1.The First Bake! France – Tarte au Citron

First stop on my gastronomical tour of the world is France. I’ve only been once to Paris 4 years ago rather spontaneously and I loved it. Plenty of croque monsieurs and orangina to be consumed and of course beautiful sights to be seen.

 

Paris 2007

 

I decided to embark in an all day baking frenzy on Sunday. Beginning with my first experimental venture into pastry making stumbled slightly after my trip to the supermarket, sans ingredients list, meant that I had to make a second trip to purchase cream and lemons, those two vital ingredients to Tarte au Citron.

I love Tarte au Citron, but even when I was in Paris I didn’t actually get to sample it. I vividly remember an amazing tarte au pomme however. I mainly eat this desert whenever I go to Thorntons Cafe. I could eat it everyday, which is good because I will be eating this for this entire week.

After one false start, all systems were go. I threw caution to the wind mixing up the pastry ingredients. Now from watching the Great British Bake Off (from hereonafter I will soley refer to as GBBO as I will refer to it excessively throughout), I know that pastry can be frozen to make it more pliable, so into the freezer the sticky mess went. I also picked up how to roll the pastry between cling film to stop it sticking to everything. Which was a life saver or in this case, a tarte saver.

I had to buy a special tin to make the tarte in and so my other cooking equipment is somewhat rudimentary to say the least. I am using a childs size silicon rolling pin which doesnt make for even rolling of pastry, with it being more suited to childrens play dough, nevertheless I pressed on.

With a few mumbled shouts of, ‘I hate pastry!!’ and ‘this is so difficult!!’, eminiating from the kitchen and one or two failed attempts to get the semi flattened dough into the tin; after dropping said tin onto the floor and having to wash it again. I managed to successfully wrestle the dough into the tin and press it into shape. If only I had remembered GBBO tip of using a wedge of pastry to press the stuff into the tin! That would have been good, but c’est la vie.

Again, making do with the cheaper version, I poured a whole packet of kidney beans into my tin and blind baked the tarte. Perhaps I added a smidge too many beans as the bottom was still raw after it’s allotted time. A little thinking on my feet and a bit more baking and it was good to go. A skewer came in handy to lance the pastry that had grown a bit too much in the oven and it was time for the filling.

I love my electric whisk. It made whisking all the eggs, cream, sugar and lemon so easy and salvaged the mess I made of it. Note to self. I must read recipes properly!! This is not an unusual error on my part. I generally get creative with recipes and guess measurements and substitute ingredients for what ever is in the cupboard… BUT this time I totally misread the method, throwing everything in together only to be soaked in cream and eggs when I switched on the mixer. That will teach me for using my smart phone to bake from. Too much touch screen and unlocking of phones makes for a sloppy chef. Apparently it’s advisable to whisk the eggs first. To fix this cream-up-walls and all over me issue, I wrapped a towel round the bowl to capture all the escaping cream and protect the walls. Whisking it all up until it looked a bit frothy. (That’s the technical term for this, right?)

It seemed to work! I christened my new cooling rack, bought special for the occasion (no more using the microwave stand for me!). After a bit of time in the fridge and a light dusting of icing sugar it was ready to eat. It did not disappoint!

Le Tarte au Citron in all it's technicolour glory

Sharp and smooth, with perfectly cooked pastry! Not soggy, nor dry and overcooked. Somehow I got it right!?! And I would know, having watched all those judges on GBBO! On a side note I have also tweeted #Hollywoodbaker GBBO judge my Tarte au Citron pictures to enter the twitter technical bake challenge… let’s see what he thinks!

Look at that pastry!

I declare this pastry technical challenge complete (and suprisingly a success!)

So that was France, where to next???

