Category Archives: Sometimes I Bake Mistakes

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 9: Filled Centerpiece Loaf

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

It’s bread week and I’ve made it to the showstopper challenge.

This time I have to make a filled centerpiece loaf.

Don’t know what that means? Me either. I had no idea what to do for this challenge.

So … I did what I usually do in this situation, I stole an idea from someone way smarter than me, in this case GBBS contestant, Richard.

You remember Richard? Of course you do. He’s one of my favorites.

Richard is a builder (the much cooler way British people say construction worker.) He’s been star baker about a gazillion times and he always has that adorable little blue pencil tucked behind his ear. Because builders do this you guys, they really, really do. And it’s awesome.

It’s so awesome there’s a whole article about why the pencil should be your favorite GBBS contestant. (P.S. That link has some spoilers,  so don’t click it if you’re not up on your episodes. There, you have been warned. You’re welcome. )

Anyway, this isn’t about Richard’s ear pencil (no matter how much I love it), it’s about Richard’s Pesto Pinwheel Bread, which was the recipe he used in season 1 episode 3‘s showstopper challenge – filled centerpiece loaf.

So, that’s what I did too. Because if I’m going to copy someone, I’m going to copy one of the best. You can too. Here’s a link to Richard’s recipe on the official GBBS website.

And yeah, I’ll be real with you. When I first looked at this recipe I was like Oh.My. God. There are so many words. Just like, way too many words. There are about 20 ingredients and 14 separate steps and each of those steps actually has about 3 steps, because Richard likes to mess with us I guess.

And it made me feel like this:

Troy.gif

And for a moment, I was like, umm, never mind, I’ll just skip this challenge, because:

april.gif

But then as it so often does, when the April Ludgate part of my brain kicks in, the Leslie Knope part isn’t far behind. And, predictably, the Leslie Knope part was  all like, nah, you’ve got this, dude.

leslie.gif

So then I did it. And really, it wasn’t so bad.

It actually went better than my bakes usually do, because for once I was smart enough to start baking at a reasonable time in the afternoon and not at like 10 p.m. when I usually start baking.

(Yeah, I know it’s a bad idea to start baking things that can take upwards of four hours at 10 p.m. Of course I know that, but just a reminder, this blog is called “Sometimes I Bake Mistakes” not “Sometimes I Make Really Logical, Responsible Choices”. So really this shouldn’t be all that surprising.)

Anyway, on to the bake. Let’s start with the ingredients. There were a lot of them. So many of them that they barely even fit in the obligatory “ingredients” photo I always take:

Ingredients
Look at all these ingredients, while ignoring how I anal retentively labeled some of the ingredients with tape.

Unlike most of my other baking challenges, the ingredients for this one  weren’t that hard to find. I had most of them on hand. I’d list them all but like I said, there’s a lot of them. So I’ll just go through the highlights.

For one, the recipe calls for “strong white flour” but when I poked around on the internet for a bit, I found out that that’s just what British people call “bread flour” and I conveniently had some of that already, because, well, it’s bread week.

And the caster sugar, yeah, I can never find that stuff, but I read you can just pulse regular ole granulated sugar in a food processor for a few beats and that does the trick. So that’s what I did.

As for the yeast Richard calls “fast-action” I saw that listed more often as “instant yeast” over here, as in over here in America.

Oh, and that semi-skimmed milk he mentions in the recipe, most things I found online say that that’s just our 2 percent milk. That’s what I used. It seemed to work.

British people say things slightly differently than we do. Though this is kind of annoying when you’re trying to follow their recipes, there’s no denying it’s adorable. Random girls in American bars love it. Love Actually taught us that.

loveactually
British guy saying stuff. American girls digging it. He’s probably talking about semi-skim milk.

Anyway, Love Actually break aside, back to the bake.

The first thing Richard tells us to do is make the dough. You put the bread flour in a large mixing bowl and add in the salt, sugar, yeast, butter (I softened mine), beaten eggs, milk and about 1 fluid ounce of warm water. Mix that all up until combined and add in an additional 3.5 fl. oz. of warm water as needed until a soft dough is formed. I added in all the water.

I mixed up the dough with a wooden spoon and when that got really annoying, I just mixed it up by hand. It seemed to work, I guess, because it ended up looking like this:

PreKnead
Mixed dough, I think? I don’t really know.

