17. Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake – Japan

I love Japan. This is probably an understatement. The North East of England has slowly but surely caught on to the variety of foods that other countries can offer. For a long time we only had one sushi restaurant. I’m happy to report that we now have at least 3 that I’m aware of. Wagamama posed quite a revolution when it first opened its doors and we all queued down the street for a chance to eat some gorgeous food.

The Golden Palace

Traditionally Japanese food focuses more on savoury things rather than cakes I found this fantastic recipe for a Green Tea Drizzle Cake in the Wagamama cookbook.

A delicious slice

I went to Japan last year after dreaming about it for many, many years. I love that pretty much everything has green tea in it. I ate so much Green Tea ice cream…

My favourite ice cream parlour (this may have bee rose but I ate so much I forget)

went to a Tea Ceremony,

Me making Matcha in the Tea ceremony

Tea Ceremony

dressed up in kimono

The Full Kimono Experience

Kimono

and ate tonnes of sushi and noodles and maple leaf cakes (if I can find a recipe I will be attempting this very soon!)

The best cold soba noodles I have ever had. EVER

I’m quite adventurous when it comes to food and when in Japan of course I’m going to experiment a bit further, so yes I ate Bento boxes on the bullet train til they were coming out of my ears, (octopus legs and all)

Tasty Octopus Legs

but I drew the line at raw horse meat which was almost eaten by accident, slightly lost in translation somewhere…

No raw horse meat here!

Luckily during my Hello Kitty splurges I also insisted on purchasing Matcha (Green Tea Powder although the bamboo whisk is yet to see daylight and is still sealed in its packet at the back of the cupboard) My Asian cooking obsessions mean that I regularly purchase bizarre things from the Chinese Supermarkets, so I have a cupboard full of tapioca pearls, jasmine essence and of course gunpowder green tea.

The strong stuff

We had friends coming round for takeaway and I thought Green Tea Cake would be a perfect light end to the meal. It was quite a quick bake too, so just enough time to whip up a double batch as I wanted to bake one to take with me to my friends house the night after too.

Unlike a normal sponge cake, the sugar and eggs were beaten together in a bain marie until it tripled in size.

Eggs and sugar into the whisk

Whisk it all until it triples in size

Magic

then flour, baking powder and matcha powder were folded in.

Matcha Green Tea Powder (and flour)

I divided the batter between the 2 tins and set them away to bake whilst I brewed up the strongest green tea I’ve ever made. It goes against my tea teachings to use boiling water when brewing green tea, but that’s what the recipe called for so I followed the instructions, wincing at the bitter green tea smell.

Brewing tea

I sieved the stewed tea to separate out the leaves and then reduced the tea down to a syrup with sugar.

Dark green tea

When the cakes they had to rest in their tins until cooled. I pierced the top of the cakes with a skewer and then poured the syrup generously over the 2 cakes.

Green Tea Syrup

They needed a little more resting and then wrestling out of the sugary tins, as the syrup hardened and required some brute force to release the cakes. Normally with a drizzle cake I use a solid tin and can dunk it in hot water to release it, but as this wasn’t water tight with a loose bottom I didn’t want to drown it before we had a chance to eat it!

Drizzled

Having saved a little syrup back, I ‘spiked’ the crème fraiche with green tea.

Green Tea spiked Creme Fraiche

I usually don’t like cream on the side of my cakes, but this was divine! The cake didn’t taste anything like how it smelt, which to be honest wasn’t the best smelling cake I’ve made.  (Nor was it the prettiest!)

The Final Cake

It was clean tasting and refreshing, with a crispy coating on the outside and soft and moist on in the inside. Beautiful! I would definitely recommend this to anyone.

The cake was enjoyed by all

Bonsai Trees at Hiroshima Peace Park

 

Things that I used to make my Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake (Courtesy of Wagamama Cookbook) 

This will make 1 Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake. I doubled these ingredients and made 2 cakes at the same time. (Just in case you’re feeding a few people! The cake should serve about 6-8 people)

For the cake

  • 110 g plain flour
  • 10 g matcha (powdered green tea – you can get this in most oriental supermarkets)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 75 g butter
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs

For the green tea syrup

  • 2 tbsp green tea leaves (I used gunpowder loose green tea leaves to make the syrup)
  • 150 ml boiling water
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • Don’t forget to save a little of the syrup to spike the crème fraîche  with!
  • about 200 g crème fraîche  to serve
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15. Millionaire’s Shortbread – Scotland

Shortbread is traditionally Scottish and delicious so what better way to bring it to life than with a generous coating of caramel and chocolate?

Millionaire Shortbread

I’ve been to Scotland many, many times and love it. Who else has a shop dedicated to Chocolate Soup?

