Sunday, 28 September 2014

Great British Bake Along: Chelsea Buns

It was advanced dough week on the Great British Bake Off this week, which as far as I can tell just meant using enriched dough (dough with eggs and butter added) and adding fruit, which can retard the rising process.

I've kind of made a lot of enriched dough and filled loaves recently and I'm a wee bit bored of it, so I decided to make Chelsea buns. According to the slightly warped ideas I have about the bread family tree, this still counts.

I think someone even made them on Bake Off. This is what mine looked like:

I used a recipe of Paul's as my starting point, but as we all know, I am a rebel without a cause. So after I had made the basic dough and started to add the fruit, it all got a little crazy.

Basically, I substituted the fruit mixture Paul used for sour cherries and marzipan and used a glaze of lemon syrup. There were two reasons for this - firstly, I had marzipan and lemon syrup left over from my Fraisier Cake. Secondly, cherries go well with marzipan and I thought sour cherries would cut through the added sweetness.

I have a troubled relationship with cherries in that I really like them, but am allergic to them. When I eat fresh cherries my mouth swells on the inside and becomes quite painful. But preserved cherries are fine, so I like to use sour cherries in my baking.

Don't even try to talk to me about glacé cherries, they are gross.

This recipe makes 10 buns with some stupid off-cut pastry that I usually end up baking anyway because I don't like waste.

You will need:

For the dough:
500g strong white bread flour plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
7g sachet fast-acting yeast
300ml milk
40g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 egg, beaten
oil, for greasing

For the filling:
25g unsalted butter, softened
finely grated zest of one lemon
75g soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
300g dried sour cherries or unsweetened cranberries
100g marzipan, wrapped in clingfilm and chilled in the fridge

To finish:
200g/7oz icing sugar, sifted
the juice of 2 lemons
70ml water
75g caster sugar

1. Put the flour in a large bowl and add the yeast and salt to opposite sides of the bowl. Put the butter and milk in a pan and heat very gently until the butter melts - the milk should only be lukewarm.

2. Add the egg and the milk mixture to the flour and stir until it begins to come together into a dough, then tip out onto a floured work surface and knead for around 5 minutes until smooth, elastic and no longer sticky.

3. Roll the dough into a ball and oil a large bowl. Put the dough into the bowl, turning over a couple of times so the dough is well-oiled. Leave for an hour until doubled in size.

4. Roll out the dough into a 40cm x 20cm rectangle. 

5. Beat together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling and spread across the rectangle with a knife. Then sprinkle with the lemon zest and the fruit and grate the marzipan over the dough. Use your palms to gently press the fruit into the dough.

6. Dampen a finger and use it to stick the dough down to the work surface along the furthest long edge from you. Then, roll the dough towards you, pulling gently against the stuck down edge to tighten the roll.

7. Grease a baking tray. Slice a couple of inches off each end of the roll so that both ends show a spiral of cinnamon and fruit. Cut the roll into 10 equal slices and place each cut side up on the baking tray.

8. Cover the tray loosely with clingfilm and leave for 30 minutes to an hour until the buns have doubled in size. While waiting, preheat the oven to 190C.

9. Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, then leave to cool. 

10. Put 2 tbsp of the lemon juice aside and put the rest in a saucepan with the caster sugar and water then heat until the sugar dissolves. Boil rapidly for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and brush over the cooled buns. Mix the reserved lemon juice with the icing sugar and using a teaspoon, drizzle the icing over the buns.

Eat with a strong cup of coffee!

Next time on the Great British Bake Off it's patisserie. I have NO idea what I am going to do. What on earth is an entremet?

Bye for now,


Great British Bake Along: Mary Berry's Fraisier Cake

I feel like I have been moaning about my baking quite a lot recently - saying things didn't turn out quite like I wanted them too, or that something looked better before the glaze melted or the oven caught fire or whatever.

In case my housemates or parents are reading this - that was exaggeration, I have not set the oven on fire. 


Anyway, perhaps I've been experiencing some baking troubles recently because I have been stretching myself by trying a lot of new things in my self-set bake-along challenge. 

And that's fine. Any skill gets better with practice and so if I didn't crimp my pastry properly, or I applied cream to my pecan tart too soon and it melted, I'll know better next time.

