The Musette: gluten-free chocolate cupcakes

My beloved expressed a desire for some chocolate cake and I decided to make a gluten and dairy-free version with some cooked basmati rice that I had in the fridge, using the same-weight method that one uses for pound cakes. I recall reading somewhere that you could substitute moist, cooked rice for butter.

Please note it makes a very liquid batter which you pour into the baking tin(s). This is what you need for cakes made with cocoa rather than melted chocolate otherwise they tend to be too dry. I speak from experience, bitter experience!  My beloved judged the cake(s) a success and this recipe will make a great addition to my arsenal of cyclist-friendly cakes.

Ingredients (makes 8 – 10 muffin-sized cakes or one loaf tin)

  • 250g (1 cup) cooked brown basmati rice, still nice and moist
  • 250g (1 cup) raw cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 6 medium-sized organic eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g (2 cups) ground almonds
  • 50g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
  • 2tsp powered espresso coffee
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Chocolate ganache

  • 100g (4 oz) dark (bitter-sweet) chocolate 70% cocoa
  • 100ml (7 tbsp) double cream or plant-based cream to keep it dairy free


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one measuring 18cm x 23cm x  5cm (6” x 9” x 2″) – they’re great for storing the cakes in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. In addition, I find it’s an easy size and shape to slice into fingers for serving. The French prefer to have a small taste of everything on offer! But, as these were for home consumption, I made muffin-sized cup cakes.

3. Combine and mix all the dry ingredients: ground almonds, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and coffee powder.

4. Combine and mix all the wet ingredients: eggs, vanilla extract and maple syrup.

5. Put the rice and sugar into the food processor and process until totally smooth.

6. Add all the wet and dry ingredients and process again until everything is incorporated and the batter smooth. Remember, this cake has no gluten, so it won’t get tough.

7. Pour batter into cake tin or cupcake/muffin papers (3/4 full) and bake for 40-45 minutes for cupcakes/ 60 minutes for cake until a skewer or tooth pick comes out clean. Leave the cake(s) to cool.

8. Heat the cream in a small saucepan or a jug in the microwave until warm but not boiling. Take off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts. Once the cakes have cooled, spread the ganache over them and leave it to harden slightly – if you can wait that long – before eating.

9. These can be stored for a couple of days in an airtight container but they rarely last that long…………They’ll happily keep in the freezer for a couple of months without the ganache.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake(s) in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. You can use any type of rice (excl. wild rice), just so long as it’s still moist. If not, increase the amount of maple syrup, or equivalent.

4. For an even richer treat, spread a layer of salted caramel on the cake(s) before the ganache! This tends to work better on one large cake rather than the cupcakes.

The Musette: sinfully-rich brownies

The richer a brownie is, the better it tastes. Most people would far rather have a fat finger of something truly decadent than a large square of what is often just a squidgy chocolate cake studded with nuts.

Over the years I’ve made all sorts of variations with cheesecake, peanut butter, blondies – you name it and I’ve probably tried it. But this is one of my friends’ all-time favourite brownie recipes: dark, rich, fudge-like. It’s not for the faint-hearted! I typically serve them as part of an afternoon tea or as a tempting sweet mouthful to conclude a drinks party or as an after-dinner petit four.

A twist on the traditional (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 32 fat fingers)

  • 115g (1 stick) salted butter
  • 340g (12oz) 70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 145g (5oz) mascarpone
  • 200g (1⅓ cup) caster (super-fine) sugar
  • 3 organic eggs, weighing approx 45g (1⅔oz) without shell
  • 2 organic egg yolks
  • 120g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso coffee powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3 (325°F/300°F fan).

2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one measuring 18cm x 23cm x  5cm (6” x 9” x 2″) – they’re great for storing the brownies in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove them. In addition, I find it’s an easy size and shape to slice into fingers for serving. This mixture fills two cake tins.

3. Melt together the chocolate and butter either in the microwave on a medium setting or in a glass bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water (bain-marie).

4. Put the mascarpone in a mixing bowl and whisk to lighten, then add the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Next combine the sugar and then the egg yolks, the whole eggs and the vanilla extract.

5. Now lightly fold in the sifted flour and coffee with a spatula.

6. Pour the mixture into the two baking tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. The top of the cake should be crinkly and a skewer inserted in the centre should have some mixture clinging to it.

