DISCLAIMER! I must warn you that this blog contains many pictures that could be harmful to some readers’ willpower. Cravings are inevitable. You have been warned.
So, we’re six weeks deep into the ‘soggy bottom’ of The Great British Bake Off. We’ve gained so much from watching the nation’s favorite show already; how to evenly cook a fruit cake, how to create biscuits that have Paul’s signature ‘crack’ and gained an additional 10 or 11 lbs of cake-podge to our bellies. I challenge you to get to the second ad-break without scoffing some sort of baked goods, I challenge you!
As we love the Bake Off so much we’ve been running a Facebook competition for our lovely Silver Mushroom supporters. Each week after the show we ask you all a question about the techniques featured in that episode, simply answer in the comments section to be in the running to win one of our mystery prizes and we’ll pick our winner before the next show. We never ask you to share our posts as we believe it’s personal choice to share something to your own page, however that being said, the more buzz we can generate on our page and posts the more generous we are with what we pick as our mystery prizes. Just saying!
What better way to kick off week one than with Cake Week? We saw the newbies nervously create fruity masterpieces, a children’s party classic and an incredible illusion cake for the show stopper. Baking fruit cake proved a challenge for the bakers, here’s our top tips for the perfect fruity masterpiece:
- Soak your fruits 24 hours prior to baking, this could be in brandy, whisky or fruit juice
- Always check your cake is cooked through by checking in multiple places with a cake tester, this is to prevent a false test if you strike a juicy rasin
- Pour additional alcohol over your cake once it has cooled, wrap in 2 layers of greaseproof paper and foil and then store upside down for 3 months to mature
- Choose the right tin, we’ve hand picked a selection of tools you 100% should not attempt a fruit cake with out!
Home made fruit cakes make the perfect Christmas gifts, they’re completely customisable to your recipient’s taste (I just so happen to love raisins and brandy if anybody is interested) and are guaranteed to put a smile on their face every time!
The bakers did not disappoint on their showstopper Illusion Cakes, for the first week we thought this was a very tough task but they showed their home grown expertise and wowed the nation. In particular, Steven’s Sandwich Cake was simply breath taking….
A showstopper with out a beautiful board to be presented on is like an actor without a stage, sort of, so don’t let your magnificent creations be dulled by the dinner plate they are sitting on. Have a look at our selection of Servingware Fit For a Bake Off Show Stopper, and do your cakes proud!
Week 2: Biscuit Week
Week two saw the bakers exercising their maths, intricacy, precision and tessellation skills, in biscuit week bakes forget their protractors at their peril. So how did our beloved bakers achieve the snap, crack and crunch that the judges were hankering after? We’ve got one of Mr. Hollywoods very own recipes to try because who knows how to bake the perfect biscuit better than the man him self!
“With its light, buttery flavour and sugar-crystal sweetness, this shortbread is impossible to resist. You can flavour it if you like, adding a handful of chocolate chips or a sprinkling of finely chopped rosemary, or lavender to the dough as you knead it.”
What you’ll need:
- Bits & bobs from our beloved biscuit essentials
- 225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 110g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 110g cornflour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 trays, lightly buttered or lined with baking parchment
- Lightly butter 2 trays, or line with baking parchment.
- Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and cream together, using an electric hand-held whisk or wooden spoon, until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and cornflour into the bowl, add the salt and mix together until smoothly combined. Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to a soft dough.
- Roll out the dough between 2 pieces of baking parchment to a thickness of 1cm. Prick the dough all over with a fork and cut into triangles or whatever shapes you like, using a knife or a biscuit cutter. Re-roll the scraps once to cut more (if you re-roll too many times the dough may start to get greasy). Put the shortbreads on the prepared baking trays and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat your oven to 170°.
- Bake the shortbreads for about 20 minutes, until just turning golden brown at the edges. Leave on the baking trays for a few minutes to firm up slightly, then lift the shortbreads onto a wire rack. Dust with sugar and leave to cool. They will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Week 3: Bread Week
Things kicked off in true GBBO style with innuendos that would have Marry Berry blushing! Well, teacakes just lend themselves to a classic bun-based pun too easily, right? However, ‘finger treatments’ and ‘wonky balls’ left viewers stunned.
Once we stopped sniggering over all the saucy innuendos, we got down to business. We took these top tips from the King of Bread himself..
- For a better crust, set your oven to around 220°C/425°F/Gas7 and leave a roasting tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up. When the oven reaches the right temperature and just as you put the bread in to bake, fill the tray with cold water. This creates a steam bath in the oven which helps the bread to have a lighter crust and prevents tearing.
- To check if your dough is kneaded enough, pull out a piece of dough between your hands. It should be able to stretch to 20cm without breaking.
- To give your crusts a lovely crunch, add a light coating of fine semolina to your dough.
- Use oil rather than flour on the table when kneading, as this will not alter the dough’s consistency and will prevent too much sticky-hand syndrome.
- When adding milk to dough, make sure that you warm it a little first. This is because the fat in the milk can slow down the action of the yeast slightly, and warming it balances this out.
- When making bread for the first time, always use a tin so you can work on getting your dough right. In the tin, the only way for the dough to go is up. Once you have got your dough right, then move on to free form loaves.
- Keep salt and yeast apart. When mixing your ingredients during bread-making, always add the salt and yeast to opposite sides of the bowl as the salt can kill the yeast.
- You don’t need to put rising dough in the airing cupboard or anywhere particularly warm in an attempt to speed things up. A slower rise gives more flavour to the bread
This Paul Hollywood 2lb Loaf Tin is seamless to help you create delicious loafs time and time again. With its 20 year guarantee this tine is anti-warp and designed to last.
