Waste Not, Want Not: Egg whites into Meringues

This week’s recipe for Pasties De Nata, called for 7 egg yolks and while the custard that they were used for turned out to be something quite special (even for someone who is not a fan of custard), that left over a lot of egg whites that would have otherwise, disposed.

So instead of wasting all that potential, I put in a Google search: “what to do with leftover egg whites” and the most obvious answer popped up on screen – meringues. I don’t remember ever making meringues before. I’ve eaten my fair share, but never made them, so I thought why the hell not. I did a second Google search, found my recipe and got to work.

For the original recipe, click here.

Everything went (more or less) according to plan. The egg whites, as expected, took a very long time to form into the soft peaks that were needed and after that it was a simple case of adding the sugar, one tablespoon at a time and making sure they were thoroughly combined. The same with the icing sugar, except by folding instead of whisking.

Meringues shouldn’t be that difficult, but I made the crucial error that you should never do, especially when trying out a recipe for the first time.

I changed things.

I had a lot of egg whites and therefore a lot of meringue, so I thought why not divide the mixture up and add a bit of food colouring and flavouring into the mix. In principle, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But as you can see from the photo below, the first batch didn’t work out so well.

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The photo shows my attempt at the meringues with red food colouring and no flavouring, and I’m not sure whether there’s a kind way of describing how they turned out. They went straight into the bin. I did the same with orange extract and yellow food colouring. They went the same way.

However, the final batch (for which I just added some peppermint extract – from Mini Chocolate Roll week) turned out perfectly fine. The difference? I gave the mixture another quick whisk with the mixer to get it back to the soft peaks stage.

So in theory, all I needed to do to make the other two mixtures work, was to give them a final mix before putting them in the oven. When I was dividing up the mixture and adding the different food colourings, the mixture must have softened and become much looser than the soft peaks consistency that was needed.

It’s a small thing, but something I missed. But that’s the way to learn, isn’t it? From your mistakes? From trial and error? Not everyone gets something right the first time round. They try, they fail and they try again. There was a quote that came across once (I can’t remember who it was quoted from) but it read: “Good decisions come from experience; experience comes from bad decisions.” Now it may not be as black and white as that, and you’re probably wondering why this blog post about meringues has suddenly turned out to be so deep, but the point I am making is that I don’t consider myself to be a great baker. But I want to be and to be that, I’m not always going to get it right.

So for anyone out there who is worried about not getting it right, whether it’s about baking or anything else where this applies, just chalk everything up as experience. Good or bad, learn from it and move on, because let’s face it… life is too short to worry.

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Bake Off Challenge: Week 6 – Pastiés De Nata

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Not the first thing that you want to hear about a technical challenge and of course it’s something that Paul Hollywood would say. And to be fair, this was a really difficult, and time consuming challenge. Right up until they came out of the oven, I thought they were going to fail. I needed a miracle and somehow, I got one. The pastry perhaps didn’t puff up as much as it needed to, but the pastry held and the custard filling with the cinnamon flavouring was sublime.

But when Paul says it can go wrong from the very beginning, he wasn’t wrong.

NUMBER ONE: folding the actual pastry. Once again Hollywood’s recipes use a lot of words to describe something that’s actually quite simple. It’s almost as if he wants to catch you out. I had to put a search into YouTube just to see how to actually fold it and after that it was ten times easier.

NUMBER TWO: grating the frozen butter. Should be straightforward. It wasn’t. While grating it, the butter started to soften as it was worked between my fingers and against the grater. I don’t know how this affects the process, but maybe after grating the butter, it would be wise to pop it back in the freezer to harden back up, before actually applying it to the pastry.

NUMBER THREE: the swirl – the defining feature (apparently) of the Pastiés De Nata. It was a little bit of trial and error. After the pastry is rolled up (almost like a Swiss Roll) and cut into individual slices, the challenge was keeping that swirl while working it into the muffin tins. Not only could you potentially flatten the pastry too much to the point you lose the swirl, but as you can see from the photos below, once the shape was right, the layer of pastry looked terrifyingly thin and I was sceptical about them holding the custard once cooked.

Also bizarrely, you don’t have to butter/grease the muffin tin before putting in the pastry. I did for about half of them (just in case) but it didn’t make a blind bit of difference.