I wasn’t really sure how well I’d really combined everything but I figured I’d have plenty of time to sort that out in the ten minutes I had to knead this bad boy. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but it is. It so is.

georgemichael.gif
Me after kneading dough for 10 minutes.

Anyhoo, then I had a great chance to actually take a nap, because my dough needed to rise. I had to put my dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and I needed to wait for it to prove for an hour.

In the mean time, I didn’t actually take a nap (even though I wanted to). Instead, I got to work on the fillings. This Pesto Pinwheel Bread is filled with you guessed it, pesto.

Richard gives you a simple recipe for pesto with the usual suspects: basil, toasted pine nuts, Parmesan, olive oil and garlic. And, since I had a minor, recipe-reading mistake, I also added in the shelled walnuts I was supposed to put in another part of the filling here instead. As far as baking mistakes go, this wasn’t a big one. I mixed the pesto up in the food processor as instructed and the walnuts were just fine in there.

Pesto Mix.jpg
Making pesto with walnuts even though it’s not supposed to have walnuts. Whoops.

I love pesto, but I also realize that it looks totally disgusting.

Pesto Made.jpg
Pesto looking delicious and disgusting simultaneously. This is a hard thing to pull off.

FYI: I have no idea why Richard instructs us to make about 2 cups worth of pesto when later on the recipe, it only actually calls for us to use 3 tablespoons of it. Whatever, he must want us to be stocked up on pesto.

Overabundance of pesto made, you can now focus on the other fillings: roasted vegetables, feta cheese and walnut pieces (provided you didn’t accidentally add them to the pesto like I did).

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and roast your cut onion, red pepper and butternut squash on separate baking trays drizzled with olive oil. They should be tender when you’re done. This should take about 15 minutes.

Roasted veg.jpg
Veggies waiting to be roasted. I couldn’t think of a joke for this. My bad.

In my opinion the hardest part of this whole dang recipe is simply cutting the butternut squash. I freaking hate cutting butternut squash. It’s way harder than it looks because, well, butternut squash is hard and therefore hard to cut. I hate it. It’s the worst. But it tastes delicious.

Veggies roasted, it’s back to the bread. After it’s proved for about an hour, it will look a little something like this:

Risen Dough
I’m just now realizing this photo would carry more weight if I actually had a photo of the pre-risen kneaded dough. But I don’t. So just trust me. It got bigger, okay?

Put your risen dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 20 seconds, then cut it in two pieces and wrap half of it in lightly oiled plastic wrap. Then forget about that half for a bit.

Roll out the other half into a circle with a diameter of about 12 inches. Then let it rest for about five minutes because the dough will shrink. I’m sure there’s some sciency reason this happens, but, personally, it just feels like the dough does it on purpose to be annoying.

Rolled out.jpg
This dough has more than a 12-inch diameter. But whether or not it is a circle is up for debate.

Anyway, after the dough has rested and shrunk for sciency and/or annoying reasons, you get to roll it again, this time to a 13-inch diameter. Then put it on a large baking tray. (I lightly oiled mine.)

Now it’s time to add the pesto and the filling.  There’s going to look like there is way too much filling for the size of the dough. I mean just look at this:

Filling and dough
Big bowl of fillings, small “circle” of dough.

First, take three tablespoons of that pesto you made (yeah, you only need three. I don’t understand why he made you make so much either) and spread it out on your dough, which is now sitting on the baking tray. Then pile on the fillings, taking care to make the fillings a bit thicker in the middle than on the edges.

Filling on dough.jpg
This  looks overstuffed – like every single fajita or burrito I’ve ever made in my life.

Remember that other dough you had? Yeah, I’d forgotten it too. But it’s important again now.

Roll it out like you did with the last dough, resting it and then rolling it again (because of science or annoyance, whichever.) Then lightly coat the edges of the bottom dough with water and place your new top dough on well, the top, pushing down on the edges to seal the two together.

Topped Dough.jpg
Somehow all that filling fit in there. Yeah, I don’t know how I got that to work either.

Now comes the tricky part – or the part that sounded really scary to me. Because here’s what Richard said: “Use a sharp knife to trim the dough into a neat circle (approximately 30cm/12in diameter). Place a small bowl over the filling. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 equally-sized strips radiating from the bowl. Carefully twist each strip twice.”

