter mixture. Give this a good mix to bring it together and knead, either by hand or with the dough hook for about 5 mins until it is smooth and elastic. It is meant to be a slightly sticky dough, so don’t worry. It will come together, just be patient. Add the dried fruit, peel, zest and spices to the dough and give it a good knead to incorporate. Put it into an oiled bowl, cover it and put it aside to rise for about an hour. Until it has doubled in size.

Once it’s risen, punch it back by giving it another short knead and then cover and leave it aside again. Once it’s doubled in size… do it again, yep knead it and then cover it and put it aside to rise again.

So that’s two rises (is that the right word)?

Once the dough has risen for the second time, divide the dough into even pieces, I usually get about 14 or 15. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and arrange the buns on a big baking tray or two if you don’t have one big enough. Leave enough space for the balls to expand, but I like the whole thing of them touching when they are baked so you have to tear them apart (like bread rolls) so I don’t give them masses of space, about a cm.

Cover them with a tea towel or put them in a proving bag if you have one and leave them to double in size again. I know, I know, but it’s worth it, trust me, they will be soooo scrumptious. It will probably be between half and hour and an hour. Meanwhile you can preheat your oven to 220C/200C fan.

Once they are risen, for the decoration on top, be it a cross, a smiley face etc, mix 75g plain flour with about 6 tbsp water to make a paste. You want it to be thick enough so that it doesn’t fall out of the piping bag. Add the water 1 tbsp at a time so that you don’t add too much if it isn’t needed.

Then put that into a piping bag and pipe your design onto each bun. A cross is easiest as you can do this in big lines across the whole batch but feel free to get creative. I went with some hearts for Kate… awwwww!

Bake for 20 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.

For the glaze

Gently heat 3 tbsp marmalade to melt it, then while it’s still warm, brush it over the top of the buns and leave to cool.

Warning this makes them really sticky! REALLY sticky!

Now go eat. Kate prefers them cut in half and toasted with butter and marmalade spread on each half, but they also make fantastic french toast 🙂

Banana bread with a peanut butter twist

I’m going to call banana bread a useful cake. Yup, useful cause you know how sometimes you end up with random left over bananas that look less than attractive? You know, the ones that sit lonely in the fruit bowl at the end of the week all brown and yucky? Well this recipe is a great way to use them up. So useful, see?

I do enjoy a slice of banana bread with a cuppa, but Kate had a genius idea, yesterday, to take it to the next level. Peanut butter drizzle.

I have recently developed a love of peanut butter and one of my favourite uses is peanut butter and banana on toast. So this sounded fantastic.

So here is the recipe, and of course you can skip the peanut butter drizzle if you want, the cake is gorgeous on its own.


For one loaf of banana bread

  • 100g soft butter
  • 175g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 mashed bananas (preferably super ripe)
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Splash of milk
  • 100g chocolate chips (added extra you can leave these out if you want)

For the drizzle topping

  • 125g icing sugar
  • 15ml water
  • 1 tps peanut butter or peanut butter powder(made separately following instructions)

Let’s get baking

This has to be one of the easiest cake recipes ever, you need zero skill or prior knowledge of baking for this one, so perfect for a wet, miserable Saturday when you can’t get out into the garden and need to be entertained.

Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C for fan. Grease a loaf tin(or line with grease proof paper) and let’s go.

Chuck all your loaf ingredients into the mixer or mixing bowl. I have a stand mixer which does make life so much easier (I do a lot of bread doughs which are very sticky), but this will mix up fine in a big bowl. I added chocolate chips to mine because I had some in the baking cupboard but these are absolutely not essential. I just thought it would work with the whole peanut butter and banana vibe.

Mix this up for about 2 minutes until you have a batter. It will be quite thick but still pourable.

Pour it into your loaf tin and level it off.

Whack it in the oven for an hour, you can check it’s ready by sticking a skewer into the middle and it should come out clean. Leave it in the tin for 5 mins, just to settle, then take it out and leave it on a wire rack to cool.

Now this is gorgeous as it is, so you don’t have to add any kind of icing etc, we were just having some fun.

