Month: November 2013

Baking brioche with the experts ‘Brioche Pasquier’ and how it all went terribly wrong!

Brioche PasquierThere is a good reason I should stick to baking cakes and not go anywhere near bread. It just doesn’t work for me! I mean I love the texture of a bread dough as it’s soooo soft and malleable compared to what I am used to kneading – cold hard sugarpaste! But as a blogger you sometimes get invited to these fab events and last week I was lucky enough to be asked to attend the Brioche Pasquier brioche masterclass in Greenwich where myself and 10 other bloggers were to be taught how to make brioche the traditional way. No problem I thought.


Brioche Pasquier

The event

The day started off really well and we all donned our aprons and listened to the grandson of the Monsieur Pasquier (the baker who started it all off in France in 1936) explain how the bakery was the first to make brioche with levain (a type of sour dough) to give their products that amazing taste which is still used to this day. It’s a secret formula so we made traditional brioche using dried yeast instead of live yeast. The difference? Well, our workshop was three hours long including lunch. To make them in the factory the old school way takes 5-6 hours!

Brioche Pasquier

The lovely Christine showed us the steps how to make the brioche. It should have been easy. She made it look easy. It is not easy. Well not for me anyway!


Brioche Pasquier

I followed her instructions and measured everything carefully, starting with the flour then adding the salt and half of the sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other (the yeast reacts with the salt so you don’t want them getting up close and personal until you’re ready to mix it all up). You then add the butter and eggs  and the water. You’re supposed to mix the ingredients for a couple of minutes to incorporate it all together then set it to run faster for a further 5 minutes before you add the rest of the sugar.

Brioche Pasquier


This is what mine looked like! It was supposed to be smooth and bouncy and ready to be rolled out. NOT sticky and gloopy and dry and crumbly all at the same time! Yuck! Christine came over and suggested a solution. ‘More water’ so we added more water. No change. So we added more. Still no change. I could see that she wanted to say ‘there is no way this is going to work” but she was far too sweet for that.So I said it. “Shall I start again from scratch?” I asked. There was a resounding “Yes” from all the Brioche Pasquier team. By this point everyone else was rolling out their brioche rolls ready for proving.


Brioche Pasquier

So I started again with bowls of pre-weighed flour, sugar and salt being sent in my direction at speed. I don’t think they trusted me to weigh it myself- probably best! I started the mixer up and let’s just say that it isn’t one I’m used to. The K-Mix has a reverse so when I started it up and it went too fast so I quickly twisted the speed dial back in the other direction and sent the dough hook whizzing backwards just as fast! Flour, salt and yeast went everywhere! Once I got a handle on how to use it the ingredients started to form a dough. A sticky, yucky dough AGAIN! What was I doing wrong!?! I should also mention that the K-Mix wasn’t too happy and started giggling across the work surface.

As it turned out with the first batch I measured the wrong amount of water. This time I had mixed it all up too quickly at first. Christine to the rescue again!

Brioche baking with Pasquier

I needed more water in my dough and more mixing to make it form a smooth stretchy dough. Every couple of minutes one of ‘Team Pasquier” would come over to see how I was doing- as all the other blogger’s rolls were about ready to go into the oven and I hadn’t even started rolling out yet! Brioche baking with Pasquier

More water and more mixing then Christine grabbed a small amount of my dough and pulled it between her fingers to see how stretchy it was. It tore each time. More water and more mixing and then it had to go in the oven or we were going to run out of time. Brioche Pasquier

This is how it looked. Still a bit dry according to Christine but it would taste just fine. Brioche baking with Pasquier

All hands on deck for the rolling which you do with the heel of your hand pushing against the work surface. As my dough was so dry it didn’t really stick as it should have done. I did my best and I need to say an extra big thank you to Solange Brechemin from the Pebble Soup blog who came to my rescue and helped me, Christine and Olivier to roll them out in double-quick time. My efforts had lines and dimples. Christine’s, as you would expect, were perfect! I then gave them a generous brush with water to stop them cracking while they proved.


Brioche Pasquier


To speed the process up the rolls were popped into a proving oven and they looked pretty fab when they came out. You then have to give them a generous wash of egg and scatter sugar pearls over the tops before you bake them for just 10 minutes.