But this is one cake that, although it caused me some anxiety at points, turned out exactly how I wanted to. On Friday, we were holding a Macmillan Coffee and Cake morning at work, although it actually went on all day. In case you haven't heard of Macmillan's Coffee morning, it's basically a fundraising event where one person will organise to collect donations from everyone at work in exchange for coffee and cake. Coffee is free in our office, so we just made or bought cakes, cut them into slices and stuck a price on each cake, between 50p to £2 for a slice.

I wanted to make something a bit special, that I hadn't made before, so I attempted the very pretty, very tasty French Fraisier cake, using Mary Berry's recipe. 

It turned out like this:

OK, so it wasn't so pretty when it was cut and the filling splodged everywhere, but I got the photos in before then. 

The decoration did involve me having to bring 3 tupperwares and a sieve to work. I needed a little box full of icing sugar, one with chocolate dipped and sliced strawberries and one with the chocolate decorations. I wasn't convinced that if I decorated it at home the finished product would survive my tube journey and I didn't want the sliced strawberries to bleed and discolour the marzipan.

But apart from having to steal away to the kitchen to work my magic and the panic I felt when I realised the cake board wouldn't fit in my cake box and I was going to have to carry it on the tube for 45 minutes protected only by greaseproof paper and clingfilm, there were no baking mishaps at all.

If you want to make this cake I would say that organisation and precision are really important. No single part of making this cake was hard, but there is a lot to do, so it's not something you can throw together in an hour or so. I baked the sponges in advance and froze them until needed, made the crème mousseline (that's firm custard to me or you) a day in advance and sorted through the strawberries to see which ones were of a similar size and shape before I started using them.

The cake cut into 8, but a more skilled cake slicer could probably manage 10.

You will need:

For the sponges:
125g caster sugar
4 eggs
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
125g self-raising flour, plus extra for flouring
50g melted butter, plus extra for greasing
a small (23cm) baking tin, either spring-form or loose-bottomed

For the crème mousseline:
600ml/20fl oz milk
vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
4 eggs and 2 egg yolks
180g caster sugar
1 tbsp kirsch or other berry liqueur (I used homemade blackberry liqueur)
100g cornflour
150g butter, cubed and at room temperature

For the lemon syrup:
75g caster sugar
juice of 2 lemons
70ml water

To decorate:
200g golden marzipan
100g dark chocolate
600g strawberries (I'd get them on the day you put the cake together so they're good and fresh)
icing sugar, to dust
a piping bag

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line the baking tin. Place the sugar, eggs and lemon zest for the sponge in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water.

2. Whisk with an electric hand mixer until pale, doubled in size and very thick - you're aiming for soft peaks. Remove from the heat, sift in half of the flour and fold it in carefully. Sift in the rest and fold again. Add the melted butter and fold in. Bake in the prepared tin for 25-30 minutes until risen and pale golden brown.

3. Slice the sponge in half horizontally with a long, sharp knife and level off the top of the uppermost sponge. Set aside until needed.

4. To make the crème mousseline put the milk in a pan and add the vanilla bean paste, or if using a vanilla pod split it lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife before adding to the pan. Bring the milk to the boil and then take off the heat.

5. Whisk together all the remaining crème mousseline ingredients in a bowl, save for the butter and strain the milk mixture through a sieve into the bowl, whisking all the time to combine. Put the crème in a clean saucepan and put on a medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. This will take about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter then pour into a shallow dish and chill in the fridge until cooled.

6. Put the ingredients for the lemon syrup in a pan and heat until the sugar dissolves, then boil rapidly for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

7. Clean the baking tin and removing the base, place the tin on the plate or board on which you will be serving the cake. Line the sides with clingfilm and then with a piece of baking paper, keeping it as straight as possible and avoiding any folding or crumpling of the paper. Put the sponge back in the tin.

8. Brush the top of the sponge with the lemon syrup until you have used up half the syrup. Then use the back of a spoon or a spatula to squish the sponge down and against the sides of the tin. Select 12 large strawberries of a similar size and shape and hull them, then slice lengthwise. Set them on top of the sponge, with the cut side against the side of the baking tin.

9. Spoon the crème mousseline into a piping bag and pipe in between the strawberries and over the sponge until covered. Then wash, slice and hull the rest of the stawberries, keeping 3-5 whole for decoration. Add most of the sliced strawberries to the baking tin, keeping just a few back for decoration.

10. Pipe more crème mousseline on top of the strawberries until covered, then even up with the back of a spoon, spreading right up to the sides of the tin.

