Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The October Lust List

I love October because it is the month of scares, tricks and spooky treats! Adding that scary edge to baking is so much fun as you can see from my Spooky "Bone" Meringues and "Zombie Brain" Charlotte Royale. I hope you've all been having a great time making your bakes look ghoulish and terrifying! We're having a Halloween buffet at work which I am so excited for, I'll be making Pumpkin Pie. Now that The Great British Bake Off has come to a close for another year, you may be inspired to get in the kitchen and start experimenting. Or you may be looking for Christmas gifts for a baking obsessed friend or relative. Here are some great baking accessories to consider...

Botanical Pumpkin Loaf Pan
Williams Sonoma, £21.73
How beyond adorable is this tin?! I absolutely love it! Such a perfect and seasonal effect for your autumnal bakes. I can just imagine making a pumpkin loaf cake in this.

Personalised 'Star Baker' Glass Dish
NotOnTheHighStreet.com, £35
Give yourself, or your loved one, the ultimate accolade - star baker - with this gorgeous glass dish. Perfect for making crumbles, pies, lasagnes, and more. You can have any name added to the dish.

Undead Fread Zombie Cookie Cutters
Baker & Maker, £7.95
Zombies are popular at any time of year thanks to shows such as The Walking Dead. Celebrate Halloween, or any other occassion with these creepy cookie cutters!

Chocolate Dip & Dunk Fork & Skimmer
Cake Craft Shop, £3.75
I have always had trouble coating truffles and cake pops in chocolate, this tool kit looks like the perfect solution to this problem!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Great British Bake Off Final

And so it ends for another year! The three finalists took their last walk over that little bridge into the Bake Off tent for their three final challenges. Kimberley, the 'flavour magpie' who is always confident and knowledgable about her bakes. Ruby, the youngest baker who often lets the pressure affect her and lacks self confidence despite delivering on flavour. And Frances, who makes everything she bakes looks stunning, but often lacks in the substance department.

The first challenge was to make a savoury picnic pie using shortcrust pastry that was elaborate looking, had a layered design on the inside, and was presented out of the tin - so no soggy bottoms allowed! Paul explained that himself and Mary wanted to see the bakers use pastry again to see if they had learnt anything. He wanted crispy and golden brown pastry that formed a crispy case for the fillings. Mary was after clear layers of fillings, good flavour, texture and apperance - basically she wanted it to be perfect!

We learnt about the back story of the bakers. Frances' mother cannot taste due to an injury on her nose, which could explain some of the substance issues Frances has experienced! Both Frances and Ruby were making a pie with weaved pastry and lattice effects. Kimberley's pie was decorated with pink pig shaped pastry pieces and green fencing around the sides.

Ruby and Frances did very well, I thought Ruby's pie looked fab with the basket effet. Kimberley's pie suffered from too much moisture and collapsed. She said in practice it hadn't worked well once, so I was confused as why she chose this for the final. It was a very clever idea and I was disappointed it didn't work

The technical challenge was to make twelve pretzels using a Paul Hollywood recipe. Six orange and poppyseed pretzels, and six savoury pretzels. A deep glossy coat, dense chewy interior, and for them to be tied in classic pretzel knot was requested. I've made Pretzels before (see post), and although mine weren't 'Paul Hollywood style', I think they came out great and they were delicious. I didn't find this to be a massively difficult challenge and I was expecting something as bit more complicated, but I think this could have been a case of the judges re-testing the bakers on bread.

All three contestants struggled with the challenge. Especially with remembering what a pretzel knot looked like! Even Mel and Sue couldn't help. Frances ended up with bun shaped pretzels and came third, Ruby over boiled her pretzels and came second, and Kimberley nailed it with a good bake, break and colour and came in first.

The final and showstopper challenge was to make a three tiered wedding cake, of any size, and shape, with an immaculate design and an incredible finish. The three finalist bakers were given six hours to do this, and Frances commented that most wedding cakes are made in six days. Timing was tight as ever!

Frances made a Midsummer Night's Dream Wedding Cake with tiers of ginger and rhubarb, lemon victoria sponge filled with raspberries and cream, and carrot, apricot and orange, she decorated it with edible confetti made from dried mango, beetroot, sweet potato, and pineapple. I thought her cake looked the most attractive, although I did agree with Mary that the back of the cake was left bare.The judges thought the cakes were moist and well baked, they liked the flavours but could not taste the rhubarb. Out of the three, I'd want this one at my wedding!

Kimberley made a Languages Of Love Wedding Cake, with tiers of chocolate fudge, orange and pistachio checkerboard, and lemon and elderflower cake with poppyseed buttercream, covered in sugarpaste and fondant. The appearance of the cake was rather underwhelming, for both myself and judges. However the inside looked exciting and showed technique and originality, the judges also loved the taste. This was a really tough one and a case of substance over style!

