Custard Tarts

Custard Tarts

Ready, set, BAKE! The Great British Bake Off is back and I am obsessed. Each week, the Bafta award winning show grips the nation as Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood whittle out good crumbs from the soggy bottoms.

Baking is fun, but baking disasters are all part of the process. I once used cumin instead of cinnamon to flavour my baked apples in an FT lesson; safe to say I have now learned to read labels properly…  Watching other people’s baking disasters is also very nerve wracking, especially when your favourite contestant has just used salt instead of sugar, or has watched the middle fall out of their uncooked cake.

The technical challenge is one that is usually full of a few disasters. Contestants are given a recipe, but all technical aspects and methods are excluded from the instructions. Last week we watched in vain as bakers tried their hand at custard tarts. Removing the tarts from the tray proved difficult, and there was soggy bottoms and uncooked custard all over the bake-off kitchen. Things were tense!

Having never made a custard tart myself, I was intrigued. I took up the challenge under the safety that Mary and Paul’s harsh tongues wouldn’t judge me. The secret is making sure that the pastry is cooked but the egg custard isn’t over done. By following Paul Hollywood’s recipe below, everything went pretty much to plan, however if you are making smaller tarts, you will need to watch your cooking times.


For the sweet pastry

  • 165g/5¾oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g/1oz ground almonds
  • 120g/4¼oz chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 55g/2oz caster sugar
  • 1 free-range egg

For the custard filling

  • 700ml/1¼ pint full-fat milk
  • 7 free-range egg yolks
  • 90g/3¼oz caster sugar
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Make the pastry:

1)   Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub it into the flour and almonds with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

2)   Break in the egg and use your fingers to mix it together to form soft sticky dough. Put the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball and flatten it into a disk with your fingers. Then pop this in the fridge in cling film to chill for 30 minutes.

3)   Now preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6.

4)   Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, then use an 11cm/4.5 inch fluted cutter to cut out 12 discs. Line the muffin tray with the circle ensuring that the pastry overlaps the top of the mould by a few millimetres.


For the egg custard:

1)   Warm the milk. In a separate bowl, beat in the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

2)   Pour the milk onto the egg yolks and stir well to create little bubbles. Now transfer this into a jug and fill each pastry case with custard.

3)   Sprinkle each tart with nutmeg and bake them for 10-15 minutes at 200C. Now turn the temperature down to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 10 minutes.

I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily
I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily

4)   Look for a golden pastry and a slight dome in the custard, which indicates it is baked. Too much dome means the custard is overcooked so watch out!

Custard Tarts


Nope, I didn’t know what these were either, I just made them for the name. But they did not let me down!

Imagine a biscuit, which is a bit like a cake but tastes like a cinnamon sugar donut. That is a Snickerdoodle.

They are a lot more known in America it seems, but I think Britain should bite the biscuit and get involved too, these things are incredibly moreish. I have eaten 5 already today.


Sorry to Snickers fans, they are not included in the recipe, but I reckon you should buy a Snickers anyway, and melt it over one of these doodles with some ice-cream- Snickersnickerdoodles.

This is Nigella Lawson’s recipe with a tweak!

You will need:

  • 80g wholemeal plain flour
  • 170g plain flour (alternatively use 250g of plain and no wholemeal flour)
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar

1) Cream together the sugar and butter until it is fluffy.

2) add the egg and vanilla essence and continue to whisk it until smooth and creamy.

3) In a separate bowl combine the flour, nutmeg, baking powder and salt, then add it to the butter mix and stir with a metal spoon until it is all mixed into a dough.

4) On a plate, spoon out the sugar and cinnamon. Roll walnut size pieces of dough into balls in your palms, then roll them in the sugar and cinnamon. If you are unsure of the size of a walnut (I was…) then imagine a large Brussels sprout, or a golf ball.



5) place your Doodles onto baking parchment, you can get up to 32 of them out of the dough! Or you could try making giant ones.


6) Bake at 180 degrees for 15 mins, then remove to cool.

Eat them warm with tea, or dipped in jam. They’re just as great cold. Let me know what you think of them!






Lemon Meringue Pie

A zingy lemon filling with a golden crisp top meringue and absolutely no soggy bottoms. Mary Berry would be proud.

Happy April!

