In anticipation of the new series of the Great British Bake Off, here I recall my baking efforts of the challenges set last year.
In three sleeps time much of the nation will be about to sit down to watch the seventh series of the Great British Bake Off with 12 home bakers facing the steely stare of Paul Hollywood and the comforting comments of Mary Berry. And let's not forget the doublenetendre quips from Mel and Sue. I'll certainly be there with my fresh pot of tea, in awe of the creations they whip up.
It's become such an institution with many of the bakes lingering in the memories of baking fans. Amongst those which I recall are Paul's lion bread complete with almond nails, Nadia's blue peacock in chocolate week and Frances Quinn's giant matchstick bread sticks. Having already seen a few trailers for GBBO 2016, the excitement is already mounting wondering what feats of baked engineering they are challenged with whilst looking forward to 'meeting' the characters.
Like last year I shall aim to bake along with the Great Bloggers Bake off hosted by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps, (and her facebook group, also called Great Bloggers Bake Off) challenging myself to complete one of GBBO bakes each week to learn new techniques and try new flavour combinations. In preparing for the challenges to be faced this year, I thought it would be fun to remind myself of the bakes I attempted last year.
Week 1 - Cakes.
These delicious Mini Madeira Cakes were my first GBBO bake-along. They were infused with lemon and topped with crystallised lemon zest, and their dinky size made them perfect for any afternoon tea.
Week 2 - Biscuits.
The technical challenge in week two was to bake a batch of Arlettes. Like many of the bakers, I was unfamiliar with them but having seen their delicious cinnamon swirl in the wafer thin crisp buttery pastry I instantly felt the need to attempt the bake. These were such a massive hit with friends and family that they have been made several times since.
Week 3 - Bread.
This was the week which saw Paul, the contestant, make his lion bread in the showstopper challenge. I decided to square up to the technical challenge again and attempt to make Baguettes. Not having a baker's couche to shape our french baguettes, I used a double layer of tea towels to help shape this delicate dough.
Week 4 - Desserts.
Hurrah for dessert week! Regulars to Only Crumbs Remain will no doubt be aware of my love of desserts! This was the week which saw the remaining bakers make creme brulee, Spanish Windtorte and a baked cheesecake showstopper. After much deliberation Mr E & I chose to make a Bilberry and White Chocolate Baked Cheesecake which contained a hidden layer of this delicious purple fruit.
Week 5 - Free From Food.
Free from week was a first for GBBO in 2015 as well as for me. These Blackberry and Black Bean Brownies were not only made gluten free but were also free of refined sugar having been sweetened with maple syrup and honey. And yes, they do contain black beans but, trust me, you would never know that they were present.
Wanting to learn more about free-from foods, I also attempted some Gluten Free Pitta Breads which was the baker's technical challenge. Admittedly, these pitta breads did taste different to regular pittas, but were still delicious in their own right.
Week 6 - Pastry.
I have to admit that I do enjoy making pastry, so when pastry week rolled around I was keen to see what challenges faced the bakers. They were asked to make frangipane in the a signature challenge, a technical bake of flaounas and a showstopper of vol-au-vents. This delicious Pear & Blackberry Frangipane saw the pears stained with foraged blackberries rather than the usual red wine. It also contained a layer of blackberry jam sandwiched between the pastry and almond frangipane. Extra blackberries also studded the top of the bake alongside the stained pears.
Week 7 - Victorian.
Victorian Week was another new theme for GBBO and saw the remaining bakers challenged with making a raised game pie signature bake, a tennis cake in the technical challenge, and a Charlotte Russe showstopper. Being a huge fan of hot water crust pastry, both in terms of its method and flavour, Mr E & I made a Vegetarian Game Pie. Being a vegetarian household we clearly weren't going to use a variety of meats and gelatine in our bake, so we packed it with two types of quorn and a medley of vegetables, before being finished with a simple leaf pattern to the top. It was absolutely delicious!
Week 8 - Patisserie.
The focus of week 8 was patisserie, delicate detailed bakes. The handful of remaining bakers showcased their talents with a duo of cream horns in the signature bake, Mokatines in the technical challenge and the showstopper called for a Religieusse a L'ancienne, a nun sculpture made of eclaires, to be assembled. Here I decided to attempt the cream horns, using an improvised cone structure for the puff pastry horn made from tinfoil wrapped around icecream cones! They were definitely worth the effort!
A British flavour classic of Apple Crumble and Custard was used to fill half of our cream horn shells. The cream horn was filled with a crème patissiere, topped with some apple puree spiced with cinnamon and then finished with a sprinkling of crumble. Yum!
The remaining cream horn shells, were filled with Lemon Posset and Raspberry. The lemon posset, which was straightforward to make with heated cream and lemon juice, hid a fresh raspberry within the cone. They were then topped with freeze dried raspberry pieces.
Week 9 - Chocolate.
Imagine the wonderful aroma in the tent during chocolate week! The challenges set were a chocolate tart, a chocolate souffle and a chocolate sculpture showstopper. This was where Nadia made her fabulous blue peacock. Not having the chocolate skills to even contemplate making a chocolate sculpture I decided to make a Triple Chocolate and Mango Tart which saw a chocolate pastry case filled with a mango cream, a milk chocolate mousse made with aquafaba (the liquid found in cans of chickpeas), topped with a chocolate glaze, and finished with white chocolate circles to decorate.
Week 10 - The Final.
And only three bakers remained! The three bakers were faced with making two different iced fingers made with enriched dough in the signature bake, a millefeuille in the technical challenge and a three tiered cake show stopper.
Here I chose to make the iced fingers, they were a childhood favourite. I managed to make two different enriched doughs with contrasting flavour and colours. The first was a Barm Brack Iced Finger, which was made with a traditional Irish enriched bread which was studded with tea soaked fruit and flavoured with a little spice. We shaped the dough into fingers and decorated them with a simple water icing.
Our second batch were Blackberry and White Chocolate Iced Fingers which saw the white enriched bread fingers split and filled with a whipped white chocolate gnache, topped with a blackberry glaze and finished with a line of blackberry jam.
That was my 2015 Great Bloggers Bake Off experience. I'm sure GBBO 2016 will be even more challenging with exciting delicious bakes to contemplate and drool over, and rumour has it although there will be the traditional weeks like cake and pastry, there will also be new challenges like batter week. Perhaps the bakers will be challenged with making a Yorkshire Pudding ;-)
Are you a GBBO fan? Will you be baking along with the bake off this year?