After going to art school, “I just needed a trade,” Hollywood, 56, confesses. “The Eighties were difficult for everybody, everyone was on the dole. So you needed a trade to get some money – it was hard, being young. Getting a trade was always a bonus, whether you were a plumber, a bricky or whatever, and I ended up being a baker.
“It was a skill I had to learn, but I did pick it up fairly quickly” – and he knows how lucky he is to have fallen in love with the art of baking. “Any person who does a job they love – it’s not like work. Getting out of bed in the morning was difficult, but you get used to it.”
Hollywood wrote his latest cookbook, Bake, while in the Bake Off bubble in 2021 – and he couldn’t have chosen a better environment. “It gave me the drive, because it was all on tap – some of the things I was eating at the time, I was thinking I could better that, or do something like that.”
“I do relax when I’m baking, when I’ve got a lump of dough in my hand, or if I’ve got a cake in the oven, I’ll watch it rise,” says Hollywood. “I relax, because my mind is off anything else. I’m just concentrating on what I’m doing".
Ultimate sausage roll recipe
For the rough puff pastry:
225g plain flour, plus extra to dust
½tsp fine salt
200g cold unsalted butter, diced
Juice of ½ lemon
180–200ml cold water
For the filling:
1 small onion, finely diced
400g sausage meat (or your favourite sausages, skinned)
125g Stilton, crumbled
1tbsp thyme leaves
A pinch of white pepper
2 egg yolks, beaten, to glaze
2tsp nigella seeds
2tsp sesame seeds
1. To make the pastry, put the flour, salt and butter into a bowl. Mix the lemon juice with the water and add three-quarters of the liquid to the bowl. Gently stir until the mixture comes together to form a lumpy dough, adding the remaining liquid if required. Don’t knead or work too much – you want lumps of butter through the dough.
2. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and flatten to a rectangle. Using a rolling pin, roll into a narrow rectangle around 2.5cm thick. Fold one-third of the dough up on itself, then the opposite third down over that, as if folding a business letter. Wrap the pastry in cling-film and chill for at least 20 minutes.
3. Unwrap the pastry and repeat, rolling the pastry at 90° to the original roll, to a rectangle 40cm x 15cm, then folding as before. Wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Repeat the process twice more, chilling the dough for at least 20 minutes between folds.
4. Heat your oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
5. For the filling, heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for seven to 10 minutes until softened and just turning golden brown. Leave to cool.
6. In a bowl, mix the sausage meat with the cooled onion, crumbled Stilton, thyme and white pepper. With floured hands, roll the filling into a 20cm-long sausage and wrap tightly in cling-film. Chill for 30 minutes.
7. Roll out the pastry to a rectangle, 30cm x 20cm, and trim the edges to neaten. Place on the baking tray and chill for 20 minutes. Unwrap the sausage and lay it along the pastry rectangle, 6cm from one edge.
8. Brush the exposed pastry with beaten egg yolk, leaving the 6cm border clear. Fold the egg-washed pastry over the sausage filling to meet the border and encase the sausage filling. Press the edges firmly together. Press a floured fork firmly along the length of the sealed edge. (You may need to keep dipping the fork in flour to stop it sticking.)
9. Brush the sausage roll all over with more egg and score the pastry on the diagonal. Chill for 15 minutes. Heat your oven to 210°C/Fan 190°C/Gas 6½. Brush the pastry again with egg, all over, then sprinkle with the nigella and sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp and the sausage meat is cooked through.
10. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with your favourite pickles and chutney.
Victoria sandwich recipe
4 large eggs (in their shells)
About 270g caster sugar
About 270g self-raising flour
About 135g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease the tins
About 135g soft margarine
125g raspberry jam (good-quality)
A little caster sugar, to sprinkle
1. Heat your oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper. Weigh the eggs first (in their shells), then weigh the same quantity of sugar and flour. For the butter and the margarine, you need half the weight of the eggs.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, margarine and sugar together using an electric whisk until pale in colour and light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.
3. Beat the eggs together in a jug, then gradually add to the mixture, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again. Sift the flour over the surface of the mixture and gently fold in, using a large metal spoon.
4. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins. To ensure the cakes are exactly the same size you can weigh the cake mixture into each tin. Gently smooth the surface with the back of the spoon to level it.
5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes until risen, golden brown and the cakes spring back in the centre when lightly touched with a fingertip. They should be slightly shrunken away from the edges of the tin. Leave the cakes in the tins for five minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Leave to cool completely.
6. When cold, sandwich the cakes together with the raspberry jam and sprinkle the top with a little caster sugar.
For the choux pastry:
60g plain flour
60g strong white bread flour
3 large eggs
Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
For the lemon curd filling:
Finely grated zest and juice of 4 lemons
190g caster sugar
100g butter, at room temperature, in pieces
3 medium eggs
1 extra egg yolk
100ml double cream, whipped
For the icing:
100g icing sugar, sifted
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
About 25ml water
1. First, make the lemon curd filling. Put the lemon zest and juice, sugar and butter into a heavy-based pan over a low heat and stir until the butter is fully melted then take off the heat. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and extra yolk then whisk into the lemon mixture. Place the pan back over a low heat and stir well for 10–15 minutes until thickened. Pass the lemon curd through a sieve into a clean bowl and allow to cool, before folding in the whipped cream.
2. To make the choux pastry, put the water and butter into a medium pan over a medium heat to melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, turn up the heat and bring to the boil, then take off the heat. Immediately add both flours and beat well to incorporate into the liquid. Continue to beat until the mixture forms a ball that pulls away from the side of the pan. Leave to cool slightly, for five minutes.
3. Transfer the mixture to an electric mixer fitted with the paddle beater. With the mixer on a low speed, slowly add the beaten eggs. Once all the egg has been incorporated, increase the speed to medium and beat until glossy and thick. The mixture should just about hold on the end of a spoon and feel silky.
4. Cut eight 12cm squares of baking paper. Put the choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle and pipe a ring, 10cm in diameter, on each paper square. (Or, as a guide, you can draw a circle on the paper, then turn it over.)
5. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or other deep, heavy pan over a medium heat to 180°C (check with a thermometer). You will need to deep-fry your choux rings, two or three at a time: carefully lower into the oil, paper uppermost, then remove the paper with tongs. Deep-fry the rings for three to four minutes. Drain and place on a wire rack. Cut a small hole in the side of each ring to let steam out and leave to cool.
6. Once cooled, make the hole in the side of each ring larger so you can insert a small piping nozzle. Put the lemon curd filling into a piping bag fitted with a five millimetre plain nozzle and pipe into the choux rings to fill, until you meet resistance.
7. For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the lemon zest and enough water to make a glossy icing with a thick, pourable consistency. Brush over the top of each chouxnut to coat and allow to set before serving. Enjoy!
Bake: My Best Ever Recipes For The Classics by Paul Hollywood is published by Bloomsbury Publishing. Photography by Haarala Hamilton.