The Rules

Russian Doll Measuring Cups

Although I loathe to admit it, it would be useful to set out some guidelines to help track any achievements and/or failures. I usually prefer to just see what happens and muddle my way through but if I at least set some parameters it might be a good place to start. So…

1. The items must be baked in the oven. (Is that a bit obvious?)
2. The items do not need to be baked in any particular geographical order. (My geography is atrocious, yesterday I discovered Peterborough is not in the North of England. I’m ashamed of myself.)
3. I will attempt to bake the signature or classic dish from every country I have been to.
4. I will take recommendations on the best dish to bake from others who have been to the countries I haven’t been to yet.
5. The dishes will be either sweet or savoury. Or both sweet and savoury. (Why limit myself?! The possibilities are endless and who knows what innovative recipes I will discover along the way.)
6. Some countries may be baked from more than once.
7. I will be baking everything from scratch.
8. I will be only baking things that I’ve never attempted before.
9. I will be baking unaided, venturing into the wilderness of intrepid baking.
10. I will take photographic evidence of all baked goods.
11. I will wear my racy apron during all baking efforts.
12. I’m aiming to bake one new thing a week… But we will see how it goes..

13. I will post all of the experiments on my blog!

14. I will hopefully test the results out on willing, friends and relatives. Please be prepared to eat a lot.

15. I will increase my running and yoga schedule to compensate for all the butter and cream I’m going to consume.

Please feel free to suggest recipes. The more authentic the better! Also any items of bakeware that you would like to donate will be gratefully received!! Any willing guinea pigs please also get in touch.

Thanks for reading and the first effort from France will follow shortly.

A New Challenge

St Kilda, Melbourne.Cakes in the Polish Bakery. Unfortunately I can't claim that I baked them

I’ve always enjoyed baking, ever since attempting the classic fairy cakes complete with wings with my nana. Cookery classes at school were interesting, if irritating, with a complex dish washing rigmarole and spending 3 hours planning a fruit salad that would be basically chopped apples and banana soaked in lemon juice. Vile was the word.  Needless to say that recipe has not entered into my repertoire. I guess I never wanted to just do the basic version, of anything.

When given the option to make pizza from scratch, when others bought pre prepared bases I chose to make life difficult and make my own base. We froze our pizzas at school to cook at home later. By which point I had forgotten the fact that unlike shop bought pizzas, mine was not pre baked and simply throwing the pizza onto the oven shelf resulted in raw dough, pineapple and tomato sliding into the unsuspecting casserole my dad had lovingly prepared below.

Undiscouraged I persevered, baking batch after batch of rock cakes. The only thing I couldn’t ruin. Little by little, I’ve improved, trying out new things, travelling to a few countries, living in various shared houses, picking up new recipes and learning new techniques. I’ve come a long long way since my first boiled egg when living in student halls. Despite (pre internet popularity) typing out what I thought would be the most useful recipes from my mam’s cookbook. I didnt think that I needed to preboil the water and after 3 minutes of sitting in a pan of cold water, I was shocked and disappointed to crack open the egg to find a raw egg slipped out…

However I digress… What dawned on me today, after being given a copy of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and drooling all over it, I have attempted pretty much every recipe in it now and I’m a little bored. I love the recipes but I need something more. The Great British Bake off  on BBC has inspired in me a new respect for mastering techniques and induced me to spend the entire day baking.

I realised that since my cookery classes at school I haven’t attempted anything that technical since cheese souffles and bread. In fact I think that was the only time I ever made a souffle and it was pretty tasty! I don’t think I’ve ever made pastry before and in fact I never really thought that I liked it! Little did I know…

Today I decided that I really like baking. There I’ve said it. I am becoming middle aged in my twenties. But it is fun and despite getting egg up the walls and breaking a few bowls I think I’m ok at it. So, I’ve been to a few countries around the world now and every where that I’ve been to the best bit has been the food. So why not combine my two favourite things? Travelling and baking? Why not try to bake something from every country I’ve been to? Why not challenge myself that bit further and throw some other countries in that I’ve never been to?

That’s what I’m going to do. Around the World in Eighty Bakes.

Rows and rows and rows of beautiful cakes. Polish Bakery, St Kilda