So for the drizzle, mix your icing sugar and water into a thick paste. If it seems too runny add more icing sugar, if it’s too thick, add more water (a tiny bit). You want this to be runny but thick if that makes any sense. Basically you want it to run down the sides a little.

Then add your peanut butter and give it a really good mix. If you are using peanut butter powder, make this up according to the instructions first and then add it.

Once you have a nice thick but drizzly icing, just drizzle over your loaf. Warning, this will get messy!! And then pop your loaf in the fridge to help the drizzle set.

Serve as big, thick slices. mmmmmmmmmmm

If this deliciousness has you fancying having a go at making your own peanut butter, it’s dead easy.

Reusable waxed canvas lunch sack

I’ve been enjoying a bit of a joint crafty project with my sister, Leigh over the last couple of weeks and it’s finally finished so we can share it with you guys.

You know I have a million lunch boxes, we’ve discussed this little issue of mine, but sometimes even with my drawer full of lunch boxes, I need something different. Usually, it’s because I have lots of little things and they end up all over my bag and let’s be honest there is nothing worse than brusied apples and mashed banana at the bottom of your rucksack at 1pm in a warm office, am I right?

So when I saw a waxed canvas lunch sack on pinterest I thought – Yep I need one of those. I won’t lie, part of it was how cute and fabby and very Americana it was (for our American readers, the whole brown paper lunch bag thing doesn’t happen here, to us it’s VERY American). Now that’s fine, but these things were selling for about £30 each, for a lunch sack??? So I emailed my sister Leigh who can sew (and has no idea how I worship the ground she walks on for this skill) and asked if she could knock me up a lunch sack.

She was a bit hesitant about the whole waxing thing, so we split the project, Leigh made the bags and I waxed them.

So… wanna see how Leigh made the bags? Pop over to her blog

and hear her story. Go on, you can come back and read about how to wax them when you are done.

How to wax your canvas bag to make it water resistant / stain resistant/mashed banana resistant

If you have a quick search online there are a million blogs and video of how to do this, so don’t worry. However I will save you all that searching and say, it’s so simple. You just need a wee bit of patience.

So, I had a look at the wax options and most folk were choosing to melt a mix of parafin wax and bees wax and paint this on. It gives you a nice thick coat which makes the bags nice and stiff.

I wasn’t sure about adding this much of a coat all at once so opted to go with thinner layers to build it up to the thickness I wanted. It turned out, once layer was all I needed.

I also bought room temperature soft wax (meant for re-waxing jackets) and rubbed that into the sacks with a cloth.

Reducing the need to boil wax. It was really simple to do but you need to make sure you:

  • work it in well
  • really make sure you get right into the seams

  • and make sure you don’t forget places, like underneath folds.

Once you are certain you have covered every inch of the outside of the bag, you need to make sure the wax gets into all the gaps in the weave of the fabric. This is what makes it water/leaky container resistant. To do this, tie it up in an old pillow case and chuck it in your dryer for 45 minutes.

Yup in the dryer. The reason you tie it up in a pillow case is to protect your dryer as you are doing this to melt that wax and really let it soak in.

Now I decided one coat was enough for me, but if you aren’t happy after you’ve given it the drier treatment, you could do another coat but once you are happy, let it sit in a cool room over night to settle and you have yourself one water resistant lunch bag.

Naughty elf on the cocktail shelf – festive greetings from Kate & Eli

Espresso martini for one

  • Add ice to a cocktail shaker
  • add 2 shots of vodka
  • add 1 shot of coffee liqueur
  • add a splash of sugar syrup
  • add an espresso shot
  • shake

Festive table settings – christmas tree napkin folding

A while back we shared a post about the fun we have setting our dining table, we shared a video on how to fold a napkin into an elf shoe…

Well, how about a Christmas tree?

A wee tipple to add a glow to your christmas festivities – EGGNOG

Now eggnog isn’t something traditional to us, although we did grow up with something similar called a “snowball” using advocat, which is made from brandy, eggs and sugar, so pretty much eggnog.

