Baking Bad: Recreating the Technical Challenges from the Great British Bake Off – Week 2: Viennese Whirls

The second technical challenge from this season of the Great British Bake Off is Viennese Whirls. Now, it shocked me that these came up as the technical for biscuit week, since I’ve always considered Viennese Whirls to be a cake rather than a biscuit. Oh how wrong I was!

Viennese Whirls are a British confection consisting of a soft butter biscuit piped into a whirl shape, said to be inspired by Austrian pastries, though entirely unrelated. They are made up of 2 biscuits with jam and butter-cream sandwiched between them.

Making jam is the first thing on the list for this technical recipe, however I have no time for that so I started MY technical challenge by adding some pizazz to store bought jam. Ah well, can’t have it all and my argument is that making jam isn’t baking. With that done, it’s on with the biscuits…

After mixing it all together, you’re guided to draw around a 2 inch biscuit cutter. I had no idea what this was and sure as hell wasn’t going to measure it but it worked out well in the end. Following a quick chill in the fridge the next challenge was trying to get the biscuit dough into the piping bag. With the completion of that wrestle it then became a challenge to pipe swirls of the mixture into the circles ran on the grease-proof paper.

This is when things got tricky.

IF you didn’t watch this episode of GBBO you might not know that Viennese Whirl dough is remarkably stiff and does not like coming out of piping bags. After a few attempts to do perfect swirls I resigned myself to the fact that I would settle for mediocre as piping is one area of baking that my skill set is lacking. I’m just awful at it!

Once all 24 rounds had been piped it was back off in the fridge to pull a Mr Freeze and “Chill Out!” before being popped in the oven to bake!  During baking, the swirls lost some definition sadly and the result was a bit of a sad looking Viennese Whirl, but I still think they looked better than some of the contestants in the tent!  Plus, they tasted delicious too – a fact even my work friends who helped me eat them will attest to!

IMG_20160901_141059

This week I’d score myself a 6/10 for presentation and a 9/10 for taste. But we all know the only opinion that matters is Mary’s so I think this time I’d receive a “Slightly happy Mary Berry”.

mary-berry-abcs-the-great-holiday-baking-show

Until Next time…

 

Baking Bad: Recreating the Technical Challenges from the Great British Bake Off – Week 1: Jaffa Cakes

So the Great British Bake Off is back on our screens and in full flow (by that I mean coming up to week 3). I’m an avid fan of the bake off as well as being an amateur baker myself. You can find some of my recipes in the archives to the right if you’re interested in what I’ve done so far.

Despite all my baking I’ve never decided that I was crazy enough to attempt the rounds of the Bake Off. Yes I’ve occasionally made a few different recipes that have featured on the show, but there’s one thing that has often eluded me – the Technical Challenge. But what is a technical challenge I hear you ask? Well, allow me to show you this extract from the Bake Off’s website:

Technical Bake

This challenge separates the wheat from the chaff. Take one basic recipe, with the same ingredients and instructions, and ask our bakers to produce the finished product… sound easy? Well, any variation on the finished product will be a result of their own technical knowledge and experience – or lack of. Bakers are laid bare in this task and this is where the pressure’s really on in the bake-off.

So without further ado I’ve decided to bake each of the technical challenges from this season of the bake off and see how I do, as an amateur baker in my own tiny kitchen. Let’s get on with it!

Week One: Jaffa Cakes

First up – it’s Jaffa Cakes! Who doesn’t love a jaffa cake? Gorgeous little spongey, orangey, chocolatey packs of goodness. They are simply amazing, especially with a cup of tea (though no dunking!). If you don’t know what a jaffa cake is, then check out this brief section from the ever knowing wikipedia:

“Jaffa Cakes are biscuit-sized cakes introduced by McVitie and Price in the UK in 1927 and named after Jaffa oranges. The most common form of Jaffa Cakes are circular, 2 1⁄8 inches (54 mm) in diameter and have three layers: a Genoise sponge base, a layer of orange flavoured jelly and a coating of chocolate.”

So what does the Queen of Baking herself have to say about Jaffa Cakes? Well, this blurb comes from the start of her technical challenge recipe.

“Jaffa cakes are nowhere near as tricky to make at home as you might think.” Well, what could go wrong?  Follow Mary’s recipe here to make your own and see!

Firstly its a case of zesting an orange and adding it to some orange flavoured jelly and boiling water. So far so good, right?nothing can go wrong? Well, thats my first issue. I followed the recipe and zested what I’d consider a small orange. Turns out it was not a small orange and I ended up with far too much zest in my jelly! Still, it tasted fine, if a little pulpy – though it set fine and went into discs perfectly, as seen below.

IMG_20160829_115910.jpg

 

Next up was the sponge. I’ve made a fair few sponge cakes in my time and I’d say that I’ve gotten pretty good at it too, though I’ve never made a whisked sponge before. I was a little apprehensive, but I absolutely nailed it! I think the sponge was the best part of my Jaffa attempts! Simples!

