Friday, 1 February 2013

The Baking Project

In an earlier post I spoke about my project to learn how to bake. In this entry I'll get us up to date to where I am in what we will now officially call... 'The Baking Project'.

Bet you didn't see that coming.

So what have I baked so far? I have mostly been using recipes from the The Great British Bake Off book 'How To Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers', and as I mentioned before, my success rate is average at best.

The project to date:

- Creme caramel - success! Couldn't really believe they worked on the first attempt. The caramel could have been darker, but I have never cooked it before and was scared it would burn.

- Meringue swirls - awful. My second baking attempt was not the best. My egg white was stiff, until I started mixing in food colouring which changed the consistency. My piped swirls were not anywhere near large enough, and unfortunately this completely messed up the baking time. The recipe stated 1 - 2 hours. One hour later, I had a dozen or so burnt little meringue blobs. I have made chocolate swirl meringues in the past which worked out great, so I will be trying meringues again later on in The Baking Project.

- Gingerbread snowflakes. These were so much fun to make, I'd encourage anyone to do it. I love piping, so decorating was a highlight.
As these worked so well, and looked pretty I also made a batch for Christmas decorations. I poked a hole in each to string ribbon through to hang up. Although they looked good, the first bake at 10 - 11 minutes were a little burnt on the edges, while the second at 8 minutes were definitely too doughy and undercooked. As a result, most ended up rather sad looking...

His smile is deceiving. 
The recipe is fairly easy - I just need to perfect my baking time - and I would recommend it to fellow beginner bakers.

- Brandy snaps - Failure. Brandy snaps take two - less so, but still a failure.

I'll start by saying that both batches tasted good. Gingery and as J. noticed, reminiscent of Werther's Original toffees. The first problem was, however hard I tried, I could not get them off the tray for the life of me! They were stuck hard, and after much caressing, poking and finally ripping, I had to say goodbye to the brandy snap dream. I took to the internet after this first batch and read that a silicon baking sheet would solve any potential sticky dilemmas. I stomped (drove) off to Homebase, and bought myself a new baking sheet and flat tray for batch two.

I repeated the recipe, and watched them spread in the oven. With trepidation I removed the b'snaps after the stated baking time and waited for them to cool a little. My shaky hands started to lift the edges from the silicon...and voila! They came off and rolled happily around my wooden spoons. I left them to set with optimism blossoming in my heart....but in some hideous twist of fate, they then stuck to the spoons instead. Carefully I pried the brandy snaps off the spoons, and although lovely and snappy on the edges, they were more brandy mush in the centre. I imagine the reason for this is that they were a little undercooked in the centre and therefore became this:

Just like Mary Berry's
- Viennese Fingers - A little ugly but tasted yummy! Relatively easy to make, but I had an absolute nightmare finding the right piping equipment. I didn't have a wide enough nozzle, so I had to go with out. As the mixture is quite thick, the disposable bag burst while I was piping and I ended up with this monstrosity growing out the side:

Like something out of a baking Alien movie
In hindsight, I should have piped in more of a 'zigzag' so they looked less like...well, I'll leave it to you to finish that sentence. Regardless of what they look like, they tasted great and we're eaten up in no time at all.

So, have you had any baking disasters? Or have you found yourself a natural baker?

Stay tuned for the next failure entry in The Baking Project!

S. x

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