Bake On 6 – Coffee & Almond Battenberg

Bake 6 – Coffee and Walnut Battenberg  – Season 2 – Episode 1

(All the bakes, all the time)

The Season 1 technical bakes were really quite easy, if you had the recipe in front of you. The first season of GBBO that I watched was season five. When I went back to watch season 1 I thought “are they joking?” The standard was so much lower. I think that a lot of people watched the first season and thought “Well, I bake a lot better than that, I’ll have a go!”

Thus, the Season 2 Technical Bakes are no joke. Even with the recipe and the masterclass videos – wherein Mary and Paul show you exactly how to make the recipes – the recipes have been difficult to execute. (Yeah, I’ve almost finished the Season 2 bakes and am well behind on blogging – much content to follow!)

So, the Battenberg. You may have noticed that the title and the assignment differ. My brother, who judges the bakes, is allergic to walnuts. I adapted this so he could eat it. Yep, it’s not the same, nope, I’m not sorry.

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Mooom, no pictures, the ingredients are shy!

Instant Coffee was the weirdest ingredient I had to get for this, that and margarine (or “baking spread”). The instant coffee adds a full cup worth of coffee flavour without the excess moisture that would mess up the sponge texture.

From here we moved on to a fairly standard sponge mix (that’s cake, America) and a craft project.

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Greezy! (You can’t see but it’s a Sur La Table pan, don’t tell my boss!)

I am now confident in my ability to make sure the cake comes out of the pan. Thoroughness is the key. Grease, maybe some flour and  parchment paper. Don’t skimp (my mom was a skimper because her mom – who taught her – was raised in the Depression when skrimping was really just being. I’m learning better ways now. And that has been a short lesson on how poverty interacts with multiple generations of a family long after members of that family are actually poor. /sjwrant) and your cakes will come out!

You can go out and buy a special Battenberg pan. I was not about that.  I am completely willing to buy equipment as I go about my quest, but I am pretty sure I’m not going to be popping out Battenbergs again (spoiler?). Mary Berry, being crafty like ice is cold (I put on my records, she knew all the grooves) shows one how to  use foil backed parchment to separate your pan into two baking chambers.

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Fold and cut, so that it will go into the cake pan nicely.

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There is the peak that will separate the two sponges.

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Making sure that the fold in in the middle.

My pan was 8*8 instead of 7*7, so my Battenbergs were more rectangular than square. No biggie.

Beat up the sponge, then, split it in half and add flavor to each half. Instead of walnuts, I used almonds.  Next time I would toast them to add even more flavour.

I tried to be exact on this part, to get identical sponges.

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And yet, my sponges were quite different sizes.  That was frustrating. I tried very hard to make them even before baking and it just didn’t happen.  I don’t know if it was the nuts. I got the sponges out, separated them and then went for a run.

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Break time.

Coming back it was time to assemble!

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Umm, yeah! Just like this!

 

I mixed up a truly miniscule bit of frosting. It was not enough!! You are meant to use it to stick the pieces of Battenberg together and then coat the outside so the marzipan sticks. There was just not enough of it to do all of that.  The sponge was crumbling when I tried to get the icing layer thinner and by the time I got to trying to stick on the marzipan there was none left.

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Uneven sponges, meet knife.

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All evened up and ready for slicing.

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Should have sliced my almonds thinner. There were big gouges when I cut the stack of cake down the middle

 

Marzipan! or Almond Paste? Marzipan! The recipe called for 8 oz of marzipan. The package had seven. I didn’t buy a second package so I would have the right amount and then have six ounces of marzipan left over. It didn’t make a difference.  I had enough to roll out and cover the cake.

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Marzipan is suspicious…..

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Bash it and roll it out. Board is covered in powdered sugar instead of flour.

 

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Engage child to cover the sponges in the marzipan. Rent child if necessary, this step cannot be skipped.

Rolling the marzipan and wrapping up the sponges was much easier than I had been anticipating. As a material, marzipan was fun and easy to work with. Paul likes to crimp, so I crimped and added almonds on top.

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Voila!

 

 

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Super Cute!

It looked good! The marzipan was separating from the sides due to the lack of frosting to stick it on.

We sliced it, ate it and… it was really gross. The commercial marzipan was disgustingly sweet. You couldn’t taste much coffee or almond, just sugar. For all that work it was not delicious. I would not make this again, unless I made my own marzipan (which I have done in the mean time and it came out great). If you make this, be selective about your marzipan and I think you will be much happier than I was.

-fh

Next Time:  Tart au Citron!