The custard was perhaps the easiest part but that’s not saying much. Stage one didn’t thicken up as much as the recipe wanted and when making the syrup element, my lack of thermometer meant that I was judging it off appearance and consistency. The syrup needed to be in a soft thread stage, which basically means when you pour a little into cold water, you can see the syrup form like a thin thread. That’s what I was going for anyway. It seemed to work.

After that it was a case of pour the custard into the pastry cases, cook and there you go. Like I say, the pastry didn’t puff up like the stock photo showed, but the cases held, the custard settled with little brown spots and they tasted fabulous.

Strangely enough, they are one I will do again. It’s not the hardest one (so far); the Fortune Cookies hold the top spot, but I feel like now I’ve done the Pastiés De Nata once, I can do it again, but this time better.

I also made Meringues this week, due to the amount of egg whites that had been left unused, which you can read about here.

So that’s Pastry Week out of the way. Here’s to Italian Week.

Bake Off Challenge: Week 5 – Molten Puddings

I have to start off with a confession this week. I didn’t use Peanut Butter as Paul Hollywood wanted. No one in my house liked it so we opted for something sweeter. And they taste just as good with Nutella in the centre, it not better. Just don’t put two “heaped” teaspoons of the stuff into your mix. One is quite enough.

But I loved making these this week. Not too difficult at all and it’s hard to argue with the taste. I even bought a set of Paul Hollywood pudding pots to make them and they worked a treat. The puddings quite literally dropped out of the pots when I turned them out onto plates.

There was only really one thing that went wrong with the puddings, and to be honest it was no biggy. When the puddings came out of the oven after the full 12 minutes, the centres had sunken ever so slightly so that when turned out into the plates, the chocolate centre would start to pool out.

There are two possible reasons for this. Either, I didn’t put enough of the sponge mixture on top of the Nutella centre, or there was something wrong with the consistency which meant it couldn’t cook and “solidify” like the rest of the pudding. But to be honest, I think it was the former.

The rest of the recipe was pretty straight forward and didn’t involve much of a challenge, and that’s not me trying to get ahead of myself. Once again, I had the full recipe to work with. They didn’t. Just make sure that you leave the melted chocolate and butter mixture to complete cool before mixing it with the whisked eggs and sugar.

There isn’t much else to say this time. It’s turned out to be a shorter entry than I anticipated. All I can say is, make them! I certainly will. I will at some point try one with a peanut butter filling, to appease the other side of my family who love the stuff but I’m looking to try more variations. Such as, putting the Nutella in first and the sponge mixture on top, so that when it’s turned out onto the plate, the melted chocolate oozes down the sides. And what about syrup puddings? Same principle but minus the chocolate.

Time to go recipe hunting.

If you know of any (particularly unusual ones, whatever that may be) pitch them at me. Once these challenges are over, I have a list of recipes that I’m ready to try out. The more the merrier. I need something else to blog about when GBBO isn’t on.

See you next week.

UPDATE: I did another one with the Nutella in first. Didn’t quite work out how I planned, but instead of a Molten Pudding, I have a Volcano Pudding. Sounds like a result to me.

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Bake Off Challenge: Week 4 – Stroopwaffels

When Stroopwaffels were announced as last week’s technical, and I realised what was needed to make them, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to write this week’s blog. I didn’t have a Waffle Maker and couldn’t justify spending £20 plus for something I’d potentially only make once (FUN FACT: They were £18 on Amazon the day Bake Off when on air. The next day, they’d gone up to £24. Rotters!). Yet, a few days later, I turned around and said f**k it and bought one with Next Day Delivery. And I’ve not looked back.

Because I will definetly be making these again! They’re a mess to make, but pretty easy and the finished result both looks and tastes fantastic! My sister loves Stroopwaffels so I fear there will be heavy demand in the future. Plus, I can now make Ice Cream cones – added bonus.

Onto the actual challenge. The basic dough is pretty straightforward, however I was a bit concerned by the last part. Prue’s recipe said to add the egg last, yet it failed to mention whether to beat the egg beforehand, or throw it in whole. I went for “beat the egg first and ask questions later” and while this didn’t seem to affect the consistency of my dough, it didn’t bring the dough together as initially described. Remembering some wise words from Bread Week, I had to add more flour in order to stop the dough from breaking apart all over my hands into one big, sticky mess. Eventually it did come together and all was well again, but I had to add a lot more flour in order to fix it.

