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…

4. Accidental Breakfast Muffins – America

I had a vision for what I wanted to bake but didn’t have a recipe to achieve it. I’ve attempted American muffins from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook about 5 times now and failed miserably to get them to rise and to look more appetising than a sludgey, sticky, tray bake, rather than lovely risen individual muffins. I give up!

Me in LA with Cary Grant

I’ve been to America quite a few times and they do indulgent food so well. I have quite a few American items on my baking wish list so where better a place to start than the good old fruit muffin.

Accidental Breakfast Muffins

I had over ripe bananas, oats, honey, raisins and rather a lot of apples to use up in the cupboards so I concocted this next baking attempt. I was thinking about how wonderful and creative the contestants on GBBO are and how they invent their own recipes so I found a basic banana muffin recipe and for better or worse, improvised…

Accidental Breakfast Muffins Recipe:

1 cup (115 grams) oats

2 and half  cups (230 grams) plain flour

2 cups (3/4 cup (150 grams) combination of half brown and half granulated white sugar.

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs lightly beaten

25grams unsalted butter

2 large ripe bananas mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)

2 large apples diced

1 handful of raisins

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

sprinkle of honey and oats for the top of the muffins

Chopping the apples up in a hurry before yoga, I left them along with the oats to marinade in the fruity, sugary, cinammony mess that I had made. All that was left to do was to throw the rest of the dry ingredients in and gently mix it all together..

Accidents happen. Somehow, despite bringing my massive laptop into the kitchen and balancing it precariously on the hob, to avoid touch screen phone issues, I still misread the basic recipe!! Mixing up the measurements for the flour and sugar. I realised a little too late that I had added 3 times the amount of sugar (and extra honey that I had taken the initiative to chuck in too) that the recipe needed. Yikes, these were going to be ridiculously sweet muffins!

To balance this out I added more flour and oats. Creating more problems for myself, as per usual. Now I know that oats soak up all the available moisture, wherever they are. If only hadn’t poured away all the sugary apple juice that had seeped out from the fruit. But hey, you bake, you learn.

Pre baking in lovely silicon cases

I keep considering investing in a proper muffin or cupcake baking tray but have yet to commit to it. Undiscouraged by my lack of baking equipment yet again. (I see it as an opportunity to make life interesting…) I improvised. Using a set of silicon cupcake cases set on a flat baking tray. I filled paper muffin cases with the mixture and squashed them in to the silicon cases. I figured they would hold the muffins in the right place.

Extreme Close Up

You may wonder why I didn’t just cook the muffins in the silicon cases. I’ve had some unfortunate silicon cooking experiences; uncooked bottoms, half the cupcake stuck in the case etc. so prefer to use paper cases these days.  Once I ran out of silicon cases I rummaged round for something else ovenproof to hold the paper cases upright (and avoid  muffin sludgage) and landed upon some ramekins. Perfect.

Ramekins and Yorkshire Pudding TIn

Before I popped them in the oven a sprinkled on a few more oats on each muffin and drizzled on some honey to make them look all rustic and pretty.

The End Product

They smelled amazing and tasted really good too.  They were fully cooked and had a proper shape too! Amazing! Maybe paper cases in ramekins and silicon cases are the way forward? No more rivers of muffins for me! The only improvements that could be made would be to add an extra banana and leave in all the fruit juices. Maybe even a slightly bigger dollop of honey on the top too would add a bit more moisture. They were definitely sweet enough though! For my first attempt at full on recipe creation it wasn’t too bad, especially with a good cup of tea.

Now to share them with everyone at work, as I can’t possibly eat all of these myself!

So many muffins

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

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