The Great British Bake Off is back!
The British public can once again marvel at the spectacular and mouthwatering creations that this year’s contestants have up their sleeves in a television show that has the unjustified tension levels of a suspense-based thriller. How the British public became so concerned with soggy bottoms is beyond general knowledge but for some reason, we are all squirming and tensing at the complications and disasters that shake up the tent.
So this year, I set myself a little challenge to attempt the technical challenges myself. The initial idea came from several of my friends who had participated in the same challenge last year and recently I’ve wanted to expand my repertoire from the usual bakes (and those who know me will be crying out “banana bread!”). But at the forefront, it’s an opportunity to try something new, move out of my comfort zone and have a bit of fun, so we shall see what the coming weeks will bring.
So: Week 1 – Jaffa Cakes. How did they go?
Well, I’m not off to a flying start. Some of them turned out alright but I couldn’t quite save the others. Possibly the first note to myself is don’t try baking at 22:00, but who doesn’t love a spot of late night baking. The chocolate worked against me and set before I could try and smooth out the presentation, but I also ran into some problems with the jelly discs, but I’ll get to that shortly.
The thing is that having actually tried one of the Technical Challenges, I’ve only just realised just how technical they are. That may sound like a stupid comment but the issues that I ran into were only due to the slightest of miscalculations.
If anything I was surprised that the amount of ingredients that you needed was so little. 25 grams of caster sugar and 25 grams of self-raising? Are they mad? Whenever I’ve baked before its needed at least three times that amount and even with the self-raising I didn’t think it would go that far. But sure enough they did. And quickly too. That’s why Mary Berry is a national treasure and I’m sat blogging about my baking experiences. But we’ve all got to start somewhere.
The jelly was where things started to go a bit pear-shaped. It had set properly (and tasted fantastic) but when I tried to cut out the discs for the tops of the actual Jaffa Cakes, they simply refused to budge. When I did somehow manage to separate the discs from the rest of the batch, they then had a tendency to fall apart. So what I ended up having to do was scrape off what I could and then lining it on top of the cake bases the best I could, hoping that the chocolate would cover up the mess (but as we found out later that didn’t work either).
So where did I go wrong?
Well there could be two reasons. To start with, when I was making up the jelly originally, I had left the boiling water standing for a short while after measuring out the right quantity without realising. So when I then poured said water over the jelly mixture, it had a hard time dissolving. To try and fix the problem I then boiled a little extra water and added that to the mixture (you fool!) which sorted it out sure enough, but when the jelly then came to set, that extra water would have decreased the level of solidity that the discs probably needed.
The other and far more unlikely reason was to do with the baking tray that I used; that it was simply too large to get an even coating. It meant that on one side, the jelly was a decent thickness while on the other it was paper thin.
But hey, it’s all about trial and error right?
But this is what I mean about fully realising how technical the technical challenges are. By adding just a tiny amount of water extra to the mixture and keeping my eye off the ball for a minute or so meant that I had problems further along. Although the chocolate coating didn’t quite go according to plan either, if the jelly had been cut into proper discs that sit perfectly on top of the cakes, I wouldn’t have had an issue smoothing over the chocolate and making them look far more presentable.
Next time I’ll be all over it.
So while I probably wouldn’t have gotten the thumbs up from either Paul or Mary, at least I learnt where I went wrong. And most importantly, it hasn’t put me off. I still want to continue with the next Technical Challenges and I still want to have another go at making Jaffa Cakes.
To quote my Facebook status, it is better to have tried and failed than not tried at all.
Besides, they tasted pretty darn good anyhow.
Bring on Week 2!
(Although having just watched this weeks’ episode, I must admit I’m already finding it a bit daunting)