We’ve spent a bit of time researching eggnog and recipes because we were worried about getting things wrong and offending one of our lovely readers who holds this as a dear part of their Christmas traditions, but in doing that we found out that there are as many variations on this recipe and its apparent traditions, as there are friends in our life who drink it. So instead, we are sharing the recipe we think is the best, once we’ve made our tiny tweaks of course.

I should point out, we are using raw egg in this recipe, I know some people will be nervous about using raw egg in a recipe (especially if you are pregnant or maybe in a position to be susceptible to infection etc) so we just wanted to point this out. I’ll let you guys make decisions for your self on whether you think it’s safe to eat raw egg or not rather than go into the ins and outs of food safety.

What you’ll need – makes one drink cocktail style

  • 1 egg
  • 1 measure of sugar syrup (measures for us are 25ml)
  • 2 measures of double cream
  • 1 measure of bourbon (or rum choice is yours)
  • pinch of fresh, ground nutmeg
  • pinch of fresh, ground cinnamon
  • tiny pinch of fresh, ground clove
  • pinch of fresh, ground all spice
  • nutmeg to grate over the top
  • ice cubes

To start, add all your spices to your syrup and let it sit while we put things together.

Now, beat your egg, the whole egg, no need to separate the yolk and white. Beat it until it is smooth and pale in colour, then add to your cocktail shaker.

Next, add your syrup to the shaker and shake it, baby, really shake it up, you want that all mixed together and emulsified. It takes around 30 seconds of hard work. That’ll be your calorie burn so you can have your eggnog.

Next, add your double cream, bourbon (or rum) and top the shaker up with ice cubes, then …. you got it shake!

Shake this up for another 30 seconds or so to get it all mixed and the ice will chill it.

Serve in a glass mug or whisky glass, you can serve over ice if you want to keep it chilled.

Lastly, grate some fresh nutmeg over the top to add that extra christmas zing.

Panettone – Italian Christmas Bread

We all grow up with family traditions based around certain times of year – birthdays, special events, cultural holidays etc, but as an adult, you get to choose which traditions you carry on and share with your family or indeed which ones you choose to leave behind.

The creation of our own family traditions has been one of the best things about sharing Christmas with Kate and over the years we’ve developed a few which are unique to us, for instance, we have french onion soup for tea on Christmas Eve. Kate makes the soup and I make the bread croutons. We open our presents while sitting on the floor at the tree and we each give each other one silly present, like a onesie, just to have a giggle on Christmas morning.

There is one thing that Kate has been asking for all this time and we’ve never done though. Kate asks every year if I could make panetonne as she is a massive fan. I’ve never made it for her, because it always seemed terrifyingly complicated.

That will change as we add a new tradition this year, we will be having panettone and coffee for breakfast on Christmas morning.

I have really been learning about bread making over the last couple of years, and now, I’d say there is nothing complicated about panettone at all so I’m going to share the recipe I’ve come up with and my hints and tips so that you can make this too.

Makes 1 large or 18 small individual panettone

Treat additions
120g mixed dried fruits
120g candied lemon and orange peel (finely chopped)
200g of chocolate chips
4 tablespoons orange juice

For the Dough
1 1/2 tbsp fast action dry yeast
150ml warm milk
50g fine sugar
650g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
6 free-range eggs (5 for the dough and 1 to glaze)
250g (1 pack) softened unsalted butter
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

Get prepared

Put all the dried fruits into a bowl and cover with the orange juice. I like to do this a good 5 or 6 hours ahead to give the fruit a chance to plump up. You could do this overnight.

Make the dough

TOP TIP – this is a wet dough, it’s much easier to work in a stand mixer than by hand.

Heat your milk to warm, but not hot and stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then add the yeast and leave it aside to let the yeast come to life a little.

Add your flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and sprinkle the salt in, let the dough hook mix this gentle for a few seconds before adding your yeast and milk, which hopefully is showing signs of life by now.

Keep the mixer on a slow speed and begin adding your other ingredients, first the Start by mixing on a slow speed to combine the ingredients. Add 5 beaten eggs slowly, letting them incorporate into the dough and then turn the mixer up to a medium speed to get things properly incorporated.  

Add the zest from the lemon and orange.