I was also surprised of how easy it was to cut each waffle in half after putting them in the Press. After taking great care not to burn my fingers (I recommend using gloves) when it came to cutting them in two, the knife went through cleanly and, to my amazement, in a straight line. The top and bottom of each waffle was crisp enough to act as a barrier against the blade so it cut cleanly through the softer centre. So the hardest part of this challenge turned out to be easiest.

And the main aspect of this week – the caramel. I haven’t much experience with caramel and given the sticky situations that the contestants got into last week, I approached it with much trepidation. To be perfectly honest, I needn’t have worried. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for. I thought the caramel would boil over and thicken up, similar to what happens when you’re making jam, but it turns out, it was none of that. It thickened up slightly, but was still quite runny and easy to pour into the waffles. And boy, does it taste good!

Big thumbs up for this week! 12 Stroopwaffels, differing in colour, but all equal in taste. Mine aren’t as crisp as the store bought ones that we had in the cupboard, but the caramel didn’t taste grainy with undissolved sugar, each waffle (so far) bends rather than snaps and they look pretty darn good too.

Stay tuned for PUDDING WEEK

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Bake Off Challenge: Week 3 – Cottage Loaf

I’ve always enjoyed making bread. It’s hard work, a bit messy and requires a lot of praying but there’s something about a freshly baked loaf that makes it all worthwhile, no matter what it actually looks like. Last year’s Fougasse Bread (the herby one) was by far my favourite and most successful bake from the last run of challenges, so I was eager to get this one right, in both flavour and presentation. And to be honest, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out:

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The biggest challenge I have with making bread is the kneading. At first, it’s a nightmare to work. It’s sticky, it clings to your fingers, it makes such a mess and it feels like it’s never going to reach that smooth and silky texture they ask for. You’re afraid that if you use too much flour for your work surface to stop it sticking, that it’s going to end up being too dry. You’re afraid that if you keep kneading it, there’s such a thing as too much, to the point where the dough doesn’t come together as easily as it did before.

Remember when I said I love making bread. That’s still true.

Most of the time you’ve got to use your own judgement. A recipe can only tell you so much ,so in the event that your mixture isn’t what the recipe describes, you’ve got to use your brainpower. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. And it just so happens that when it comes to bread, I have the confidence to make that call.

My advice: only use extra flour when absolutely necessary. It might sound obvious but its simple and effective. If it’s sticking, use a bit more. Roll the dough in the dusting on both sides then work at it some more. Eventually you will start to feel it becoming a lot smoother and it’s at that stage where you put the flour away.

What I’ve understood more and more as I’ve done these challenges is the level of skill that the bakers must have to make it through week after week. Reading through the recipe, the level of detail it goes into; letting the bread prove two times, pouring water in a heated roasting tin to create steam in the oven, the technique for folding the dough underneath itself so that the bread will rise rather than expand (a note on that later).

We don’t see the recipes that the bakers have to work with but we know that it is stripped down and contains the bare minimum of instructions. There aren’t a lot of ingredients so the success or failure of these challenges are all on the technique. Considering that I use the full recipe and don’t restrict myself with a time limit, I still haven’t been able to produce on the same level that they so. This isn’t the perfectionist in me or the critic in me. It’s simply a greater understanding and even greater respect for those bakers in the tent.

I don’t even have Paul breathing down my neck.

Quick note with the folding technique; when it said roll the dough into a ball I thought that would be pretty straight forward. It’s not hard to shape your dough once its been worked enough, but the thing here is that it’s a free-standing loaf. It’s not supported by a tin, but if it falls, it falls. Paul’s technique is supposed to help the loaf rise in the oven so that the structure remains relatively intact. If you end up following the recipe, it’s a little long winded, so here are the basic essentials.

  1. Flatten and roll out so its a rough rectangular shape
  2. Fold both ends into the centre so you have a rough squar
  3. With the folds underneath, flip the dough
  4. Cup your hands around and slightly underneath the sides of the dough and rotate to turn your square, into a ball.

I was sat staring at that paragraph for a short while trying to figure out what the hell he was talking about. It is pretty straightforward, but it doesn’t need the excessive explanation.

So guys, the Cottage Loaf… did you have a go? What did you make of it? Did your top get eaten by the bottom? Do you have any advice for kneading our general bread making? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

And now that I’m fully caught up with the challenges, and this post goes live before the latest episode airs, I’m going to cut myself a slice of my new Cottage Loaf, make a cup of tea and sit down to see what hell they’re going to put me through this week.