7. Let the brownies cool in the tins and then refrigerate to firm up before cutting. Because of the fat content, I keep the brownies in the fridge for a week  – providing they’re well hidden – equally, they’ll happily sit in the freezer for a month or two.

Fudgey, squidgy, chocolate - what's not to love? (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the brownies in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you don’t like your brownies to be this dark, substitute a chocolate with a lower percentage of chocolate.

4. I have made them with walnuts but I think they’re better without. These brownies are so rich that they need no further adornment.

The Musette: chocolate cake

A bit like little black dresses, a girl can never have too many recipes for chocolate cake in her armoury. I recently read about an Italian chocolate cake made with a particular red wine and decided I just had to recreate it, albeit with a twist. Mine was made with Rioja so I suppose that would make it Spanish!

I often find chocolate cakes that use cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate can be a bit dry but this time I reckoned the wine would counter the issue – and I was correct in my assumption. This is a lovely moist cake that, at a pinch, could be served warm as a dessert with either ice cream, creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Red wine and chocolate - what's not to like? (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 96 fingers)

  • 300g (2 cups) sugar (use any type)
  • 200g (1⅔ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 75g (¾ cup) cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 large organic eggs beaten, approx 45g each (1⅔oz) without their shells
  • 250ml (1 cup) buttermilk  or milk with a tsp of vinegar or lemon juice
  • 250ml (1 cup) dry red wine
  • 125ml (½ cup) light-flavoured olive (vegetable) oil


1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Grease a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil loaf tin 13cm x 23cm x 7cm (5” x 9” x 3”). They’re easier for storing the cakes in the freezer, which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. This amount fills three cake tins.

3. Sift and combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), coffee and salt into a bowl, add the sugar and stir with a fork to combine well.

4. In another bowl, mix the beaten egg with olive oil, wine, buttermilk and vanilla extract.

5. Add wet ingredients to dry, fold gently with a spatula to combine, ensuring there are no remaining pockets of flour. The mixture will be quite runny.

6. Pour the mixture into the three baking pans, put them into the middle of the oven on a baking tray and cook for 30-35 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on the dimensions of your baking tins and your oven, so check regularly. The cakes are ready when a toothpick inserted into their centre comes out clean.

7. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and eating, or freezing for no longer than two months. The cakes will keep for a week in an airtight container providing I hide them from my husband.

A deliciously moist cake (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cakes in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cakes are browning at the edges, cover them with an aluminium foil tent.

4. You can substitute the olive oil for another mild or unflavoured vegetable oil.

5. I don’t think the type of wine matters too much, just so long as it’s both red and dry.

6. I cut each cake into 32 fingers – in total 96 finger sized portions to feed a lot of cyclists!

The Musette: spiced apple bread & butter pudding

My beloved believes every meal should end with something sweet. I try to oblige, often crafting puddings out of odds and ends. One of my regular standbys is that Victorian favourite, Bread & Butter Pudding. I’ll generally use brioche or panettone that is past its best. You cannot make a decent bread and butter pudding with fresh bread.

It’s not a quick dessert as the stale bread has to be fully immersed in the rich custard before it’s baked otherwise it’s not unctuous enough. I like to heat the milk and any flavourings beforehand, leaving them to infuse the milk (or cream) with their heady perfume before pouring it over the beaten eggs and sugar.

At this stage, I’ll often add some dried fruit, such as raisins soaked in rum, if I’m using a plain brioche. Or, as in this case, some chopped apple and raisins gently poached this time in a mixture of rum, cinnamon and honey.

However, I always bake the pudding in a bain marie to ensure  a smoother texured custard, plus it keeps the temperature more uniform and gives a softer, silkier set to the finished dish.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 50g (1/3 cup) raisins or sultanas
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • 400ml (1 2/3 cups) whole milk, single cream or plant-based milk
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 crushed cardamon pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 6 fat slices of stale brioche, fruit bread or panettone, cut into small chunks
  • 3 large organic eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp raw cane sugar or honey
  • 2 medium sized eating apples
  • 1 tbsp raw cane sugar
  • nutmeg to grate


1. If you’re using panettone or fruit bread, you can skip this step if you like. Put the dried fruit into a small cup, pour over the rum, cover tightly and leave to soak overnight.