Brioche baking with Pasquier

And just look how they turned out! After all that adding water and extra mixing they looked absolutely perfect. “Yes, but how did they taste I hear you ask?” Well let’s just say that the proof is in the pudding. When I asked Tim if he had tried any of my brioche brought home from the event and if they were good he looked at me like I was mad and said “I’ve had 5!” So that was a big yes. But the really test was the girls. They absolutely loved them.

Brioche Pasquier


So, I had a really fantastic day, a great laugh with the Brioche Pasquier team who were very gracious in my nightmare and so, so lovely that now this cake baker can’t wait to have another go at baking brioche the Brioche Pasquier way. I truly believe that by my dough going so wrong I had the edge over the other bloggers. Sometimes learning from your failures teaches you how not to do something and gives you spectacular end results next time.


If you fancy making your own brioche the recipe we used is below, but for the real deal you can buy the Brioche Pasquier range at supermarkets. I have to say that Beau and Darcey completely love the individually wrapped Pitch chocolate and jam filled brioche for their packed lunches but for me it’s got to be a traditional Brioche all the way!


p.s. Brioche Pasquier have some really deelish recipes on their website too!


Brioche Pasquier traditonal Briochettes recipe 

  • 500g Strong flour
  • 100g water
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g unslated butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 40g bread yeast
  • 10g table salt
  • 1 egg and milk for the egg wash
  • optional extras: chocolate chips, sugar pearls
  1. Put the flour in the mixing bowl and attach the dough hook
  2. Add the salt and half the sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.
  3. Add the water, eggs and butter and mix on a SLOW speed for two minutes then on a MEDIUM speed for 5 minutes
  4. Add the rest of the sugar and mix for another 4 minutes. The dough should be soft and shiny and elastic!
  5. Now is when you can add chocolate chips if you want.
  6. Divide the dough into pieces of 50g and shape into smooth balls.
  7. Very lightly brush the dough with water to avoid the brioche from drying out.
  8. Leave in a warm place for about 1½ hours to prove
  9. Preheat your oven to 200ºC.
  10. Brush the brioche with the egg and milk wash and sprinkle sugar pearls on top.
  11. Bake for 10 minutes. Leave to cool before serving.Briochette recipe

Product review: Ora kitchen towel (a.k.a Darcey’s new obsession)

Ora Kitchen towel

Now, I’m not one of those bloggers who posts tons of gushy pictures of her kids all over the place, but when I went to take photos of this new Ora Kitchen towel for this post at the weekend Darcey wouldn’t get out of the way and lets face it- she was so cute. I don’t know if it’s her gappy teeth or the fact that she loves the towels so much that got me. I simply couldn’t take a picture without her getting in on the action so I decided to just go with the flow. So here it/she is…….Ora Kitchen towel

Tesco’s asked if I wanted to review this clever kitchen towel and I have to say it’s pretty fab. Apart from the fact that it looks great on your kitchen worktop – a bit of a conversation started actually – and it has it’s own stand, but it’s the fact that you can grab the next sheet with one hand really, really, easily – as Laguna (a Monster High Barbie type doll for those not in the know!) and Darcey show you below. The first thing you have to do is get your doll to “stand on the rocket first” Yes- even in high heels!

Ora Kitchen towel


Then with one hand you can simply lift it off. See, childs play. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Why do I need a kitchen roll that can be picked up with just one hand?” Well I’ll tell you. You don’t realise how handy they are till they are in the kitchen and you get used to them. Once you try and go back to the old fashioned ‘hold and tear’ method you really get it. The reason I know this so soon after receiving the sample to test is not because I used up this big stack (which by the way contains the equivalent to two standard kitchen rolls) It’s because very soon after these shots were taken the whole thing disappeared. Guess who’s bedroom I found it in? Ora Kitchen towel

Ora Kitchen towel


Another thing to mention is that the towels are really thick. Much more so than my regular ones. For that reason we have used them to do much tougher jobs like picking up spilt food on the floor with just one rather than 2-4 of our old kitchen towels! Also, they’re round so they look good and make great napkins – especially for the cake we tested the same night (more on that next week)

Ora Kitchen towel


Ora kitchen towels, £1.89  are available from Tesco stores all over the place.



