Week 3 – Deserts

For the third week of competitive baking, the contestants were asked to make a trifle, floating islands and petit fours. I find it hard to get massively excited about trifle as its not my favourite thing to eat. Having said that though, the inventive trifles that were produced were quite inspiring. The technical challenge was Mary Berry’s recipe for floating islands desert. This is the bake that I decided to attempt for myself from this weeks episode. I have never eaten these and I saw MIchel Roux Jr. make them on TV a while ago. I intended to have a go at theat point but never got round to it so now I thought this would be the perfect chance.

I have no electric whisk or hand mixer type equipment so I have to hand whisk everything. For that reason and the fact that there were only three of us for dinner last night, I made a half quantity of this desert. This was more than enough for the three of us and we were all feeling rather over-stuffed when we finished but I’m glad I did it. The custard that is made from this recipe is the best custard I have ever tasted. It was so rich and velvety and I could have eaten a whole tub of it.

Merigue at the ready
Merigue at the ready

This recipe was really easy to follow and I had very little trouble with it although I will not be writing quenelling merigue as a skill on my CV any time soon. My only concern was how long to cook the ‘islands for.’ The recipe calls for 8-10 minutes which contradicts what a number of other blogs say. When I poached the meringue, the islands puffed up and were massive but by the time they came they had shrunk back down again. I didn’t leave it for any longer than the recipe suggested and the texture of the meringue was like a mousse. Did I overcook them?

Poaching the 'islands'
Poaching the ‘islands’

I don’t know how this desert is supposed to taste but it was a loss less sweet than I thought it was going to be. My main experience with meringe is that stuff that crumbles into pure sugar in your mouth. I really enjoyed it but my other half in his usual supportive way decided it tasted like wierdly sweet scrambled egg………….he’s so lovely.

Plated and ready to munch
Plated and ready to munch

I will make this desert again as it has a very satisfying comforting feel to it but I think the spun sugar/some caramel is important to balance the flavours.

Week 2 – Bread – Part 2

In bread week I was also inspired by the technical challenge – English Muffins. I have tried to make these before a number of times with limited success. Normally, I cook them on the griddle and although burnt on the outside, when I cut them open, they are very dense and doughy and have to be toasted. I was a bit apprehensive about this bake but I was determined to give Paul’s recipe a go.

The dough is incredibly wet. Having watched the episode and seen the contestants struggle with this, I was not unprepared for this. Even still, it felt very wrong and after 10  minutes I did add a little bit of extra flour to bring it together. It really did feel like it had gone wrong and I hand kneaded for 20-25 minutes before the dough came together. At this stage I was worried that this might mean it had been overworked but I had to keep going. The dough proved slowly but effectively and I shaped it by hand instead of using a cutter (I didn’t want to waste any dough and I quite like the rustic uneven look of the batch.

The second rise was the most eventful part of the bake. During this episode of the bake off one of the contestants (Howard) is talking to Sue and she leans on his muffins leaving a mould of her elbow on his lovingly crafted muffins. As I covered mine with a tea towel, I was reminded of this moment and smirked to myself. Then I left the kitchen. When I returned, my lovely boyfriend had cleared the kitchen and stacked the washing up ready to get on with it. Unfortunately the bottom of the stack was my muffins. That’s what you get for being amused by another’s misfortune. Luckily there was nothing to heavy in the washing up and some gentle prodding revitalised my muffins.

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Part of me is loath to say it but that Paul Hollywood know what he’s doing. Look at those beauties. Brown tops and bottoms with white round the side. Those muffins were fluffy and rich and so much better than shop-bought. We ate them with cream cheese and smoked salmon and I can now confidently say that I CAN make muffins. I think I added too much extra flour when I made muffins previously.

Week 2 – Bread – Part 1

The second episode of the Great British Bake Off was all about bread. The bakers faced three challenges that all relied on well-behaved yeast and ovens to prevent them falling foul of Paul Hollywood’s thumb. All of the contestants seemingly handled the prospect of Paul compressing their carefully baked loaves back into dough with ease and the creativity on show was truly impressive.

In the signature challenge, the bakers had to make 48 consistent breadsticks. I absolutely loved the giant matchbox that Frances had made to house hers. In fact, after this and the sandwich shaped sandwich cake she made in week 1, I am eagerly looking forward to what she will come up in future episodes.  I tried my hand at this first challenge this weekend and made a batch of 20 cheddar cheese and black pepper breadsticks. I am very proud of these even though they are uneven and wonky. I never really considered making breadsticks but there was something very satisfying about this bake.

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I wasn’t sure of the best way to shape the breadsticks and ended up rolling the dough between my hands a la play dough spaghetti. This gave an uneven breadstick with lumps and bumps that would have made Paul Hollywood feel faint. However, they had a very satisfying snap and were quite morish. I would make these again but would use more cheese to give a stronger cheese flavour. I also have an idea for a sweet breadstick……..Watch this space!

Recipe

1 teaspoon of fast action dried yeast was combined with 2 teaspoons of sugar in 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water and left until frothy. This was then combine with 225 g strong white bread flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 150 ml of warm water. This was mixed together and then 20 g of finely grated mature cheddar and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper were added prior to kneading for 5 minutes. The dough was left to rise for 30 min and then shaped. The shaped breadsticks were left to prove for 30 min and then baked at 150 degC for 45 min.