11. Place the other sponge on top and repeat the brushing with syrup and squishing down. Roll out the marzipan and use the base of the cake tin to cut out a circle the size of the top of the cake, then place it on top. Put the cake in the fridge to chill.

12. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, then dip the whole strawberries in it and place upside down on a sheet of greaseproof paper to set. Put the remaining chocolate in a piping bag, snip the end off and pipe decorative shapes on the sheet of greaseproof paper. Leave to set.

13. Take the cake out of the fridge when needed and lift off the tin and clingfilm. Carefully peel away the greaseproof paper and dust the top of the cake with enough icing sugar to completely cover it. Place the chocolate decorations around the edge of the cake and top with the chocolate-dipped and sliced strawberries you kept for decoration.

14. Pose with your beautiful creation.

I am pleased to say we raised a total of £170 for Macmillan Cancer Support, so well done us. 

I am also nominating this post as my cake bake-along post, because I didn't actually make a cake on the first week of the Bake Off. I only came up with the bake-along idea later.

Yes, I know they didn't make it in the episode. They made Swiss rolls and mini cakes. But I don't care.

See you soon for advanced dough! No, I don't know what "advanced" entails either. But I'm making Chelsea Buns.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Great British Bake Along: Mushroom and Lentil Pasties

Pastry week on the Bake Off!

This week the bakers were tasked with a signature bake making 24 filled pastries of some description – there were empanadas, pasties, mini beef wellingtons and samosas.

The technical bake consisted of making something no-one had ever heard of and only Richard really nailed it. Then the showstopper was an éclair extravaganza, which is a phrase I wish I could use more often.

I was tempted to make éclairs, but since I made a two foot tower of profiteroles (or a croquembouche, to those of us initiated in the secrets of choux) at the tender age of 20, I feel I'm already a master of that form of pastry.

I hate to blow my own trumpet, but if the choux fits…

So I went with the signature bake and made pasties. I used one of Paul’s recipes for the pastry, but I couldn’t find any shredded vegetable suet in Sainsbury's (I know, outrageous) so I just used margarine.

I used a slightly altered version of the mushroom and lentil filling recipe the nice lady from Fisher&Co wrote on the back of a receipt for me. I also made a cheese and leek filling, but I can't be sitting here writing you recipes all day, so I'm just going to give you the mushroom filling recipe.

Look at the shine on that pasty! That was a result of egg-washing it about every 10 minutes as it was baking...

Despite the lack of vegetable suet, I thought these pasties came out really well. I had a bit of trouble with the crimping - I think it might be because the pastry seemed a bit dry after rolling it out with a dusting of flour, so perhaps if you try this recipe run a wet finger along the edges of the pastry before crimping. This recipe makes 4 pasties.

You will need:

For the pastry:
500g strong white bread flour
150g baking margarine (or 25g butter & 120g lard, vegetable suet or shortening)
pinch of salt
100ml water
1 beaten egg

For the filling:
400g finely chopped mushrooms
1 finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
seasoning, to taste
knob of butter
100g brown or green lentils, either from a tin or already soaked and boiled

1. Fry the onion, mushrooms and garlic in the butter until the mushrooms have released all their water and it has cooked off. Season to taste and set aside to cool.
2. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl, then add the margarine (and other fat, if using) in cubes. Or just mauled into lumps, like I have here.

3. Rub the margarine into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

4. Make a well in the crumbly mixture and add the water, stirring all the time with one hand until the mixture comes together into a dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth, glossy and pliable.

5. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes to an hour, preheating the oven to 170C at some point during the chilling.

6. Divide into 4 equal pieces and roll each out into a circle the size of a dinner plate, using a plate to trim any excess pastry away. 

7. Put the filling on one side and pull the pastry on the other side up over it. Crimp around the edges by putting your finger on the edge and pulling the pastry up around it. Watch this rather excellent video with Paul Hollywood to see how to do it.

8. Put the pasties on a greased baking tray, brush them with beaten egg and place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. If you want the high shine effect, you will need to brush them with egg every 10 or 15 minutes. 

9. Leave to cool a little, then dig in!

This is what the cheese and leek pasty looked like, in case you're interested: 

Next week on the Bake Off, it's enriched dough, which I don't want to do *grumble grumble* because I've made loads of brioche and such recently.

I'm also making Mary's Fraisier cake for a cake and coffee fundraiser at work because I love making things hard for myself. Hooray!