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

I’ve made biscuits before but not like this and never Shortbread. After my mam kindly donated a tin of what we thought was caramel I craved Millionaire Shortbread for a week so I dug out a Shortbread recipe and set to work.

The Beginning

It seems strange that Shortbread only consists of sugar, butter and flour. I had to keep checking the recipe to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Where’s the eggs?! Surely this won’t work?

I treat myself once more to another new piece of baking equipment. This time to a very big and deep tray. Perfect for a traybake like this. The can of caramel had a recipe for Millionaire Shortbread printed on it which said to break up Shortbread then squash it into the tin. I was about to bake loads of biscuits then crush them up but realised this was ridiculous. I could simply bake a layer of Shortbread and layer the caramel and chocolate on to it, making one big tray instead. Genius.

The new rolling plan

I quickly whipped up a batch of Shortbread and attempted to roll it out directly onto a sheet of greaseproof paper in an attempt to minimise mess and washing up! Another innovation, although I had to weigh the paper down with various kitchen implements.

Upon rolling the dough it became apparent that we were going to be dining on pauper Shortbread if I had to eek out the dough to fill the entire tray. It would have been a sorry sight to serve up wafer thin Shortbread.

Squished into all the corners

I ended up making another batch and combined the two doughs. A quick roll to flatten it out. Then all I had to do was lift the entire baking sheet into the tray and press the dough into the corners. Minimal effort required!

A quick bake in the oven for the Shortbread and whilst it was cooling in the oven I opened the can of caramel, only to discover that the price label had cleverly concealed its true contents. It was in fact a can of condensed milk! I thought my plan was scuppered but I rooted around in the fridge for some spare butter and sugar. I had enough to turn this can into a wonderful pan of caramel!

Let's make caramel

I hadn’t attempted caramel before, although I have made Dolche De Leche by simmering a closed can of condensed milk in a pan for a couple of hours. I assumed caramel couldn’t be that different and threw myself into the caramel creation with some gusto. Yet with some caution, following my previous burnt pan messes which have killed off a few of my pans. I didn’t want to have to buy any more pans!

add the butter

I was surprised by how relatively easy this was. I didn’t burn then pan or set fire to anything. Success!

And we have... caramel! (No burnt pans!)

Once the next layer of caramel was added to the shortbread it needed to set in the fridge for a while. I left it to cool and threw 3 bars of plain chocolate into a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water to melt.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

This meant just before bed all I had to do was spread the thick chocolate onto the caramel, and leave it to set in the fridge once more.

I discovered a little white chocolate lurking in the fridge too and thought it would be nice to make a swirly pattern on the top with it. So I threw it into a sandwich bag and left it in the hot water to melt.

Swirly

A quick snip with the scissors and I have a handy disposable piping bag (thanks for the tip mam!) and less washing up for me. I swirled it up with a knife and it looked rather pretty, even if I do say so myself!

Look at that thick chocolate!!

The hardest bit of this bake was trying to cut it up into equal pieces without the chocolate cracking in all the wrong places. My hands were a bit sore pressing the knife into the chocolate! Perhaps a sharper knife would help?

How do I cut this??

It was very well received at home and at work. It is genuinely the bake that just keeps going. I must have cut it up into about 35 pieces!  I’ve enjoyed a bit everyday with a massive cup of tea. I predict I will be making this again in the future…

Delicious!

Things that I used to make Millionaire’s Shortbread

Shortbread Base

I had to make twice as much shortbread to fill my tin so I doubled all of the ingredients listed below…

  • 125g/4oz butter (I used 250g butter)
  • 55g/2oz caster sugar (I used 110g sugar)
  • 180g/6oz plain flour (I used 360g plain flour)

Caramel Filling

 

  • 175 g butter
  • 175 g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 x 397 g can condensed milk

Chocolate Topping

  • 1 bar (200 g) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 bar (200g) of white chocolate

 

 

14. Key Lime Pie – America (but with a massive Italian Meringue!)

There seems to be a pattern emerging here. It was my friend Jenny’s birthday and I wanted to bake something special for her. When I asked what she would like her immediate response was ‘Key Lime Pie’. Your wish is my command.

I’ve never had Key Lime Pie before but I immediately thought of the Hummingbird Bakery recipe that I had gazed at longingly many a time but had thought it was too complicated and messy to attempt. I would not let my niggling doubts defeat me.

I knew that I would need a bit of time to prepare this one in order to bring it to work to celebrate Jenny’s birthday in style. I got up extra early the day before to smash up digestive biscuits. It’s days like these that I wish I had a food processor. Chris had to ask me nicely to stop hammering the biscuits with the rolling pin as it was simply too early. I ran out of digestives and supplemented the rest with rich teas instead. (that’s ok right?!)

