Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Blogger Bake Off Final - Petit Four: Coffee Victoria & Lemon Meringue Tartlets

And so, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain. My friend, I'll say it clear, I'll state my case of which I'm certain [...]  Yes there were times, I'm sure you knew when I bit off more than I could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spat it out . I faced it all and I stood tall, and baked it my way! 

What's a final without a cheesy ballad thrown in there somewhere? I'm sure the British Bake Off will have one tonight when they announce the winner (RICHARD! RICHARD!) 

This week, I decided after the chaos of the entremet, there was no way I was tackling a croque en bouche, so went for petit four instead. Make a miniature version of anything and it's adorable, so I did these minis of some baking classics, the victoria sponge and lemon meringue pie (I also like to pretend I'm a giant when eating them). 

This entire challenge has been incredible and I would personally like to thank I Love Crafty for organising the entire thing. I've learnt so much from doing this, and don't really want it to stop. That's where you guys come in. If you would like to see the baking continue on Blood, Sweat and Heels then leave a little comment below, because I'm seriously considering making it a permanent feature. Whatever the decision may be, there is a Christmas Blogger Bake Off in the pipeline. 

I really hope you've enjoyed this flurry of baking that's been going on recently and have been inspired to don your apron and get elbow deep in dough. 

Coffee Victoria

225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for tin
225g golden caster sugar
4 medium eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
100ml cold espresso

Filling / Icing
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp cold espresso

1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Butter one large, deep baking tray, and line the base with baking paper. 
2. Using an electric whisk on high speed, whisk the butter in a large bowl for 1-2 minutes until very pale and fluffy, then add the sugar and continue to whisk for another 1-2 minutes. 

3.  Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well with each addition until the mixture is amalgamated.

4.  Sift and whisk in the flour and baking powder in two goes, just lightly, then whisk in the coffee. 

5. Tip the mixture into the baking tray, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when poked. 
6. Whilst that's baking, for the filling cream the butter in a bowl using an electric whisk for about 1 minute until very pale and fluffy, then gradually whisk in the icing sugar and whisk for 1 minute longer. Finally whisk in the coffee. 
7. When the cake is done, remove from the baking tray and peel off the baking paper. Leave on a wire rack to cool. 

8. When cooled take your cake cutter (I used a shot glass and a knife for this as I didn't have a cutter small enough. Remember, petit four are meant to be eaten in one go) and cut out as many circles of sponge as you can get out of your cake. 

9. To get my icing effect, I used a piping bag and a small star nozzle, but how you decorate yours is completely up to you. Add the filling to one circle, and then gently place another on top, and ice. 

Lemon Meringue Tartlets

175g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 egg yolk

2 level tbsp cornflour
100g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest 2 large lemons
125ml fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
juice 1 small orange (or breakfast orange juice)
85g butter cut into pieces
3 egg yolks and one whole egg

4 egg whites, room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
2 level tsp cornflour. 

1.Preheat the oven to 200C 
2. For the pastry, put the flour, butter, icing sugar, egg yolk (save the white for the meringue) and  tbsp of cold water into a bowl. 

3. Using your hands, bind the ingredients together until it forms a dough. This will require you to really work the butter into the mix, so there are no lumps of butter. Use an electric whisk if it helps. 
4. Tip the pastry onto a lightly floured surface , gather together until smooth, then roll it out. 

5. Using the same cutter you used for the Coffee Victorias, or a shot glass and a knife, cut out as many circles as you can get from that piece of dough. Pull all the off-cuts together and roll out again and cut more circles. Repeat this until you're out of dough. 

6. Fill a muffin tray with muffin cases, and place a circle in each one. Using your forefinger, poke the dough right into the corners to create a yorkshire pudding shape. Stab each one with a fork and put the tray in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes. 

7. Once chilled, line each bit of pastry with tin foil, and add baking beans for a blind bake. 

8. Put into the oven for 6 minutes. 
9. Remove from the oven, and remove the baking beans and foil. 
10. Put back into the oven for another 6-10 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. 

11. For the filling, mix cornflour, sugar and lemon zest in a saucepan. Strain and stir in the lemon juice gradually. 
12. Make orange juice up to 200ml with water and strain into the pan. 
13. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Once the mixture bubbles, remove from the heat and beat in the butter until melted. 

14. Beat the egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue) and whole egg together, stir into the pan and return to a medium heat. 
15. Keep stirring vigorously for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens and plops from the spoon (It will bubble, but won't curdle). Take off the heat and set aside while you make the meringue. 

16. For the meringue, put the egg whites in a bowl. Whisk to soft peaks, then add half the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking between each addition without over-beating. 
17. Whisk in the cornflour, then add the rest of the sugar as before until smooth and thick. 

18. Using a teaspoon, add the lemon filling to your cases, filling just to the brim. 
19. How you want your meringue to appear is completely up to you, I used a piping bag and a small star nozzle, piping the meringue in tiny blobs. 

20. When you've piped the meringue, turn the grill onto it's highest setting, and set the tartlets under it until the tip of meringue start to brown. Keep an eye on them because this process happens quite quickly. 


