One of my favourite things about Valentine’s Day is after the purgatory of January, it gives you a bit of an excuse to indulge your sweet tooth. This week I’m sharing lots of Valentine’s bakes to make for someone special or even better, to treat yourself!
I’ve had such great feedback on last week’s website refresh, particularly the “What I Do” section. It’s prompted quite a few people to get in touch with me this week about a really wide range of different activities so if I haven’t replied to your message yet, chase me and I will! This week I did a demo and a book signing at another WI Group – this time in Leytonstone – which was a lot of fun. It’s always a real laugh sharing my experiences with fans of the Bake Off so if you’re interested in having me along to a future meeting (and you’re not too far from North London – though if you’re throwing international flights in I’ll go anywhere!), get in touch.
On Thursday evening, my wife Sarah and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Great Ormond Street Valentine’s Ball. It was a bit of a strange day all in all as I started it by filling a skip at work and ended it spruced up in my tux in a posh hotel in London, such is my odd life these days. Sarah and I met up with Candice, winner of last year’s Bake Off, and her boyfriend Liam (pictured with us above). We’d first met them both back in September, before we knew Candice was the 2016 winner. They’re a great couple and Candice is having so much deserved success. We had a fantastic time helping to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Children’s Charity. We were also on a table with a lovely couple whose daughter was successfully treated at GOSH. When Sarah was pregnant with our second daughter, we were scanned by the GOSH team and we’re so lucky not only to have such incredible NHS staff in the UK but also to have a dedicated children’s hospital like GOSH in London. The night raised over £220k and there are loads more ideas on how to raise money for them here.
I’ve posted a few Valentine’s Day recipes on my website before, including raspberry doughnuts, my heart-shaped chocolate brownies, and my Bakewell tart. Though to be honest, once you’ve bought a set of these, so many of my bakes can become a Valentine’s bake so have a browse of my recipes and see if something takes your fancy. One of the recipes still requested most often is my rhubarb and custard doughnuts that I made on the Great British Bake Off (pictured above), so I’m sharing it with you this week. I won my fourth of five Star Baker awards with this recipe and I’d probably say it was one of my personal favourites from my time on the show. It was also the most popular with my team of grateful friends and family taste-testers so I’d really encourage you to give them a try, even if you’ve never attempted doughnuts before. Alternatively if you’re really not a baker, my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, is only £8.94 on Amazon at the moment and can be delivered in time for Valentine’s Day. Either way, Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Baking!
Rhubarb and Custard Doughnut Hearts
Ingredients – makes about 20 doughnuts
- 1 tbsp dried yeast
- 150g caster sugar (this includes sugar to roll the cooked doughnuts in)
- 150ml whole milk
- 300g strong white bread flour, plus more for dusting
- ½ tsp salt
- 50g butter
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1.5l vegetable oil for frying
- Approx 50g rhubarb
- 200g caster sugar
- 3tbsp water
- 350g chopped rhubarb
- 80ml water
- 4tbsp caster sugar
- 1tbsp corn flour
- 50g unsalted butter
- 250ml whole milk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 3 large egg yolks
- 50g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp corn flour
- 150ml double cream
- To make the dough, mix the yeast with a teaspoon of sugar and about 50ml of warm milk. Put this to one side for about 15 minutes. Melt 50g butter in a pan over a low heat. Sift the flour and the salt into a large bowl. Stir in about 1 tbsp of sugar. Pour the yeast mix into this, the rest of the milk (warmed), melted butter, and beaten egg. Mix this into a dough, knead, then put into a bowl and cover with cling film to rise for about an hour at room temperature.
- To make the candied rhubarb, pre-heat the oven to about 90oC. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Trim a pinkish stick of rhubarb about 15cm long into 7.5cm ‘matchsticks’ – make at least 20 matchsticks. Melt 200g caster sugar in a saucepan with 3 tbsp water. Steep the rhubarb in this for about 30 seconds and then place the strips onto the baking sheet. Dry this out in the oven for an hour. When this comes out of the oven and has cooled, chop into small pieces with scissors to sprinkle on top of the custard.
- To make the custard, heat 250ml milk with a split vanilla pod in a pan – do not boil. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes, then remove the vanilla pod. In a heatproof bowl, whisk 3 egg yolks with 50g caster sugar and 2 tbsp corn flour. Whisk the hot milk into this and then transfer back to the pan and heat. Stir continuously on a low heat to make a smooth custard. Pour into a bowl, cover with cling film. The cling film must sit directly in contact with the custard to stop a skin forming. Cool, then refrigerate to chill.
- To make the rhubarb filling, chop the remaining rhubarb and put in a pan over a medium heat. Add 4 tbsp of caster sugar, 1 tbsp corn flour, 80ml water and 50g unsalted butter. Cook this until it’s a pink mush, stirring regularly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. Leave to cool.
- Take the dough and knead on a floured work surface. Roll this out to about 1cm thick and with a heart shaped cutter (around 6cm), cut out about 20 hearts (as pictured below). Lay these on two baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper. Leave these to rise for about 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes, heat 1.5l oil in a large saucepan on the hob (or in a deep fat fryer) until it reaches 160oC. If you don’t have a thermometer (I use this one), use a piece of white bread and see if it sizzles when put in the oil. Batch cook all of the doughnuts, three or four at a time, for about 30 seconds to 1 minute each side, until they’re lightly golden. Remove and put onto cooling racks.
- To finish the custard, whip 150ml double cream into soft peaks with an electric hand whisk. Remove the chilled custard from the fridge and stir. Fold the whipped cream into the custard.
- Puree the rhubarb filling in a food processor or with a hand blender. Load a basting syringe with the rhubarb puree. If you don’t have a syringe, load it into a large piping bag with a long nozzle like this. Load the custard cream into a large piping bag with a star-tipped nozzle or other nozzle of your choice. Fill each heart doughnut with rhubarb puree, by inserting the syringe into the cleft of the heart, then roll each doughnut in caster sugar. Pipe a spiral of custard cream on the top of the doughnut and top with candied rhubarb sprinkles. These are guaranteed to make someone very, very happy indeed!