2. Peel, core, slice and chop the apple and cook with the raw sugar/honey, adding the rehydrated dried fruit and any of the remaining rum, plus the powdered cinnamon. Cook until still al dente.

3. When you’re ready to make the pudding, put the milk into a small pan with the spices (except ground cinnamon). Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat, and allow to cool and infuse.

4. Meanwhile, chop up your bread of choice. Beat the eggs together until well mixed, and then remove the spices from the milk and discard before beating it into the egg mixture. (Usually, you’d beat the eggs and sugar together but I’ve not done this as there’s enough sweetness with the honey cooked apples). Put the chopped bread and fruit into the eggy mixture and leave to soak at least 20 minutes, ideally a couple of hours.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan). Pour the bread mixture into a 1 litre (4-cup) baking dish, scatter with 1 tbsp raw cane sugar and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top.

6. Place the baking dish in a roasting tin and and fill halfway with hot water to make a bain marie. Cook for 35 – 45 minutes until golden brown on top but the custard should still have a slight wobble. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving as is or with cream.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Conventionally, the bread in bread & butter pudding is sliced and buttered. By using a bread which includes butter, I eliminate this step. Plus cubing the bread makes it easier to arrange in the baking dish, but that’s just my preference.

2. Typically, I’ll make bread & butter pudding with an enriched fruit bread so there’s no need to add butter or further fruit.

3. You can, of course, make a more traditional bread & butter pudding flavoured with the seeds from a vanilla pod.

4. I’ve also made the pudding with apricot jam filled brioche, substituting dried apricots for the sultanas.

5. You can also make a decious dessert with left over pain au chocolat (or croissants), even melting some dark chocolate into the custard before baking.

6. The finished dessert is not overly sweet, you may need to add more sweetner of choice for your taste.


The Musette: kaiserschmarr’n with rhubarb

A kaiserschmarr’n is a rich, thick Austrian pancake that is traditionally served for dessert. We’ve typically eaten it after a hard day’s cross country skiing. However, I also think it makes a fabulous and quick brunch dish. It is thick, eggy and torn to bits during the cooking process, which is great for those of us who are not adept at flipping pancakes – yes, that’s me! It easily doubles up if you’re cooking for a crowd. It may look a bit messy, but it tastes fabulous! It’s usually served with a fruit compote and I just happened to have some home-made rhubarb compote hanging around in the fridge.

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry cyclists or cross-country skiers)

  • 60g (1/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 4 large organic eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 240ml (1 cup) whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp organic lemon zest
  • 60g (1/2 cup) plain (all-purpose flour)
  • Icing (powdered) sugar to serve


1. In one bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, milk, vanilla, salt and lemon zest until fully combined. Whisk in the flour a bit at a time, whisking out any lumps.

2. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture. I find it easiest to mix in 1/4 of the batter first and then the rest, taking care not to deflate the batter.

3. Then pour the batter into a warm non-stick pan (medium-heat) and cook as if you were cooking scrambled eggs turning the batter over gently to ensure all of it is cooked, around 10-15 minutes. Do not allow the batter to colour.

4. Serve warm, topped with powdered sugar and with the compote on the side – enjoy!


Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Traditionally, rum-soaked raisins are added to the batter and the kaiserschmarr’n is served with either an apple or plum compote.

2. You can also incorporate the fruit in the kaiserschmarr’n by gently cooking it in the pan first, adding flavourings of choice, before pouring in the batter.

3. For example, I cook apples in a little butter and honey with either vanilla or cinnamon while I cook the plums with mixed spice. The possibilities are endless!

4. If, heaven forbid, you’ve made too much, you can easily reheat it on another day.

The Musette: Tarta de Santiago

We used to host BBQs at the cycling club to thank our many volunteers and their families for their ongoing support as without their assistance we wouldn’t be able to hold our various events. I like to prepare from scratch the pre-BBQ nibbles, accompanying salads and all-important desserts, leaving M le President to handle the grill.

Of course, I also liked proving to the French that Brits can cook and I enjoy the challenge of mass catering. It’s as easy to cater for 100 as it is for 10, you just need to spend a bit more time on planning and preparation.

