Week 4 Showstopper: Baked Alaska

This is the challenge which became the infamous “Bingate.” The bakers were challenged to make a classic ice cream cake called “Baked Alaska”. This retro treat is essentially a cake topped with ice cream and frosted with meringue, which is then set on fire. Now the bakers were baking outside, which makes working with ice cream extremely difficult. While I have the advantage of working inside, working with ice cream can still be a challenge.

I know this whole week is out of order. I am trying to get the pans I need for the technical!

The Plan

I watched the episode to see if the bakers were making their own ice cream. All of the contestants had ice cream makers at their stations. I don’t own one, but I found a no-churn recipe on NY times that I can use. I chose the cinnamon flavor to complement one of my favorite cakes.

I adapted my favorite red wine cupcake recipe for the cake base. I paired this with a cinnamon flavor for the ice cream and a brown sugar meringue.

The Bake

  1. The Cake Base

I’ve made this cake before but only as cupcakes, so I wasn’t certain it would bake properly as a single layer (without over or underbaking). It did crack, but that would all be hidden by the ice cream.

2. The Ice Cream

I swear I will actually invest in an ice cream maker to avoid the drama and destruction associated with making this.

I over-boiled the cream and made a mess all over my stove. I managed to salvage it. It steeped then I strained. I got to use my immersion blender for the first time, which is how a large portion of my ice cream ended up on the walls, and the floors, and my breadbox… and my face. Then I froze it overnight. I know I said I would try to avoid overnight, but this is ice cream from scratch and I was concerned it would melt even faster.

I had a bear of a fight with the ice cream once it was frozen. I got it into the food processor and it exploded at me for a bit. I had to fight the ice cream to blend.

3. Trim & Shape

I removed the ice cream from its pan and into a bowl lined with plastic wrap. Once this was frozen solid I flipped it onto the cake and trimmed the edges for a nice dome.

4. Meringue

I read that meringue can be made with brown sugar, which I had never tried. I bet that the brown sugar would taste better with the deeper flavors (cinnamon, chocolate, wine) than brighter flavors like mint.

I threw out one meringue because I broke an egg yolk in it. I did not have the most luck with this challenge…

5. Bring On the Fire!

I own a rose gold culinary torch (because why not?). I have never had a reason to use it until now. I didn’t burn anything down.

The Final Result

This may have been one of the hardest things to make simply because the ice cream wrecked my kitchen and my soul. But the FLAVOR! Bae said I would be star baker for this. I had to keep myself from eating a big chunk.

My meringue slipped a little, but the swirls were cute. The ice cream as a perfect consistency with a strong but not overwhelming cinnamon flavor. This paired perfectly with my chocolate cake base, which was still moist despite freezing it.

I did battle with Baked Alaska and I won!

Week 3 Showstopper: Russian Chrysanthemum Bread

And we’re back! The 2020 Great British Bake Through continues to 2021!

Week 3 (Bread Week) ended with the a bread-themed showstopper challenge. The bakers were instructed to make filled bread centerpieces. The bread should be filled or stuffed, sweet or savory. Judging was based on appearance, design and crust, bake, and flavor.

The Plan

I’ve made bread rolls stuffed with Thanksgiving leftovers before but these were no “centerpiece.” I thought of stromboli, but again I worry about presentation. It took quite a bit of research before I could decide on the best option.

Jordan was the only baker to make sweet bread. This failed and he was sent home, so I’m sticking to savory. I thought about monkey bread, but I’ve usually made that with pre-made dough. While searching I came across chrysanthemum bread (European not Korean). The bread is stuffed and arranged into a flower, perfect for this challenge.

The Bake

  1. The Filling

The recipe I used calls for a “garlic cheese spread.” My first thought was Boursin cheese, but the rules of the game mean that I can’t use store-bought pre-made foods unless indicated in the challenge. I made a copycat Boursin recipe before mixing with the remaining ingredients. Even if you don’t make this bread, you should definitely try this delicious cheese mix!

The addition of the herbs de provence didn’t seem to do much, but I do like the kick from the chili flakes.