And I was like:

BRIT.gif

But it turns out it wasn’t as hard as it sounded. I just put a small bowl in the middle like he said, and then used tooth picks to try to mark out the strips so they’d be even. Richard didn’t even tell me to do that, I thought of that myself. Yeah, I’m surprised by that too.

Dividing it up.jpg
This toothpick idea was sort of brilliant. Not to brag or anything. But, I’m bragging about it, if that was unclear for some reason.

Then you cut the strips and twist them twice, which seems really weird and scary but it actually it wasn’t.

Half Twisted.jpg
It’s so easy even I can do it.

Then you twist, and twist, and twist some more, until you’ve done the twists all the way around. Make sure you press down the ends of the twists to better connect them to the baking tray. That will keep them from popping up while the dough rises again Because, it has to rise again. Which means you have to wait again – another 30 minutes this time.

This will feel like it takes forever.

troy2.gif

In the mean time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Then once the dough has sufficiently risen, brush the top of the dough with egg wash and sprinkle on some pine nuts, salt and pepper.

Then bake your masterpiece for 20 to 25 minutes or until it is golden-brown. If your dough twists start getting too brown too early, you can put aluminum foil on them to stop that.

I didn’t need to do that but I did end up needing to bake my loaf for closer to 30 to 35 minutes than the 20 to 25 minutes the recipe called for.

This is because my oven is a weakling or because I’m paranoid about under-baking things. Most likely, it’s a bit of both.

But anyway, baking done, it ended up looking like this:

Finished.jpg
This looks pretty damn good if I do say so myself. Which, I just did.

And predictably, I was pretty pleased.

monica.gif

It was pretty awesome.

Also, awesome. There’s a “new” season of GBBS on PBS right now.

Season 4 premiered Friday night and yeah, of course I watched it.  The last time I checked, two episodes were available online on PBS: Episode 1 “Cake” and Episode 2 “Biscuits”.

I watched them both. You should watch them too and then we should talk about it, because I have a lot of feelings about them.

Due to some irresponsible Googling, I already know who wins Season 4 because it already aired in Britain, but I’m trying not to let that affect my favorites.

My favorite so far (by far) is Val because I mean, come on:

val.jpg
This is so sweet, I can’t even handle it.

So taking Val’s advice, next week I’ll move on to Season 1 Episode 4 “Desserts” and I’ll attempt to bake these challenges with love or you know, I’ll just try not to massively screw them up. Whichever is easier.

P.S. My challenge next week is to make “saucy puds” which are cakes which have filling or sauce at the bottom.

P.P.S.”Saucy puds” just sounds cool right? Like I said, British people say things differently than we do. And it’s usually better. Their way is better.

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 8: Ciabatta

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

Like any real Golden Girls fan, I want to be like Sophia Petrillo – a wise and often wise-cracking little woman with a flair for Old-World story telling, Italian cooking and dishing out sick burns.

Forgot Sophia? Here’s a refresher:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You get it, my girl Sophia is a baller so much so that she occasionally hits people with a melon baller:

melonballer.gif
Badass

But, most of the time, Sophia and I don’t have that much in common. I’ve never been to Sicily, in 1922 or otherwise, and I’m no expert at Italian cooking or comebacks.

Frankly, the only thing Sophia and I have in common is in the looks department, and considering the fact that the character is supposed to be in her 80s, I don’t want to dwell on that now.

What I am going to talk about is my recent Sophia-like adventures in Italian cooking. Okay, so it wasn’t so much adventures as it an adventure-singular. And, technically it wasn’t so much of an adventure as it was just me cooking a loaf of bread in my kitchen on a Monday evening.

But, I made ciabatta bread – the Italian staple, so I’m basically Sophia now right? Of course I am, and you can be too, because, turns out, making ciabatta is actually really easy.

Let’s start from the beginning – the recipe.

Ciabatta was the technical challenge on season 1 episode 3’s “Bread” episode. (FYI: I’m using the seasons available on Netflix in the U.S., so the episode numbers won’t sync up with what was shown in the U.K.)

Anyway, if you watch GBBS (which, you should really be watching GBBS) you’ll know that in the technical challenge contestants are given a pared down version of a recipe – one that is missing measurements, some instructions and cooking times. And if you don’t watch GBBS you know that now too, because I just told you. You’re welcome.

