The Great British Bake Off is back! And that can mean only one thing. So is the Bake Off Challenge! This is my third year of doing the challenges and this time I am not impeding on my Mum’s kitchen, which is just as well, because this was a messy challenge that left me with a lot of washing up.
It has been a while since I’ve blogged. I’m hoping to get back in the swing of things fairly quickly and though I do like to be descriptive and let the words flow onto the page, I will be trying to keep these posts defined and to the point.
So let’s get to it!
First item on the agenda, was the actual biscuit. These turned out to have a shortbread-like texture, assuming this was what they needed to be like. When rubbing the flour and the butter together, the dough was supposed to appear like breadcrumbs before applying the vanilla and egg yolk, but I think my butter had softened too much whilst working it, so the dough actually started to cream together. This meant that when it came to cutting out the 8cm sections, they lost their shape when transferring them to the baking parchment. It was nigh impossible to create 16 identical discs, which meant sandwiching them together later became a bit more difficult.
It was actually the marsh mellow that I was most concerned about. I’ve never made marsh mellow before. I even went out and bought a sugar thermometer just to give myself a fighting chance. Thankfully, that went pretty smoothly. It was just a question of patience and keeping an eye on the temperature, and having plenty of bowls and pans to complete each step of the process. Although I ended up using maybe a quarter for the Wagon Wheels. Now I am looking for suggestions what to do with the other three quarters I have stored in my fridge. Any suggestions?
Confession time; I didn’t end up using homemade jam. I tried. I made the jam, and at first, it had gone quite well. Jam’s not usually my speciality, but after taking it off the heat and passing it through a sieve, I had a lovely, glossy looking jam that would have been perfect, had I used it there and then. But where the recipe said to “leave to cool and set”, when it actually came to applying the jam, it had set to the point that my knife could stand upright in it. It was beyond help and un-spreadable.
In retrospect, I would have made the jam at a later point in the process, once the biscuit bases were cooled and out of the oven. Applying the jam while it was cooling would have allowed it to set on the biscuits where it wouldn’t become a problem later on. Oh for the benefit of hindsight. So in the end I resorted to using store-bought jam. It’s fine. The judges won’t know. It’ll be our little secret.
The assembly of the layers was relatively straightforward (once I was using store-bought jam). I actually impressed myself with my piping work, which turned out to be very important to applying the marshmellow. I did try placing a spoonful on the biscuit and spreading it that way. Don’t do this! You’ll just make a mess. Piping it is far easier to manage and means that when you place layer 1 on top of layer 2, you can get a much more sophisticated finish.
It was working with the melted chocolate that was most difficult and not just because the impulsion is to taste test it at every step. The difficulty was getting a nice covering around the sides, so you end up with a nice, solid biscuit. I tried using a spatula to spread it around evenly, but this just made a mess. Pouring it directly over the top and allowing it to pool over the sides made even more of a mess. It was just as well I placed the wire rack over some more baking parchment.
I had a similar problem with the Swiss Rolls last year. The theory of getting a nice, smooth layer just didn’t come naturally, so I will be looking for tips if anyone is willing to share their secrets.
Looking back at the process, it’s not an overly complicated bake, but it does at times feel like you’re spinning several plates at the same time and it can feel overwhelming. But in truth, once the dough is ready, that can be set aside. When the marshmellow is done, that can be set aside. It’s the jam that needs to be timed well.
Have you taken on the Bake Off Challenge this year? Did you have a go at making the Wagon Wheels? If so, what did you find most challenging?