 

Bake On! 5 – Cornish Pasties

GBBO Season 1, Episode five

I must say, the husbeast and I were really looking forward to this bake…

pasty reference

Cornish Pasties!!

When I lived in the UK I loved these things. Whenever I went into town I would go to the Cornish Pasty Shop and grab one of these guys. A pasty (pronounced pass-tee) is basically thick stew in a handy carrying case. Eating the pastry case is somewhat optional. Like fajitas, when originally devised the pastry was not meant to be eaten but was effectively the equivalent of a Tupperware. I’m not a coal miner or a cowboy so my food stays cleaner and thus the pastry should be tasty _and_ functional.

 

This recipe is a bog standard, traditional pasty with beef, swede (rutabaga), potato, and onion filling.

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The baking equivalent of this.

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Ready, Steady…

 

Some things that we use are just tools. Some things have more meaning. Growing up, in my mom’s kitchen we had a bowl that looked a lot like this one.

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This is not that bowl. This was my mother’s mother’s bowl. I got a fair amount of kitchen equipment when my grandmother died and all of it is special to me. This is my go-to mixing bowl for all applications. Five generations of my family have probably used this bowl. This is part of what I mean when I say that when I bake, I feel connected to the old magic. This is an artifact of the crone and I adore that about it.

 

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Rough, ready for action

 

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Post kneading

Kneading is standard at this point. No worries about overworking this one. Got it smooth and popped it in the frig. While the dough chills out in the frig, get the meat and veg chopped up

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You can’t see it but I’m making a mistake in this picture

This was the right size of dice for this bake. It’s not a particularly refined dish so no need to worry too much about perfect little cubes.

It’s in the nature of this project that I have little bits of things left because I’m sticking exactly to the recipes. A tiny bit of swede here, a tiny bit of potato there. The next time I bake these I’ll just use the whole veg rather than leaving 14 grams of onion unused (the horror).

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Kitchen Equipment you need – Measuring Tape. Seriously, don’t try to eyeball stuff, measure it. In thirty years, I’m sure I’ll be able to roll something out without measuring but for now I’m keeping one of these in my kitchen drawer.

Cornish Pasties traditionally have 17 to 21 crimps. Did I count? What do you think?

Pre and Post Crimping

Pre and Post Crimping

Of course I did, and I did 17! 18 if you count the fold under at the end. I gave them a hug, as this baker recommends.

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Seriously large pasties

Baking was sort of tricky. You need to make sure the meat is fully cooked and that the pastry isn’t overcooked. I didn’t want to stab them with a thermometer because they might lose their precious bodily fluids. My oven is slow, so time is the starting guideline and from there I go by the color I see in the masterclass videos. Egg wash is key!

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No soggy bottoms, yo! There was leakage, that seems to be normal.

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Golden! Delicious?

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Looks like the picture up above.

I ate them with a fork – picking out the filling and eating bits of the pastry. The case worked very well. It was easy to hold onto as I munched its guts.

Verdict – Delicious and pleasing!  I will totally bake more pasties. There were some dry spots. When I made my filling I got it together, added the seasoning and then let it sit for a while. When I put the filling on to the dough there was a lot of liquid left in the bowl, liquid that would have been better off in my pasty.

What will I change?

-If I was going to make it for Mary and Paul I would be more mindful of making them as close to the same size as possible. I would measure and roll the pastry more carefully and weigh out my filling as well.

-Not let my filling sit and lose juice, I have a feeling this was a problem that led to some of the dryness I got.

-Smaller Pasties. These were huuuuuge. I couldn’t finish a whole pasty including the pastry case as my dinner. Little Pip could eat about half a pasty worth of filling. More, smaller pasties would be easier to manage.

-Different fillings. You can go buck wild with pasty fillings. I’m looking forward to changing it up.

Bake On!

-fh

Next week, the first technical of Season 2 – the Coffee and Walnut Battenberg

Bake On! – 4 – Hot Lemon Soufflé

Hot times!!

Week 4 – Hot Lemon Soufflé

(Series Rundown)

Soufflés are sort of notorious little bastards. They belong to the category of foods I’ve never eaten so I have no idea if what I do is “right” so I’ll judge it based on if I like it and it looks right (which is actually most of the bakes).

The reputation of these very light, baked egg dishes is that they are finicky and will fail if you look at them wrong.

Mise en Place, not too complicated.

Mise en Place, not too complicated.

With Mary Berry’s how-to video and my intrepid companions by my side, I set out to conquer the wild soufflé beast.

Liz, mashing the yolks and the sugar.

Liz, mashing the yolks and the sugar. Me, whisking something with hot cream.