But since I’m not actually on the show, I get to use the full recipe which is available on the official GBBS website here.

Ordinarily I’d try to follow this recipe but I didn’t this time because GBBS’ recipe calls for a stand mixer and I don’t have one of those.

So I went with a recipe from the Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking cookbook by Caroline Bretherton instead. It looks like this:

Cookbook.jpg
Big ole book of baking

The ciabatta recipe is the only recipe I’ve tried in this cookbook but it worked well so the book is at a 100 percent success rate so far, which is nothing to sneeze at. (Sidenote: What a stupid expression, huh? Who even has enough control of their sneezes to aim them at things? And who would want to?)

Anyhoo, I used this cookbook because its ciabatta recipe didn’t call for a stand mixer, just a bowl, a wooden spoon and a whole bunch of kneading.

Plus the ingredients list was easy too. You just need 2 tsp. dried yeast; 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for greasing; 2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting and 1 tsp. sea salt.

Ingredients
Yup, that’s it. Those are all the ingredients, except for the water. You know what water looks like. I didn’t need to show you.

From here just dissolve the yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water and then add the olive oil to it.

Put the flour and the salt in a large bowl and make a little well in the middle of that and pour your yeast/oil mixture into it.

AddingYeast
Looks like lemon pudding. Does not taste like lemon pudding.

Mix it all up with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough.

BallofDough.jpg
Dough ball

Put the dough ball on a floured surface and knead it for 10 minutes until it is “smooth, soft, and somewhat slippery.” That’s what the cookbook says. They’re into alliteration I guess.

Then put the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. The cookbook doesn’t say what bowl to use, but on GBBS the contestants are told to use square plastic containers because it’s supposed to help the dough keep its shape. I don’t really know if that works, but who am I to question Paul Hollywood’s bread-making advice? The man is practically a bread wizard.

breadmagic
Just making a little bread magic. 

Then you have to wait for two whole hours (which incidentally allows you plenty of time to watch some Golden Girls).

During that time, your dough should double in size.

Look at that, the dough really rose to the occasion, huh? I was so proud. Of the dough. Not of that terrible “rose to the occasion” pun.

Then, get another floured surface ready because you need to “gently knock the dough back with your fists” and divide it into 2 pieces, which you then knead briefly and shape into “slipper” shapes, about 12 by 4 inches. Ciabatta in Italian means “slipper”.

Splitintwo.jpg
These are weird, misshapen slippers.

Put the weird-shaped slippers on parchment-lined baking shapes. FYI: my parchment paper is only oven-safe up to 420 degrees F and this recipe calls for the oven to be set at 450 degrees F. So check your parchment paper, something I didn’t do until my bread was already in the oven…

Then your dough needs to rise again. Loosely cover it with plastic wrap and a towel and leave it alone for an hour. It should double in volume.

towel.jpg
It’s weird that I think this is cute, right? Like, am I the only one who thinks it looks like the dough is taking a nap under a blanket? That’s just me? Okay, never mind. 

After your dough is sufficiently rested or risen or whatever, remove the towel/blanket and the plastic wrap. If you’re anything like me, removing the plastic wrap will be hard because this dough is super, silly sticky. Like it’s ridiculous. I would have taken a picture of this step but I couldn’t, because my fingers, like the plastic wrap, were covered in dough.

Once you’ve de-doughed your plastic wrap and your hands, make sure your oven is preheated to 450 degrees like we talked about before and at this point, you’re supposed to mist your bread loaves with water. I don’t have a handy dandy mister thing, so I just used a pasty/basting brush to brush some water on. A lot of water.

I remembered that the GBBS contestants said you need water/hence steam to make the dough crispy and crustier. Look at me, learning stuff from T.V.!

Then put your water-coated bread in the oven for a total of 30 minutes. You’ll need to take it out every 10 minutes and mist it or brush it with water. Because steam, guys!

(Parchment paper update: like I said, my paper wasn’t safe to be in the oven at the temperature this recipe called for, so after my initial ten-minute baking, I removed the paper, which had gotten decidedly brown and just put the dough directly on the pan. Fire safety, ya’ll. I wasn’t a junior fire patrol captain in fifth grade for nothing. Also I can’t explain why I remember I was junior fire patrol captain, or why I felt the need to brag about it just now. I’m just weird. You should know that by now.)