It’s a new one… Caramel week!

And that means I fear for my pans.

Bake Off Challenge – Week 2: Fortune Cookies

Short and sweet this week and then we’re all up to date:

I’d never made Fortune Cookies before. I hadn’t even considered how Fortune Cookies were made. So I took on Week Two’a challenge which great interest and intrigue. In theory, it shouldn’t be that difficult. But when has baking ever gone according to theory.

The recipe talked about not letting the air into the mixture. Call me a novice, but how do you avoid that? I’ve since been told that it means you need to fold the mixture rather than stirring or mixing, which I now know for all future attempts – but needless to say I felt like a bit of a tit for not knowing that. But hey, that’s how we learn. My mixture still had bubbles rising from the surface and particularly with the orange flavoured ones, when they baked, they rose in blotches. Something tells me that’s not supposed to happen.

The other big issue was my lack of a silicone mat. After consulting with a friend, we felt that baking parchment would suffice but now that I’ve experienced it, the silicone mat may have been quite crucial. The thing was, once they were in the oven, the mixture spread. The parchment wasn’t flat or even enough for the circles to maintain their shape. So once I took them out of the oven, they had mutated. This made turning them into Cookies a little trickier. They still folded in half, but as you can see, it meant that the edges were (to use my favourite Bake Off word) “informal”.

I did try other methods. I tried cupcake cases, tried using a cookie cutter to make them more even, nothing seemed to work. It may have not been the lack of silicone mat that was the problem. Maybe my oven was just a tad wonky.

But here’s the thing. They actually taste quite nice. They were still a bit soft and don’t have that snap that you’d expect (at least not all of them), but for both the orange flavouring and the almond and white chocolate, the combinations are great.

Once again, it’s been a case of whats on the inside that counts, which I can live with – for now.

It was an interesting recipe to try out. Fortune Cookies are something I’ve never considered and thanks to Bake Off, I’ve been inspired to try. They’re obviously not the easiest thing to do; otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen it, but despite me dubbing them Unfortunate Fortune Cookies, it’s one I will try again. They’re not too costly, on paper not too taxing and I bet with a couple more attempts, I’ll have cracked it.

Next week: Cottage Loaf

If you’ve had a go at the Fortune Cookies yourself, how did you get on? Did you get a nice snap at the end or did they become irregular like mine? If you have any advice or thoughts for my next attempt, drop a comment below.

P.S. I had great fun writing the actual fortunes. 

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Bake Off Challenge – Week 1: Chocolate Mini Rolls

Bake Off is back, and it may have moved to Channel 4, but it is still the same old batch of silliness, Britsh-ness and cringing at every toss, turn and tumble that dares threaten the baker’s bakes.

And where’s there’s Bake Off, there’s challenges. And I’m back for Round Two!

Let’s get down to business.


Week 1: Chocolate Mini Rolls

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I have one word to describe this challenge – fiddley.

The initial process wasn’t too difficult. In fact it was the most straightforward part of the challenge as it’s just a lot of mixing. The only trouble I had was trying to whisk the egg whites by hand (like an idiot), before remembering that what I actually needed was an electric whisk. Word of advice: don’t try doing it by hand, unless you have abs of steel. You’ll be there for a while. Beats the gym though.

But once the sponge was cooked, all cards are off the table. Turns out that my non-stick greaseproof paper wasn’t as non-stick or greaseproof as I would have liked. When it tried to peel away the bottom layer it was determined to take as much of the sponge with it. Even after cooling, the sponge was still quite sticky, which makes me wonder if I needed to leave it in the oven for a little longer than the recipe suggested. Prue’s recipe only specifies to bake for 12-15 minutes, without actually telling you what to look for afterwards (which was marvellously helpful! Maybe I needed to consult Mary Berry as a second opinion).

Even spreading the peppermint cream wasn’t as straightforward as I first thought. The texture was a lot thicker than I needed it to be, which made it more a challenge to spread across my sponge without causing more tears or cracks. It really needed to be thinner and more easily spreadable, so if you’re reading this and better success on this front, please get in touch and let me know.

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And perhaps the most crucial part of the task: the rolling. This is where some advice on the texture of the sponge could have come in use. In some places it was soft and delicate, in others it was a bit too “crisp” to roll. Even after trimming the edges, the fold didn’t quite cooperate with me and more times than I’d care to mention, the sponge started to tear, revealing the peppermint cream underneath.