Ruby made a Raspberry, Lemon & Passion Fruit Wedding Cake, the top was a victoria sponge with passion fruit curd, the middle a victoria sponge filled with fresh raspberry and marscapone cheese, and the bottom a lemon victoria sponge with lemon curd. Decorated in sunset colours. Paul and Mary thought it was too simple, and that she had not shown enough techniquies. They said it tasted good, but two of the tiers were overbaked and dry. I was very disappointed by the appearance of the cake, after such an amazing picnic pie at the start. It looked quite messy and no sign of the immaculate finish requested. They were just simple victoria sponges stacked up and there was no technique involved. It should have been a culmination of her talent and what she had learnt during the show, but it fell flat in my opinion.

It was so hard to guess who might win as the bakers fluctuated massively in this episode! I certainly don't envy the judges for deciding this one! What they pointed out was that Frances had learnt the most, she had also shown that she had listened to their advice and grown throughout the show. I think this is what the judges are after, as well as natural talent of course! And of course, Frances was crowned the winner! I was surprised, but happy, and I think the best person won.

I haven't baked anything this week. A wedding cake was quite obviously out of the question, the picnic pie didn't inspire me much, and I've already made pretzels (although I may make them again!). Take a look at my series of Great British Bake Off baking by clicking here.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Chocolate & Marmalade Cheesecake Brownies

Welcome to part three of my jam adventure! (Which has been somewhat delayed after my GBBO baking adventures!) After being sent a batch of jam from Scottish preserves manufacturer Mackays I have so far made a delicious Lemon, Blueberry & Blackberry Swirl Loaf with their Blueberry & Blackcurrant preserve, and Spiced Jammy Flapjacks with their Strawberry Preserve with Champagne. This time it was the turn of their Dundee Orange Marmalade.

I have never been a fan of marmalade, I find it too bitter. So I was determined to find a way to bake with it that was delicious and sweet!

Chocolate and orange are such a great combination of flavours, and using marmalade for the orange flavour of these brownies is a great twist. I started with the marmalade cheesecake element of the brownies by mixing together 15g butter, 85g cream cheese, one jar of Mackays Dundee Orange Marmalade, 115g caster sugar and 1 egg.

To make the chocolate part I used the same recipe from my Speculoos Topped Chocolate Brownies, because frankly, it is the most amazing chocolate brownie recipe ever! I started by melting 225g butter on a low heat. After transferring the melted butter to a mixing bowl, I added 400g caster sugar and mixed until fully combined.

I beat in 3 eggs, one at time and mixing in between, and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Finally I folded in 125g plain flour, 85g cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. I then poured the mixture into a lined square baking tin.

I poured the marmalade cheesecake mixture over the chocolate mixture and using a knife I swirled the two mixtures together gently.

I baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes. It wasn't done, so I turned the oven down to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 and baked for a further 30 minutes.

I left it to cool for a while before slicing, these brownies are extremely gooey!! I had some fantastic feedback from my colleagues, I even received phone calls and emails from other departments to let me know how good they were. I was so chuffed! I think this is a really unusual recipe that involves marmalade, and on tasting you may not guess that is what is in the brownies.

print recipe

Chocolate & Marmalade Cheesecake Brownies
  • 240g Butter
  • 85g Cream cheese
  • 1 jar of Mackays Dundee Orange Marmlade
  • 115g Caster sugar
  • 4 Egg
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 125g Plain flour
  • 85g Cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • A pinch of Salt
Mix together 15g of the butter, cream cheese, Mackays Dundee Orange Marmalade, 115g of the caster sugar and 1 of the eggsMelt 225g of the butter on a low heat. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add 400g of the caster sugar and mix until fully combinedI beat in the 3 eggs, one at time and mixing in between, and then the vanilla extract. Fold in the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Then pour the mixture into a lined square baking tinPour the marmalade cheesecake mixture over the chocolate mixture and use a knife to swirl the two mixtures together gentlyBake on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes. Turned the oven down to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 and bake for a further 30 minutes

Saturday, 19 October 2013

"Zombie Brain" Charlotte Royale: GBBO Week #9

Can you believe it was the semi finals of The Great British Bake Off on Tuesday?! That means next week is the final! And then it's all over for another year. The episode began with the first challenge - to make savoury canapes. Three types were requested, one to be made with choux, one with pastry, and the third was baker's choice. Beca knew already what the judges wanted, for the canapes to taste good and look amazing!