2. The Dough

The recipe’s instructions say to mix all of the dough ingredients at once. I prefer to let my yeast bloom first. Is that the word? I like to feed it to ensure a good rise, especially since I’ll need to handle this dough a lot. The yeast sits in the warm (not hot!) milk with some sugar. Once bubbly, I add it to the remainder of the dough ingredients.

There are so many wet ingredients I was surprised it came together so well. I’m still working on how to tell if the dough is kneaded enough…

3. The Rise

It’s winter right now and my house is freezing, so I let it rise in the oven. I was worried it was too warm in the oven that I’d used earlier in the day so I kept the oven door open for a bit. I had some mild panic when steam built up on the inside of the bowl. I was worried if it was too hot, the yeast would die and the dough wouldn’t rise.

I’m not certain this is the amount of rise I need, but it did, in fact, rise.

4. The Assembly

This was the hard part! The dough gets divided, rolled out, cut into small circles, filled, and formed. Whew!

I shifted the petals around quite a bit. At first I packed them too close together. They’d have no room to rise again or grow while baking.

5. The Bake

At first I started baking without brushing the dough. I’m not sure if it was smart, but I pulled it out and brushed it quickly. I’m concerned that I messed up my timer and then it will either bake too much or not enough.

The Final Result

It browned on top quite nicely. I was a bit worried I pulled it out of the oven too soon because underneath was quite light and soft. I do think I went a little overboard with the red chili flake. Next time I may just skip it entirely.

I’m really pleased with how it looks. I haven’t felt this good about a bake since the technical Cherry Cake.

Week 3 Technical: Ciabatta

Although I can’t stand the way Paul Hollywood pronounces “ciabatta” the man knows how to bake bread. For bread week the challenge was to make 4 loaves of ciabatta. Based on Paul’s instructions, this is going to be a very wet dough. I’m going to try very hard not to handle it too much so keeping it from sticking to everything is going to be a challenge.

Also I cannot stand the way that Paul Hollywood pronounces ciabatta.

The Bake

1) The Dough

This dough doesn’t necessarily need to be kneaded, but mixed enough so the water is fully mixed in.

2) Rise

This dough was sticky. The descriptions weren’t kidding. I didn’t have a square tub so I used one of my glass cooking pans. I think I used one that was too big.

3) Shape & Rise Again

Separating the dough was harder than I thought. I cut it but it wouldn’t separate. I ended up handling the dough more than I intended.

The next rise didn’t change the dough much.

4) Bake

I used the whole oven (instead of my half oven). I think this got the bake just right.

The Final Result

The crumb is not bad. It’s light and airy, baked through properly. There’s a nice crust on the outside with a light golden-brown color. The issue is in the shape.

I suspect two issues for the lack of rise to the proper dough shape. Firstly, I used regular yeast instead of instant. I did activate the yeast, but perhaps I should have used warm water and let it cool. The second issue was the container for the first prove. I think if I had used a smaller but taller container, the shape would have been better.

Week 3 Signature: Rye Rolls

Week 3 is for bread, starting with a classic rye roll. In the episode, there was an entire discussion of why rye flour is so difficult to work with, which does worry me a bit. I’ve made some bread. I’m hoping this goes better than biscuit week… Fortunately, instead of 36 I only have to make 12 this time. Again, consistency is key.

The Planning

Some of the bakers used flavors like orange and cardamom, which just doesn’t quite mix well in my head. I’ve only had rye as sandwich bread. I can’t recall ever eating sweet rye, so I looked for some tasty but not too boring rye rolls.

I was surprised how complicated the recipes have been! I figured it wouldn’t be much different from a regular bread roll but there is so much more involved! I ended up choosing a dark pumperknickel bread. I will not be using a breadmaker. That’s cheating. My biggest concern is the bake. The dark color of the bread is going to make it difficult to tell when it’s truly done. I don’t want the crumb to close either, since rye is a tough, strong flour.

The Bake

  1. Batter

The batter was so strange. It looked like I was making chocolate cupcakes, but it smelled so odd with the combination of rye and cocoa and yeast.

2. Knead

My poor Kitchenaid took a beating trying to beat this tough dough. It started to soften slightly but I can’t tell if I over or under-mixed it.