IMG_20160829_115835

Now the board is set, the pieces are moving. Time to put it together and melt some chocolate. I assembled the jaffa cakes, putting the disc of jelly onto the sponge. I melted down the chocolate. And that’s when it all went to pot. Pouring with a spoon didn’t work as the hot chocolate wanted nothing about staying with the cold jelly. It disappeared down the side of the cake in a weird gloopy mess. Piping the chocolate worked a little better but still left gaps. The whole thing looked a mess. I’ve had issues with chocolate in the past when I bake and this was no exception. Guess I need to work on it before I apply myself! 😉

IMG_20160829_123248

Still, a quick trip to the fridge solved the problem mostly and they tasted great! Overall, I’d give myself a 4/10 for presentation and a 7/10 for taste.

But what about Mary’s judgement I hear you say? Well, I’d rate this bake as a Concerned Mary Berry.

273Stay tuned for next time – I take on biscuit week and Viennese Whirls!

Recipe: Apple Turnovers

One of the modules that I’m taking this year features some of the best friends I’ve made from my course whilst at uni. We all bonded during the previous years modules and they’re a solid bunch. The best thing is that they love baking almost as much as I do, so much so that every now and then one of us will bake something and bring it in for everybody to enjoy – even our lecturer! Ever since this little ‘tradition’ of ours started, I have been pestered by one particular member of the group to make apple turnovers. This relentless pestering went on and on throughout the term until finally, in the last lecture of 2012, I turned up with a box full of turnovers.

Apple Turnovers:Makes 6

Appleturnovers1Ingredients:25g butter
3 medium sized Bramley apples
75g golden caster sugar
1 egg
4tsp cinnamon
2tsp brown sugar
1 shot water
375g puff pastry

Method:
Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6 (200 degrees C)
Peel and chop the apples into small chunks.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add in the apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and water.  Heat gently until the apples soften, roughly 5-10 minutes.
Flour the surface and roll out the puff pastry to around half the thickness of a pound coin.
Cut the pastry into 6 equal squares, being careful to remove ragged edges.
Place 1tbsp of the softened apple mixture into the middle of each square and sprinkle over some of the golden caster sugar, before brushing the edges of the pastry square with water.
Fold the pastry squares in half, corner to corner, to form a triangle. Press down the edges and prick a small hole in the centre to allow steam to escape.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and transfer the turnovers onto it.
Brush each turnover liberally with the egg and pour the rest of the sugar over the tops.
Whack the tray in the oven and bake for around 20 minutes until puffed up and golden brown.
Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes before eating.

And that’s all there is to it! Before baking these I was a bit nervous as I’d never even thought about making them before. Still, it turned out to be really simple and of course you can experiment with all the different flavours, though I’m always going to be a fan of brown sugar and cinnamon, giving that slightly caramelized, slightly spicy taste. Why limit yourself to just apples either?!

 

Recipe: Plaited Loaf

Somedays when I go to write a blog it seems like I’m only writing this thing for all the dough… No, that’s not a clever way to reference that I’m making money through this blog (lets be honest, I don’t think that I’d ever become that popular what with my ridiculous rants…), but it is a cunning pun which allows me to awkwardly segue into today’s recipe post! Bread!

Yes, once again I have been watching GBBO (see the Muffin recipe to learn about the initialism (it’s not an acronym before you start! Acronyms are pronounceable!) if you don’t know what I’m talking about! Anyway, one of the challenges the bakers faced this week was to bake an Eight Strand Plaited Loaf of bread, according to the recipe handed out by one of the Judges, Paul Hollywood. I had some spare time on Friday, so I thought that I would give it a try and it is a fantastic looking loaf, if I do say so myself! Here is a recipe for you so that you can impress your friends with an…

Eight Strand Plaited Loaf!

20120826-095525.jpg

Ingredients
500g strong white bread flour
2 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
10g salt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
340ml water
1 egg
Flour for dusting

Method
Put the flour into a mixing bowl and add the yeast on one side and the salt on other. Stir the ingredients together.

Add the olive oil and 3/4 of the water and mix together by hand. Then add the remaining water.

Turn the dough out and knead until silky and smooth looking – about 10 mins.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove and rise for about an hour.

    OPTIONAL STEP: Have a nice cup of tea!

Turn the dough out and knead for a few minutes. Separate the dough into 8strands of equal size, 16 inches long and roll into sausage shapes.

Fan the strands out from a central point at the top, like an octopus and stick the tops of the strands together, and then onto to the work surface. Now comes the tricky part.

Plait the dough. Follow this plan:

Label the strands 1 to 8, from left to right. Each time you move a strand, it will take the number of its new position in the row of strands.
Step 1: place 8 under 7 and over 1. Step 2: place 8 over 5. Step 3: place 2 under 3 and over 8. Step 4: place 1 over 4. Step 5: place 7 under 6 and over 1. Repeat steps 2 to 5 until all dough is braided.

The full recipe and plaiting guide can be found here: Full Recipe

Tuck both ends of the dough underneath to make it look nice and place on a floured baking tray before leaving to prove again, for another hour.

    OPTIONAL STEP: Have more tea!

Beat the egg and brush it over the loaf so that it bakes a nice golden brown colour.

Place the tray into a preheated oven at Gas Mark 5 (200 degrees) and bake for 20 – 30 minutes.

That’s it! Pretty simple huh! Check out the full recipe, linked above, to see videos on how to knead and knock back the bread if you’re unsure, and you can even find tonnes more recipes from the Bake Off!

20120826-122136.jpg