The adjustment to going back to working onsite and the teaching load in the first semester in the academic year resulted in a quiet blog recently. I’m also trying to get my head around Instagram reels and whether to create one on poaching eggs, which has delayed that post. Anyhooo, that all aside, I have been baking, though not creating new recipes.
*Spoiler alert* If you haven’t watched the GBBO 2021 yet and would not like to know what the technical challenges are, then please don’t read ahead.
There was no plan to bake this year’s technical challenges until I realised it was happening by pure accidental happy spontaneity. Then I made an active choice to continue on with it because baking makes me happy and I like trying out and learning new things. Below you have my attempts at five of the technical challenges. I’ll write about the others later on, when I complete them. If you’re a bit unsure about making them, then my top tips are:
- Read the instructions of the recipe all the way through and then again.
- Have the ingredients and equipment prepared.
- Don’t worry if things go wrong, Prue and Paul aren’t going to be judging them anyway.
Prue Leith’s Malt Loaf from Cake week
This is an easy bake and you can leave the fruit to soak in the tea overnight as prep. I made them the same weekend that I made the ciabatta breadsticks. The homemade version is SO much BETTER than what I’ve ever bought. I’m not sure I can ever go back. I baked two at the same time and took one into work. I found two things difficult. The most challenging thing was sourcing the malt extract. I try not to buy on Amazon in an effort to support local stores. I went into a supermarket, where I was shown Marmite, when asking for malt extract and then directed to Holland and Barratts. I bought it from there. The second one was self-created. I heated the malt extract and sugars for too long and so it was overly-sticky. Don’t do that and you’ll be fine.
The most delightful thing about this bake was when I opened the malt extract and tasted it. I was transported back to something I ate as a small child in Korea. I don’t know what it is (Koreans out there, can you help me?) but I remember thinking that this is surely nectar from heaven. I am a big fan of malt extract.
Paul Hollywoods Ciabatta Breadsticks from Bread week
Ciabatta dough is tricky because it is so wet and soft. Alternatively, I think of it as a soft, plush dough, luxurious to work with. “Show the dough who’s boss” – Richard Bertinet quote – rings in my head when I work with it. I deliberately bought manchego cheese to make this. I was surprised by the combination of olives and coriander but it is scrumptious. The recipe says that it will make 18. Make the 18+ if you don’t have baking trays that are long enough. I gave about half of them away to friends but they were gone in our household within 3 days.
Prue Leith’s Prinzregententorte from German week
This was the bake at which I realised that I wanted to commit myself to baking each of the technical challenges. There was a playdate happening at the same time as this bake which got in the way of trying to complete it in the 4 or so hours that the bakers had in the tent. I didn’t. It has been awhile since I had baked for more than 2 hours straight so I found this bake physically tiring, although satisfying when making the various elements. We had a break for dinner and so it took me about 5 hours to make. The next day, people reacted with a mixture of horror and surprise that I chose to bake a cake that took me 5 hours.
The recipe is detailed and methodical. Have all your ingredients and equipment prepared, clear out an afternoon/evening and don’t put a time pressure on yourself. We don’t have a 23cm baking tin, so I did some maths to reduce the recipe to make a 20cm one and I improvised acetate with baking paper. I enjoyed making the German buttercream and the genoise sponges. I was tempted to see if it would work on a pan, like pancakes, but decided against it. Dinner coincided with when I had just melted chocolate for the decorations. Thus I left it to cool down a bit too long and therefore lost the tempering. However, in this context, it didn’t really matter. There was a birthday at the weekend and so we cut into the cake. I was so pleased with the even layers and the cake is one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever tasted.
Paul Hollywood’s Baklava from Pastry week
I was really nervous about this one because of the filo pastry. A long time ago, I had tried to make filo. It dried out and the texture of the resulting bake was both stiff and rubbery, an unpleasant combination. I hadn’t seen the method that they use in this recipe and it worked really well.
Again, I adapted the recipe because we don’t have a 25cm round baking tin. I halved the filling recipe to fit into the 20cm one. The next challenge to this was cutting the star design. I asked Sarah to help me figure it out and we did. Use a sharp knife and cut all the way through. I took it to church the next day for a bring a share lunch, and to my surprise it all went. Fortunately, I had kept back about a quarter of it for us to try out and to share with friends.
Paul Hollywood’s Caramel Biscuit Bars from Caramel Week
The 5 year old was looking through some of my photos and when she spotted this and said ‘oh look, sausages!’ 😆 I have called them, chocolate sliding off the caramel bars.
I decided to make these on the same afternoon as making the baklava. I’m just going to name them as most of us know them 😄 – the Twix bars. They are one of my favourite chocolate/confectionary bars and I have been wanting to make them for a long time, so this technical challenge gave me the perfect reason to get on and bake them.
I added a bit of toasted almonds in the biscuit base to add an extra flavour element to it (I’m not sure they did really). I did what one of the contestants did and broke the biscuit as I took it out of the tin. I like making caramel but still scared my housemate a little when I made it. I should have let my milk chocolate cool down a bit more before I dipped the caramel and biscuit into it. However, I was distracted by watching fireworks (it was the day after Bonfire Night) and creating photos in the garden with the family with sparklers making fun shapes. Once the chocolate had sufficiently set enough for us to handle, we ate them with a hot drink whilst watching the Strictly results.