3. Raise

I got a pretty decent rise in the oven. I like to proof my doughs in an oven that was warmed to 175 then turned off.

4. Roll & Raise Again

I tried to weigh out the dough and make things even. The trick with my dinner rolls didn’t seem to work with rye dough.

5. Bake

The dark color made these tricky. I probably should have baked on the middle rack. I lowered the bake time to 25 minutes, but I opened my test roll and there were parts that still seemed underbaked. Another 5 minutes in the oven and well…

The Final Result

This was a complete and total failure. I can’t tell if I over-kneaded the dough and made it too tough, or if I under-kneaded and prevented the gluten from breaking down enough for an elastic dough.

Part of the problem, I think, is that this recipe is for a whole loaf. Rolling these seemed to make layers that prevented the second rise and the rise in the oven. I also suspect that I overbaked them. Some of the layers seemed to stay raw despite 30 minutes in the oven.

As a result these rolls were hard as rocks. I managed to open one. The flavor wasn’t bad. I could taste a bit of the coffee and molasses flavors. The inside was okay, but the outside had a tough crust. Once out of the oven and cooled, they were just solid.

Week 4 Signature: Self-Saucing Pudding

Here’s another challenge when British terminology tripped me up. For dessert weak, the bakers were asked to make eight self-saucing puddings. Pudding is the British word meaning dessert. After re-watching the episode and doing some research, this is essentially a lava cake. You should be able to bake a cake that oozes when you cut into it.

Also yes I’m

The Planning

Once I figured out what “self-saucing” meant it was just a matter of picking a cake that wasn’t just pure chocolate. I stumbled upon these clever “churro” cakes filled with chocolate. I’ll only be making four to minimize food waste.

The Bake

  1. The Filling

I used a tip to freeze the chocolate ganache in the hopes it would keep the filling from exploding…. more on that later.

2. The Batter

I used cinnamon sugar instead of putting the cinnamon in the flour. I also used cinnamon sugar for the ramekins.

3. The Bake

Batter in first, then the filling, but I wondered about covering the filling first.

The Final Result

If I’d ekked by for the past few weeks, then this week would definitely have sent me home! I think by incorporating the cinnamon into the sugar, I darkened the cake more than I intended. The chocolate exploded out and baked, so there was no “self-saucing.” I managed to salvage the appearance by flipping the cakes upside down, but the color was off-putting even with more cinnamon sugar.

Flavor wise, there wasn’t really a “wow” factor. The cake was dense and the molten filling would have added some much needed moisture.


Week 2 Showstopper: 3D Biscuit Scene

The showstopper for the Biscuit Week was an exercise in creativity. The bakers needed to design a freestanding 3D biscuit scene. Biscuit choices were left up to the bakers, as well as the concept of the scene. Watching, you could tell there was a variety of approaches. Whether it was the type or flavor of cookie, the scene itself, or how they got the cookies to stand, everyone did something different. I had my work cut out for me.

The Planning

This will be an entire scene, which means there’s much more planning involved than a simple cake or cookie. First I had to decide what kind of scene to make. I didn’t want to repeat anything that had already been done. I thought about re-creating my clinic, then maybe something nerdy. I settled on the idea of witches cooking in a cemetary.

Then I needed to pick the type of biscuit/cookie to use. The key to this is picking a dough with a structure sturdy enough to maintain a 3D shape without buckling or collapsing. The biscuit also needs to be baked enough to have that “snap” when eaten. (If not, well… that’s one of the reasons Enwezor went home that week). Most of the bakers chose flavored gingerbreads, and that sounded like a good idea.

I’ll be using orange and chocolate gingerbreads for my spooky witch scene. The plan is 2 biscuit witches standing over a cauldron. The cauldron will probably not be biscuit, possibly a cupcake. The witches will be beside a large tomb structure. There will be several (probably three) tombstones. I’m currently debating whether to make the fencing of the graveyard out of biscuit versus pretzel sticks.

The Bake

1 . Make Doughs

This was the easiest part. Make 2 different doughs according to their respective recipes and chill.

2. Roll & Cut

Roll out the chilled dough and cut into needed shapes. I drew my shapes on cardstock, cut them out, then used them as stencils on the dough. Worked out pretty well!