Smashing Digestives

Again I had to shield my eyes from the flying digestive debris when I blitzed the shards with the hand blender. I may, or may not, have gone to work with crumbs in my hair. (It’s hard to tell with my curly mop sometimes).

I melted the butter in the microwave successfully not causing any fireworks this time and quickly stirred it all together. I quickly realised as I attempted to press the buttery biscuit paste into my flan dish that if I used all of the biscuits as instructed in the recipe that there simply wouldn’t be any space for limes in the pie…

Can't fit any more biscuits in!

I had felt a bit guilty and frivoulous for  buying mini pie dishes recently, but this Key Lime Pie emergency meant that I got to christen them! My sleepy brain missed a step in the recipe which said you bake the biscuit base and I assumed they would need to set in the fridge (hence the extra early preparations). Into the fridge they went to wait for me upon my return from work.

Mini Tins

I realised that I had to bake the base and cool it before the lime filling could be poured in. No baking beans needed for this inital bake unlike the Tarte au Citron.

Ready for round 2. Into the oven...

The grating and juicing of the limes was intense and made me crave a mojito. Once it was all grated I whisked it into the lashings of condensed milk and egg yolks, which I lovingly separated from their whites to save for the magnificent meringue.

A lot of limes went into the making of this.

and eggs 🙂

Then to pour the limey goodness onto the biscuit base  which was now a thick greenish creamy paste and bake it in the oven. The lack of light in my oven could pose a problem for checking the bake, but I’ve lived with it for over 2 years now and found a torch is a handy cooking tool.

Ready for round 2. Into the oven...

Who needs a light inside their oven? Torches are the way forward. Is it done yet?

Now for the exciting bit. I’ve never made Italian style meringue before. (and only made normal meringue for the first time recently!) I saw it on the Great British Bake Off  being created very precisely with thermometers and such like. If you’ve read any of my blog you will know by now that I simply don’t do precise, so I was relieved that a thermometer was not needed in this recipe. The only thermometer I own is a forehead strip one that I bought during the Swine Flu Panic last year. Somehow I don’t think I could use that to measure the temperature of sugar syrup…

Frothy egg whites (Before sugar)

8 egg whites were whisked into a frothy frenzy whilst the sugar and water bubbled merrily on the stove. I couldn’t remember if you were supposed to stir sugar constantly or if it makes it return to it’s crystallised state, so I did a bit of both. Stir, let it bubble, stir again. It eventually reached what I assumed to be the ‘soft ball stage‘. A mystical sugary state that frankly I’ve never heard of before I attempted to make fudge the other week, which was a disaster, so I clearly can’t recognise this stage of sugary wonderment. To be on the safe side I let it bubble some more..

Sugar Soup?

Bubblin Hot

When the sugar is syrupy and hot enough it needs to be poured slowly into the egg whites whilst whisking it. It’s a good job I can multi task, as I poured the liquid molten lava with one hand and held the electric whisk with the other, praying I wouldn’t slip and scald myself. When I win the lottery I have promised myself a Kitchen Aid mixer (and a bigger kitchen).

After sugar... I think the meringue's cooked!

I think I may need a bigger bowl if I’m ever going to make this again. It was amazing. Compared to uncooked meringue this was like magic. It quadrupled in size and almost over flowed the bowl! The only downside was after all the sugar was incorporated was that it involved 15 – 20 minutes of more whisking. Thank god for my little electric whisk and my ipod on random. Elvis and whisking. What can be better?

A mini one

Once the meringue had cooled, it was cooked through and ready to be assembled on top of the lime pies. It was a sticky process. With each mountain of meringue in position I popped them all in the oven for the final bake!

The Key Lime Pie Family Portrait

What a wonderful sight! So impressive! I struggled to get the pie into my cake box to transport to work. So cling wrapped it to the hilt and carried it like a baby. I got A LOT of smiles from strangers on my way to work that morning! Someone actually offered me their seat on the metro. It just goes to show people LOVE cake and Key Lime Pie is an attractive bake.

The grand reveal (somehow pearls of toffee appeared from the meringue, I know not how or why but they look pretty.)

This pie goes a long way. We shared it amongst 11 people and then I still had 3 mini pies at home! (don’t worry I didn’t eat them all by myself) The wonderfully sweet meringue balanced out the sharp and creamy lime. The digestive base tasted almost gingery after their third bake in the oven. Perhaps it was the addition of rich tea biscuits, whatever it was, it was wonderful.

Heaven is a massive slice of Key Lime Pie. Happy Birthday Jenny!