 

What struck me most about this recipe is how many times I took the mixture on and off the stove.  There were lots of tiny things to do.

Like make sure your egg whites are beaten enough to not fall out of the bowl

Like make sure your egg whites are beaten enough to not fall out of the bowl

I love to dwell on the history of recipes like this. The millenia of trail and error and the “well damn, I don’t have any more ingredients so I need make do with what I’ve got” attitude that led to making sure you brush the butter into the ramekins in the correct direction.

Liz actually beat some air back out of the egg whites, they were a bit too stiff, and then they got folded in to the egg yolk, flour, cream, mix.  I didn’t do it like Mary (gasp!) I used the whisk and lifted and let it drop through.  What I did do, vary carefully, is match the visual texture of Mary’s mix. Her’s was very smooth and I went for that.

with a capital, smoooooo....

with a capital, smoooooo….

Into the ramekins, and into the oven. Liz and I introduced my little girl to the fine art of watching for the perfect moment to pull something out of our hat.

Onward, to fluffy, well risen glory!

Onward, to fluffy, well risen glory!

Wait for it...

Wait for it…

I don’t know if my oven is really slow, I use a thermometer every time I bake, or recipes tell you too little time so you start checking early and don’t burn stuff.  Either way, the souffles took about 17 minutes, not the 14 on the recipe.  They would have been taller, except my ramekins were bigger than the recipe called for, so the mix didn’t fill them as full. But…

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Yaaassssss!

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Just the perfect little bit of golden brown-ness

How did they taste? Well for one, hot! You need to eat them right out of the oven. We skipped the powdered sugar.

They were light and lemony. Very delicious and we knocked them back as quickly as we could, given that we were burning our tongues!

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Yum! Ow! Yum! Ow!

Tasty and not actually that hard to do. Would bake again!

Next time: Cornish Pasties!

-fh

-fh

 

 

Bake On 3 – Cob Loaf

This is quite late because I was hella sick!

Onward to Week 3 – The Cob Loaf.

(Series Rundown)

This is plain, simple, white bread, shaped into a round loaf.

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Easy, right?

 

Once again, I read through the complete recipe, watched the episode that included the Cob, and watched a walk through video. If you’ve never watched Paul Hollywood knead dough, you’re missing out on life. It’s, well, it’s amazing (He always does it with one hand. So intense).

Step 1 – Wash the dishes. I like a clean kitchen to cook in, I also like a happy husbeast, so I always keep it clean.

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Mise en place – not a lot to it.

 

Pre-Kneading

Pre-Kneading

I love the process of kneading dough. It feels like old magic. Well before we had the science of baking down, a long lineage of people applied trial and error to figure out what did and didn’t work. They didn’t know they were developing gluten, they just knew if you beat the crap out of it, it got better. When I do this, I feel like I’m reaching for the Crone. It’s a connection, an awareness of history.

 

 

I didn’t expect herself to be that good at kneading but she was a natural! We gave it a good working over and got it nice and smooth, with a capital smooooo……

 

Post kneading, pre-rise

Post kneading, pre-rise. 

 

The most interesting thing I learned during this bake was how to shape a loaf. Unlike quick breads, it’s important to shape yeasted breads so they rise in a particular direction.

 

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This guy has risen, been beaten back, and shaped. Now for the second rising.

 

For this loaf I folded it inwards, in a circle, to make sure it rose up and didn’t flatten out as it bakes. The shaping aligns the gluten and thus the structure of the loaf. It’s more important for a “free form” loaf than one in a tin.

 

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The slicing on the top looks pretty and prevents cracking.

 

After the second rise (another hour to mess around/clean the kitchen) the loaf is coated in flour and then cut on top. Then it’s baking time.

 

Look at that bake!

Look at that bake!

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It looks so good, right???

This is waaaay underbaked.

This is waaaay underbaked.

 

While the outside looked great, the inside was not done.  I was baking and cooking dinner, so I had pulled my loaf and thrown in porkchops.  The moral of the story is that time pressures don’t go well with baking, especially when it’s your first time with a recipe.

 

Paul knows what I did, and he does not approve.

Paul knows what I did, and he does not approve.

 

So it didn’t go well.  I baked it a bit more, and it was fine as toast. But I knew that I had not met this technical challenge.

So I baked it again the next day. The whole thing, the kneading, the rising, the flouring, the cutting, the folding. All of it. I baked it ten minutes longer and I got…

 

This guy. Pretty on the outside....

This guy. Pretty on the outside….

 

...Pretty on the inside!

…Pretty on the inside!