Fire-hazard paper removed, bake your bread until the top is golden brown and the bottom seems hollow when you tap it. Turns out, knocking on the bread can show you what the texture is like inside. You don’t even need an MRI for that.

insidebread.jpg
You don’t need MRIs. You can just knock it, Will Arnett’s  Parks and Recreation cameo guy. Sheesh. 

Remove your bread-filled bread from the oven, and it should look like this. Or, well, mine looked like this: golden-brown, and delicious but also slightly-misshapen.

BakedBread.jpg
This is the angle where they look the best. I’m not even gonna show you the other angles. 

Then you have to wait 30 minutes before you can cut into the bread, which is the longest waiting you’ve had to do yet. Because, you want to eat the bread, duh.

But once I could finally cut the bread, I found out that it had neat, little air pockets inside which is good, I think.

AirHoles
Air holes, ya’ll. Nailed it. 

And I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself at this point. Because not only did they look pretty good, they tasted good too. (Once I was finally, finally allowed to eat them.)

So yeah, I felt like this:

sophiahappy

Next week though, I may feel differently because things are going to get harder. Way harder. We’ve reached another “showstopper” challenge and I have to make a filled centerpiece loaf of bread. How do you do that?

beatsthehell

So yeah, that should be interesting…

P.S. If you’re liking these blogs and wanna help support my GBBS project, you can now donate some dough (tacky, awful baking pun) through my PayPal account: paypal.me/sometimesibakeblog. I’ll use the money to buy ingredients and to buy baking equipment I don’t have yet, like a stand mixer so I don’t have to keep mixing things by hand like a rookie.

P.P.S. I just remembered I forgot to share the most important part of any bread week challenge. This:

ilovebread.gif

That just doesn’t get old.

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 7: Rye Bread Rolls

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

I’ve reached bread week and I’m pretty damn excited about it, because, like Oprah, I. Love.Bread.  (Yeah, I totally used that video in last week’s blog but I’m not even embarrassed to share it again, because I love it that much.)

I’ll share it in every single bread week blog if I have to and I’ll probably have to, because I just love bread that darn much. (P.S. I just Googled “I love bread” because, well, I do things like that, and this bizarre/possibly amazing video came up. I can’t tell if it’s brilliant or the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s one or the other, I’m sure of it.)

Anyway, now that that song’s stuck in my head (and possibly yours) I’ll get to the point: this week’s challenge was rye bread rolls and I totally nailed it, guys.

My rye bread rolls were much better than al-rye-ight. (Get it, alright? Okay, that was embarrassing.)

Ordinarily I try to use recipes from the official GBBS website. They post several of the contestants’ recipes for each episode. Unfortunately they didn’t post any of the rye bread roll recipes this time so I had to go rogue. (That may have been the lamest use of the phrase “go rogue” ever.)

It took me awhile to find a rye bread roll recipe that seemed easy and had ingredients I could actually find at my local grocery store. But eventually I settled on this recipe from Taste of Home.

I picked it because I’d heard of all the ingredients, but that didn’t mean I could easily find all of the ingredients. I can’t tell you how long I wandered around the grocery store looking for nonfat dry milk powder. Turns out it was in a totally normal spot in the baking section, but, anyway, in case you have a hard time finding it too, it looks like this:

powdered milk
Once I saw the package I remembered that we used to have some of this in our cupboard because of Y2K. Because who didn’t have weird dry milk in their cupboard because of Y2K?

Anyway, I also couldn’t find the rye flour, which was kind of a big deal considering it’s the main ingredient in rye rolls. Eventually I found a whole grain rye flour in the health food section. (Ordinarily I avoid the health food section, because I’m sorry, it just has to be said, that section smells weird, guys. It just does.)

It was easier to round up the rest of the ingredients though: active dry yeast, water, eggs, butter, all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar and molasses. I skipped the suggested caraway seeds and used the kosher salt instead because caraway seeds were like $6 for a small container and I’m way too cheap to spend that much on seeds. I’m not made of seed money.

ingredients
Here’s a picture of the rest of the ingredients totally not missing caraway seeds at all.

