Week 5 – Traybakes and Biscuits

YAY! This week I was very keen to get going with my bake-along. I did actually complete this bake within hours of the episode being on TV. I just haven’t quite got around to blogging about it yet. The creations of the contestants were so unusual. I especially loved Howards tower of tea flavoured biscuits and I was destraught when Frances’ beautiful tower of buttons collapsed. This week also featured one of the hardest (IMHO) technical bakes to date. I would love to have had a go at the tuiles but my other half announced that if I messed up the kitchen to that extent he would have to seriously consider continuing to live with me. Luckily I had my heart set on the Traybake anyway. The creations presented by the contestants were superb and I hope to try making most of them in the future but I wanted to do something different and of my own. I have a huge number of chopped walnuts in my baking cupboard for an unknown reason so I decided that I would use up some this excess and incorporate them into my bake.

I decided to adapt this recipe I found online but I altered it by including some coffee (1tsp instant coffee granules) in the chocolate layer. This bake was fantastic although I think that cutting it into 24 portions would be a bit mean. Sixteen seemed about the right number. The walnut biscuit was very short with a nice crumbly texture and buttery flavour. The chocolate layer recipe is more unusual and not something that I have come across before. The combination of water and butter to make this gave an almost curdled texture when raw. I was beating the mixture together with a wooden spoon and this was insufficient to get the smooth glossy texture described. I would recommend beating the ingredients together in a different order, adding the water last to make a batter although the appearance of the raw mixture was not detrimental to the final outcome. The chocolate layer was soft and slightly chewy giving a nice contrast to the biscuit base.

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I loved this bake and Mr Elbi was also very pleased describing it as tasty trail mix. The addition of coffee and high nut content tempered the sweetness normally associated with chocolate and biscuit making it ideal for consumption on our recent walking break in Wales. I am tempted to try a second generation version of this bake soon with a thin layer of carmel between the biscuit and the chocolate. This would hopefully be a more indulgent variation on this recipe perfect for afternoon tea.

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Week 4 – Pies and Tarts

Argh! My own person Bake-Off challenge has ground to a serious halt. I have been baking but not putting the pictures etc. up on here. So prepare for an onslaught of baking related information. This week I took on the showstopper challenge……or did I? Last year the contestants were asked to make strudel and I was so inspired by the painstakingly slow process of gently stretching out the dough to get lovely thin strudel pastry. To me, this all seemed very similar to the filo pastry challenge but under a different name. If anyone feels strongly that this is incorrect I would love to know why but my interpretation of this challenge meant that I could try out a recipe that I have had my eye on for the last year; Catherine’s strudel from the last series of GBBO.

I modified the reipe slightly using a bit more couscous to make the filling and feta cheese to replace the slipcote cheese. I kind of wish I hadn’t done this because I think the softer cheese would have been nice in the strudel which turned out a bit dry in the middle.

Making the dough was good fun. I used the over the shoulder flinging method to need my pastry and had to remake it after a disaster which saw the first batch sail across my kitchen and land in the bin – could not have done it better if I had tried. The second batch was more successful though and stayed out of the bin. As the dough comes together, it becomes a soft elastic dough that stretches like silly putty. After resting it has to be stretched to the very thin sheet that is used to wrap the dough. This was so much easier than I expected. In fact it was so easy that I made it way too thin and then it was too delicate to manipulate around the dough. I could have read a newspaper through it though. The strudel wasn’t as neat as I had hoped but it made for great picnic fodder when walking around the Brecon Beacons this week. We ate it with plenty of yogurt mixed with chilli sauce to counteract the dry texture of the filling but this went nicely with the strudel. I am no longer scared of making this super thin pastry though and look forward to using it again.

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