“I’ll be covering it up with chocolate anyway” I kept telling myself.

Covering them in chocolate was by far my favourite part. I couldn’t quite make it so there was a smooth finish, and I didn’t have a piping bag for the white chocolate, but it’s a lot of fun to do. I tried pouring, I tried dipping, I tried using a knife to level the edges, but nothing seemed to work consistently. Maybe I just needed the sponge to be a little neater to allow the chocolate to rest on top more smoothly. There’s always next time.

Considering this is the first challenge, I think I came out the other end ok. Compared to my Jaffa Cakes from last year, these looked far better, and tasted too. I definitely wouldn’t have survived a timed situation, as it took me twice as long to complete the recipe, and while they’re a tad informal, I’m happy with my chocolate rolls.

It’s a lot of chocolate. How can you go wrong with that?

I have had some catching up to do. I was on holiday when the first episode aired and due to training for my new job, I haven’t found the time to start these sooner. But, the Fortune Cookies have been made, and you can expect a write up soon.

I am also writing the end of this post, while watching the third episode of Bake Off. Cottage Loaf is the next on the agenda. To be continued…

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Have you accepted the challenge?

This year I want to hear more you. If you are one of the lovely people who take the time to read through my ramblings about these Bake Off Challenges (first off, thank you) and have taken on the challenge yourself, I want to hear about your experiences. These challenges never work perfectly for me, and I’d love to hear about how other people have gotten on.

WRITING CHALLENGE: From Props to Plays

Here’s something a bit different…

I was set a challenge yesterday, to come up with a full plot for a play based purely on a props list, a title and a handful of characters. I have never seen the play before, I have never heard of the play before. This was merely an intriguing experiment/writing exercise to see what I could come up with, and to me and my friends surprise, there were areas where I was getting pretty close.

Everything highlighted in bold was a listed prop. You can find the full prop’s list at the bottom.


Raising Martha 

Martha is a Cannabis plant. Martha belongs to Tom and is his prize plant. Tom’s partners in crime, Gerry and Joel want to sell “Martha” to a prospective buyer, Jago, but Tom is a little too attached and won’t sell. Jago brings a suitcase full of cash to pay upfront for the prized Martha, but Tom just won’t budge.

Gerry and Joel sneak back in the dead of night, armed with head torches, a sack and spades to dig up Martha so they can sell her to Jago. Joel is the dim one and also brings a pickaxe until Gerry tells him to put it down. But as they’re digging, they find a Femur bone and a library card. Knowing how attached Tom is to Martha, they deduct (wrongly) that Tom has murdered the last person who tried to take Martha away from him. Tom then catches them in the act, a little tired (or a little stoned, who knows) and doesn’t really comprehend what’s happening. He goes to make a cup of coffee to wake up. Afraid that they’ll end up in the dirt and become plant food for Martha, Gerry and Joel abandon their endeavour.

Gerry and Joel contemplate what they’ve just discovered. Gerry is terrified, wrapped up in a blanket for the shock, while Joel sits beside him playing his guitar and editing his music sheets. Gerry’s wondering what they should do, but Joel (oddly being the voice of reason) asks why should they do anything? Just play it cool and pretend like they found nothing. Gerry eventually agrees, then turns to Joel and asks: since when do you play the guitar? Joel turns back to him and says: I don’t. We’re stoned. Sure enough, the scene changes to reality, with both of them smoking joints. Joel stubs his out into the ash tray and Gerry finishes the last of his whiskey before throwing the bottle into a bucket.

Next day, Gerry and Joel go back to Tom’s, only to find that the police are there! There’s police tape across the doors, a police officer called Roger with a police badge and everything, but they don’t seem to have noticed that Tom is growing a massive cannabis plant in his front room. Tom explains that two people broke into his house and attacked him last night and the police are investigating. Gerry and Joel do a terrible job of pretending that everything’s normal as Tom gets checked over by the official medical officer, using a stethoscope, otoscope and reflex hammer. The entire search gets video-taped and Officer Roger continually takes down notes.

Worried about what Tom is going to do to them when he finds out what they did, they take more drugs to try and calm down. But the subject matter and hallucinogenics is not a good combination, as Gerry finds himself on a medical trolley with Tom bearing over him in a surgical mask, with an array of medical equipment including a Victorian surgical saw that Tom prepares to dissect him with. Joel is in the corner watching, munching on a sandwich. Blood and guts empty onto the stage and once he is finished, Tom covers Gerry with the surgical sheet. Joel still eats his sandwich.

