Thursday, 20 August 2015

GBBO 2015 Bakealong: Week 3: Bread Week

So, Bread Week...

I believe I have expressed my opinions on Bread Week before, so perhaps I won't go into it too much here, but suffice to say, I think there have been problems with realistic timings in the past.
Trying, for example, to make brioche or ciabatta in the time allotted is clearly ridiculous - either they have WAY more time than it looks like on television, or they are just tasting 12 (11?) inedibly undercooked loaves.
In any case, enough of that, and I shall move on to say that I think the signature bake thus week was, under the circumstances, an extremely sensible choice - lovely soda bread - no silly proving time, no fuss over whether of not it is "better" to knead things by hand etc etc...

Personally, I am extremely fond of soda bread - a perfect compromise between breadiness and cakiness, as well as being super swift and easy to make (honestly, SO quick - I easily made it AND my dinner whilst actually watching the episode).

Now, I have a large (some might say excessive) number of books about how to make bread, many of them written by v wise people with much science, cleverness and lovely pictures.
However, the book that I use the most and the one containing the basis of the soda bread recipe I used today is this - the Christian Aid Book of Bread. It has no pictures and no famous master bakers, but I love it dearly, use it extremely frequently, and thoroughly recommend it to all of you.

I didn't have any proper buttermilk, so I chucked in a bit of yogurt and some slightly Heath Robinsonesque "buttermilk" made of milk and vinegar.
I also (rather uncharacteristically) signatured up my bread with pumpkin seeds, as a) they are delicious and b) I happened to find some in a drawer.

And here we go - pumpkin seed soda bread. Good eaten warm slathered with butter!

I vaguely heard someone mention Desserts in a next episode type context, as I was taking my loaf out of the oven, which is an extremely cheering prospect.
I'm on holiday next week, though, so my dessert making facilities may be somewhat limited. I guess we'll see what happens...

Sunday, 16 August 2015

GBBO 2015 Bakealong: Week 2

I missed the second episode of GBBO on Wednesday evening, due to an overdue appointment with some nice people and a great big pizza.
I was a little worried that I might never see it, due to the tragic broadband drought that was going on at my flat, but happily BT came up with the goods and I managed to catch up last night.

Biscuit week seems a bit unpopular on the Social Meejas - I'm not really sure why - I love a nice biscuit.
I'm a little less certain about boxes/structures made of biscuits, tbh, but I can only assume that some people love them (and consider them a worthwhile endeavour).

Biscotti, I am happy with - they can appear a slightly odd beast, I think, until (rather like last week's cake, in fact) you realise that they are much improved by an accompanying glass of something (vin santo if you can find a nice one - I might just reuse the Madeira) to dip them in!

My recipe was a slightly bastardised version of the one from "500 Cookies", a slightly eccentric but very heavily used book that I have had for a fair chunk of forever.

I was a bit unsure about the wisdom of putting dried fruit in biscotti, what with the twice cooking and everything, but it seems to be A Thing, so I went for sour cherry and almond, with a wee bit of orange zest and extract.

They were super easy and came out beautifully, if a touch on the large side - I've made quite a few biscotti in my time, and never quite got the hang of making the initial "loaves" a sensible size.

I confess that I don't really understand the obsession on GBBO with making things a uniform size - part of the joy of things like these biscotti is that they are cut from a loaf, which, by its very nature, is likely to taper at the extremeties... What do they expect you to do with the ends (the Best Bits!)? Throw them away?
Anyway - mine are large and unwieldy, in no way the same size as each other and (as far as I can tell) just tooth-breaking enough and, in my opinion, that is exactly how they should be.

Next week is, apparently, Bread Week - officially the stupidest week to try to squash into two short days of baking... I clearly wasn't really paying attention as I have no clue what the signature bake is going to be - I guess it will be a nice surprise when I find out!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

GBBO 2015 Bakealong: Week 1

It can hardly have escaped your attention that the Great British Bake Off is back on our screens (though actually, I almost missed it yesterday, so perhaps that's not *entirely* true) and it began in style last night with Cake Week.

In my excitement, I decided that a new year of Bakealongs would be appropriate, so I have dredged up the password to this blog from the deep recesses of my mind to bring it to you - don't all thank me at once!

For variety (and because I thought the technical challenges were getting a bit, well, desperate last year), I have opted to bake along with the signature bakes this time (though happily, because I am not being judged, I do not have to add any of my own "twists") so here we go - Madeira cake...

