Baking the GBBO 2021 Technical Challenges part 2

This is part 2 of the baking challenge that I set myself whilst I watched the Great British Bake Off 2021. Three of these were baked in the week that I unexpectedly had at home because the winter holiday I had booked was rescheduled due to Omicron. The disappointment of that was offset by relishing the unexpected free time to do some Christmas baking.

I’ll write my final reflections here before I list how the bakes went. What I like about setting myself a baking challenge like this, is that I can grow as a baker in my repertoire and knowledge. I will bake things that I don’t normally make, such as genoise sponge and puff pastry, push myself to try something new, like tuile biscuits and vegan sausage rolls and give me the excuse to make something that I’ve been wanting to for a while, like the Twix bars. Most of the bakes went well and of course there were some that I could definitely improve on. The important thing for me is that I enjoyed doing this and learning from it.

At this current time, I am fortunate to be living with a family who give me the time and space to bake. Between them, the workplace and well-timed visitors, everything gets eaten in good time. In the past, one of the things that would have stopped me from doing a challenge like this would be the difficulties in sourcing the ingredients, the obstacles faced by the climate (try making the Prinzregententorte in a hot and humid climate) and that so much of the end product would end up with so much going into the freezer and forgotten.

Prue Leith’s Sable Breton from Patisserie week

Sable Breton

I was really excited when they announced this as the technical challenge on Patisserie week because I had made it already, 2 years ago, on a whim during my sabbatical. The recipe came from Suzue and William Curley’s Patisserie. I can report to you that my sablĂ© dough was too hard, the pistachio paste lacked the pistachio flavour and I bought jam rather than make a raspberry/strawberry confiture. I’ve had a quick glance over the GBBO recipe and noticed the inclusion of pistachio oil and extract. I don’t know where you’d buy that from but I’d get it to produce a stronger pistachio flavour. While you are at it, if you can afford the extra expense, buy shelled pistachios because shelling them takes a tediously long time and your thumbs will hurt after a while.

Prue Leith’s Vegan Sausage Rolls from Free from week

I love experimenting with vegan baking so I wanted these vegan sausage rolls to taste really good but I was a bit sceptical as to whether they would work. Correction – whether I could make it work. In the past, I haven’t had much success with rough puff pastry as the butter would leak out as it baked in the oven resulting in a soggy, unrisen pastry. This time round, I really pleased with the end result as the filling was delicious and the resulting pastry was crisp and the lamination evident. I don’t know whether it was because I used baking block which has a higher melting point, or I’m gradually getting better at making it. The only way to find out is to conduct a side by side experiment with one made with butter and the other with baking block. I would definitely make this one again as the filling was delicious and substantial. Yes, it was a bit of a faff to get the different ingredients. I replaced the flax seed egg with a chia seed egg, which was fine, as we already had chia seeds. The kids weren’t so keen on the filling as the adults were.

Paul Hollywood’s Jammy Biscuits from Biscuit week

Starry jammy biscuits

I made these in the run up to Christmas and so I substituted the hearts for stars. They made a good Christmas cookie/biscuit. We all enjoyed eating them, even if overall I found them a little too sweet. You can see from the photo how much the oven temperature differs in our oven. I substituted jam sugar with the same amount of granulated sugar and a tablespoon of lime. I think the lime juice is also what gave the raspberry jam such brightness. A nice challenge to do and with Valentine’s Day coming up, you could go back to using hearts.

Paul Hollywood’s Belgian Buns from the Final

Hands down, this was one of my favourites to bake and eat in the technical challenges. I love baking bread. There was a confusing/funny moment when I misread the recipe and missed out the 120ml of water that is added to the dough, alongside the milk and butter. I thought that it looked too dry, but when you are trying out a new recipe, how are you supposed to know exactly what you are looking for? I only spotted my mistake later. Did you know that you can add water to dough once it has been kneaded and left to rise? Yes and that is what I did. After searching online, the internet seemed to suggest that I could knead the water in gradually. The dough was much better after that, soft and silky. The lemon curd filling was a fresh and welcome variation from the normal cinnamon butter fillings that I’m used to, so much so that I professed to liking it more. It’s pretty easy to make so make it and thank me for it later. However, if you don’t like lemons or are allergic to citrus fruit, then don’t make them.

Prue Leith’s Sticky Toffee Pudding from Dessert week

This was the final one that I made. I had put it off for a few reasons:

  • I needed to get the small pudding moulds
  • The toffee sauce was made more like a caramel and different to how I’d made them previously
  • I’d never made tuile biscuits before
  • We don’t eat a lot of desserts
  • I wasn’t sure that I wanted to make something that was going to be so sweet.

Dear reader, I made it just so that I could finish this baking challenge that I set myself. Was it worth it? If you like sticky toffee pudding then I think that it is worth making them. The sponge is light and springy and the tuile biscuits were my favourite component to eat. However, it was too sweet for me. I could only eat half of it before I felt sick. I would still want to make a toffee sauce in the way that I normally make it (because it’s easier than making a caramel). I didn’t bother making the creme Anglaise purely because I’ve made custard before and I had run out of containers to freeze the egg whites. Besides, in the past, I would pair sticky toffee pudding with double cream.

So there you have it. If this inspires you to bake some of them, then do let me know.

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