I hope you are all owners of slightly rounder stomachs in the wake of Easter, if not please come and help yourself to my chocolate before I resemble Augustus Gloop.

The sun is shining today, so maybe spring has finally arrived (touch wood, white rabbits). Either way, I am going to provide you with a springy zingy recipe to celebrate, and bombard you with cheesy puns and sayings along the way.

This is the first Lemon Meringue Pie I have ever made, so it’s proof that anyone can make it with success. The proof is in the pudding!

Lemon Meringue Pie

I was helped by life long best friend Polly Wicks (can’t get rid of her), who was especially good removing egg shells and taking pictures. There were a few ups and downs along the way; at one point it nearly fell on the floor, which I’m sure Mr Pigley would have been very happy about. But we made it out the other side mostly unscathed.

Confession: I didn’t make the pastry due to time constraints, laziness, and a short attention span. Next time I will I promise!

Also, before we start I would like words with whoever invented the spelling for Meringue. Seriously give me a break, my spell check has never had to work harder.

Lemon Meringue Pie

You will need:

  • Sweet short crust pastry- bought or made. Don’t feel guilty if you cheat, Delia does it!

For the filling:

  • 2 level tbsp cornflour
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
  • 125ml fresh lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
  • juice 1 small orange
  • 85g butter , cut into chunks
  • 3 egg yolks and plus 1 whole egg

For the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites at room temperature, avoid all yolks!
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 2 level tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

1) First you need to bake your pastry so that it retains it’s shape and there is no soggy business. Roll it out and lay it into your 23 x 2.5cm pastry tin with push out base. Leave the excess over the edges as the pastry shrinks in the oven, you can cut it off afterwards. I didn’t do this… I call it literal shortcrust pastry.

Bake it at 180 degrees for 15 mins with greaseproof paper and rice on it to weigh it down and stop the pastry rising.

2) Remove the greaseproof and bake for another 4 mins.

Lemon Meringue Pie
“Short crust” pastry

3) Leave this to one side and begin to make your filling. For this you need to stir your sugar, cornflour and lemon juice together on a medium heat in a pan. Do this until it is slightly sticky, then add your zest and orange juice, plus however much water you need to make the orange juice up to 200 ml.

4) Stir until thick, bubbling and smooth. Then remove from the heat and stir in the butter chunks until melted.

5) Beat in the egg yolks and whole egg- save the egg whites for the meringue. The trick with separating egg yolks is to crack the egg in half, keeping the yolk as a whole in one half of the shell and the white dribbles out. I’m always scared when I do this! But try this tutorial.

6) The mix will be thick, yellow, custard looking and jelly like. Remove it from the heat and now make the meringue.

Lemon Meringue Pie

7) Beat the 4 egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Make sure there is no yolk or shell in the whites- polly was in charge of this!

She likes pugs
She likes pugs

8) Add the sugar gradually with the corn flour. It will still form thick peaks and have a glistening sheen to the mix. If it is ready you can hold your bowl upside down and the mix won’t fall out!

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

I was actually very scared...!

I was actually very scared…!

9) Reheat the filling and pour it into the pastry case, then spoon on the meringue starting from around the edges or it will sink in the middle.

Lemon Meringue Pie

10) Bake in the oven for 18-20 mins at 180 degrees until the meringue is slightly golden and crisp on top. Let it cool in the tin for 30 mins, then remove and leave it to cool for another 1hr.

Lemon Meringue Piem

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Ultimate Chocolate Malteser Tiffin

Crumbly chocolate tiffin with chewy maltesers and a smooth chocolate topping.

I would go as far to say that this recipe is possibly the only reason we as a family have friends.

This has been tried and tested by every single birthday, anniversary, dinner party, wedding, christening, tea party or even non occasion the Smolen’s have attended.

It says “thank you” a lot, and “let me be in your good books” even more; bribery is a beautiful thing.

If mum makes it to take in to work, she has to leave a strip behind for us for her own good, she knows tiffin deprivation is an ugly experience.

Basically this stuff is pretty bloody amazing and I have never met anybody who has turned down a piece.

Ultimate Chocolate Malteser Tiffin

Warning 1: the mix before it is set is incredibly addictive and you will eat a lot of it.