 

The moral of this week’s baking? It’s gonna suck sometimes. I’m gonna screw up. Then I’m gonna learn and go right back after it.

The bread was delicious, by the way.

-FH

Next time on the Great Bake On – Cornish Pasties!

Bake On! – Scones

Great British Bake Off Series 1, Episode Two

Technical Challenge – Paul Hollywood’s Scones

All right! After last week’s good to eat but definitely totally wrong Victoria Sponge, it’s on to Scones. In the spirit of getting better at this, I actually watched the instruction videos on how to make these _before_ I tried the recipe! A huge problem with this project is  that for most of these bakes, I have never tasted a “proper” one. I can judge if I think something is good, but I can’t really speak to whether it is up to Mary Berry’s standards. But I’m not letting that stop me.

I'm sorry TV Grandma!

I know you’re judging me and I don’t care!

British Scones are different than US Scones. The ones in the States tend to be triangular and very sweet. The British ones are round, having been rolled and cut, and are not as sweet.

Can you see what's missing?

Can you see what’s missing? I’ll bake for the first person who sends me the correct answer.

 

I got the ball rolling (ha!), greased and papered a pan. I could have used silicone but I went with parchment. I don’t think it makes a difference. Sonic and the Outlaw came over to play Berry and Hollywood for the day.

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Do you trust these people with your dough?

I knew that the handling was key. You don’t knead this dough, as you want it to stay very soft and fluffy. You “chaff” the dough, which is a gentle folding that incorporates the rest of the flour and smooths the dough without developing too much gluten.  Hollywood has you use bread flour (strong flour for the Brits) (if you follow this path you will need to research both terms and unit conversions, teaspoons are NOT the same in the US and the UK). This _could_ develop a lot of gluten, so you need to be on guard! It is not kneading.

His other super pro move is to keep back 50 grams of the flour from the mix for the chaffing, to dust hands, board and dough.  This ensures that you don’t screw up your ratios by adding flour during the chaffing, you have just enough.

So soft and fluffy!

So soft and fluffy!

Once the dough is chaffed and smooth, it is gently rolled out to about 1″ thick (the width of my thumb) by the enthusiastic three year old you keep in your kitchen.

Kitchen Gremlin, hard at work.

Kitchen Gremlin, hard at work.

(Don’t worry, to cute keeps coming next week as well). Then it is cut with a biscuit cutter. You can roll the dough a second time to cut more out without too much worry but the third roll is a bad situation. The three scones in the middle of the pan were from the third rolling of the dough. They tasted fine but they lacked height.

Martha Stewart advises (and I agree, so that’s weird) that you should just cut them out of the dough to avoid any wastage if you aren’t worried about looks.  I’ll do that next time. They were very pretty, but I’d rather have more sconces than pretty scones.

Seriously, the best part of this is that my kid is super excited to do it with me.

Seriously, the best part of this is that my kid is super excited to do it with me.

I then put the egg wash over the top, taking care to keep it off the sides, as it can arrest the rise.  I think when I do these again I might wait until after the rest to add the egg wash. It’s not a biggie, but I think the shape of the tops was a bit small and wonder if waiting on the egg wash would allow the tops to expand in line with the bodies.

After the rest, during which they puffed up a bit, into the oven. And…

Golden, fluffy, split in the middle perfection.

Golden, fluffy, split in the middle perfection.

How do they taste? They are what we in the US would call a baking powder biscuit with a hint of sweetness.  They make an excellent vehicle for butter and jam and the fun sorts of cream that one can get in the UK.

Butter and Jam, you say?

Butter and Jam, you say?

This week was a victory. I feel very good about scones. We demolished most of the batch over a couple of pots of tea. A+ would bake again.

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Carnage

Next week, the Cob!

-fh

Bake On – Victoria Sponge

Great British Bake Off Series 1, Episode One

Technical Challenge – Mary Berry’s Perfect Victoria Sandwich

Mary-Berrys-Victoria-sandwich

Yum!



So, Victoria Sponge or Victoria Sandwich, a quintessentially British cake, closely tied to High Tea. Not a cake many US people would have made or eaten. It looks simple, and tasty!!

Pretty easy to set up, small ingredient list. Self rising flour? Weird. It’s just all purpose flour with salt and baking powder added. I looked up a recipe and knocked it up really quick.

Let's bake!

Let’s bake!

I knew from the get go I had a problem.  My butter was not room temperature and it needed to be creamed with the butter. Bonus – I go to the gym on Saturday mornings and my arms were wrecked.

(Sonic – You had T Rex arms! You can’t cream butter with T Rex arms!)

I can't make caaaaake!

