Sunday, 22 September 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 5

I literally cannot describe how excited I was about this week's challenge. Is there anything better than a nice crunchy biscuit with a cup of tea after a hard day? Actually, no matter what your day was like and no matter the time of day, a cuppa and a biscuit always hits the spot!

I love biscuits, to the point that I have to hid them or I'll happily munch my way through a whole packet!

Last weekend I went with some friends and family to The Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court, in London. While there I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of thee nicest biscuits I've ever had from the lovely Cinnamon Tree Bakery, along with a serious amount of taste tests!
I also had the excitement of meeting bakers from this and previous series' of GBBO. I'm not even a bit ashamed to say I went slightly fan-girl.

But anyway, this week I decided to go for the Show Stopper (though I have just realised I didn't adhere the criteria of it being 30cm tall. Paul and Mary would not be happy. Whoops!)

 Birthday Biscuit Castle

Firstly, to make this castle you have to do a reasonable amount of baking and in multiple batches, so it is not only worth planning ahead but also planning the size of your castle. 
In my bake each turret is 12 biscuits high and the circular cookie cutter used was 6cm in diameter. 
The castle sides were 9cm x 9cm, the arrow loops 3cm x 1cm and the drawbridge 3cm x 2cm.  
Naturally this can be adapted to suit your own wants/needs. 

Chocolate and Earl Grey Biscuit Dough
175g softened butter
1 earl grey tea bag
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
100g golden caster sugar
225g plain flour

Lavender and Lemon Biscuit Dough
260g softened butter
2 tablespoons of dried lavender (I got mine from The Jersey Lavender Farm
Zest of 2 lemons
150g golden caster sugar
340g plain flour

A small amount of royal icing is also needed for construction. 

Get out 2 large mixing bowls. Add 175g of butter to one, then add the tea leaves from the teabag and the cocoa powder. Beat together until the flavourings are incorporated into the butter. Repeat with the 260g of butter in the other mixing bowl, adding the dried lavender and lemon zest and beat. 
Then add the sugar to both bowls and beat again. 
Then finally stir in the flour to both bowls. Bring the 2 lots of dough together with your hands in each separate bowl. Give them both a bit of a knead, as they need to be strong enough to support themselves in a structure. 
Then wrap both doughs in cling film and put them in the fridge to firm for at least 15 minutes. While you are waiting pre-heat the oven to 160C/320F. 

Now for the baking and construction (see picture below);
1 - Once chilled roll out the choc and tea dough and cut out 24 biscuits (you should have a little leftover). Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. While the choc biscuits are in the oven cut out the 24 lavender and lemon biscuits. Once cooked remove the choc biscuits from the oven, put in the lavender biscuits and then cut out the castle sides and add-ons. Apart from measuring to ensure the sides were 9cm x 9cm, I cut the battlements, window and front gate out freehand with a sharp knife. (Fyi - If you want to be crazy anal about it, each castle side was 130g of dough). Finally with the remaining chocolate dough cut out the arrow loops and the drawbridge. Bake everything! 
2 - Once everything is cooled, use a bit of royal icing to stick the arrow loops to the sides of the castle. Put in the fridge to set while you do the next step.
3 - Stack the circular biscuits on top of each other in the four corners of your presentation board to form the turrets. You can add a dollop of royal icing between each biscuit layer if you want to be certain there is no movement.
4 - Then take each castle side and wedge them in position with a little bit of royal icing acting as glue. 
5 & 6 - As an optional step, I had a ginger and walnut cake lying around (as you do) and so I broke it up into crumb size pieces and sprinkled it inside the castle courtyard and around the outside. (This also helps disguise any rough edges, so for instance if you accidentally drop one of the castle sides no one will ever know....)

So far in my GBBO bake along this has been by far the most fun I've had baking (and constructing).

It would be great for a (big) kid's birthday party. You could also get them involved in the baking as well. The biscuit flavourings can be changed and switched around again and again. Though I do recommend the earl grey and chocolate biscuit, my new favourite.

Hopefully someone will give this a go!



Friday, 13 September 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 4

I feel like the Great British Bake Off is definitely expanding my baking horizons. I have a habit of sticking with what I know and so this bake along that I've got myself into is forcing me to try new things. I do make tarts now and again, my favourite being a large dark chocolate tart, but I haven't made tartlets since mince tarts last Christmas. I love sweet pastry and so I didn't even have to think what I wanted to take on this week.
GBBO technical challenge it was then....

Egg Custard Tartlets 

For the pastry;
125g plain flour
25g icing sugar
60g butter (cubed)
1/2 egg
splash of milk

For the filling;
1 egg
1 egg yolk
75ml milk
50ml single cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
30g caster sugar
grated nutmeg

Sift the flour and icing sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub together with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
In a jug mix together the egg and milk, and add 30mls of this to the flour mixture. Gently mix this together until it forms a soft dough. Cover the bowl in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. 
While the dough is chilling preheat the oven to 180C/356C and prep a deep muffin tray. This mixture should make 8 tartlets. Grease the tray and cut out 8 squares of baking parchment. Also cut out 8 lengths of baking parchment and fold into each hole. This will ensure the tarts are easy to remove from the tray once cooked (amazing top tip from Ruby on GBBO, works like an absolute charm). 