Gerry and Joel go back to the scene of the crime (quite literally) to see Tom. But to their surprise, the place is empty. The police have gone, but all their things are still there. Martha stands there, watching. Looking around for Tom, Joel finds a sack which turns out to be full of bones. Elsewhere, Gerry finds a kneecap bone, a breast bone, a skull, the police badge and Jago’s phone and suitcase. Officer Roger’s Dictaphone lies nearby and playing back the recording, they hear cries for help and a very angry voice in the background. Fearing the worst, Gerry and Joel safely assume that Tom has gone off his rocker. He’s also standing right behind them.

Tom has gone psychotic. He knows that it was Gerry and Joel who broke into his flat, who tried to take Martha away from him and how he would never let anyone take Martha away from him. He goes to his cupboard, cycling through his arsenal of weapons, deciding which one to kill Gerry and Joel with. There’s a sledge hammer, machete knives, a shotgun, but he decides to settle for the sickle (or scythe). Gerry and Joel, pleading for their lives, grab whatever they can to defend themselves with. Gerry grabs a baseball bat, Joel grabs the suitcase but Tom is going to let them take Martha. With pure rage, he strikes!

Gerry, Joel and Tom all pull off their blind folds, in the same room, in the same place, except Martha has gone. Each of them has got a huge joint that they’ve all been smoking. “That’s some strong shit”, Gerry says, stubbing the rest out into the ash tray. “I told you” replies Tom, “She’s perfection. I raised her good and proper.”

It was all a dream! Or a hallucination. Cliché still applies.


Rather fittingly, this play seems to have been written by someone on drugs (I will stress however that I was very much of sound mind!) but it was the props list to blame for the rather bizarre series of events that unfolded during this challenge.

That being said, there were some plot points that were pretty close to the mark, which was surprising since I was aiming to be as far away from the mark as possible. They are as follows:

  • Two characters do attempt to dig something up and the library card is found where the digging takes place
  • There is a “dim one”
  • The policeman does fail to notice that there is a cannabis plant in the room
  • There is a hallucination involving the medical trolley, the medical equipment and involves human dissection.
  • There is a moment where loads of weapons are taken from a cupboard.
  • There is a lot of ‘what should be do’ wondering

However, there was one thing that I got 100% wrong with my version of Raising Martha.

“Martha is definitely not a Cannabis plant”

If you like to write then I would 100% recommend using this challenge as some form of an exercise. Maybe 120 props was a pretty tall order to merge into some form of tangible plot. But how about this? Pop into your local charity shop, pick something random and start from there. See what you come up with. That’s where I’m heading next, so be warned! There could be some other weird and wonderful plot lines coming your way, so stay tuned for more.

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Props List

Coffee Table, Wooden Chairs, Briefcase, Headtorch, Coffee Cup, Tea Bag, Spray Bottle for Cannabis Plants, Scissors for Cannabis Plants, Keys for USL Door, Mag IIt Torches x2, Pick Axe, Spade 1, Spade 2, Inhaler, Sack, Femur Bone, Policeman Badge, Policeman Radio, Police Tape, Library Card, Blanket, Guitar, Guitar Strings, Cannabis Plants, Music Paper, Pencil/Pen, Poker, Towel, Dish Cloth, Evidence Bag, Bucket, Metal Crash Box, Incident Sign, Head towel, Empty Whiskey bottle, Joint, Lighter, Ash Tray, Shower Gel, Jago phone, Police Notebook and Pencil, Scales, Black hardback book, Plastic zip bags, Cling Film, Cannabis, Tank, Cane Toad, Resin, Pen Knife, White clipboard, Medical Form, Fountain Pen, Stethoscope, Otoscope, Reflex Hammer, Scalpel, Heavy Metal Instrument, Evidence Bag (for Camera and Tripod), Video camera, Tripod, Mini pad of paper, Black Flag with Frog, Pad of Yellow Paper, Pen, House Brick (with note), Measuring Tape, Notebook/Pencil, Ear Plugs, Whiskey Glass, Bottle of Whiskey/Scotch, Coke, Scissors, Peeling Device, Bucket with Mud and Wood, Sandwich, Saw (Victorian Surgical), Surgical Masks, Medical Trolley, Silver Tray, Medical equipment, Syringe, Magnifying glass, Bowl for hand washing, Surgical sheet, Blood and guts, Duvet and duvet cover, Sack of bones, Mandible bone, Kneecap bone, Breast bone, Bath towl, Tibla bone, Mug, Sandwich, Dictaphone, Skull, rucksack, Roger’s phone, Jago’s phone, double barrelled shot gun, baseball bat, machete knives, sickle/scythe, man trap, crowbar, sledge hammer, suitcase, table cloth, hand-tie rope, blind fold, large knife, huge joints, ash tray.