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Marzipan and Dark Chocolate Share & Tear Loaf

Today I am borrowing a recipe from the awesome Luis Troyano, one of my favourite contestants on the current series of Great British Bake Off.

Luis has consistently impressed the judges (and me, though he probably cares more about Mary and Paul's approval) with his precision, combinations of flavours and by bringing style and flair to every baking challenge.

I've been wanting to make a share and tear loaf using this technique ever since bread week, when I first saw it used. I used marzipan because I happened to get 100g marzipan free for answering a baking survey and 100g isn't really enough to decorate a cake or anything exciting like that.

My loaf isn't quite as pretty as Luis's, because I am not quite as precise as him and was in a hurry as I needed to get down to the shops before they closed. But I still think it's rather lovely. It's a different pattern to his as I turned all my slices the same way rather than turning one left and then the next right all the way around.

If you turn your slices like Luis did it will create a kind of double star pattern. You can see his recipe here.

I also topped my loaf with a rather lovely egg white and almond glaze, the recipe for which I got from Paul Hollywood's Sicilian Lemon and Orange Sweet Bread recipe. You can find that in his book, "Bread". The glaze adds a lovely crispiness to the crust and was a little nod to the marzipan filling.

If you want to make this loaf like a pro, then you're probably better following Luis's recipe. But if you want to make my variation on his recipe, here is the recipe:

You will need:

For the bread dough:
500g strong white bread flour
14g easy bake yeast
2 beaten eggs
100g soft butter
135ml milk
135ml hot water (not boiling)
10g salt

For the filling:
100g dark chocolate, grated
100g marzipan, rolled out into a large circle, slightly smaller than a large plate

For the glaze:
2 egg whites
25g ground almonds
25g caster sugar (plus extra to sprinkle over)

1. Add the dry ingredients to a large bowl, putting the yeast and the salt on opposite sides of the bowl.

2. Mix the milk and water together and make a well in the middle of the flour. Add the eggs, butter and a little of the milk and water to the well and beat into the flour, adding more of the liquid a little at a time until a soft, sticky dough forms. You probably won't need to use all of the liquid. Knead for 10 minutes and put in an oiled bowl to rise for at least an hour.

3. When the dough has risen, knock it back and cut in half. Roll one half out into a circle and lay on a lined baking tray. Lay the marzipan on top, then sprinkle over the chocolate. 

4. Roll out the other half and lay on top, then lay a large plate on top of the dough and trim around the edges, then press the edges together to seal. 

5. Put a small upturned bowl or glass in the middle of the dough and cut the bread into 16 equal slices.

6. Turn each slice twice towards the right, wrap the baking tray in clingfilm or a large plastic bag, leaving enough room for the dough to rise and leave to prove for an hour.

7. Towards the end of the proving preheat the oven to 200C and make up the glaze by beating together the egg whites, almond and caster sugar.

8. When the bread has proved and looks like the picture below, brush with the glaze and sprinkle with the remaining caster sugar, then bake for 20 minutes.

9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. 

You can then tear off slices and eat - although I think I'll cut with a knife so I get some of the middle. Next time I want to make a savoury version, using a recipe for a pastry filling I charmed out of the nice lady who owns my favourite local café.

Can't wait to grab a slice of this in the office tomorrow to have for breakfast with my Waitrose cappuccino.

Next time on my blog - my bake for GBBO pastry week!

Happy baking,


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Great British Bake Along: Hungarian Dobos Torte

This week was European cakes week on the Great British Bake Off - which sounds like an oxymoron, so that put my back up straight away.

What on earth is a European cake? It conjures up images of that 70s favourite, the black forest gateau, or a tarte tatin. All a bit run-of-the-mill, a bit boring. Not in the usual flamboyant style of GBBO.

Or so I thought.

So anyway, with a bit of perusal of the iPlayer site, I found out that the bakers would be making a Swedish princess cake for the technical bake and a variation on the Hungarian dobos torte (pronounced "dobosh" I believe).

The Swedish princess torte looked far too difficult, so I went for the Hungarian torte. There was an additional advantage to the torte; as some of you know, I've started a new job recently and Hungary is on my newsbeat. The cake was for a lunchbox party at work and it went down a storm there, but I wasn't quite so happy with it.