Warning 2: If you are on a diet, erase your memory of everything that is in it and pretend it was made with carrots

You will need:

  • 1oog 70% dark choc
  • 300g milk choc (good quality)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbs golden syrup
  • 275g crushed digestives
  • 200g maltesers

1) In a pan, gently melt the butter, 100g milk choc, dark choc and golden syrup together in a pan until it is a smooth silky saucy texture.

2) With a rolling pin, lay a tea towel over the biscuits and bash them until they are crumbs. Leave some bigger lumps in but most of it needs to be crumby.

3) Pour the bashed digestives into the chocolate and butter mix and stir it all together to make a sort of paste. Then mix in your maltesers.

4) Line a pan with greaseproof paper and spoon the mix into any shape you like keeping it about 1 1/2 inches thick then pop to one side.

5) In a seperate bowl melt the remaining 200g of chocolate. If you do it in the microwave be careful not to burn it! Then pour it as a topping onto the tiffin you just shaped. Leave to set.

6) After about  2 hours in the fridge the tiffin should be set, cut it into cubes, eat the escape crumbs and share with everyone at every occasion possible! Especially those who you want to be your friend.

Ultimate Chocolate Malteser Tiffin

Ultimate Chocolate Malteser Tiffin

Ultimate Chocolate Malteser Tiffin

Chocolate Brownie Suicide

These brownies are only good for the soul. Not the diet.

Vegaquarium- Chocolate Brownie Suicide

But they are too good to resist. Eat them warm with ice cream, straight out the oven, or cool the next day. They stay gooey and taste just as delicious!

Yes I know 6 eggs is more than Mike Tyson uses in his protein shakes, and 500g of sugar is pretty much a whole bag, but January is dark, gloomy and in need of something to look forward too. Even if it comes with a slight chocolate coma.

This is one of Nigella Lawson’s recipes, which I made with balloons down my bra so I could look just like her.

375 g soft unsalted butter
375 g best quality dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
500 g caster sugar
225 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
200g white choc chips

  • Firstly preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line your approximatley 33 x 23 x 5 1/2cm brownie pan with foil or baking paper
  • Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan and beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla in a seperate bowl
  • Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.
  • When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture into the caucepan, and then the chocolate chips and flour.
  • Beat to combine it all then scrape it out of the saucepan into the brownie pan
  • Bake for about 25 minutes, the top of the brownie should look dull and speckled but the inside will still be very moist and gooey. Remember that they will continue to cook as they cool so don’t leave them in much longer!

Instead of chocolate chips you could also used chopped walnuts like Nigella does, and talk in innuendoes all the way through if you really want.

Vegaquarium- Chocolate Brownie Suicide


Vegaquarium- Chocolate Brownie Suicide

Chocolate Caramel Flapjacks

Serve your sweet tooth, it is nearly Christmas! These are a bit like millionaire shortbreads, but better. Plus they have oats in, oats are in porridge, and porridge is healthy, therefore these are healthy… There must be some logic in that.

Ok so they might not be that healthy, but they are perfect for breakfast, tea breaks, snacks and pudding. They are fairly easy to make and require minimal washing up (otherwise I would have been adverse to making them.)

The chocolate goes a bit white when it sets by the way, totally normal and is not mould! Also these take a good 5 hrs to set, so it is best to make them and leave them over night, sorry impatient people of which I am one of.

Chocolate Caramel Flapjacks- The Vegaquarium

You will need:

  • 350g of big oats
  • 200g butter
  • 200g sugar
  • 2 tbs of golden syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g chopped nuts or fruit (optional)


  • 397g can of caramel (can use a tin of carnation caramel)
  • 300g chocolate

1) Set the Oven to 200 degrees. Then melt the butter, syrup, salt and sugar in a pan over the hob. Stir it all until it is a smooth liquid.

2) Take off the heat and stir in the oats and nuts/fruit if you are adding any. Make sure the oats are all mixed in! Then pour into a greaseproof paper lined pan.

3) Bake in the oven for 30 mins on the middle shelf. Ensure you check every 15 mins that they haven’t burned! You want an even golden brown on top, and remember that they won’t set completely until they are out the oven, so it’s ok if it is still bubbling.

Chocolate Caramel Flapjacks- The Vegaquarium

4) Leave to cool. Then pour on and spread the caramel before popping it in the fridge for 10 mins.