Very Neapolitan

13. Lovely Lamingtons – Australia – Lord Lamington’s Finest

As a surprise birthday treat, I decided to bake Chris his favourite Australian treat, Lamingtons. We ate Lamingtons the size of house bricks when visiting Australia. One particular Lamington stands out from our visit this year when we drove the Great Ocean Road and stayed in the seaside towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay to take in the sights (and the cakes and pies too).

Look at this little fella! Spotted on the Great Ocean Road

Somewhere over the rainbow…

I spotted a Lamington recipe in Marguerite Patton’s Everyday Cookbook and planned it all well in advance, purchasing an industrial sized bag of desiccated coconut, only for Chris to then ask for Lamingtons (and a Chocolate Roulade) for his birthday! My plan was discovered, but then again I’m not very good at keeping surprises secret and our tiny Tyneside flat doesn’t leave much to the imagination anyway…

Lamingtons. The classic Australian ones

I googled Lamingtons as they caused a bit of debate in the office. Many of us remember eating these chocolate, coconut, jam, sponge cubes as children, although others remember a pink version. They are also known by different names, such as Madelines, or pink Lamingtons. Some Australian Counsellor put me right. Apparently an Australian Lord loved cake. His maid  accidently dropped his cake into chocolate. Despite being a Lord he didn’t want to waste his cake (Don’t blame him!). So he told her to roll it in coconut so he wouldn’t get messy fingers. Et voila! Lamingtons were born and Australians are very proud of their 100 year recipe. (Check out the Australian Lamington official blog for evidence of the City Counsellor of Queensland shovelling Lamingtons into his mouth and the record breaking Lamington).

Celebrating 100 years of the Australian Lamington

Counsellor Paul Tullly enjoying Lamingtons – Courtesy of australianlamingtons.blogspot.com

I was a bit worried about how technical this recipe was and I didn’t actually own a square tin. I made a quick trip to visit my mam to borrow her tin. I’ve never baked one cake and sliced it in half before. It seems a bit dangerous. Is it difficult? What if I slip with the knife and ruin the entire cake?!

Sponge time

The sponge itself was pretty simple to make. A basic vanilla batter, which smelled gorgeous and tasted rather like a dense madeira cake.

Smells so good

I had to leave it to cool overnight and the next day chopped off the slightly domed top to create a flat surface instead. This was nerve wracking too as the last time I attempted this I cut my hand. I managed and kept all my fingers intact. This meant that I got a sneak preview and ate the lid before work. Hurrah! It was delicious!

Off with it’s dome

I set about creating the chocolate soup, from cocoa powder and icing sugar. I carefully sliced the cake through the middle widthways and had two perfect halves!!

Chocolate Soup?

The recipe was supposed to make 16 portions… I was a bit worried that this dinky square cake just wasn’t enough for the Australian cakes that we were accustomed too. So I baked another one. This time in a big roasting tin to make one flat cake, remembering this time to leave a bit of a dint in the top (pushing more mixture to the edges) so I didn’t get a dome finish.

The second sponge… (please ignore the cat food in the background)

Our guests were arriving for fish and chips and Lamingtons so I didn’t have much time for mistakes. I threw almost a full jar of strawberry jam onto the sponges and rubbed it in with the back of a spoon. (Excessive? Me?)

JAM

Then plonked one half on top of the other and decided that 4 big cakes were better than 16 little ones. I used the sharpest knife I could find and cut the sponge into quarters. Although they still didn’t look that ‘Australian sized’ to me.

That’s more like it

The recipe suggests you use a skewer to pierce the cake and dip gentily into the chocolate soup before lovingly rolling it in desiccated coconut. Who has time for these things? I picked the cakes up with my bare hands and within 2 seconds was up to my eyes in chocolate and coconut. Everything stuck to me! My messy yet effective method.

Step one. Dunk yourself in chocolate

Step two. Roll around in coconut (Do not try to a. answer the phone b. push your hair out of your face c.  say hello to the cat until hands can be throughly washed.)

The cakes needed about an hour to ‘set’. I definitely used more coconut than suggested as the chocolate from my fingers kept leaking onto the pristine white finish and ruining the effect slightly.

The Setting Process

When piled onto my new vintage cake plate, topped with candles, lit and then carried through the beaded curtain from the kitchen to the living room. (No fires were caused in the making of these cakes, don’t worry), They suddenly transformed into magnificent brick like beasts. I had made giant cakes. One cake was more than enough for two people and I still had an entire sponge cake left to assemble!

Happy Birthday Chris!

Happy Birthday Chris! I loved these cakes and was so impressed with how they turned out. The sponge doesn’t need to be the perfect shape, the coconut makes up for any inconsistencies and they are so very moreish.

