Who knew that nuts needed so much preparation?
This entry was supposed to come a lot sooner than this. I was all ready to make it on the Wednesday, but had to postponed until the Thursday, and here’s why.
You see, to cut costs I thought buying fresh almonds and blanching them myself would be a far better option. Blanching them doesn’t take much effort. You boil them in a pan of water for about 3 minutes, pat them dry and literally pop them out of their skins. They can burst out of their skins and fly halfway across the room (which is a lot of fun but quite impractical) but the point is they come out easily. It just takes a lot of time and patience as you literally have to do them one at a time.
Hazelnuts – not so much. They need a slightly different method to blanch, which includes adding baking soda (something I didn’t actually have) but even if you try boiling them/roasting them, the skins are incredibly tough to get off because of their shape.
Spare yourself that pain! Buy pre-blanched hazelnuts. It’s far easier and you are more likely to keep your sanity.
WEEK 7: MARJOLAINE
It did feel like I needed to have a proper battle plan to get through this week. I underestimated the sheer amount of things that needed doing for this bake. How the guys on the show pulled this off in a fraction of the time it took me (closer to 5 hours I’d estimate) is nothing short of incredible. The show is stressful enough, but doing these challenges just makes me realise how skilled these guys have to be in order to survive week after week.
The praline was fascinating to make. It’s something I’ve never done before. Thankfully I didn’t burn the bottom of my pan again when making the caramel (or sugar syrup as the recipe calls it). It cools very quickly so get it in the baking tray as fast as possible, but as you can see in the photo, it sets completely solid. It looked and felt like glass. You’ve got to be careful though when breaking it into pieces. The edges aren’t as sharp as glass obviously, but they are sharp nonetheless, so take care.
The ganache and the buttercream was pretty straight forward. I didn’t think that pouring over the heated cream would fully melt the vast amount of chocolate but I was wrong. It worked perfectly (and tasted even better). It was also another first for my baking experience. Add ganache to the skill tree.
Buttercream; just follow the recipe, although the recipe this week wasn’t as clear as it could have been. It was as though it was actively trying to confuse you. The thing I would say is when adding the praline powder (after it’s gone through the blender), use a sieve to make sure any chunks are not mixed into the cream. It makes for a finer and smoother buttercream finish.
Assembling, again, was pretty straight forward. It’s just time consuming. Be generous with the filling. I used far too little of the ganache and had a lot leftover which shamefully will go unused (unless I just eat it out of the bowl which is a high likelihood).
I did cut the meringue a little too small. I didn’t quite follow the measurements and ended up cutting it a little too short in favour of making it look neater. Rather than a long and narrow meringue tower it looked a little square. Also, don’t worry if it looks messy when you’re stacking the layers. The buttercream will cover up any mistakes and the additional nuts cover the rest.
To be honest, this could have gone a lot worse but I wasn’t overly happy about the result. It looks alright but nowhere near close to what it should have looked like. For the cost and the time that went into this bake (it really did feel like an eternity), it just looked a little too informal to be worth all that effort. But hey, I learned a bunch of new skills, made things I haven’t made before and despite its rather “informal” appearance, it taste pretty good.
But working with nuts is far more complicated that I would ever have thought and will not be doing so again, for a long time.
Next time, I may just stick to bread. It would have taken a lot to beat last week’s Fougasse.
See you all for Tudor week.