(48 out of 120 props successfully used)


 

Final Bake Off Challenge – Week 10: Victoria Sponge

And so the end is here, as we face the final curtain.

It’s been a long ten weeks filled with highs and lows, great tastes and bad tastes, but somehow we’ve reached the end of this little experiment.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this week’s final bake, a little bit of housekeeping: unlike the contestants, I did use Mary Berry’s Victoria Sponge recipe, rather than try and make it up as I go along. I have made Victoria Sponges before, and successfully I may add (I’m sure it’s something that a lot of other people have done as well), but I wanted to end this streak of challenges on a high (especially after the disaster that was last week’s Savarin) – but I’m thankful that I did.


WEEK 10: Victoria Sponge

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Though it was much deliberated by the contestants, Mary Berry’s words of wisdom state that you should use the all-in-one method, which is exactly what I did. There’s not a lot to really pick apart with this part of the method, other than to make sure that your butter is substantially creamed into the mixture. Even after using both an electric whisk and a spoon, there were little chunks of butter that were there mocking me, and the last thing I wanted was for there to be chunks of butter in the actual sponge. Patience I think was the key word here.

Rather than opting for a straight-out-of-the-jam-jar jam, I did have another go at making the jam from scratch a second time. Though my pan is once again in need of another deep clean, it worked just as well as it had when making the Bakewell Tart. Although, as we found out when we sampled the cake, the jam was rather chewy. Having left the jam to set (as instructed), it was a very stiff consistency. So what I really needed was a solution to making it more liquidy and… you know, more like jam. It did taste good so, you know, can’t knock it too much.

Piping definitely isn’t my strong point. I don’t know they worked with the Viennese
Whirls way back in Week 2, but I still have a long way to go before I become a master of the piping bag. As you can see from this disgraceful photo below, the interior piping went a bit haywire. In my defense, after scooping the buttercream into the bag, it would appear that a surviving chunk of butter had found its way inside, and incidentally blocked the nozzle attachment. Hence why it is very important to make sure all your butter is creamed thoroughly.

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(When I read some of these sentences back, I can understand why baking terms can often be interpreted as innuendos!)

All in all, this was a good one to go out on. The sponge probably could have come out a little earlier to retain its golden-brown finish. It does look a little overdone, though tastes far from it, and I have yet to achieve the flat surface rather than the mound that I got.


THE END

So there we have it. Ten weeks, ten bakes and ten posts.

And since this is the last chance I’ll get to bother you with my rambling words for a while, I’ve ranked each week from best to worst.

  1. FOUGASSE BREAD (WEEK 6) – I couldn’t stop thinking about that bread right through into the next challenge. It looked great, it tasted fantastic and the only criticisms were that it was a tad too salty (easily fixable) and the slits to make the leaf shape were not wide enough (but who cares). It’s the one that out of everything, I really want to make again.
  2. VIENNESE WHIRLS (WEEK 2) – Was stupendously happy with these ones, especially for Week 2. Some of them were a bit big and they did crumble quite easily, but the taste (though very sweet) was marvellous and a real motivator that I could actually do these challenges.
  3. VICTORIA SPONGE (WEEK 1o) – the jam was a bit tough and the sponge a bit brown, but the taste was as good as you’d expect and was a great way to end this Bake Off challenge.
  4. MARJOLAINE (WEEK 7) – odd how I’ve placed this quite high despite absolutely hating the process and still never want to bake with nuts again. But even though it didn’t look much like it should have, it actually tasted pretty great. I still wouldn’t make it again though any time soon.
  5. JUMBLE BISCUITS (WEEK 8) – loved the presentation of these and the taste was pretty good, if not unusual.
  6. BAKEWELL TART (WEEK 5) – pastry was a little overcooked and the flavours were heavy but very sweet. Was the first time I’d ever made one of these and for a first time, I think I did a good job.
  7. DAMPFNUDEL (WEEK3) – never thought I’d be able to say (1) I know what they are and (2), I have made them. These were very unusual – steamed bread, whatever next – and though they did taste a bit doughy, they would have been great with some icing.
  8. JAFFA CAKES (WEEK 1) – despite the fact they tasted alright, the presentation was just way off. But hey, it was Week 1. That was only in the beginning.
  9. LACY PANCAKES (WEEK 4) – bit hard to rank this one because this was more to do with artistic talents with a squeezy bottle, something I didn’t really have that day. All good fun nonetheless.
  10. SAVARIN (WEEK 9) – the fact that the sponge or bread or whatever you want to call it was so dry, it was practically inedible and literally and shamefully had to be thrown away.