It was a difficult bake. It started with me giving myself blisters whipping buttercream, running out of cake batter and staying up until 1am to make six layers of sponge. And it ended with me quite literally hurling cocoa at the sides of a cake, whilst shouting the kind of words I wouldn't use on this blog, for fear of shocking any young readers. And vowing never to make a dobos torte again.

I've added some extra ingredients to this recipe, because I ran out of cake batter making it. The recipe instructed me to bake each sponge separately. Quite frankly, ain't nobody got time for that. I only had one sponge tin the correct size as well, so I elected to bake the cake in 3 batches and slice each in half. But if you have time or multiple 20cm cake tins I would advise you to bake each layer separately - I think it would produce a better result.

This is a recipe for a patient baker, I can't stress that enough. I am not a patient baker and the buttercream alone nearly broke me. The blisters on my whisk hand appeared within the first five minutes and the comments of my housemates on the colour, viscous nature of the mixture and the noises it made slapping against the side of the bowl did not help. Neither did switching on "Sexual Healing".

If for some bizarre reason you want to make a dobos torte, the recipe is as follows:

You will need:

For the buttercream:
150g dark chocolate
4 egg yolks
300g butter, softened and cut into pieces
2 tsp orange liqueur or flavouring
175g caster sugar
120ml water
disposable piping bag or icing syringe with star shaped nozzle

For the sponge:
250g plain flour
300g softened butter
300g caster sugar
50g cornflour
2 tsp baking powder
6 eggs
grated zest of one large orange
20cm cake tins, greased and lined

For the caramel topping:
175g caster sugar
6 tbsp water
a sugar thermometer (you can manage without)
an oiled knife
cooling rack

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and beat together the sugar, orange zest and butter for the sponge until light and fluffy.

2. Add the eggs one at a time, adding a tbsp of the weighed flour with each egg to ensure the mixture does not curdle, beating well after each addition. Sift in the rest of the flour, cornflour and baking powder and fold into the mixture

3. Measure out the batter into 6 equal parts and bake each layer in a cake tin for 15-20 minutes before sealing in an airtight tin or box, each layer separated by greaseproof paper. Choose the best looking layer and reserve it for the top of the cake.

4. Make the chocolate buttercream by bringing the sugar and water to the boil in a pan and boil until the temperature reaches 110 of the mixture thickens to a syrup - do not allow to caramelise. Beat in the syrup into the egg yolks, pouring it into the egg yolks and whisking furiously at the same time until mixture is cool, thick and of a mousse like consistency.

5. Add the butter in small pieces, beating to incorporate. Melt the chocolate and cool as much as possible without allowing to harden and beat into buttercream mixture. Add the orange flavouring and mix in.

5. Line a cold cake tin with several sheets of clingfilm. Put a layer of  cooled sponge in the cake tin and spread with buttercream, then repeat until all but the best-looking layer is used up.

6. Set the layer of sponge of a cooling rack, with a sheet of greaseproof paper underneath to catch any drips, Prepare the caramel by heating the sugar and water in a pan until bubbling rapidly. Do not at any point stir or the sugar will crystalise. Watch the caramel closely until it turns golden brown (the second picture below) - the difference between it being perfectly done and burnt is a few seconds and burnt caramel smells really horrible and will ruin your pans.

7. Pour the caramel over the sponge layer and score with the oiled knife, dividing into 12 slices so the cake will slice more easily.

8. Place the caramel glazed layer on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to spread on the sides of the cake and pipe around the edges of the final layer to decorate.

The cake should cut to reveal 6 clearly defined layers. While I won't pretend my torte was as pretty as those on GBBO, it did have 6 separate layers of orangey sponge:

If you're a regular reader you may notice that I've been cutting and pasting the instructions on how to make caramel from the same recipe in my archive for a few weeks now.

I make NO apologies for this. It's very boring typing out instructions on how to make caramel repeatedly. In fact it's nearly as boring as making caramel.

Anyway, that's the last European cake I'm going to be making for a while and certainly the last dobos torte for a long time. Join me next week for more Bake Off fun. It's pastry week - anything could happen.

Edit: Since making this, I've done a little more research and seen the GBBO bakers making dobos torte. Many of them used a fatless sponge, using eggwhites to increase the volume of the sponge mixture. If I make this again I will almost certainly use a fatless sponge - the added volume from the eggwhites would hopefully keep me from running out of batter and I love recipes that require you to separate the eggs but still use up all the yolks and whites. They're just so neat!