In these instances my go-to cookery book is one by Ferran Adria, the chef of the former legendary el Bulli restaurant. You can however put your chemistry sets away as this book The Family Meal contains the recipes he used to cook for his staff in the restaurant. They’re no less delicious and each recipe gives the quantities for generally 12, 20 and 75 portions. As I’ve found to my cost, particularly with baking, it’s not merely a question of doubling up a recipe however many times when you’re catering for large numbers.

The first time I made the cake, I didn’t appreciate its significance. Although it’s made all over Northern Spain, it hails from 16th century Santiago de Compostela, the city where Saint James’ body lies, and to where many make a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago (the way of St James). Typically, the cake will have the cross of St James stenciled on its top.

Ingredients (serves 24)

  • 150g (1½ cups) whole blanched almonds, toasted
  • 4 large organic eggs, approx 45g each (1⅔oz) without their shells
  • 150g (1cup) golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp freshly grated organic lemon zest
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Icing (confectioners’) sugar for dusting the top


1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Generously grease and flour a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil baking tin 18cm x 23cm x  5cm (6” x 9” x 2″). They’re easier for storing the cakes in the freezer, which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it simpler to remove the cake. This amount fills two tins to the required depth.

3. Finely grind the toasted and cooled almonds in a food processor.

4. With an electric mixer – or a strong arm –  beat the eggs with the sugar for around five minutes until thick, foamy and the whisk leaves ribbons in the batter. You’re aiming to get as much air as possible into the mixture.

5. Add the cinnamon and zest to the ground almonds, mixing well to combine.

6. Carefully fold the almonds into the egg mixture with a spatula so as to retain as much air as possible.

7. Pour the batter into the baking trays to a depth of around 1.5cm (about ½”) and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, or until evenly risen, golden and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.

8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins before turning out. Take care as it’s quite a fragile cake.

9. Just before serving, use a small fine sieve to generously dust the top of the cake with icing (confectioners’) sugar.

10. Allegedly, the cake will keep in a tin for four days but, honestly, it’s so scrummy it’s always eaten the day it’s cooked.

11. It should also keep well in the freezer for a month or so but omit the icing sugar. Dust only when fully defrosted.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cakes in the oven, put the timer on for 3-5 minutes less than the cakes should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cake is browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover it with an aluminium-foil tent.

4. If you don’t like cinnamon, substitute with 1 tsp of freshly grated orange zest.

5. The first time I made this cake, I served it with strawberries in balsamic caramel, but it would go equally well with other fresh fruit in season.

6. The cake would be gluten-free except that the baking tins are both greased and floured. Omit the flour and instead fully line the tins with greaseproof (parchment) paper for a truly gluten-free version.

The Musette: apple and almond cake

I’m generally not fond of cake as dessert. Instead mid-morning coffee and cake or afternoon tea and cake get my vote. However, there are a couple of exceptions: brownies, and cake with fruit. I had some organic apples my beloved wasn’t overly keen on, plus marzipan left over from the wedding cake, so I decided to make my beloved a dessert cake, to be eaten warm with creme anglaise or whipped cream, for Sunday lunch.

This cake brings back memories of week-ends in Hamburg. Saturday afternoons, we’d go round to our friend’s mother for Kaffee und Küchen, she was an absolute whiz in the baking department. None of us could ever say no to another piece of one of her cakes. She used to make an Apple Cake very similar to this one and she told me that the secret behind the cake’s caramel flavour and moistness was marzipan.

My beloved said the cake reminded him of the ones Heike’s mother used to make. So that was a result!

The advantage of such a cake is that it tends to improve with keeping and will therefore provide sustenance at afore-mentioned mid-morning and mid-afternoon for a couple of days when my beloved’s energy may be flagging. Providing we don’t have any visitors!

Ingredients (10 portions)

  • 800g (1 3/4lbs) tart eating apples
  • 1 organic lemon, juice and zest
  • 250g (9oz) almond paste/marzipan
  • 150g (3/4 cup) raw sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200g (14 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 5 medium-sized organic eggs, at room temperature
  • 100g (1/2 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 50g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 80g (9 tbsp) cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 2 tsp baking powder


1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4/(350°F).

2. Grease the sides and base of a 24cm round cake tin with butter, then put a disc of greaseproof (parchment) paper on the bottom.

3. Divide the lemon juice into two separate bowls. Peel and core the apples. Slice two and toss them in one bowl of lemon juice. Dice the other apples into small cubes and toss in the other bowl of lemon juice.