3. Bake

They puffed up a lot more than I expected! The chocolate looked burnt on a few pieces, so I probably should have watched closer. The dark dough can really trip you up!

4. Make ‘Em Stand!

Once cool, I made royal icing (for the first time!) and used it as glue. I also added coloring into small batches to help decorate.

5. Assemble

I had a total of four tombstones (just in case). Two witches with arms to keep the scene from being too static. I created a small tray of Oreo dirt (not part of the tasting!). I also made a quick mugcake for my cauldron. I finally got the little suckers to stand on the dirt after much struggle.

The Final Result

Ya’ll… this was the hardest challenge by far. The cookies kept falling over and getting messy. I was so frustrated I abandoned most of my decor plans because I just did not have the energy anymore! I wanted a fence and color on the witches. The cauldron could have been better. I’m also kicking myself for not having an edible marker to write on the tombstones, though I guess I could have used food coloring.

The orange cookie was alright, but not very “gingerbread”. The chocolate gingerbread was fantastic! I’ll be keeping that recipe for Christmastime. Unfortunately, the biscuits missed the “snap” the judges mentioned. I think this was because my dough wasn’t thin enough, so it puffed and became too thick as a cookie.

I’m a little disappointed in myself this round. I probably would have gotten a lot of the same criticism Norman did for lack of color, though Norm had a much neater presentation.

Who knows… maybe I would have ekked through based on my technical?

Week 2 Technical: Florentines

Week 2 (Biscuits) presented the florentine as a technical challenge. These cookies are made of nuts and candied fruit melded together with a caramel-like consistency, then dipped in chocolate. The cookies need to be thin and lacey without falling apart.

The Plan

Gathering the ingredients was a challenge in and of itself! I had to buy another type of sugar (putting me at a grand total of 5 types of sugar in my house). Golden syrup is not something traditionally sold in the U.S. Essentially golden syrup is the lighter cousin of molasses. Some people have substituted this with corn syrup, but I’ve been warned against that. I had to order it on Amazon.

Apparently “candied peel” isn’t an American staple either, so I’ve been forced to substitute with dried apricots. I’m hoping the similar texture will be okay.

The Bake

  1. Prep

There are lots of small nuts and chopped fruits for this. I cut and weighed them, then cut them again to make sure they were really finely chopped.

2. Melt & Mix

The sugar gets melted into the heated golden syrup (which tastes a bit like honeycomb) and incorporated with butter as it melts. Does this count as a caramel?

3. Spread & Bake

I think I should have spent more time at this step to make sure they were proportionate and well-shaped. I also stacked the cookies thicker than I should have, which prevented some spread.

4. Temper Chocolate & Spread

I’m giving myself kudos for beautifully tempering this chocolate. It was shiny and pretty. I brushed on the chocolate to the backs of the cookies, but that zigzag was tough! I got pretty decent lines once I realized I should be using the back of the fork.

The Judging

As I’m not the biggest fan of nuts and dried fruits, I did not care for the taste. I’ve never had a florentine so I wasn’t sure if there was supposed to be a “snap” or if they should be as chewy as mine. I had some others try the cookies and they enjoyed the taste, so I’m blaming my personal bias against almonds and dried apricots.

I got some laciness on the larger cookies, which spread more. I did not however manage 18 cookies, only 12. I must have used too much batter and not spread the cookies enough. I got some odd shapes and the sizes weren’t consistent.

The chocolate, however, did not leak through the cookies. It was well-tempered and shiny even if the zigzag wasn’t the prettiest.

I definitely wouldn’t be in the top three for this technical challenge but I don’t think I’d be at the bottom either (mostly because I didn’t use a cookie cutter- sorry Enwezor!)

Week 2 Signature: Savory Biscuits

Week 2 is biscuit week, and the signature challenge is to make 36 savory biscuits. Again with the 36! Who is going to eat all of these?! Anyway, the challenge is to make 36 cheesy, savory British-style biscuits which are consistent in bake, size, and shape. Now as an American biscuits do not mean the same thing to me. When I hear “biscuit” I think Southern biscuit and gravy, light fluffy bread. What the British mean is something akin to a cookie or a cracker. While re-watching the episode they mentioned water biscuits/crackers and what “digestives” are.