5) Melt the chocolate and pour it on top of the caramel, spread it evenly and then leave it all to set. If you want you could try orange chocolate, or even mint if it takes your fancy, just make sure it melts well.

Enjoy with tea and friends!

Chocolate Caramel Flapjacks- The Vegaquarium

Chocolate Caramel Flapjacks- The Vegaquarium

Chocolate Caramel Flapjacks- The Vegaquarium

Banana loaf cake

I write this sitting at my kitchen table, listening to Bob Marley and eating a slice of this very banana bread. Lifes good.

What I love about this cake is that it is sooooo unbelievably squidgy, it is almost a cookie dough texture, but then the crust is really crumbly, heaven!

Every time there is some over ripe banana’s lying about which nobody wants to eat, we whip up one of these without fail.

This recipe is my grandma’s one. She is pretty amazing at making cakes, and is always baking for bake sales, and if we are lucky she makes them for us too.

The recipe is in ounces, but I have converted it into grams too.

You will need!

  • 8 oz/ 227g butter
  • 8 oz/ 227g sugar
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 11 oz/ 300g plain flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Allspice
  • 4 fl ounces of milk
  • 1 tbs seedless raisins (optional)
  • a large loaf tin, mine is 23.5 x 13.5 x 7 cm. Line this with parchment.

. Firstly set the ovan to 180 degrees. Then cream together the butter and sugar untill they are light and fluffy. Next is the fun bit because you get to mash up your banana, it goes all squelchy and yummy, then add it with the egg to the creamed sugar and butter. Mix this together well.

.Sift in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Or if you are me, just throw it in. I never sift and it doesn’t make a difference, so I say unless you are a sifting fanatic, dont bother. Stir this together well.

.Now gradually beat in the milk and the raisins before pouring the batter into the tin. Remember to lick the bowl!

.Put this gooey love bug in the oven, and bake it for about an hour, or until the skewer doesn’t come out with gunge on it.

I love eating this warm straight from the ovan, but after that its amazing cold even after a week! Just put it in a tin or wrap it in cling film once it has cooled completely.

And don’t forget to try it with some chocolate spread!!

Posh bread and butter pud

Bread and butter pudding is one of those British classics. It’s a proper warming feel good pud, which needs nothing more than a good scoop of ice cream and a loving tummy to make it happy.

It is also dead simple to do, and this version is a little bit posh! Make it for a crowd and it will go down a treat. The bitterness of the dark chocolate marries the sweetness of the apricot jam for that little bit of extra specialness, plus it is not too sickly, so will only leave you with full signs of content.

Enough for 8 hungry pudding fans

You need:

  • 300ml (1/2 pt)
  • 150 ml (¼pt) double cream
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 2  egg yolks
  • 65 gram(s) (2½oz) golden caster sugar
  •  Few drops vanilla extract
  • 1  baguette, cut into slices
  • 100 gram(s) (3½oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 35 gram(s) (1¼oz) butter, melted
  • 30 mls apricot jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bring the milk and cream to the boil in a saucepan for about 10 mins. Meanwhile, mix the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together until bubbly. Add this to the cream mix and stir while you do this to combine it all and stop the egg cooking!
  2. Strain into a jug and add the vanilla. Other things you could use for flavour are nutmeg or almond flavouring!
  3. Brush the bread with the melted butter and lay it in a dish, it doesn’t matter if you have to put bread slices over each other, just make sure that they all get a bit of choc.
  4. Scatter over the chocolate pieces.
  5. Pour over custard mix and leave the dish to soak for 30 minutes.
  6. In a saucepan or microwave, heat the jam, then brush over the puddings before serving.
  7. Place the dish in a roasting tin and fill it with hot water so it reaches halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and just set.
  8. Serve with ice cream or cream and ENJOY

It’s not quite the same without the jam so make sure you get hold of some. Lidl have a really yummy real fruit jam for only 89p! If you hate apricot you could use something different, maybe try milk chocolate and strawberry jam?

I have been on a bike ride today, so will be eating seconds of this baby guilt free tonight :) Not that I would restrain if I had not been so active today… Pretty sure I have a separate pudding stomach!

Recipe adapted from Good housekeeping.