Mary warned that so much can go wrong when making canapes and the baker's must pace themselves to get everything done. She wanted the finish of the canapes to be absolute perfect. Paul was also after precision, uniform size, and flavours that pack a big punch in small space. I loved Frances' theming of her canapes (pictured above), and they really did look great. Paul was blown away by the taste and even shook her hand!

Kimberley also did very well, with great flavour and originality, and the judges were very happy to eat up all of her food! Ruby had mixed results, but it was overall quite pleasant. Beca did not fair so well and received the most negative comments.

The technical challenge was to make a Charlotte Royale, which I have never heard of, but Sue helpfully told the bakers that it looked like a brain! This dessert involves slices of swiss roll filled with jam, that form a dome around a set fruit custard, also called a bavarois. It involves several techniques that you must perfect to make it turn out right. The custard must not seep through the swiss rolls, which must be packed tightly in the bowl whilst retaining their shape.

In typical style, everyone except Kimberley looked a bit concerned about this challenge. I love how Kimberley approaches everything so positively! It worked for her too as her Charlotte Royale came out beautifully and she won the challenge, Frances came in second and Beca in third, both with decent looking Charlotte's. Unfortunately Ruby's was a bit of a disaster and she was last.

For the final challenge, an Opera Cake was requested. This is an elaborate French dessert made from seven even layers, which primarily involve a sponge called Joconde made from egg whites and ground almonds. The layers of sponge are sandwiched together with buttercream, syrup, ganache and finally covered in a chocolate glaze. It's purpose is to represent the four acts of opera.

The judges wanted to layers to be clearly defined and of an even size. Although an Opera Cake is traditionally make with coffee, the baker's could choose their own flavours. Mary wanted sheer perfection, and Paul said that this is one of hardest cakes to do properly.

Frances' White Chocolate, Lavender and Lemon Opera Cake (pictures above) was the most good looking, although sadly it let down on flavour. Kimberley's modern looking Passion Fruit & Lime Opera Cake (pictured top) looked great with tuilles and truffles as decorations, but was let down also on flavour. Ruby's Opera Cake (pictured middle) suffered issues with a collapsed side, but Paul and Mary liked the flavours and textures. They didn't like Beca's Banoffee Opera Cake, as the banana flavour came from an artificial essence.

Sadly it was Beca that left us this week. Ruby was once again saved by flavours, but Frances and Kimberley both really shone this week, with Kimberley claiming star baker. Beca was very upset at leaving so close to the final, but said it had been an amazing experience. Next week it's the final!! And I saw what looked like basket pies and three tired cakes in the preview.

Although a Charlotte Royale looked and sounded unappealing to me, I was discussing it with my colleague and mentioned how Sue had called it a 'brain'. He suggested that I make a Zombie Brain Charlotte Royale for Halloween. I thought this would be brilliant! Suddenly a Charlotte Royale seemed very appealing! I changed a few elements, such as making a chocolate sponge, using bright green buttercream, and making the custard bloody red. I also omitted the fruit.

I started with the chocolate swiss roll. I followed the same recipe I used to make a Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) last year, which is a Mary Berry recipe. I started by whisking up 4 eggs and 100g caster sugar in my food mixer until it was frothy.

Then sifted in 65g self-raising flour and 40g cocoa powder and folded it into the egg mixture gently so as not to lose the frothiness.

I put it into a lined baking tray (I don't have a swiss roll tin, but this works just as well) and baked on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 8-10 minutes. It sprang back up when I pressed it with a fingertip.

I prepared a sheet of baking paper dusted generously with icing sugar, I tipped the sponge out onto this while it was still hot, peeled off the baking paper it was baked in, and used a knife to make a grove along one end about 2cm from the end. Then I rolled the sponge up as tight as I could, taking the paper with it. I left it to cool fully still wrapped in the paper. This gives the sponge a 'muscle memory' so to speak, so it will not crack.

Once it was cool I prepared a buttercream filling using 100g butter, 200g icing sugar and Sugarflair Mint Green food colouring. If you have a neon green this would be even better. I gently unrolled the sponge, smoothed on the buttercream, then rolled back up again this time removing the baking paper.

I lined my bowl with cling film. I used a Pyrex 2L bowl from Tesco. I cut the swiss roll into slices and lined the bowl. There were a lot of gaps so I cheated by using some of the roll to fill in the gaps! I held the bowl up to the light to help me see where the gaps were. I didn't want any filling seeping through!

For the bavarois, which is the custard mousse filling of a Charlotte Royale. I used an Anna Olsen recipe. First I made custard by simmering 225ml whole milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a pan. In a bowl I whisked up 4 egg yolks and 135g caster sugar until smooth. I slowly poured the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. I then returned it to the pan and turned up to a medium heat. I stirred it constantly for about 6 minutes until it had thickened. I then added a good blob of Sugarflair Extra Red food colouring, and 4 pre-soaked leave of gelatine (follow the instructions on the packet) and left it to cool to room temperature.