From there, the recipe was pretty straight-forward. I just had to dissolve the yeast in warm water and then mix everything up in a big ole bowl. The recipe had me add 2 cups of the all-purpose flour first, mix the dough and then add the rye flour and an additional one to two cups of all purpose flour and mix again. I was supposed to make a soft dough.

In my very amateur opinion, all dough looks soft. I mean it’s dough.

mixed dough
It looks soft, I think. But, yeah I really don’t know.

Then I had to dump my (hopefully soft) dough unto a well-floured surface so I could knead it.

kneaded dough
Dough that “kneaded” to be “kneaded”. Ugh…that was a bad pun.

Confession time: I have no idea how to knead dough.

chris traeger.gif

I’m pretty sure I just punched the dough for 8 minutes because the recipe told me to knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, and as I had no idea what I was doing, I figured I may as well just do whatever I was doing, longer.

andy.gif

After I’d punched the dough or actually kneaded it (who knows) I had to put it into a greased bowl, cover it and let it rise for an hour (or until it had doubled in size).

ready to rise.jpg
Dough ready to “rise” to the occasion. Yeah, the puns aren’t going to get better.

Here’s a little tidbit about me, I’m never patient enough to wait to let things double in size, so I just took it out after an hour because I was sick of waiting.

Then after that, I had to roll the dough into 30 well, rolls and brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle on a bit of that kosher salt we talked about earlier. This took awhile, there were a lot of rolls.

rolls
I was going to make a pun here about how I was “on a roll” with roll-rolling but even I thought that was too much.

Then,  here’s the worst part: I had to wait for the rolls to rise again. This was supposed to take about 45 minutes.

I took the photo below when I felt like the rolls had been rising a long time, like a really long time. As you can see by the timer on the oven, it had only been 7 minutes. Patience is, uh, not my thing.

rising.jpg
Rolls taking forever to rise. Lil’ slackers.

Thankfully, the baking bit went much faster. It only took about 17 minutes to get these babies golden brown. That’s more than what the recipe told me to do but yeah, I’m an overachiever (and, also usually an over-baker). This time though, my tendency to go baking-overboard worked out.

The rolls came out looking pretty great. I didn’t even have to try to hide any ugly ones in the picture this time.

bread and beer
The beer is not part of this but I just think it’s a really good beer and you should drink some.

Anyway, if I’m going to get real honest and a bit braggy for a second, let me just say these rolls were by far the best thing I’ve baked yet. They remind me of soft pretzels in that they’re delicious like them and I want to eat way too many of them and also, I did eat too many of them.

Frankly when these bad boys came out of the oven looking good and tasting even better I was tempted to do a bit of this:

chandler dance

But I didn’t of course, because, I’m way classier than that, obviously and a better dancer. Or not.

The point is, these rolls were good. You should make some.

Next week, I’ll tackle a much tougher challenge: ciabatta loaves. At that point, I probably won’t be feeling Chandler-victory-dance-level cocky. So for now I’ll take the wins where I can get ’em and I’ll eat a bunch of rolls. Because I can and because, if I haven’t mentioned this yet, I love bread.

P.S. If you’re liking these blogs, please consider subscribing. There’s two ways to do it. You can follow the blog by email and get a notification each time I make a post, or if you’re a fellow WordPresser (not even sure if that’s a word) you can follow that way too. There are buttons to do both on the right-hand side of this page. If you do, I’d really appreciate it. Like I’ll feel like this:

leslie-knope-dance.gif

So thanks in advance. You’re the freaking best. In that way you’re a lot like bread.

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 6: 3-D Biscuit Scene

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

This week I’m making the 3-D biscuit scene that was the showstopper challenge in Season 1 Episode 2 of GBBS.

In this episode, some of the bakers excelled (Ahem…Richard and Luis.)

Some of the other bakers umm…didn’t do so well. As for me, I did a little worse than the people who did not do so well. Or, well, a lot worse if you wanna make me be honest about it.

But at least I learned from the experience. Namely, I learned that hindsight is sort of a jerk and also I learned that I know nothing about cars, which oddly, actually does come into play in this baking challenge.

On the show, most of the contestants used variations of gingerbread dough for this challenge, but I went with sugar cookie dough instead because I like sugar cookies, and, also, because I’m a rebel. Obviously.