Chocolate Madeira cake recipe… for different sized round cake tins.

Chocolate Madeira cake recipe



One of the most popular posts here on Cakes Bakes and Cookies is my mum’s Madeira cake recipe, so it should come as no surprise that I have been asked so many times for the ingredients needed to make a chocolate Madeira cake. After all it does make a superb wedding cake as it tastes lovely and is a nice moist, firm cake that is just crying out to be layered in tiers. It’s really easy to shape too as it doesn’t crumble like a basic chocolate cake will. I used it to make a teddy bear cake recently (more on that soon!) and it was so easy to assemble and carve up. I made way too much cake mix so I had a little layer cake all to myself ….well I did share a bit. I don’t really like buttercream that much so I just filled and topped it with tons of raspberry jam and it was goooood!


Chocolate Madeira cake…mmmmmm!

So here’s the chart with lots of cake tins sizes for you to refer to. The chart is for round cake tins. If you want the measurements for square tins go up one inch in size – so for an 8″ square in you would use the 9″ recipe below- hope that makes sense) If you would prefer to download the chart as a PDF just click Chocolate Madeira Cake Recipes for a 3″ deep cake

 To make the cake

  1. Line your cake tin with silicon paper and pre-heat your oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan).
  2. Blend the butter, margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs slowly until they’re really well mixed in. Add the vanilla essence.
  3. In a separate bowl weigh and sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Mix them so that you have a light brown dry mixture. This will prevent you having any cocoa lumps in the mix.
  4. Add the flour and milk to the butter in three alternating goes.
  5. Pour the cake mix into the tin and smooth with the back of a metal spoon. Bake in the centre of the oven. The cake is ready when you can smell that delicious chocolate cake aroma filling your kitchen. The cake will come away from the sides of the tin and a skewer will come out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack

I hope this chart is really useful. Thanks to all my lovely readers for their comments and questions.

EmmaMT X


How to make silver sugarpaste numbers… or letters.

Sugarpaste letters


Sometimes you want to scream and shout “I’m 60. Yaayyyy!” and when that happens you want your ’60’ to stand to attention. Don’t you? I know I would. So that’s what I planned for this cake. Robert was going to be given an electric guitar for his birthday so the cake was themed around that. His wife sent me a picture of the  guitar and told me that the colour scheme for the party was purple and silver. She had some really great ideas for the cake and after I sent her a sketch of my design she made a few tweeks and the look was set.

I really wanted the ’60’ to be standing up so I made it a few days before I baked the cake – so it had time to dry and would be able to be handled. This is how I made it…


How to make a silver sugarpaste number

how to make silver sugarpaste numbers

If you want silver letters and numbers you should mix up some grey sugarpaste. If you want gold use a pale yellow colour paste. Cut out the Numbers and letters.

how to make silver Sugarpaste letters

Place the cut out’s onto baking paper so they can dry without sticking to the surface they’re on. I left these for three days and turned them over at the end of each day so the back could dry too.

Sugarpaste letters

To make them stand up I use a little royal icing underneath each number to make them ‘stick’ to the cake, but just to be on the safe side (especially when you have to drive a long way to deliver the cake) I use cocktail sticks in the larger numbers and really thin food standard Sugarcraft Wire (the kind you use to have stars on like these) in the tiny ‘th’ to give you something to stick them in with. Gently push these into each digit soon after you cut them out so they can dry in place. If you try to add them once the digits are dry they tend to crack and break.

Silver Sugarpaste letters

Use some edible Metallic Silver Liquid food colour to get a really good shine. This tiny pot goes a really, really long way! Make sure you stir it really well as the silver pigments sink to the bottom of the pot and that’s where the sparkle comes from!


Give the numbers a coat. Work quickly as it dries practically instantly. Avoid going over areas more than once as it mottles and goes a bit bumpy. If you aren’t happy with the finish you can always wait for it to dry then do a second coat. No-one will know!
Silver Sugarpaste letters


And there you have it. One rocking 60th birthday cake- complete with silver 60 and an electric guitar !




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