My Half

I attempted some pink Lamingtons (or English Madelines as Nigel Slater informs me in his ‘Eating for England’ book) especially for Caroline at work as they were her favourite, using powdered jelly. Bizarre stuff but apparently they tasted excatly like the ones she had when she was little. Success!

Pink Jelly Soup

One flat sponge cake goes a long way…

Things that I used to make Lovely Lamingtons…

Sponge cake

  • 5 oz butter
  • 7 oz caster sugar
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 oz self raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons of milk

Filling

  • strawberry/raspberry jam

Coating

  • 7 oz icing sugar
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons of boiling water

Decoration

  • 6 oz desiccated coconut (or as much as you need to coat the lamingtons liberally!)

Method

  1. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence together
  2. add the eggs gradually
  3. fold in the sieved flour alternatively with the milk
  4. spread the mixture into a baking tin (8 inch square)
  5. bake for 50-60 mins at 350 degrees F/gas mark 4
  6. cool the sponge and store in an airtight container over night
  7. carefully slice the sponge through the centre to create 2 square sponges
  8. spread with jam
  9. sandwich the two sponges together
  10. mix the icing sugar and cocoa powder together in a shallow bowl adding the boiling water gradually to create your chocolate soup. Add more sugar/water as required.
  11. chop the sponge into equal sized squares (4 if you want big pieces or 16 smaller ones)
  12. dip each piece into the chocolate soup and then into a shallow bowl of desiccated coconut
  13. leave on a cooling rack to harden
  14. eat with a big cup of tea!

* Recipe lovingly adapated from Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cookbook

 

11. Pavlova – New Zealand and the Ram Van

I love New Zealand. When we visited it was the middle of winter and despite the snow and a week in a The Ram Van camper sleeping in all my clothes and a body warmer, I still loved the experience. Rambling through river beds to touch the nose of Fox Glacier, bathing in the naturally hot spring waters at the bottom of a snow capped mountains (and freezing to death jumping between the pools) at Hamner Springs and 5 hours on a very rocky ferry accompanied by the little known Hugh Grant classic ‘Music and Lyrics’ (that film got me through a very dark point in my life of extreme seasickness). It doesn’t get much better than this. Such a beautiful country.

Me in the Ram (Camper) van. Can you see the snow capped mountains in the background?

I can’t actually remember eating very much cake whilst in New Zealand, but I do remember eating pumpkin soup when we had to stay in a motel when I cried following the horrific storm filled ferry crossing. It was the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had. Also coffee and cream from a tube that we had whilst camping. I’ve since tried to buy it in England and it’s unheard of here! Travesty! All those outdoor shops we have and not a sign of coffee in a tube! I really wanted to buy some but thought $35 was a bit too steep to mail order some.

It doesn't get much better than this!

I feel a bit like a broken record, but I’ve never baked a Pavlova before and thought why not give it a go? It can’t be that difficult, can it? Perhaps I should have went for something a bit easier when I had friends coming round for dinner? Perhaps this was a bit too daring, baking New Zealand’s National Dish without practicing or preparing beforehand? Perhaps I should have baked something a little less technical when I hadpeople visiting?? Perhaps, perhaps perhaps, but I always seem to throw myself in at the deep end and look forward to seeing if it turns out ok.

Action shot

Somehow I hadn’t really thought about the hour and a half that it requires in the oven on a very low temperature and that it needs to cool down quite a lot before you can serve it. But I had already whisked  everything up by the time I realised this and the oven was already full of pork and potatoes, which needed 2 hours at a very high temperature… Compromises had to be made and we didn’t eat until ridiculous o’clock (sorry Sarah and Ole!). We were all very hungry by this point!

Glossy and fluffy

I thoroughly enjoyed whisking the egg whites this time without any traces of yolk (Hurrah, progress!) and watching them become very glossy and stand up on end. Throwing in sugar I whisked it all up into a frenzy. The meringue mix too on the light brown hue of the soft demerea sugar that I had blitzed in the blender to make it an even finer grain.

The most difficult part was trying to plonk it all in some sort of attractive mess on a baking tray. Genius struck when I realised I could separate the round flat tin from the loose bottom cake tin and use that instead of trying to squish it into a baking sheet, and it would give a good pavlova shape too!

Sculpture of meringue

It took forever to bake and due to the pork emergency we were having I left it in a bit longer than required on a slightly higher temperature than required. Resulting in a rather two toned, tanned pavlova.

It's not burnt... it's just a bit oven tanned.

I whipped up the cream with lemon zest (very nice touch, I will do that more often!) I threw it all together and attempted to balance an enormous amount of fruit (raspberries, blueberries and strawberries) on top and hoped they wouldn’t fall off when I walked through the beaded curtain from our kitchen to the living room.