Once the custard was cool, I popped it into the fridge for 15 minutes. Meanwhile I whipped up 345ml double cream (you can also use whipping cream) until soft peaks formed. You want it to hold it's shape but still be quite soft.

I folded the cream into the custard using a whisk. At this point I had to add a lot more food colouring as the whiteness of the cream dulled the red down a lot. Eventually I got a fantastic blood red!

I poured the mixture into my swiss roll lined bowl. I did not have enough swiss roll to cover the bottom, I quickly made 4 chocolate cupcakes, cooled them quickly by an open window, sliced them into discs and placed them on the bottom. I put it into the fridge overnight to set.

Turning it out was very easy thanks to the cling film. I came out straight away and retained it's shape very well.

I made the glaze as suggested in Mary Berry's Charlotte Royale recipe by boiling 75g caster sugar in 125ml water, and then adding 1 tbsp arrowroot powder that had been dissolved in 2 tbsp cold water. I let it cool, then brushed over my "Zombie Brain" Charlotte Royale. It didn't give as much of a sheen as I expected and I'm not sure if it's a necessary addition for my Halloween version.

My only decorations around the Charlotte Royale was some Halloween confetti in the shape of skulls, spiders and pumpkins! It was difficult to cut into as too much force on the swiss rolls just pushes them into the filling. The best approach is to cut slowly and gently. The filling was a shocking bright red inside!

Despite it's spooky looks, this "Zombie Brain" Charlotte Royale was delicious! The custard mousse filling is to die for, so tasty! It went down really well with everyone and the Halloween theme was a big hit. It was fun to make such an unusual recipe that I had never heard of before, and this is my second time of making custard from scratch - I love how GBBO encourages me to learn new techniques! Have you tried anything new thanks to GBBO?

print recipe

"Zombie Brain" Charlotte Royale
  • 5 Eggs
  • 370g Caster sugar
  • 125g Self raising flour
  • 40g Cocoa powder
  • 200g Icing sugar
  • Green food colouring
  • 160g Butter
  • 225ml Whole milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 4 Egg yolks
  • 4 Gelatine leaves
  • Red food colouring
  • 345ml Double cream
  • 125ml Water
  • 1 tbsp Arrowroot powder
  • 2 tbsp Cold water
Start with the chocolate swiss roll. Whisk up 4 of the eggs and 100g of the caster sugar in a food mixer until frothyThen sift in 65g of the self-raising flour and cocoa powder and fold it into the egg mixture gentlyPour it into a lined baking tray or swiss roll tin, and bake on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 8-10 minutesMake 4 chocolate cupcakes for the base. Cream together 60g of the butter and 60g of the caster sugar. Add 1 of the eggs and whisked in. Fold in 60g of the self raising flour. Fill 4 cupcake cases and bake on 18C/350F/Gas Mark 5 for 20 minutes. Leave to cool then slice into discsDust a sheet of baking paper generously with icing sugar, tip the swiss roll sponge out onto it while it is still hot. Peel off the baking paper it was baked on and used a knife to make a grove along one end about 2cm from the end. Roll the sponge up as tight as you can, taking the paper with it. Leave it to cool fully still wrapped in the paperPrepare a buttercream filling by mixing 100g of the butter, the icing sugar and green food colouring. Gently unroll the sponge, smooth on the buttercream, then roll back up again, this time removing the baking paperLine a 2 litre glass bowl with cling film. Cut the swiss roll into slices and line the bowl. Use more of the roll to fill in any gapsFor the filling start by simmering the whole milk and vanilla extract in a pan. In a bowl whisk up the egg yolks and 135g of the caster sugar until smooth. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Then return it to the pan and turn up to a medium heat. Stir it constantly for about 6 minutes until it thickens. Then add the pre-soaked leaves of gelatine (follow the instructions on the packet) and leave it to cool to room temperatureOnce the custard is cool, pop it into the fridge for 15 minutes. Whip up the double cream until soft peaks formFold the cream into the custard using a whisk. Add enough red food colouring to get a bright redPour the mixture into the swiss roll lined bowl. Use the discs of chocolate cupcakes to lined the bottom. Put in the fridge for at least 4 hours to setTurn it out and make the glaze by boiling 75g of the caster sugar in the 125ml water, then dissolve the arrowroot powder in the 2 tbsp of cold water and add to the sugar mixture. Let it cool, then brush it over the Charlotte Royale