As Paul is so passionate about bread and teaching us all, he has included his favorite Malt Loaf recipe to get you started. Click here to order yours from us today and get practicing, you never know, you might be in the Bake Off tent next year!
The Mason Cash Tear & Share is perfect for when you fancy getting a little more creative with your bread baking. Create artisan masterpieces with this bit of kit, perfect for dinner parties or a romantic evening in with that special someone. This Tear and Share also comes with a recipe booklet to help you get started. Order yours from us here!
Week 4: Caramel Week
Week four was the one we’d all been waiting for. Non other than Caramel Week. This week saw the bakers tackling Millionaires Shortbread and Dutch Stroop Waffles (*drooles uncontrollably*).
You can never get too much caramel, just ask Mr. Hollywood. If you’re going to scoff the whole batch it’s better to have the satisfaction that you made it yourself, right? Either way, caramel can be intimidating, just watch Ep.4 back and cringe along with the bakers as Paul and Prue crunch through all the grainy caramel slice’s. But they say practice makes perfect, the more you make it, the more you will get a feel for the look and the smell, and it will become second-nature. For those just starting out, here are a few tips:
- Stir the sugar initially to help it to melt evenly, but stop once it has completely melted to keep it from seizing
- Ensure you have all the necessary equipment to make the perfect caramel
- If you’re new to caramel-making, you may find a thermometer (I use this one) will help to guide you. The caramel should reach 350 degrees F on an instant-read or candy thermometer*. If you aren’t able to obtain a thermometer, you can use visual cues for doneness. The caramel should be a deep amber color with a bit of a nutty aroma. The line is very fine here. If you don’t cook it long enough it will be too sweet with little depth of flavor, but cook it too long and it will be burnt and unusable. Once you’ve done it a few times and see the color and can experience the smell when the thermometer hits 350 degrees, you will have a better idea of how to eyeball it when you don’t have a thermometer.
- Be sure to use a saucepan that is larger than you think you might need. When you add the butter and the cream, the caramel will bubble up violently.
Week 5: Perfect Puddings
The Great British Pudding is quintessentially English, with recipes such as Sticky Toffee Pudding and the classic Bread and Butter Pudding the judges knew they’d be in for a treat this week. There’s something about a pudding, maybe it’s because they are plump with history from being passed down generation after generation, or maybe they’re just so warm and satisfying that we can’t resist them. Reminiscent of a Sunday lunch with the grandparents, this is a fool proof pudding recipe, guaranteed to make you everybody’s favorite host.
“Classic bread pudding is just how you remember it: perfumed with vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, and dotted with raisins.”
Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; set aside. Put bread in a large bowl; set aside. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until just about to simmer; remove from heat.
Whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, pour cream mixture in a slow, steady stream into egg mixture. Pour over bread; fold to combine. Let stand 30 minutes, tossing and pressing occasionally to submerge bread.
Meanwhile, soak raisins in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes.
Drain; stir raisins into bread mixture. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a slotted spoon, transfer bread to buttered dish; pour liquid in bowl over top. Using spoon, turn top layer of bread crust side up.
Set dish in a roasting pan; transfer to oven. Pour boiling water into pan to reach about halfway up sides of dish. Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Let dish cool on a rack 10 to 20 minutes.
Week 6: Pastry Week
Sweet or savory, you absolutely can’t beat a steaming hot pie. This dish lends its self to all seasons, Pork Pies on a Summer picnic, light Fish Pie for Spring, Pumpkin Pie for Autumn of course and Mince Pies for Christmas. The pie is perfect for all occasions. The filling of the pie clearly plays an important roll, but a pie without pastry would just be your average stew, we need the pastry. Here are our top tips for achieving perfect pastry everytime…
- Bring to room temperature- If your pastry has been resting in the fridge, remove it 30–40 minutes before using to allow it to come to room temperature as it will be easier to work with.
- Keep cool- Your kitchen, worktop and hands should all be cool when handling the pastry so that the fat in the dough doesn’t become too soft.
- Watch the flour- Don’t add too much flour to the work surface. It’s tempting to coat the surfaces and pastry with a generous dusting of flour because it makes it easier to handle but adding too much flour can cause the pastry to dry out. Always brush off excess flour before folding or baking the pastry or roll it out between two layers of cling film to avoid using flour at all.
- Chill- Always rest the pastry in the fridge after handling it to allow the fat to firm up again.
- Chill fillings too- Make sure your fillings are cold before pouring into tart cases, covering with pie lids or wrapping in filo otherwise the heat will cause the fat to melt and lead to soggy pastry.
- Glaze- To add a lovely shine or deeper colour to your pastry, glaze the top before cooking. Different glazes create different effects: use egg whites for a very shiny finish, beaten eggs or egg yolks for a deeply coloured shine and milk or cream for a matt golden colour. For filo pastry, glaze with melted butter or a neutral oil.
- Preheat the oven- Cooking pastry at the right temperature is vitally important; too cool and the butter will melt before the pastry becomes firm causing it to collapse, too hot and the pastry may burn before the filling is cooked.
- Use the middle shelf- Placing the tart tin, pie dish or baking tray in the middle of the oven will allow the heat to circulate cooking the pastry evenly on the bottom and the top.
Well, that’s it so far for the Bake Off 2017. We have loved every minute so far, and have done our best to bake along side the show. Stay posted with our ongoing Facebook competition and win yourself some lovely baking goodies! Thanks for reading, return to homepage here.