I used the “My Favorite Christmas Cookie” recipe from Ree Drummond’s (aka the Pioneer Woman) A Year of Holidays cookbook.

She has a similar recipe online. This recipe has all the same ingredients. She just tweaked the amounts. Basically the one in the cookbook has more of almost everything, including shortening.

(Yeah, I know, shortening is kind of gross. I like to use the butter-flavored Crisco because it looks like butter and tastes more like butter, so I basically just pretend it is butter. Denial works for me.)

Anyway, first you do the usual. Cream the sugar and the shortening together (while pretending it’s sugar and butter). Then comes the fun part, you also add in some orange or lemon zest. (I have a pretty low bar for “fun” apparently.)

Then add in the eggs and vanilla and shift in the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and salt and mix it all up. Add some milk. Mix it again and you should have something that looks like this:

Scene--Mix
Gah, why does raw cookie dough look so good? Why? Because it’s the Salmonella’s siren song, that’s why.

Then split the dough in half and put it in plastic bags or wrap it in waxed paper or plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for an hour. (Or for 20 minutes in the freezer. Ree didn’t put this little freezer tip in the cookbook version, just in the online version. So I ended up putting it in the fridge for an hour like a regular ole’ schmuck. It’s cool how I’m not bitter about that though, right?)

Scene1
Dough ready to sit in the fridge for an hour to prove I’m a schmuck who should have just used the freezer.

Then after the dough has chilled for the necessary amount of time, take it out and roll each section out with a rolling pin. I put plastic wrap on top of the dough because I get really, irrationally angry when dough sticks to the rolling pin. I just don’t like it, guys. I really don’t like it.

Then I busted out those cookie cutters I kept bragging about in the savory biscuits blog a few weeks ago.

I just grabbed random cookie cutters and hoped I’d find some way to make it all make sense later. Hindsight: not the best plan.

Scene2
See? I told you there’d be cars.

Then I baked each batch of cookies for about 7 to 8 minutes and they came out looking like this:

Scene3.jpg
Are those things dump trucks? Are they fire trucks? I didn’t know. And later that will become very apparent.

Then I baked some more cars and some more trees (because I was committed to them apparently).

Then I baked some too much.

Scene4
I totally could have taken the ugly ones out of the pic but I didn’t because HONESTY, but to a greater extent, laziness.

Then I made some icing. I didn’t use Ree’s recipe, because I’m weird about putting raw eggs or milk in stuff you don’t then cook. So I just mixed together powdered sugar and water with a lil’ bit of vanilla instead.

I put in some food coloring and put the icing in a piping bag and went to town on some trees and some circles.

Scene5
Shh!! You can’t even tell some of these are too-done. The icing totally covers that. You can’t tell at all. Nope, you can’t tell.

Now here’s where hindsight comes in again to be a smart aleck jerkface.

When I watched the GBBS show of this challenge, I didn’t notice that all of the contestants only outlined their cookies with icing rather than icing the whole cookie.

Do you know why they do that? They do that because icing cookies takes a really stupidly long time apparently. Like I don’t even want to admit how much time this took for me to do. Let’s just say that it took the better part of a Sunday evening and more than a better part of a bag of powdered sugar. So much powdered sugar.

But once I started icing the whole cookie on some, I felt like I had to do it on all of them. Even when part of my cookie scene was a road. A road that was supposed to be gray. Gray! As soon as I started to put gray icing on the cookie, I realized:

regret_this_decision_anchorman

But it was too late. I’d already grayed it. And yeah, it looked like a road, but not a road I wanted to eat because it was gray.

Scene8
Gray was a bad choice.

And then umm, we’ve reached the cars. As soon as I started decorating them, I realized this:

gob.gif

I know nothing about cars, most notably I do not know how to ice cookies to look like cars. Like. At. All.

Scene9
It’s like I’ve never seen cars before. Also the black icing smeared everywhere. Boo you icing!

Take it away, Andy from The Office:

andy

And, yeah, I’ve realized I’ve stopped talking and am now just allowing GIFs to communicate for me. This is a pretty half-baked blog. (Get it? Half-baked? That was my required bad baking pun for this blog.)