Extreme Close Up

This is definitely a dessert to assemble 5 minutes before it’s served and eaten straight away. I was surprised by how soft the meringue was, possibly because I used a different type of sugar as I don’t have golden caster sugar… and possibly because it hadn’t completely cooled down. It was more like a sponge cake on the bottom, once the cream had been added, and chewy meringue on the edges. We all cleared our plates so it must have been ok!

6. Chocolate Roulade – France

Not just any Chocolate Roulade, but Mary Berry’s quintessential Chocolate Roulade. I wanted to push myself further (yet again) and chose another technical challenge to bake for my Book Group friends. This time round I studied and re-examined the Mary Berry Chocolate Roulade Recipe  which was one of the technical challenges posed to the Great British Bake Off contestants. I wanted to make sure that I fully grasped the method. I even double checked I had all the right ingredients the day before (very unlike me!).

It took a lot of will power not to eat this

I’ve never baked something without flour. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever whipped up so many eggs before. Hoping that my little whisk had made a miraculous recovery I cracked on. Literally. Separating 6 eggs. Disaster struck when one egg yolk split and oozed into the egg whites. I could hear the sage like Mary Berry in my head saying, ‘The egg whites must not contain any trace of yolk or they won’t set when you whisk them’ Frantically scooping yolk from the whites, as my guests were arriving in under an hour and I only had 1 pack of eggs, there was no room for error. I managed to get most of it and then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best!

Splitting the eggs (note the not so white, whites)

Another lesson learnt. Perhaps in future so as to not ruin all of the eggs, I will crack each egg into a cup first, letting the egg white run through my fingers  leaving the yoke,  which can be put into its own separate jug. I won’t be using the sharp egg shell to separate eggs again! My promise to Mary. Only when I know the egg white is pure will I then pour each one individually into the bowl.

Fluffy Eggs Whites (with a splash of yoke... tut tut tut)

The eggs whites did fluff up nicely when I whisked them, but not having done this before I wasn’t entirely sure at what point to step away from the mixer… How much whisking is too much?

As I whisked and folded chocolate into egg yolk more pearls of wisdom from Mary Berry floated into my mind. ‘Use a metal spoon to fold the whisked so no air is lost’ (Emmm I only have a slotted metal spoon Mary, will this do?). ‘Fold the eggs gently, but any flecks of white left will be visible in the Roulade’. This was much harder than I had anticipated and had to resist the urge to just give it a good stir! But persevering it all eventually combined into a lovely chocolatey paste. I then forced it into the pre-prepared (get me planning ahead!) tin.

Ready for the oven

Drum Roll Please...

I now fully appreciate why this was a technical challenge on GBBO. It was so crumbly! It cracked and crumbled all over, but I coaxed it in to a roll -ish shape and then made my own greaseproof paper piping bag to pipe in a little extra cream to hopefully hold it all together. Ta da!

The Final Roulade!

It was so good (even if I do say so myself!) I really enjoyed it and I’m not a big fan of cream. Such a fantastic combination of textures. Light and fluffy on the inside and ever so slighty crispy on the outside. The cream softening it further, so it almost melted in the mouth. It may not have looked perfect but it tasted amazing. The girls loved it and conservation quietened slightly as we devoured it. Always a good sign that a cake is a success that concentration is required to savour it. All praise to Mary!

So Chocolatey, So Lovely

5. Viennese Apple Strudel – Austria (The 4 Foot Pastry Monster- most tricky bake yet)

This week I may have baked myself into oblivion. Following my muffin experiment I wanted to explore a country that I am still yet to visit, Austria. (which I am assured is not in Germany and Prussia no longer exists). We went to our friends’ beautiful wedding last weekend where I was kindly given a boatload of homegrown apples. Congratulations and thank you James and Lara they are very tasty! This is my second bake using said apples.

James and Lara's Wedding Apples

I wanted to find an authentic recipe for something a bit more challenging, stepping up the baking ante. I chose a rather traditional Viennese Apple Strudel Recipe. This involved an enormous amount of apples and butter and yet another pastry effort.

Peeling and chopping a mountain of apples and simultaneously sauteing my previous homemade baguettes in butter I got stuck in.

Best Oxfam purchase ever

Sauteed Baguette

The pastry was epic! My poor little electric whisk started to smell like the blown out birthday candles and I fear it will never be the same again. There’s pastry still trapped inside, even after a took a knife to it, to coax it out!

Poor little whisk

The recipe called for a 4 foot length of cloth to stretch the 4 feet of pastry out on. I’m not even sure my workbench is 4 foot long?! With limited resources yet again I found a subsitiute for cotton, in cling film. (I don’t think this is the traditional method in Austria,) Selotaping vast amounts of cling film to the bench seemed to be my best bet. I felt like the Cling Film Queen. Christening my new fabuolous rolling pin, I set to work flattening it all out and stretching the pastry to within an inch of it’s life.