4. Using a grater with large holes, grate the almond paste into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and salt and mix until the almond paste is finely broken up.

5. Add the melted (and cooled) butter and lemon zest, continue mixing until smooth. It should look like liquid toffee!

6. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

7. Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, cornstarch and baking powder in a small bowl. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the almond batter mixture by hand, then add the diced apples, along with any lemon juice in the bowl.

8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place the sliced apples in concentric circles on top of the batter, pressing them in very lightly. (I omitted to take a photo of the cake before t went into the oven. My apples slices were sliced too thinly, so they sank!)

9. Bake the cake until the top is a rich nutty brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

10. Take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Let the cake cool before running a knife around the inside of the cake pan to release the cake, and remove the sides of the cake pan.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than it should take to cook and then check regularly.

2. Don’t worry, the cake is meant to be a luscious dark brown.

3. The cake will keep for a couple of days in a cake tin but please don’t freeze it, the apple will go soggy!

4. Make sure the sliced apple isn’t sliced too thinly otherwise (like mine) it will sink into the cake rather than remaining on top!

5. You can serve the cake warm with icecream. Vanilla, cinnamon or ginger would all be good. Or, of course, serve it with creme anglaise, freshly whipped cream, creme fraiche or some natural yoghurt. It’s also delicious cold.

The Musette: Coques – Andorran flat cakes

The Vuelta a Espana is dipping its toe into Andorra, home to many a professional cyclist on account of its favourable tax regime. I understand Andorran cooking is similar to Catalan but with influences from both France and, surprisingly, Italy.

I looked around for a traditional Andorran recipe and found coques, a flat cake made from a thick pancake-type mixture and stale bread. I’m not sure whether it’s a household staple but it sounds like the type of recipe where everyone probably has their own version. So, in the interests of research, I though I’d give it a go. I have to be honest, the first batch was a complete disaster so I played around with the recipe and my second attempt was delicious.

Revised list of ingredients for Coques (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (serves eight as a dessert)

  • 150g (2 cups) fresh white bread cut into small cubes (I used brioche)
  • 120g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 150ml (⅔ cup) almond milk
  • 4 large preferably organic eggs, each weighing approx. 45g (1⅔oz) without the shell
  • 200g (1⅔ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 100g (1 cup) freshly ground almonds
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5 (375°F/350°F fan) and line two baking trays with greaseproof (parchment) paper.

2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the sugar until light and fluffy, then fold in the sifted flour, ground almonds, lemon zest and almond milk in batches, starting and ending with the flour and almonds. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for an hour in the fridge.

3. Once the batter has rested, gently incorporate the bread cubes. Divide the mixture roughly into four and dollop onto the tins and spread to make two similarly-sized rectangles on both sheets. I trace two rectangles on the paper and then turn them over – to prevent getting pencil on the baked coques –  with the outlines visible from the reverse side.

4. Place them in the oven and bake until nicely golden brown and cooked through (about 20 minutes).

6. Cut the coques into triangles and serve warm, dusted with a little icing (confectioners’) sugar.

Sheree's Coques (image; Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the coques in the oven, put the timer on for 3-5  minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the coques are browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover them with an aluminium foil tent.

4. In devising my version, I reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe by a third and substituted equal quantities of vegetable oil and hot water with almond milk. I also substituted one-third of the flour with ground almonds and added the lemon zest. So, not too much in common with the original recipe!

5. I’ve also made this recipe into one large coque, covered with really thin slices  – use a mandolin and mind your fingers – of eating apples with a few pieces of unsalted butter and soft brown sugar scattered on the top. Then, when it’s cooked, I glazed it with thinned down apricot jam to give a nice shiny finish.

6. Otherwise, I suggest serving them with some seasonal fresh fruit, such as apricots or peaches which will go well with the almond flavour in the coques.

The Musette: Quesada Asturiana – Asturian cheesecake

As the Vuelta a Espana finishes its second week, we’re in Asturias for a second day which features the climb to Lagos de Covadonga, arguably the most important climb in the modern history of the Vuelta. The road that leads to the lakes is 12.6 kms long at an average gradient of 7.3%, including the most demanding section at La Huesera, 7 kms from the top of the climb, with an average gradient of 15% for 800 meters.