And just for added excitement (and because I didn't have any), I also candied some lemon peel.

I have no idea where this recipe comes from - it's just one I know (I'm pretty sure it's fairly standard) - so apologies if it's yours and I haven't credited you!

175g butter
175g caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
220g SR flour
50g ground almonds (for added niceness)
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
Optional candied peel to decorate.

I preheated my (fan) oven to about 160.

Although the recipes seem to say that you should just chuck everything in together and mix it, I can't quite bring myself to do that, so I creamed my butter, sugar and zest together first.

The I just chucked everything else in and beat it for a minute or so to make sure everything was nicely combined.

I greased and lined a 2lb loaf tin, chucked the mixture in it and baked for an hour.

If I had been super organised, I'd have taken it out half way and stuck my candied peel on top, but I wasn't and the candying (that must be the right word?) was still underway at that stage.

When I took it out of the oven, I glazed it with the syrup handily left over from my candied peel exploits and stuck a couple of bits on top.

And here it is!

It looks fairly convincing, I think, and it does indeed have the requisite crack in the top (I had no idea this was such a stringent requirement till watching the show last night - I just thought it was a thing that happened).

Madeira cake by its very nature tends to be a bit "boring", I think - which I guess is where the actual Madeira comes in (though I think that slices with jam and butter are also a valid option).
Shockingly, our wine cellar is a total Madeira desert at the moment, but I feel reasonably sure that can be addressed.

Now - anyone for some candied lemon peel?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Baking Along With GBBO: Weeks Eight and Nine: Povitica and Schichtorte

Again - a bit of a late catch up here - despite having been fairly conscientious about the baking, I haven't done a brilliant job of writing anything about it in any kind of timely way, but here goes...

Povitica - I put off making this one for AGES, as it looked so terrifying on television.
However, when it came down to it, it was actually pretty straightforward.

I made it on a bedsheet as instructed (though I'm pretty sure that Mr H didn't have fitted sheets in mind when he came up with this one), which was reasonably humorous, though I'm pretty sure I didn't manage to get the dough quite as crazily thin as recommended.
I did a bit of extra stretching, though, after I has rolled it up into a snake, which I fondly imagine might have made up for it a bit.

I didn't have enough walnuts for the recipe knocking around at home, so I just chucked in all the nuts I did have (a mix of lots of things, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and other things).
It was delicious - like a lovely nutella sandwich. I'll definitely do it again. It disappeared extremely quickly.

The schichtorte, on the other hand, was a completely different story.
First of all, the recipe requires ten eggs. TEN. Crazy.

It was pretty easy to mix, but then, as noted on television, grilling each of up to 20 layers was an extremely long and boring job.

It came out looking pretty and the apricot jam/glaze thing worked very well and gave a nice finish, but, honestly - what a lot of faff for something that is fundenentally just a normal sized cake or a single flavour.

I took it to the office and people ate it, because people will always eat cake. I don't think it tasted that great, though - the actual flavours were fine, but the whole thing, though attractive, was a little bit dense and boring (I think more the fault of the recipe than my execution, though I could be wrong - I don't really see how it could fail to be that way, with the gazillion layers and all).
I don't think I'd bother with this one in normal life (though I might nick the glaze for other things) - there are other things that look just as nice, taste better and take a fraction of the time to do.

Just one more technical challenge to go now (again, very late - maybe there might be a suitable moment at the weekend) - I wonder what my life will become when it's all over!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Baking Along With GBBO: Week Six and Seven: Prinsesstårta and Kouign Amann

I've been doing a bit more catching up this weekend - two quite fun technical challenges in the most recent episodes, I thought...

Week six brought us the Prinsesstårta (Swedish Princess Cake, as seen in Ikea and also, presumably, Sweden), a rather bizarre looking green monstrosity - sponge, jam and creamy stuff covered with green marzipan and a pink rose, said to have been invented in the 1930s for some actual Scandinavian princesses.

The GBBO recipe for this is (and clearly was on the actual programme too) completely bonkers, requiring that you not only make the cake and the cream and creme patissiere fillings, but also the jam and the marzipan. I'm pretty sure that in Real Life, I wouldn't bother with many of these things, but, for the sake of authenticity, I did as I was told this time.