Miles and Miles of Pastry (new rolling pin!)

Then to add the filling and breadcrumbs quickly before the pastry fell apart. It was very delicate. I had to coat the inside in even more butter, in addition to the extra chunks of butter the recipe requested to accompany the apples and raisins! I hope my guests like butter…

I thought the next bit would be really difficult, folding the pastry over to roll it all up. I was very proud of myself when I got to this point. Who needs 4 feet of cloth to wrap up a strudel?! I thought whimsically. It wasn’t easy, I hasten to add, as the cling film kept tearing but what was still yet to come almost had me in tears…

Roll Up! Roll Up!

Entering in to my second hour of preparation I was getting to that almost frazzled point and needed some stroke of genius to enlighten me as to how I was going to a) get this 4 foot pastry monster out of the cling film and b) on to my quite small baking tray.

I made sure this time I greased the paper very well! But every little attempt to move the strudel made the corners of the apple chunks inside poke through the pastry. Patting down the increasingly thin pastry I went for the Band Aid Method, throw it into the tray and rip off the cling film. I was up to my elbows in butter by this point. Hallelujah! It was on the tray in a Horseshoe shape. Phew!

A Horseshoe Shape?

Now you may notice the obvious mistake here. Despite having the recipe printed out in front of me (without any photos) I still managed to misread it! This is getting beyond a joke. Is my eyesight or my brain failing me? I may have to start wearing my glasses whilst baking. The recipe prescribed half of the bread crumbs to be put into the mix which I successfully did. Then in all the excitement of rolling it up, I thought it said to sprinkle the rest on the strudel. I realised, to my horror, after I sprinkled them all over the final product I had missed a step. The recipe said to put them inside the strudel just before rolling. Damn!! I had a good giggle at my stupidity though. It wasn’t life or death, but I was worried the breadcrumbs would burn and smell like burnt toast.

I'm ready for my close up and look a little twisted but that's ok

Thankfully it was ok in the end! It smelled quite lovely, but as it was now 11pm I wasn’t in the mood for sampling it. Also we had friends coming over the following evening for food so I wanted to save it for them.

No smell of burnt toast at all 🙂

A quick reheat in the oven and lashings of custard and the strudel was a success!

It was well received

The sweet apples and raisins contrasted nicely with the savoury pastry. It should also feed the 5 thousand as it’s enormous. 4 of us hardly put a dent in it! Please send tupperware, or even bring a plate and you can have a slice!

The Final Slice

I may have now reached my pastry capacity now. I may explode. Next bake will have to be something a little different I think…

3. Before Work Baguettes… France (again)

I realise that I’ve baked from France already, but the more I think about what I could bake, the more I realise that I want to bake everything that I’ve never tried before. This could actually be an impossible task. Alas a girl can’t survive on cake alone, although she can give it pretty good go, I must bake something savoury.

I’ve made bread before, mainly in cookery class at school and the odd occasion at home. It usually turns out more like a solid brick, so dense I could probably hammer nails in with it. So  I wanted to try something that is actually supposed to be crunchy. Now I must admit the weekend I conceived the Around the World in Eighty Bakes idea I had began a baking frenzy which did involve baking a plaited loaf. To pay hommage to the Great British Bake Off (yet again) I thank finalist Holly for the wonderful tip of adding a dish of water to the bottom of the oven. Amazing tip! Soft bread!

A plaited loaf. It was pretty good (even if I do say so myself)

A quick google and I found a Paul Hollywood baguette recipe to have a go at. (Thanks for the recipe!) I don’t think it’s the full recipe, so in hindsight it’s more akin to a technical challenge on GBBO with some of the steps missed out. I didn’t really think about the consequences and carried on regardless.

It looked quite simple with chucking flour, water and yeast in and leaving it to prove overnight… I didn’t really take into consideration the other 2 hours of proving required. I set my alarm to get up early thinking I could pop them in the oven before work and have a lovely baguette for lunch. I also rather over estimated my multi tasking abilities and also prepared a chicken and potatoes to roast. (I didn’t cook the home grown ones however.)

Early morning pre work proving (and chicken baking too)

and potato digging?! Disappointly pea sized potatoes

Needless to say the dough was not proved in time for baking so I left it all day to rise instead then finished them when I got home. It probably had an extra 10 hours of proving time (not sure what Paul Hollywood would say?!) and I had to do a bit of substitution. I didn’t have any strong flour so just used plain (this is probably a mortal baking sin) and no fresh yeast so a sachet of dried fast action yeast instead.

