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!

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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”.

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Until Next time…

 

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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.

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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!

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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! 😉

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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!

Stop Doing That… In a Fast Food Restaurant!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might think that the topic of Fast Food is a bit played out since I’ve already talked about it a fair few times. If you’re new here or require a catch-up then please click here to learn about OCS (Obnoxious Customer Syndrome) or here to see the first “Stop Doing That” about ordering your fast food.

So where can we go from here? Surely I’ve already covered the most important parts, right? Well today, we’ll be looking at what happens when you move away from the counter and enter the restaurant seating area. There are just oh so many things that you can do here to make yourself one of the most annoying customers ever. So, without further ado let me attempt to help you realize and rectify your mistakes!

STOP: Not clearing your own table
This is something that majorly bugs me. It’s not difficult to do either, so there’s no excuse for you getting up and wandering off WITHOUT taking the tray with all of the rubbish and detritus from your meal and putting it in the bin. Seriously, the bins are out there, in the lobby, for you to use. In most cases you walk past at least one bin to reach the exits! It’s not hard. If you don’t take your tray to the bin then I hope you enjoy the special hell that will be waiting for you. you know, the one reserved for child molesters and people that talk at the theater. (Bonus points for you if you got that reference. If you didn’t, you can educate yourself here: Special Hell)

STOP: Covering the tables in sauce
I mean really, we give you paper plates for a reason so is there any need to cover the entire table in sauce? Do you know how difficult it is to get that stuff off once it’s dried!? It’s like adamantium, you can’t destroy it!

STOP: Getting carried away with the napkins etc.
You know full well you’re not going to use that entire wad of 50 or so napkins for your single burger meal, so how about you just grab a few and not half a forest’s worth of napkins. Save the Earth guys! (And yes, stop me having to sweep up hundreds of unused napkins every shift.)

STOP: Throwing what seems like the entirety of your meal on the floor
I know that occasionally, things fall on the floor. I’m ok with that really. I don’t mind having to sweep the floor, I have to do it anyway. I do take a personal vendetta fueled by my own burning rage against people who do this slight umbrage with those people that seem incapable of using a table and have managed to tip an entire trays worth of food and rubbish over the floor. Table manners do exist guys, please try not to forget them just because you’re not in a fancy restaurant!

 

Recipe: Skinny Lemon And Blueberry Cake

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It’s time I told you a big secret about me. I am a huge fan of cooking shows. What? You already figured that out? Oh…

Yes, it’s true I’m a massive fan of any television programme involving food! Current favourites include the Jamie Oliver “Double the time it takes me to make these meals” series and recently, The Hairy Dieters. What intrigued me most about the the Hairy Bikers new show was that they attempted to keep eating the same foods that they loved whilst trying to lose weight and get healthier. This ranged from the creation of a slimline pie and a waistline friendly quiche to one of my personal favourites: Skinny Lemon Cupcakes.

In case you’re new to this blog, I’m an avid baker and I especially love baking cakes (don’t get me started on buttercream icing though, I have a long running vendetta against that foul creation). With my love for cake, but also my love for exercise, this seemed like the perfect recipe to try especially due to everybody having New Years resolutions to eat healthier or lose weight! sadly due to the fact that I left my cupcake tins at home after the holiday this had to become a full cake. What a shame.

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Ingredients:
for the cake
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g golden caster suga
100g blueberries
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
2 large eggs
150ml low-fat natural yoghurt
2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
50ml sunflower oil
and for the icing
200g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees
Grease or line a cake tin
Sift flour and baking powder together in a large bowl and storing the sugar
Zest the lemon and add to the mix along with the blueberries
Whisk the eggs until smooth and add the oil, milk and natural yoghurt – stir until smoothly combined
Add mixture to the dry ingredients and stir together with a large metal spoon
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and place in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes
Enjoy a nice relaxing cup of tea whilst you wait
Once cooked, remove and allow to cool.

Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice together until you reach desired consistency
Take a spoon and liberally drizzle the icing over the cake, it doesn’t need to look fantastic, it’s a rough and ready tasty cake!

And that’s it! The calorie count of this cake is roughly half of a a standard, with butter cake BUT that isn’t an excuse to eat twice as much!
Leave me a comment if you make the cake and let me know how you get on!
Now you have your cake, go and eat it too!

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?!

 

Student Survival: Recipe: Simple Soup

Dr. Egon Spengler: I have a radical idea. The door swings both ways, we could reverse the particle flow through the gate.
Dr. Peter Venkman: How?
Dr. Egon Spengler: [hesitates] We’ll cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: ‘Scuse me Egon? You said crossing the streams was bad!
Dr Ray Stantz: Cross the streams…
Dr. Peter Venkman: You’re gonna endanger us, you’re gonna endanger our client – the nice lady, who paid us in advance, before she became a dog…
Dr. Egon Spengler: Not necessarily. There’s definitely a *very slim* chance we’ll survive.
[pause while they consider this]
Dr. Peter Venkman: [slaps Ray] I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! LET’S DO IT!

Yes it’s time for the second instalment of Student Survival Recipes! This time, since the days are getting darker and the weather is getting colder, I thought I would offer up a quick and easy lunch that is still pretty dang healthy! All it takes is a little bit of preparation and you can have quite a few days worth from this one cooking session! Break out the Tupperware and lets get started!

Simple Leek and Potato Soup
Makes 4 servings

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Ingredients
2 leeks
4-6 medium potatoes
1 1/2 pints of boiling water
1 vegetable stock cube
Salt
Pepper
Paprika

Method
Thinly slice the leeks and add to a saucepan to soften.
Peel and chop the potatoes into small pieces then add to the leeks.
Fry for 5-10 minutes until slightly softened.
Add the stock cube to the water and stir until completely dissolved.
Pour the stock into the saucepan with the leek and potatoes and cover.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
There are now two ways that you can continue, depending on personal preference and equipment on hand
EITHER:
Take off of the heat and use a hand blender to blend the vegetables and stock into a thick and creamy mixture,
OR
Use a potato masher to smash up the larger chunks, turning the soup into a chunky broth.
Season with salt, pepper and paprika to taste.
Serve, store and enjoy!

How easy was that!!? There will be a few more of these kinds of posts over the coming months as quite a few people have told me that they “can’t cook anything decent”. If you have any requests, feel free to email them in using the contact details on my profile or leave them in comments!

Student Survival: Recipe: Speedy Beef Stroganoff

Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.
Peter Venkman: What?
Spengler: Don’t cross the streams.
Venkman: Why?
Spengler: It would be bad.
Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”?
Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Venkman: Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

That’s right, today I am going to completely disregard and flaunt the most important rule of Ghost busting. I am going to cross the streams! Unfortunately I don’t own a proton pack (I can imagine that I wouldn’t get anything done if i did have one…) so the streams that I’ll be crossing will be purely blog based. It’s time to mix student life with cooking, in an attempt to keep your diets fresh, your lifestyles healthy and your wallets full!

This meal is a personal favourite of mine as it is cheap, quick, simple and super tasty! It really fills you up and can be pretty warming on these sharp autumn evenings!

Speedy Beef Stroganoff
Number of servings: 2

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Ingredients
1/2 red onion
6 medium mushrooms
250g beef mince
1/2 tub of soured cream
200ml beef stock
2tbsp paprika
1tsp back pepper
2/3 mug of rice per person

Method
Fry the onions until starting to colour
Add in the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes until beginning to brown
Add the mince and cook for 5-10 mins until completely browned
Put rice on to boil for 10-15 minutes
Stir in soured cream and coat mixture in it
Add paprika and pepper and mix well
Stir in beef stock and simmer for 10 mins.
Drain rice and serve with stroganoff