Do you agree with my rankings? Or do you think I’ve got it wrong somewhere down the line?

Thank you for sticking with me throughout these weeks and come back for more ramblings about life, or other challenges I put to myself.

You can also follow me on Twitter @jm00re497

Until the next time, there’s no more from me.


 

Bake Off Challenge – Week 9: Savarin

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “that doesn’t look anything like a Savarin”. And you’re right. It’s not. Although I am still trying to figure out what a savarin is. Is it cake? Is it bread? Who knows? I still don’t.

This week doesn’t have a happy ending I’m afraid and debatably will be listed as the worst bake of the challenge. I hated this one more than the Marjolaine. Now that was a sentence I never thought I’d write!

This was down to a combination of the following factors: I didn’t have the correct equipment (namely the baking tin), my scheduling meant that this was baked over the course of a couple of days (with breaks during crucial moments which I now know why they are important) and over the course of said couple of days, I lost a lot of love for what I was actually making. That last point was the real shame. There have been ups and downs over the past ten weeks with some unspeakable horrors which I wish could be forgotten, but there has always been a level of enjoyment. But this week, I lost it entirely.

Urgh! This just got depressing. Let’s be more constructive.


WEEK 9: Savarin

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Ok, so it could have looked worse. The presentation isn’t all that bad and looks appetising enough, so I’ll give myself some brownie points for working with what I had and not giving up and throwing it in the bin.

The savarin itself was just a basic batter mixture which you need to leave around two hours in total to let it prove. I don’t know if I was using a different kind of yeast that worked differently but across the two hours, the batter didn’t seem to rise much at all, if at all. It was very difficult to tell. It did rise a little while baking though because I had a lot less than the contestants did during that week, it seemed to bake far quicker to the point that the top was patchy brown.

But here was the crucial part where I should defiantly not have taken a break.

After it’s cool enough to remove from the tin, at that point you are supposed to cover it with the syrup. In theory, the idea is that the still warm cake absorbs the syrup so it seeps right through into the centre and adds a bit of moisture. If you try and add the syrup after the cake has cooled completely, it won’t absorb properly. This is what I discovered.

In actual fact, my syrup didn’t work at all, wasting 100ml of orange liquor. Nothing seemed to happen when I had it over the heat. It didn’t thicken. It didn’t change the colour and the recipe didn’t really tell me what to look out for. So instead, I glazed the sponge with some golden syrup (Paul Hollywood will have me thrown off a cliff). Won’t have the same taste, but it’ll add something.

Without it, the cake tastes very dry. I haven’t sampled the one pictured here just yet, but I had to do a second batch due to the amount of mixture leftover. This had no syrup applied and I wanted to know whether it tasted more of cake or bread. It swings towards bread, but the inside of the sponge is very dry and you can understand why it needs to absorb the syrup. I’m hoping that the final product tastes better with both the cream and the syrup; otherwise this may have been a total waste of time.

The little bits were fun to do; mainly because they were far simpler. Rather than wiping “Savarin” onto the chocolate disc (who has the time for that?), I just drizzled the white chocolate over to make it look pretty. The cream took a while to form (I recommend using an electric whisk for this part) and tasted fabulous and the caramel shards are fun to make because you hit it with a spoon and it pretty much explodes. They tasted pretty foul though. They looked good, but they tasted burnt. Use for decoration only.

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So concludes another week and another episode of “Ambitious But Rubbish.” I dare say I will not be trying this one anytime soon, but hey, “always look on the bright side of the life.”

I’m just thankful for my final challenge this year will be a Victoria Sponge… and yes, I will be using a recipe.