The Planning

Originally I wanted to go with a cacio e pepe shortbread (because yum), but based on the description of the challenge this would be baked more like a slice of cookie than the desired biscuit. As I searched there were plenty of options, making it more difficult to choose from.

I skipped out on anything including a jam, as it is supposed to be savory, so I want to avoid sweetness like fig jam. I liked the idea of an herb paired with a cheese, so when I stumbled across Stilton and rosemary shortbread, I knew they’d be perfect. What’s more British than Stilton cheese? Unfortunately, Stilton is tricky to get here in the U.S so I substituted another blue cheese.

The Bake

  1. Making the Dough

This was honestly just a weird experience attempting to cream butter and blue cheese. The dry ingredients came next, but rather than add the rosemary after (as instructed) I’d heard on Spring Baking Championship that you can rub the herbs into the dry ingredients to get more flavor.

2. Roll & Chill

Shortbread is a really crumbly dough. I managed to stick it together, though I did consider adding cold water like a pie dough. Once chilled, I tried to roll it into a log shape so I could cut out even biscuits. Unfortunately they ended up flat on one end.

3. Shape & Bake

I tried to shape the biscuits into little squares but they crumbled easily. I ended up with an odd shape and very little consistency between biscuits. Fortunately, the bake got a nice golden brown on the edges (despite making my house stink!).

4. Redo

While the first batch baked, I tried re-working the dough. Rolling out the dough between saran wrap finally got the dough to come together. I cut out square shapes (though I honestly should have used a ruler) and baked again. These biscuits were wonderfully flaky with multiple layers. These are the ones I would have given to the judges.

The Judging

So it turns out not many people are a fan of blue cheese. One of my coworkers spit out the biscuit! One person who loved blue cheese liked the flavor. Boyfriend even enjoyed some, taking the whole biscuit when I offered him bites. Brother-in-Law also enjoyed them. One of the doctors at my office was impressed by the layers in the redo batch.

I guess whether or not I did well depends on if the judges like blue cheese. Stay tuned for the technical challenge!

Week 1 Showstopper: Lemon Drizzle Mini-Cakes

The showstopper challenge for cake week was to make 36 miniature classic British cakes. The bakers chose Victorian sponge, Jaffa cakes, lemon drizzle cakes, and more. The cakes needed to be aesthetically pleasing and as consistently identical as possible. Since supplies are short right now, I cut back to 24 mini-cakes. As an American, I’m decidedly unfamiliar with “classic” British cakes other than the obvious Victoria sponge. However, both Jaffa cakes and Victorian sponge cakes end up being challenges later on in the show, so I decided to go with the lemon drizzle.

The Planning

NY times Cooking actually wrote about the Great British Baking Show, and included some recipes including a “classic” lemon drizzle cake. However, a plain lemon drizzle is not exactly “showstopping.” I rewatched the episode for inspiration.

Luis added elderberry syrup, which got me thinking about using fruit. Since I used strawberry for the signature bake, I figured this time I would use raspberries. Martha and Iain both used marscapone in a cream, which I figured would balance some of the tart fruit flavors.

The cakes will be evenly shaped, two-layer cakes. The middle will be filled with a marscapone whipped cream/cream cheese frosting and raspberry compote, then topped with piped cream and fresh raspberries.

The Bake

Step 1: Batter

I read later on that there is so much baking powder (which makes cakes rise) because the original recipe uses self-rising flour. Is that the go-to flour in Britain? Either way the batter tasted nice. I think this is one of the first cakes I haven’t used vanilla as an ingredient.

I was just watching Spring Baking Championship. Several bakers mentioned using herbs and other aromatics in the flour for more flavor! I’m excited I got to try it out.

Step 2: Bake & Glaze

Of course with all that baking powder it certainly puffed up! I thought I might have overbaked it but it was perfectly springy to the touch. I’m starting to like darker colors on my bake.

I think my glaze was a little too thick. I also expected it to be more like a simple syrup. I spread it across the cake prior to trimming. I’m not sure if the cake was warm enough but I did manage to spread it fairly evenly.