Roll out the dough to a couple of mm thick and using a fluted cookie cutter cut out a large circle (I used the largest one I had). Use a rolled up piece of spare dough to press the pastry circle into the tray. Blind bake, using the parchment squares and baking beans, for 15 minutes or until the pastry is starting to go golden.
While the tarts are in the oven beat the egg and egg yolk together in a jug, and stir in the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Then leave to stand. 
As soon as the tartlets are taken from the oven reduce the temperature to 160C/320C and remove the beans and parchment.
Gently pour in the custard and grate over the nutmeg.
Carefully return to the oven and cook for 20 minutes on a high shelf. 
They are cooked when the top is starting to go golden, they have a slight wobble and the custard has puffed up a little bit. 

After my first taste of a warm from the oven custard tart I was undecided if I liked it, so naturally I had to have another to make sure. Even after the second tartlet I was still in two minds. It is a very classic traditional taste but nonetheless enjoyable.

I decided that since I had no idea if this was what custard tarts tasted like I should compare mine to a shop bought tart. Aside from the horribly mass-manufactured perfectness of the bought pie, I actually thought the pastry of my own recipe was so much nicer. The icing sugar addition adds a nice bit of sweetness, which the shop bought one was entirely without. My own pastry was also crisper but sadly not as deep. Oh well, next time I will definitely use a larger cookie cutter.



P.s I'm off to The Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court this weekend and I literally couldn't be more excited. Fingers crossed for taste tests!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 3

There were highs and lows in the Great British Bake Off this week, with custard thievery and failed petit fours. But it was with great excitement that I planned this weekend's bake.
In April this year my sister and I had afternoon tea at The Ritz (see here) and since then my (already well established) love of petit four has just grown and grown.

Ruby's showstopper bake just looked so tempting and delicious that I knew I had to give Madeleines a go. Madeleines are another classic bake that I've never even tasted, talk about baked before. In the last two days I have made nearly 80 of them and I can officially say they are AMAZING!

For this recipe I used a mini Madeleine mold, which you can get here, and it makes approximately 72. Also, this recipe requires you to chill the batter overnight, so don't forget to think ahead if you plan to make them.

Lemon & Raspberry Madeleines

3 eggs
130g caster sugar
200g plain flour
10g baking powder
the zest of one lemon
20g clear honey
4 tbsp milk
200g butter
18 raspberries

Firstly melt the butter over a gentle heat and then put to one side. In a large bowl beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale and frothy. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and lemon zest. 
Mix the honey and milk with the cooled butter and then add to the egg mixture. Gently fold the flour into the wet mixture until it is fully incorporated, taking care not to knock too much air out of the eggs. 
Now cover the bowl in clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight (or for at least 6 hours). 

When you are ready to bake the madeleines preheat the oven to 190C/375F. (Place the madeleine mold on a baking tray for ease). Put a teaspoon of the mixture into each mini madeleine shell. If you are using a metal mold for this you will have to grease and flour the mold first, but for the silicone mold that I used it is unnecessary.  
Cut each raspberry into 4 quarters and push a quarter into each madeleine.

Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven off for 1 minute, then bake for another 5 minutes at 160C/325F. 

Leave the madelines in the mold for five minutes or until they are cool enough to handle, then pop them out and place on a wire rack to cool. 
You can then quickly wash and dry the mold, and put another batch in the oven. Repeat until you run out of mixture. 

These little dainty treats are mouthfuls of deliciousness and go perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee (I would know, as that is currently what is sitting on my desk beside me as I type. I have definitely had too many!!)

I hope some of you give this recipe a go. Let me know your thoughts!



Tuesday, 3 September 2013

GBBO Bake along - Week 2

I have to say the idea of making bread feels me with yeast based dread and trepidation. I've never had much success with any bread based recipes and while I watched episode 2 of the Great British Bake Off I genuinely couldn't decide what to try myself.

Then when I watched it back again during the week, while researching recipes, I began actually taking in how easy it is to make breadsticks. Time-consuming, as all recipes that include yeast are, but fundamentally easy. 

And so I braved the technical challenge, the kneading and came up with my own breadstick recipe. These breadsticks are light, tangy and go perfectly with a beer and a film!

Lime and Coriander Breadsticks

300ml lukewarm water
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 x 6g sachet dried yeast
260g wholemeal bread flour
260g plain flour
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tsp salt
Grated zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons of coriander
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds

Mix the water and sugar in a large bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Add the yeast and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
In another bowl mix together the wholemeal flour, plain flour, oil, salt, grated lime zest and coriander. Then add the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Then turn out on to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (for about 5 minutes).
Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside, turning the dough until it is covered with oil. Cover and leave to rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Pre-heat  the oven to 190C/375F and lightly oil 2 baking trays.
Roll the dough out and cut with a pizza cutter to make 24, 12 inch long breadsticks. Twist by holding each end and place on the baking trays 1/2 inch apart.
Finally brush with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. To ensure you know when they are done add a breadstick that you intend to sacrifice for snapping tests. 
Bake on a middle shelf for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool on a wire rack and hopefully you'll be left with the classic snap Mr Hollywood is always looking for!