Appearing on The Great British Bake Off in 2014, Martha Collison has been the youngest contestant to date – making it to the quarter-finals while studying for her AS-levels! Her career has since taken off and she writes a blog on her website bakingmartha.co.uk, plus a column for Waitrose Weekend, while demonstrating her skills at events and festivals.
Her new book, Twist, will give you the inspiration and confidence to bake delicious creations that will delight and surprise friends and family. With its slant on ‘modern bakes’, the book features Martha's favourite recipes with unique variations, explaining how, once you've mastered the basics, the possibilities are endless.
Martha's favourite chocolate cake:
Chocolate cake absolutely has to be two things: dark and moist. To make sure it is sticky and dense, I use buttermilk. This might seem a curious ingredient to include in a chocolate cake, but it guarantees a moist and tender crumb.
If you can't find buttermilk, mix some milk with lemon juice as a substitute. The juice will make the milk curdle, but don't worry about that.
Adding coffee to chocolate cakes really brings out the flavour in the cocoa and you can barely taste it. But if you detest coffee, or are baking for children, just use boiling water.
Makes one 20cm sponge layer:
Butter, for greasing
125g plain flour
225g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
125ml buttermilk (cultured), or 110ml milk plus ½ tbsp lemon juice
60g butter, melted
125ml coffee (or water)
You will also need a 20cm tin
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4 then grease a 20cm tin and line it with baking parchment. Put the plain flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
- If you don’t have buttermilk, pour the milk into a large jug and add the lemon juice. Leave to stand for five minutes until thickened.
- Whisk the buttermilk/acidified milk into the melted butter and egg followed by the coffee or water.
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, whisking until a smooth batter has formed. It will be very runny, and if you are making more than one layer, the best way to divide it between the tins is to transfer the batter to a large jug. You can then use either the markings on the jug to measure the amount going into each tin, or put a tin on the scales and measure by weight. It is important to do this so that the layers are the same height and cook at the same rate.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
'My favourite choux pastry':
Makes enough for 12 eclairs or about 30 profiteroles:
75g butter, diced
1 tsp caster sugar
50g plain flour
50g strong bread flour
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment.
- Place the butter, sugar and 125ml of water into a small saucepan over a medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and when all the butter has melted, add the flours and vigorously beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until a smooth ball of dough forms.
- Keep the pan on the heat and stir rapidly for a further minute. This cooks the flour and helps dry out the dough so it absorbs more egg, which in turn helps the pastry to expand properly when baked. Tip the dough into a bowl and leave it to cool until it has stopped steaming. The dough needs to cool properly so that when you add the egg it doesn’t scramble.
- Beat the eggs together briefly in a small jug. Add the eggs to the cooled dough in three separate additions, beating well between each one with a wooden spoon or spatula. It can be quite difficult to work in, but keep mixing and it will turn into a thick paste. You might not need to add all of the egg – when you are adding the final amount you want to add just enough so the dough falls off the spoon and leaves a ‘v’ shape. The choux dough is now ready to use to create all kinds of masterpieces.
Martha's Lemon Curd:
Zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons
100g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs, plus 2 yolks
You will also need 2 sterilised jars and lids to store the curd
1. Sterilise the jars and lids you are using: wash them thoroughly with hot soapy water, rinse, then dry them completely in an oven preheated to 110°C/90°C fan.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the juice with all the other ingredients. Heat on low, whisking all the time, until the butter has completely melted.
3. Turn the heat up to medium and continue to whisk. After 5-6 minutes, the mixture will thicken enoough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, pour into the sterilised jars and screw on the lids. The curd will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Twist by Martha Collison (HarperCollins, £16.99) is out now.
Photograph: Tara Fisher