Asturias produces many wonderful cheeses and this traditional baked cheesecake recipe is made with a local fresh goat’s cheese called requeson, but any soft fresh goat’s cheese would work just as well.

Goat's cheese is the star of the show (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (serves 12)

  • 450g (1lb) requeson (or substitute any soft goat’s cheese)
  • 100g (¾ cup) caster sugar
  • 55g (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 120g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 large organic egg, approx. 45g (1⅔oz), without shell
  • 1 large organic egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Sifted icing (powdered) sugar and cinnamon for decoration


1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/320°F fan).

2. Grease the bottom and sides of a 24cm (9½”) glass or ceramic baking dish.

3. In a large bowl, combine the chosen cheese and butter. In another, beat together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, preferably with an electric mixer. Then gently add egg and sugar mixture to butter and cheese.

4. Add lemon zest, cinnamon and brandy (optional) and continue to gently fold, then gradually add in the sifted flour until the batter starts to thicken.

5. Pour the batter into the dish, place in the oven and bake for approx. 30 minutes, or until the quesada turns pale golden colour, the centre doesn’t wobble and it’s just starting to come away from the sides of the dish.

6. Remove and allow to cool before serving. Decorate with a dusting of icing (confectioners’) sugar and cinnamon and serve with fruit compote.

Good enough for Samu! (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cheesecake in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than the cake should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cake is browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover it with an aluminium foil tent.

4. A lot of the recipes I saw for this cheesecake suggested substituting ricotta but it’s a much sweeter cheese, doesn’t have quite the same tang, and is made from cow’s not goat’s milk. So I used a local soft French goat’s cheese which has the consistency of creme fraiche.

5. I do not have an overly sweet tooth so I reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe by a third and it was just right, particularly given that it’s served with a dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon.

6. If you’re not a fan of cinnamon, substitute 1 tsp of freshly grated orange zest and dust with just icing sugar.

7. The texture is not dissimilar to that of a traditional New York baked cheesecake, so I felt it needed to be served with some seasonal fruit compote. This time I’ve used white peaches.

8. The original recipe calls for brandy but it’s not a flavour I favour, particularly when the fruit compote has been cooked in alcohol. So I left it out.

9. You may have noticed that my sugar jar has cinnamon sticks in it. I have a number of flavoured sugars in my cupboard. Typically, vanilla – repository for all those used vanilla pods – cinnamon, rosemary and lavender. Great for adding a little je ne sais quoi to baked goodies.

10. Like me you can also make the quesada in individual dishes or ramekins but don’t forget to reduce the cooking time accordingly. These were made in crème brulée dishes and they took 17 minutes to cook.

The Musette: Almond Macaroons

I’m always on the look-out for recipes which use up left-over egg whites. I typically freeze these in batches of four until I have need of them for financieres, meringues, pavlovas, brutti ma buono or, in this case, macaroons. Now these are not the fancy flavoured macarons  – notice the different spelling – piped onto baking trays and filled with delicious buttercream and jam. No, these are a much more rustic affair and are spooned, or scooped, rather than piped into muffin trays.

Ingredients (makes 20 or so)

  • 150g egg whites
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 100g flaked or chopped whole almonds


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/325°F fan). Beat together the egg whites, ground almonds and sugar until thick and smooth. The batter will be quite runny. Don’t worry, this is what makes them gloriously and satisfyingly chewy.

2. Rest the batter in the fridge for at least half an hour.

3. Scoop (I use a range of different sized ice cream scoops) or  plop a tablespoon of the batter into each non-stick muffin hole. Sprinkle the top of each macaroon with chopped or flaked almonds.

4. The small ones bake in around 20 minutes, or until lightly golden, and set on top. The larger ones need 30 minutes.

5. Cool completely  – if you can wait that long – before serving with tea or coffee.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. The almonds can be replaced with ground hazelnuts, or ground pistachios. In which case, instead of topping with flaked almonds, top with chopped hazelnuts or pistachios.

2. For a lemon flavour, add a drop of lemon essence and the zest of a lemon. Top with glace lemon peel.

3. I like that the centre of these resembles and tastes like marzipan but you could, insert a dark chocolate chip into a hazelnut macaroon or a fresh raspberry into a pistachio one. or maybe even a cherry. The possibilities are endless.

4. I’ll often serve these warm with some fruit compote for a dessert.