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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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???