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.

Baking the GBBO 2021 Technical Challenges Part 1

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:

  1. Read the instructions of the recipe all the way through and then again.
  2. Have the ingredients and equipment prepared.
  3. 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

Malt loaf

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 breadsticks
  • pink hummus

I made the ciabatta breadsticks on the same weekend that I made Nigella’s beetroot hummus recipe. I discovered that the make a delightful pairing. It is also delicious with some kimchi as well. Get all the colours and flavours together for a party in your mouth.

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

layered chocolate cake with vanilla sponge
Prinzregententorte (with an extra layer)

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.

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