The final rise

Hoping this is what they are supposed to look like before baking

Epic fail. The dough was very very sticky. I didn’t think (or dare to deviate from the recipe) to grease or flour the baking paper in case it changed the consistency of the bread. This resulted in two baguette like breads being welded onto the paper. In fact I think the paper has now become one with the bread. Try as I might, I can’t prise them off the paper. Curses!!!! I’ve learnt my lesson. Follow the recipe but use common sense too. I sampled a slice and it (or the top) does indeed taste very baguetteish. It’s a lovely soft butter texture and a bit of a crunch outside. The water worked yet again.

Baguettes (baking paper still welded to the bottom)

If you don't look closely you can't see the brown smooth papery finish

These baguettes are tasty but must be eaten with a warning. Do not consume the bottom. Must do better next time….

The look relatively baguette-like

A tasty slice

2. My Oh My! My First Apple Pie! England

If I’m ever going to fit in baking eighty things I realised that I need to get cracking. After a little post work trip to the pub I decided to make use of all the apples that we have in the house and attempt my first ever complete pie!

My Nana used to bake an Apple Pie for Sunday tea every week when all the family would congregate at her house in Sunderland. So it seems right that I bake a proper English Apple Pie. I (loosely) used this recipe for the Ultimate Apple Pie.

I didn’t really consider how much time it would take to peel, core and slice 1kg of apples,. After almost taking off a finger tip or two, I succeeded in chopping up rather a lot of apple. I couldn’t quite figure out if the recipe required 1kg of apples pre- chopping and coring or after, so I threw in a couple more for good measure.

Unfortunately I forgot to purchase an adult sized rolling pin so the pastry was a bit on the thick and lumpy side. The recipe called for golden caster sugar, which does not exist in my cupboard.  Instead I concocted my own, from muscovado brown sugar and granulated sugar. This resulted in a rather grainy textured pastry. Probably not what the professionals would do but by this time I had invested too much to start again, so on I ploughed.

miniature Rolling Pin ( Also note Hello Kitty toaster in the background)

I probably should have checked that I owned the correct size pie dish before I began. But who ever thought about planning that far in advance? This didn;t occur to me til I noticed that I had a ridiculous amount of pastry for my little enamel pie dish and that I had rolled it to a similar thickness of turf. I tried to roll it out a little more, but how on earth do you get it into the dish without tearing it?!! I seem to have perfected what can only be described as a ‘pastry flip’, almost like what you do with a pancake, but using pastry flattened onto cling film instead. It did the job and I tried to thin it out further by hand.

In addition to the new sugar combination I decided to stray further from the recipe to my peril. I thought surely with that vast amount of pastry the base will need a bit of blind baking, so I ad libbed. Dangerous. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then came the fun bit, trying to squash as many of the cinnamon apples into the tin as possible. They look a bit like chips…

Chips or Apples?

Then to carry out another pastry flip. On with the lid. It wasn’t that easy to join the lid to the partially baked base (Maybe that’s why they tell you not to blind bake it? So you get a proper seal?) The result? It didn’t really look anything like what my Nana would bake. More like a pie Desperate Dan may have mistaken as containing an entire cow…

Too many apples inside? Desperate Dan would be proud.

I still had loads of pastry left so I thought I would invent something else. Using my Yorkshire Pudding tin I made some mini apple pies, or cricket balls filled with apple. All that was left to do was to slap on a coat of egg wash with my new pastry brush and whack them into the oven.

Apple filled cricket balls in a Yorkshire Pudding tin.

There seemed to be a lot of apple escaping from my modest steam vent and coating the bottom of the oven, but fret not. They looked a good colour! By this time it was about 11.30pm so it was way past apple pie eating time. I let it cool overnight and then kept it in the fridge for a Sunday treat. I just had a piece and I was very happy with it! I think the lumpy sugar must have melted in the oven, as there was not a chunk to be seen.

The end product

Although it was quite difficult to remove from the tin (a spoon had to be deployed) the pastry was most definitely cooked. I’m not completely sure if there’s supposed to be such a gap between the lid and the filling, but it all tastes the same. Complimented by a splash of custard of course too. The little cricket balls were rather pastry heavy but the Yorkshire Pudding tin worked a treat.  A perfectly handsized pudding and a good accompaniment to our road trip, providing much needed sustenance when we broke down yesterday! I’ve created a slideshow below of all the photos…

ps. Still no news from Paul Hollywood. I guess my Tarte au Citron efforts weren’t up to his standards… I’m very excited to watch the final Great British Bake Off on Tuesday!!! I’ve already ordered the book and Mary Berry’s very 70’s cook book which may help to alleviate the GBBO withdrawal symptoms.

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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.