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

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

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.