This is where my experience may be useful for first timers with enriched dough. This is a very wet and sticky dough, don’t worry, that’s why it ends up being so fluffy. Just keep going, I promise, it will all come together and make the most gorgeous, pillowy soft dough in the end. It just takes a bit longer.

Next, again top tip, don’t try to rush this. Add your butter about a tablespoon at a time and let it properly mix in before adding the next amount. It is going to take time to get that oily butter to properly mix in rather than just make the dough greasy, be patient.

When you first add it, you’ll see it smear all over the mixing bowl, just let the mixer do the work and suddenly just before you give up hope, it will vanish. That’s when you add the next bit of butter.

Now let the mixer knead away for at least 5-10 more minutes, this is when the dough becomes that pillow of softness I spoke about. Don’t worry about how soft and unmanagable it appears, remember this is all texture 🙂

Grease a large baking bowl and put your dough in there to let it prove. Cover it with cling film or put it in a baking bag to stop a skin forming on top. Leave your dough aside and be patient.

You want this to at least double in size, but ideally treble, so be patient.

Turn the dough into panettone

Ok so now that your dough is HUGE and you are a little worried it may eat you… time to add all your treaty bits and shape it.

Tip your dough out onto a floured worktop and gently spread it out with your fingertips. It will deflate but don’t worry, although try not to be overly heavy-handed.

Strain the soaked fruit and discard the juice. Mix with the choc chips and candied peel and spread about half of it out over the dough, and then fold the dough over the fruits and lightly roll the dough around to distribute the fruit evenly through the dough.

Do this again, spread the dough and repeat as before with the remaining fruit.

At this point, the dough is going to be an ugly, bumpy sod. Don’t worry about it, but look it over to make sure the fruit is as evenly distributed as possible.

Now you can choose to make one traditional panettone loaf or lots of smaller indiviudal ones.

For one big loaf, make the dough into a ball.

Grease a panettone tin or paper case. If you have don’t have any of these of these, use a regular cake tin, but line the base and sides with greaseproof paper standing at least 2 inches above the rim.

Drop the dough into the centre of the tin and cover loosely with a tea towel.

For lots of individual panettones

Roll the dough into a long sausage and cut into around 16 equal sized portions. Roll them into small bowls and drop into tulip muffin wrappers and then into a muffin tray and cover with a tea towel.  This acts as your panettone moulds.

Whichever method you chose, leave the dough aside until it rises again. You want the single loaf to be higher than the tin by maybe 2 inches and for the little individual ones, you want them to be just over half way up the muffin wrapper. It’s essential here to be patient. If you want that airy, fluffy texture the essential part is that the dough gets the chance to properly rise.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Once the oven is heated, make an eggwash by beating the remaining egg and brush over the surface of the panettone.

Bake the large loaf in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 160C or 150C for a fan oven and cook for a further 40 minutes. The panettone is ready when a skewer comes out clean.

For individual panettone, Bake for 30 minutes at 160C or 150C for a fan oven.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes in the tin on a cooling rack, then remove and leave it to cool completely.

Serve and enjoy!

Espresso – pouring a GREAT coffee at home (we’re using the Sage / Breville Barista Express

Now here is something a bit unusual for this blog, we are talking about coffee. 

The reason it’s not something we’ve really spoken about on the blog is mostly that Kate was a big coffee fan whereas I hated the stuff. I grew up near a coffee roasting plant resulting in a hatred for the harsh, burnt smell. I then went onto manage various coffee shop franchises where I was trained as a barrista (this was 20 years ago), but still couldn’t develop a love for the stuff.

That all changed though when we treated Kate to a new coffee machine, and through that, some subscriptions for VERY fresh locally roasted coffee beans from Steampunk Coffee in North Berwick, and I discovered that chain coffee shop coffee was light years away from fresh roasted, fresh ground espresso.

When we treated ourselves to the Sage (Breville) Barista Express espresso machine, we did a little review video, but, YouTube kind of went a bit crazy and we were completely unprepared for the response. We just wanted to show off our new machine and put some info out there to help folk thinking of buying one. Since then though, we get requests for a walkthrough video almost daily, possibly because as much as it is a great semi-automated machine that makes a good coffee, once you’ve had good coffee, you want great coffee and for that, you need to step away from the automation a little.