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 8 - Spiced Apple and Salted Caramel Pretzels

ADVANCED DOUGH?! Boy did I panic when the theme of this week was announced. I'd only just managed puff pastry dough and now they want me to step things up a notch? Well I gave it a good go. None of the things the bakers on the show were going to be making this week appealed to me (other than doughnuts but I'm terrified of deep fat frying), and I remembered the contestants of last year really struggling with pretzels in the technical challenge, so decided to give them a go. I do love a good pretzel, but wanted to get a bit adventurous with the flavouring. One of my fave flavours is salted caramel, and what goes better with caramel than apple right? Pretzels alone may not be all that complicated, but I sure complicated things by adding apple to the dough. However I took the necessary precautions (that 1tbsp of flour with the apples is a lifesaver) to make sure it wasn't a disaster and so that you guys can give this recipe a go without having to worry about any hiccups. 

500g strong white flour + 1 tbsp
10g salt
7g fast-action yeast 
40g butter, softened 
1 tbsp malt extract (or Ovaltine/Horlicks)
280ml milk
21g bicarbonate of soda
2 Pink Lady Apples 
1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/8 tsp nutmeg 
For the caramel
75 grams unsalted butter 
50g soft light brown sugar 
50g caster sugar
50g golden sugar
125 ml double cream 
1 tsp fleur de sel or Cornish Sea Salt 


1. Add the flour, salt, yeast and butter to a bowl . In a jug, add the malt extract to the milk and stir until dissolved. Add the milk mixture gradually to the flour and mix until a dough is formed. 

2. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead. The dough should be stiff but not sticky,and shouldn't need any extra flour to knead. Be patient. The more you knead the smoother and dryer the dough will become. Continue for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and glossy. 

3. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover in oiled cling film and leave to prove until doubled in size (approx 45 minutes). 

4. Whilst waiting for the dough to prove, peel, core and chop the apple into small cubes. In a bowl at the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1tbsp of flour, then add the apple cubes and toss until completely covered. 

5. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F / Gas 6 

6. Once proved, turn the dough out and add the apple a handful at a time, kneading each handful until the apple is evenly spread throughout the dough. 

7. Divide the dough into 10 chunks, rolling each chunk into a ball to make sure they're all the same size. 

8. Using your hands, take each piece, and roll the dough into a long sausage shape, tapering the ends and creating a slight bulge in the middle. Each piece should be about 40-50cm long in length. You may need to roll out each o the strands just part way at first, then rest them, allowing the glutens to relax, before continuing to roll them out to their full length. This can help to prevent the strands springing back and creating unevenly shaped pieces. As you roll out the ropes you should apply some pressure to the dough, working from the middle outwards , pushing out any air bubbles that may have formed in the dough. 

9. The traditional way to shape pretzels is to take hold of each end of the strand and lift it into the air to create a U shape. Then, without letting go of the ends , and in one swift movement, flip the centre of the U propelling it to make a double twist. However I found this way to complicated, so with the strand laying down, I created an upside-down U shape, grabbed the ends and brought them up into the U, and twisted them around each other twice. It was much simpler. Lightly press the tapered ends onto the opposite side of the pretzel, attaching them either side of the central bulge. You may find a little dab of water will help them to stick. Carefully flip the pretzels over and onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper, so that the ends are now face down. You should now have a classic pretel shape with three equally spaced sections. 

10. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 7 litres/ 12 1/2 pints of boiling water, and gently drop each pretzel into the water for approximately 5 seconds. Gently remove and place on a baking tray. 

11. With a sharp knife, make a deep slash in the thickest part of the pretzel. 

12. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes , or until they are a deep brown colour.

13. Meanwhile, for the salted caramel, melt the butter, sugars, syrup in a small heavy based pan and let simmer for 3 minutes, swirling every now and then. 

14. Add cream and half a teaspoon of fleur de sel salt (not table salt) and swirl again. Give it a taste to see if you want to add any more salt, before letting it cook for another minute, then pour into a bowl and put it in the fridge.

15. When the pretzels are done, leave them to cool on a wire rack. 

16. When the caramel has thickened enough to pipe, pour into a sandwich bag and snip off a small corner. Pipe over the pretzel in whatever pattern you like. I went for a simplistic zig-zag. 


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Great Blogger Bake Off: Week 2 - Biscuits


So it's week two of the Great British Bake Off, and therefore week 2 of the Blogger Bake Off. On the last episode, it was mentioned that this week's theme would be biscuits. Now I don't have a very good track record with biscuits - I always manage to over-do them, so as you can imagine I was pretty nervous about baking this week. It's bad enough baking for the family and getting it wrong, but when I'm sharing it with you guys, there's an added pressure. It's a good job I'm not on the actual show really - just one disapproving head shake from Mary Berry and I'd crumble like my over-baked biscuits. 

Luckily though, I'm quite pleased with my bakes this week. I chose to make Florentines, because after looking at the recipe, the likelihood of over-baking them seemed pretty low. They are so cute and delicate and ridiculously easy to make (although I did create an awful mess). 

85g unsalted butter
85g golden syrup
30g plain flour
30g chopped almonds
30g chopped mixed peel
60g sultanas and crystalized fruits
60g glace cherries, chopped
110g plain or white chocolate, or some of each, melted
2 baking sheets lined with non-stick baking parchment. 

1) Put the butter and golden syrup in a medium, heavy-based saucepan and heat until melted. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the chocolate. 
2) Put teaspoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them well apart. Flatten lightly with the back of a spoon. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) Gas 4 for 7-8 minutes until light golden brown. 
3)Remove from the oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes, or until firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
4)When cool, coat the flat underside of each Florentine with melted chocolate and, using a serrated icing spatula or a fork, make a wavy pattern in the chocolate. Leave to set, chocolate side up. Store in a cool place in an airtight container and eat within 1 week.