I can’t make caaaaake!

I should have just used my mixer but the recipe was an all in one (throw everything together) rather than a cream then add flour recipe.  I would have been better served to diverge from the recipe to fix what I knew would be a big problem than to stick to a recipe that would be problematic.

My mix was not good. I was so worried about over mixing, that I didn’t get it anywhere near smooth enough.

I did remember to deploy my oven thermometer and actually get my oven fully preheated and to the correct temperature.

When my oven beeps to say it's pre-heated...

When my oven beeps to say it’s pre-heated…

I got the sponges into the oven. My tins are 9 inches across and the recipe calls for 8 inch tins.  I didn’t adjust my baking time. I was also cautious about opening the oven early as cakes _will_ fall if they get a cold draft too soon during baking.

Done? Done!

Done? Done!

They were golden! But unevenly so. The outside edges of each sponge were darker. I need to spin and adjust bakes to keep them browning evenly (look how much I’ve learned already). I let them cool and then applied jam. It seemed like a lot but next time I would use more.

Golden orbs.

Golden orbs.

I didn’t have caster sugar. Sometimes this is ok and granulated will work.  This is not the case for decorating the top of this cake. It was grainy and weird. When we cut into the cake it was crunchy. Eeek. It should be soft! The crumb was large and very irregular.

There you have it!

There you have it!

Now, it tasted fine but it was really not correct. I guess I’ll have to make it again!

Vile, overbaked, badly mixed garbage! Still tasty tho!

Vile, overbaked, badly mixed garbage! Still tasty tho!

-fh

 

 

Struck by Lightning – The Great Bake On!

Art is like gambling. The thrill of gambling is the uncertain return. We keep trying because we never know what we are going to get. Media is like that, we keep consuming, reading, playing, watching, listening because we never know when something will hit us in such a way that our lives will be made richer, stranger, or more nuanced by the perspective provided.

I watched a season of The Great British Baking Show (in the UK it’s The Great British Bake Off) and I am hooked. I have watched one of the series all the way through four times. I make my family watch it, I make my kid watch it and pick out dishes to make for her. I remembered that I love to cook. Spending a Saturday picking a recipe or two, shopping for ingredients, and making something is a damn fine way to spend time with my kid who is three and a half now and well into scooping, mixing, patting, and holding the top of the new KitchenAid Mixer.

My Grand Idea is to go back to the beginning and bake my way through the entire run of the show. Each episode has a technical challenge and I’m going to work my way through them posting a review of the episode and my attempt at the bake on a weekly basis.

Why?

Well, it’ll be fun. But also, I wonder, what does it take to be a Great British Baker? I’m one of those people who isn’t super creative as a cook but I can follow a recipe with no problem. I turn out reliably good food. The winners on this show? They turn out magnificent bakes. They innovate with shape and flavour. They step off the line and kick ass. Can baking a lot give me the confidence to try? Failure is just a lesson, will I find the courage to fail? The courage to think that I have something to contribute? At the very least, if I don’t become a great baker, will I at least become a better one?

Let’s find out!

-fh

 

Cannonball Read 6 – Review #11 – A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Laugh-out-loud-while-reading-on-public-transit funny.  (Please head to the Cannonball Read 6 Blog to have fun and fight cancer!)

I read this book because I am very slowly working my way through all the books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for FictionDunces won in 1980. There is a certain anticipation when starting an award winning novel. I wonder  “What is so special about this work? Why did it win?” I wonder if I am up for the challenge, if I can do the work justice as a reader. Continue reading

Cannonball Read 6 – Review #10 – Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/ Smart Toys

Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/ Smart Toys by Stevanne Auerbach (Click to link to visit the awesome Cannonball Read blog and help raise money to fight cancer!)

Non-Fiction guide to buying developmentally appropriate toys for children, from babies to teens.

Note: This review was written about a previous edition of the book.  

There are a lot of books on parenting out there. As a first time parent, I wanted to do the best job I could without getting caught up in the feeling of failing because I wasn’t doing it right according to Sears or Spock or whoever.  I read technical books on how often babies needed to eat and when I might need to call 911 but avoided most behavioral texts.

Continue reading

Cannonball Read #9 – Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

This book was read and reviewed as part of the Cannonball Read, click through to read more reviews and help fight cancer!

 

I have been a musician for thirty years. I sing and play a variety of instruments. I’m the kind of person who can pick up just about any instrument and have a basic capability to play within a few minutes. I have never felt like less of a musician than when I read this book. It’s not that it shows me to be technically insufficient but that he tells of a world of music which I can never hope to experience.

Continue reading