I definitely wouldn't have wanted to do this one in the time - I did mine over two days - I made most of the bits and pieces on day one and then the final cream whippage, marzipan and assembly on day two.

Next time, I would definitely make my creme patissiere a bit thicker - it would be easier to deal with and would give thicker layers.

I *might* also consider making the green a bit less green for authenticity, but I quite like my leafy colour - those gel colours are just too awesome to waste on pastel shades!

Again, not great for taking to work, but I shall see what I can do, as I don't think it's really reasonable to expect poor husband to eat the whole thing.

The Breton Kouign Amann from episode seven, on the other hand are an entirely different prospect.
Nice and straightforward to make, the main problem they seemed to create on TV was just the fact that nobody had any idea what they were making!

I, obviously, having seen their efforts, didn't have the same problem, so breezed through the recipe (admittedly at a far more leisurely pace).

They seem a bit like making croissants - bread dough with layers of butter - rolled and folded in the manner of puff pastry, with a bit of caramelly added sugar.

These are MUCH more transportable, and I'll have to hide them from husband, as they are utterly delicious.

I will definitely make them again - sweet and flakey, they would be ideal for breakfast or elevenses.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Baking Along With GBBO: Weeks Four and Five: Tiramisu Cake and Wee Pies

Husband makes a fuss about having to watch the Bake Off with me - he would prefer to mainline Game of Thrones (it's as well that we have to ease off that sometimes, in fact. We're coming ominously near to running out of episodes).

However, he is more excited about the Tiramisu Cake from the Puddings episode than he has been about any foodstuff for a long time...

What with that and Ice Cream-gate, it was a pretty exciting episode all round.

Now, I can take or leave tiramisu, generally - I don't really like coffee and chocolatey puddings don't do that much for me, but any recipe which has the nerve to include THREE entire tubs of mascarpone has to be tried at least once in a lifetime, I reckon.

Turns out I don't have a square tin (hard to believe, I know), so mine is round.

Also, who can be faffed with making silly chocolate decorations? Honestly... *sigh*

Because of being on Champagne Holiday last week, I have a bit of catching up to do, so I have also shoehorned Pie Week into this post.

I love pie. I love making pie and I quite like eating it too.

I was hoping that the custard tarts would be the technical challenge of the week, as I am partial to a bit of tartage (as many people that have been here for force feeding dinner here can testify). However, it was clearly not to be, and pear mini pies were the order of the day.

When I saw these on TV, I thought that they were a bit lame, but now that I have made them myself, I am COMPLETELY in love with them - they are gorgeous. Simple and gorgeous.

Definitely one to make again and again (possibly with apples, which are a good deal yummier than pears in my humble opinion).

I'm going to make my family eat all these things at a barbecue this weekend, as the technical challenges are becoming increasingly impractical for transporting into work (BBC, please take note ;) ).

Tune in again for (equally, if not more, impractical) princess cake.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Baking Along With GBBO: Week Three: Ciabatta

I always think that "bread week" is a bit of a scam on GBBO and this season was no exception.

I mean, HOW long did they give them to knock out those ciabattas? The only recipes I've used have been ones that take literally days. Days.

I don't know what kind of trickery they use to make it work on TV, whether it's editing magic, secret advance preparation or just inedible over yeasting, but I'm not altogether sure I approve.

Interesting, Mr H's recipe, per the BBC website, which at least *looks* like the one used on the show, also purports to take at least six (likely way more) hours.

I usually use a recipe from my most utilised and bizarre bread book, The Christian Aid Book of Bread (which I thoroughly recommend, if you want a really clear easy book full of bread recipes), but instead, in the interests of Doing Things Properly, I used the one linked above for this.

Do to a slightly hectic schedule and a general lack of organisation, both proves of this loaf were a little (or a lot - these things are all relative, right?) longer than intended and the final stage stretch and fold was a little half hearted.

I also made it into one loaf instead of two, which meant that it was bigger and less flat than the recipe intended, but more practical from a household bread perspective.

It turned out ok - I think I probably could have cooked it for a teeny tiny bit longer and better folding would have made nicer bubbles.

I'm probably not going to ditch the Christian Aid recipe in favour of this - I like it better - it's a wetter dough and gives an airier, more ciabatta-like texture, but this one was better than I expected.

I still wouldn't want to do it in an hour, though, or whatever the silly TV time is.

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