Technical bake aka the bicep challenge

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Sweet delights


Having seen a repeat of season 1 of the Great British Bake Off on the Good Food channel a few nights ago, I realised that I wouldn’t survive a single second in a technical bake. For this very reason, I have decided to start working my way through the classics. This is quite timely given the recent addition to my cook book collection: Leith’s “How to Cook.” This is my first chance to try out a recipe from the book and it was for exactly this type of recipe that I bought the book. Let’s see if the cookery school can teach its readers a thing or two.



Profiteroles are formed using choux pastry. Choux pastry is so versatile and great with sweet or savoury fillings. All in all a good bake to master.

So with enthusiasm, I opened the book. It is great. It is very detailed and has lots of tips as well as pictures to help keep you on track. The difficulty for me and the inherent issue with using a book is that you constantly need to rely on your own judgement. What makes it more difficult is that if you haven’t made something or seen it been made before, it is rather tricky to know whether your judgement is correct so it becomes a matter of instinct. But there is no point agonising over these little decisions. They may make a difference. They may not. Just go for it.

The book goes as far as a book can possibly go to counter the need for judgement calls and is very descriptive in telling you what to look for at different stages of the bake. It starts off by saying that everything in this recipe must be exact and precise which is a bit of a daunting opener. I just had to remind myself that I wasn’t serving afternoon tea at the Dorchester. Pressure alleviated.

I think I would be breaching copyright if I was to repeat the recipe here and I wouldn’t dare displease one of the cookery school giants in the world. There are lots of recipes available on the internet. Delia’s version available here looks equally good and has lots of helpful pictures.

Here are a few tips from the book and me:

  • When it comes to adding the eggs, this should be done little by little. The pastry is described in the book as being ready when the pastry is silky smooth and has “a reluctant dropping consistency which means that when you fill the wooden spoon with pastry and lift it up over the saucepan the pastry should fall back from the spoon into the saucepan to the slow count of six”. I think this is a really useful way to check the consistency and help you decide when the pastry is ready for the oven.
  • You can either beat the mixture using a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer to add in the egg. I used a wooden spoon hence the reason for the title. It is tougher but does make you feel that you are even more deserving of the delicious treat at the end.
  • I piped the choux pastry onto the baking tray so that I could make profiteroles and eclairs (more on those later) but you can easily just use a teaspoon to create the profiteroles.
  • Another useful tip is to remove the pastry from the oven when they are well risen, puffed and a deep golden colour all over and then pierce a 5mm hole in the bottom of the pastry buns using a skewer. Then place the pastry buns back on the baking tray, base up, and return to the oven for 5 – 6 minutes. This helps release the steam and dry out the inside of the buns.


When I came to assembling the profiteroles, I whipped up some double cream and added some vanilla bean paste for a bit of flavour. You can easily add the seeds from a vanilla pod or a teaspoon of vanilla essence if you don’t have vanilla bean paste.


Make sure the buns are completely cool before filling. If they are not, the heat will melt the cream and everything will turn to mush. Put the cream into a piping bag with a small nozzle and then insert the nozzle into the small hole made with the skewer in the base of the bun. You will feel the profiterole fill up as you pipe in the cream and the walls of the pastry will expand. Be careful not to insert too much cream or the sides may crack. I started by filling the profiteroles until they were completely full but then realised that this was an exceptional amount of cream. Not being a massive cream lover, I decided just to pipe in a large blob instead. The pastry should be light and thin so if the proportions of pastry, cream and chocolate aren’t right then it will just feel like you are eating  your way through a plate of whipped cream.



I decided to make my own chocolate sauce instead of topping the profiteroles with dark chocolate ganache. I love this sauce. It is much lighter and milkier than a ganache although perhaps not very traditional. Even worse, I use milk chocolate. The WI certainly wouldn’t approve.

This is  a great sauce that can be served over ice cream, as a dip for fruit or with any deserts.


100g milk or dark chocolate
100ml evaporated milk, at room temperature

  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
  • Once melted, take off the heat. Add the evaporated milk and whisk. At first the sauce may look lumpy and as though the chocolate hasn’t mixed but keep whisking and the sauce will become lovely and glossy. You may wish to hold back on adding all of the evaporated milk in one go so that you can check the consistency. I tend to find that these proportions work well though.

When ready to eat (which will likely be immediately after the sauce has been made), pile 3 – 4 profiteroles on a plate and then spoon on or pour over the chocolate sauce making sure to drizzle it over the pastry and leaving a little extra on the plate for sweeping up later.

Technical bake 1: complete.
More toned biceps: an added extra.
Leiths “How to Cook”: an absolute winner.



The Author

I am a food lover with a passion for cooking and entertaining inspired by two very special grandmothers and a fabulous mum. I recently moved to London which has provided a plethora of new places, cultures and fascinations to stir up some underlying creativity. My hope is to share some cooking and entertaining ideas which I like and others seem to like too. I will also throw in the odd bit of Scottish flare to make sure I maintain my true braveheart roots. Hope you enjoy!


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