But you do need to have a bit of knowledge of how to get the best out of the machine in order to do that though, so… I’ve dusted off my old barista hat (we are talking OLD here, it’s been a very long time and from before coffee was trendy), and put together a making great espresso video and some instructions so we can share it with you guys. Be warned, this is very much aimed at the beginner who just wants enough knowledge to get started. We are keeping it super simple to suit beginners… things can get a lot more precise and complicated once you get the basics down if you want it to but we are going to try to keep it basic here.

Start at the very beginning

Espresso is all about pressure, and pressure is made up of a few controllable things. How fresh the beans are, which affects the available oils we can extract, how coarse or fine the coffee is ground, how much of the ground coffee we have in the filter basket (the dose) and how compacted it is, or how hard we tamp that coffee.

All of those factors come together to create resistance so that when the pump tries to push the water through the coffee, it’s at the right pressure to extract the flavours we want and give us a nice, rich coffee with a great crema.

What do you mean fresh coffee?

Coffee beans have hundreds of different flavour compounds in them, some good and some bad. In a good espresso, we need to balance these compounds, we want as much of the good stuff as we can and as little of the horrible stuff as possible. We do that by making sure our coffee beans are as fresh as is possible, preferably roasted between 4 and 20 days ago. The longer since the beans have been roasted the more of the good compounds are lost as the beans go stale. It won’t kill you but it won’t make good espresso either.

On our machine, we can also control the temperature of the water, not too hot to scold things and not too cold so that it doesn’t pull the oils we want from the coffee beans. We aim for about 93C.

Being able to control all of the above and knowing how it all affects the espresso pour is key and will let you adjust your pour to suit different beans giving you consistency.

So what happens when you don’t get this right?

Well, if we use too much resistance/pressure or water that’s too hot we get too many of the burnt or bitter flavours. This is called over-extracted. The opposite of this if we have too cold water, don’t have enough pressure and let the water run too quickly we won’t get enough of those bitter notes and can end up with an overly sour taste, this is under-extracted.

There’s a bit of a Goldilocks thing going on, we want it just right.

A double espresso should take about 20 – 30 seconds to pour about 36g in weight of coffee.

So it’s all about learning to taste your coffee and work out what flavours you are after, cause let’s face it, no matter how perfect a coffee is on paper, if it’s not got the flavours you like then its a bad coffee. So you learn to “dial in” your espresso so that it always tastes the way you like and once you have learned this, you can apply it to any coffee you buy. It’s all about consistency.

So here is the most basic recipe to start you off

and you can adjust from here.

Grind about 18g of coffee finely into your filter basket, tamp it so that it is even and level, and then run an espresso shot. Did it take between 20 and 30 seconds to give you about 36g of coffee?

If it poured too quickly or you got too much coffee, then your grind is too coarse or your tamp is not strong enough. Taste it and make a note of how it tastes, what flavours are there? I suspect you may find it tastes sour or even a bit watery, this is a sign of an under extracted espresso. Adjust your grind size to be finer and try again.

Did you get less than the amount of coffee or did it take longer than 30 seconds? Then your coffee is ground too fine or your tamp is too strong. Taste the coffee, take a note of flavours, was it very bitter or burnt tasting? Maybe an over extracted espresso?
Adjust your grind size to be finer and try again.

Did it seem to sputter rather than be a steady thin stream? Did it come out one side more than the other? This could mean your coffee wasn’t distributed evenly in the filter basket and or your tamp wasn’t level and even.

The process of “dialing in” your espresso is simply this, trial and error until you find the right amount of coffee, the right grind size of coffee and the right tamp to get an espresso that to you tastes perfect. Then as your beans age, you may need to tweak again or if you change coffees, again you’ll have to tweak to get things just right. It’s a never-ending rollercoaster of measuring.

I did try to get all of this out of my head and into a video and failed miserably. You do get a good laugh at me trying to explain about grind though…. if you have 20 minutes and nothing to do there are some gorgeous cats around the 7 and a half minute mark 🙂

I’m so going to redo this video properly in a few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for me properly explaining things 🙂

Eye spy mince pies!