Step 3: Whipped Cream & the Couli

I was a little disappointed in my choice of whipped cream. Perhaps I’m used to sweeter desserts as an American. Fortunately, in combination with the cake it added a nice mild creaminess.

I absolutely did not buy enough raspberries. I wanted to put a raspberry on top but I used them all in the couli. Can’t stop a challenge to grocery shop!

Step 4: Cool and Cut

I tried to make these as even as possible, but because I didn’t use a perfectly square pan I had to trim, then it ended up being 11.5 inches long. Kind of annoying for trying to make even squares. I did have 24 but one fell apart when I cut it!

Step 5: Assemble

I thought about stacking the cakes on top of each other but then they would have been huge! I remembered the judges making a comment about that to Ian. I cut the cake slices in half instead. Boy do I wish I had the guillotine that Nancy’s husband made her.

Next was the cream and filling between the layers. Piping all of the little whipped cream stars was exhausting! I’m mostly disappointed it didn’t look as nice as I thought it would…

The Judging

Well I only made 23 out of 24 cakes, but at least they were baked! Appearance-wise I really wish I had fresh raspberries to brighten it up. The bake is consistent, as is color, but size is a little off. Some were much larger than others. Most of my coworkers commented that they were “cute.”

As for taste, I’m immensely pleased. The cake itself was not too sweet. You get the tang of the lemon from the drizzle and some extra tart from the raspberry. The crumb of the cake was nice. Even if it was a bit dry, the balance from the whipped cream and raspberry filling made a nice moist bite. They may not be the prettiest but they sure tasted divine!

What do you guys think? Would I make it to week 2?

Week 1 Technical: Cherry Cake

Technical challenges, obviously, are designed to challenge the bakers’ knowledge of baking. For Mary Berry’s cherry cake, the challenge was focused on how to suspend the cherries evenly throughout the cake, as well as how long to bake the cake.

For me, the challenge will be using ingredients I’ve never used (glacé cherries and self-rising flour), as well as toasting almonds for the first time. Even in the episode, Kate burnt her almonds.

Predictions

As this is essentially a fancy bundt cake, I’m not predicting too much difficulty in making this cherry cake. However, I do hope I can get the cherries to suspend evenly. Mary Berry’s recipe can be found here.

The Bake

Step 1: Prep

I ground my own almonds. Cutting the cherries took me so long I’m still kind of stunned. Also my fingers will probably be red for about a week.

Step 2: Batter

I’ve never used ground almond in a cake mix before. I mixed cakes like I’m used to (cream butter and sugar, then wet, then dry). I already knew about the trick with the cherries, both from watching the episode and from making Irish soda bread (the raisins have to be rinsed, dried, and coated in flour). I’m not a fan of the taste with the almond. Perhaps I haven’t ground them fine enough. I also have very little experience with self-rising flour.

Step 3: Bake

The instructions say to bake at 180 Celcius, which is about 350 F. My oven requires turning halfway through a bake, otherwise it will overbake one side. I baked for 20 minutes then rotated. I checked about 10 minutes before I hit 40 minutes (recommended bake time 35-40 minutes). The cake was dark brown on the bottom and came out clean when poked with a skewer. When I turned it over, it was a little delicate but looked baked consistently and all the way through. I probably should have baked in the center rack because the edges are more brown.

Step 4: Decorate

I ran out of icing sugar for the icing! I also bought slivered almonds instead of shaved, but that probably kept me from burning them. I have never toasted nuts. I thought about using the oven, but I remember the bakers using the stovetop. So I assumed its butter and almonds? Remember no research! They turned out a nice golden brown, which I’m hoping doesn’t mean they are burnt.

The Judging

I love how this turned out! I’m super proud of myself. As for the cake, Mary Berry would probably say it’s slightly overbaked, which made it a bit dry. My icing was also “higgledy piggledy” and I also iced a little too soon (before the cake was completely cooled). The flavor tastes lovely. The cherries add some moisture and the lemon keeps the cake from being overwhelmingly sweet.

The key to this challenge was the distribution of the cherries. Since the cake was fairly small, it seemed the cherries were spread throughout the levels of the batter. I’d say I’m still in the running this week, wouldn’t you?