Its December, and for me that means only one thing – its finally mince pie season! But Kate, I hear you cry, mince pies have been in the shops since July – don’t get me started on the ridiculously early appearance of Christmas food, suffice to say that for me part of the joy of the mince pie is that its SEASONAL, a mince pie is for Christmas, not for all year round! (OK, rant over.)

I always look forward to the first mince pie of the year, and I am very strict that I don’t have one until the first of December. Last year Eli and I made a special day of it, by combining the first mince pie with the first festive hot chocolate and a wander around the Christmas market for a spot of retail therapy. This year I decided it would be fun to try to make my own mince pies, and as Eli isn’t actually a fan of mincemeat, I thought I would make some spiced apple pies for her so she didn’t feel left out.

I don’t do a lot of baking, so I think Eli was slightly worried when she was banished so that I could get into that kitchen and rattle them pots and pans.

The beauty of making your own mince pies is you can make them exactly the way you like them – your favourite pastry – shortcrust or puff -tasty  filling- with or without alcohol – and even decide on the top – full crust, fancy shapes or even iced!

This is my recipe for mince pies (makes 16):


For the filling:

  • 1 large jar mincemeat (about 600g) – or if you are feeling super adventurous you could make your own!
  • 2 satsumas, segmented
  • 1 apple, finely  chopped
  • zest 1 lemon

For the pastry

  • 375g plain flour
  • 260g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg
  • plus 1 beaten egg for glazing


  1. Put the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together until they look like breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the caster sugar and one of the beaten eggs, and mix together.
  3. Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and fold until the pastry comes together, but  be careful not to over mix or the dough will get too sticky.
  4. Wrap the pastry in some cling film and put it in the fridge to chill for 10 mins.
  5. Put the mincemeat into a bowl and add the segmented satsumas, the chopped apple and lemon zest.
  6. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.
  7. Roll out the pastry to about  3mm thick – a bit thicker than a pound coin.
  8. Using a round cutter (about 10cm), cut out 16 bases and put them into your baking trays – I used non stick muffin trays. Put 1½ tbsp of mincemeat mixture into each. Brush the edge of each pie with a little beaten egg.
  9. Re-roll out the pastry to cut 7cm lids and press them on top to seal. Glaze with the beaten egg, sprinkle with the extra caster sugar, then make a small cut in the tops to let the steam out.
  10. Bake the mince pies for 15-20 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool for about 5 mins before releasing them from the muffin trays and then dust with a little more icing sugar before serving.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool before tucking in!

I could have made things easy and just made a double batch of pastry and filled half with mincemeat and the other half with an apple mixture, but I decided to make things harder for myself and so I did a slightly different pastry for the apple pies:

Eli’s little apple pies (makes 16)


For the pastry:

  • 350g Plain flour, plus extra to to roll out the pastry
  • 200g Cold butter
  • 100g Golden caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 capfuls of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon of milk to glaze

For the filling:

  • 3 large apples, chopped thinly
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2-3 tablespoons of light brown sugar


  1. Put the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together until you have a mixture like breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar and salt.
  2. Separate the egg and put the yolk into the flour, butter and sugar with the vanilla essence. Stir with a knife.
  3. Add the water a bit at a time and stir with knife until it begins to clump together, then make a ball with it using your hands and knead until smooth you may not need all the water you just have to judge when its holding together without being sticky .
  4. Put the pastry in the fridge to chill for an hour.
  5. Peel and chop the apples and squeeze the orange juice over them, then put the sugar and spice and mix together with your hands making sure the apples are all coated evenly.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 180 fan and roll out the pastry to about 3 or 4 mm. Cut out circles to fit your muffin tray (about 10cm) and place them in the wells of the tray.
  7. Divide the apple mix between the pies then re-roll the pastry to make the tops and place them on.
  8. Glaze them with milk and stab the tops once with a knife.
  9. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Leave to cool for about 5 mins before releasing them from the muffin trays and then dust with a little caster sugar before serving.  

All in all I had a fun afternoon in the kitchen doing some baking, and dare I say it, its starting to feel a little bit like Christmas!!