But the thing is, I’m tired from too much icing. (Sidenote: I don’t even. like. icing.) And I’ve diagnosed myself with a case of Too-Much-Icing-Hand which I’m pretty sure is now a thing because I just said it was and typing is too much work right now so just go easy on me.

Then go easy on me when you see my finished project photo.

Scene7
“I should have just made a bunch of trees,” said Hindsight, unhelpfully.

Then go really easy on me when you realize I totally cheated and used toothpicks to hold up the cookies here. But at least I was honest about it right? That makes it okay, right?

Anyway, I’m just glad to have this project in a rear-view mirror. (I’ve switched to using car puns now apparently.)

Next week, I move on to GBBS’s Season 1 Episode 3 – “Bread” which is great, because, like Oprah, I.LOVE.BREAD.

P.S. Maybe next week I’ll stop speaking in GIFs.

Hopefully.

 

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 5: Florentines

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

I’m not really a dessert person.

And yeah, I know that’s weird.

Look, even Jessica Day from New Girl thinks it’s weird.

not a desert person

I’d freak her out.

But it is what it is. I just, generally don’t go crazy for sweets. They’re not my go-to. And it’s not a health-conscious thing. I mean I will do work on some mozzarella sticks or nachos. Real work. Like work overtime on those things.

But I don’t feel the same way about desserts, which I understand is strange considering I’m baking my way through the Great British Baking Show.

I decided to do this anyway though because it’s fun to learn new things. (Also, I’m pretty sure no one is going to fault me for sharing the majority of what I make.)

But I’m also doing it because I think it’s possible that I just haven’t found the right desserts to make me into a dessert person yet, and this seems like a darn good way to find them.

My most recent baking challenge is definitely one positive step in that direction.

This week I made florentines. Don’t know what florentines are? I didn’t either. They’re a super thin and crispy cookie with a bunch of nuts and dried and/or candied fruit inside and a coating of dark chocolate on the outside.

I went all official and used my favorite GBBS judge Mary Berry‘s recipe. This is the same recipe the GBBS contestants used in the technical challenge in Season 1’s Episode 2. (Again, I’m using what’s available on Netflix in the U.S. so the episodes may not correspond correctly to what was aired in other countries.)

Since this was the technical challenge that episode, the contestants used a very scaled down version of the recipe that was missing a great deal of the steps and tips. Whereas I got a bit of extra help from the great Mary Berry herself.

(Okay, fine so Mary didn’t personally fly over to Nebraska to help me or anything, but she does give step-by-step instructions on how to make this recipe in one of GBBS’s Masterclass episodes where she and Paul run through the recipes used on the show. These episodes are predictably very helpful and predictably Mary is a bit more helpful than Paul.)

So yeah, armed with Mary’s sort-of, personal assistance, I went into this week’s baking challenge much more optimistic than I usually do – and amazingly, that seemed to work out for me.

It just helps to watch someone else make the recipe so you know you haven’t totally messed things up. And there were definitely points in this process where I needed that reassurance, because at various points in this process, the florentines looked weird, guys.

In fact, they looked weird right from the very beginning. For instance, check out this roundup of ingredients.

Florentines.Ingredients
The beer is not technically an ingredient but it is a necessary part of the baking process, because BEER.

That’s it. That’s all the ingredients to make 18 decent-sized cookies, which seems well, weird.

Sidenote on the ingredients, I couldn’t find the golden syrup called for in the recipe so I substituted corn syrup like any good corn-loving Nebraskan.

I also swapped out the demerara sugar for turbinado sugar, because I couldn’t find demerara anywhere and by anywhere I mean the one store where I looked for it.

The recipe also called for “candied peel” which apparently you can buy already made some places – but not here. I could have made my own. I found a few recipes for making candied orange and lemon peel online but, well for the sake of time, money and general laziness, I just left out the “candied peel” and put that much more dried cranberries in instead. That seemed to work out fine, but again, I really have no idea what I’m doing so who really knows if it did.

After I’d gathered up the ingredients (or my makeshift ingredients) – the rest of the recipe was pretty simple. I just had to mix the sugar, syrup and butter together in a pot over “gentle heat” until the butter was melted.

Floretines1.jpg
This is just sugar, corn syrup and butter but I sort of wanted to eat it right out of the pot which is gross. I know. So I didn’t do it. But…I wanted to.

From there you just add in the flour, fruit and nuts and mix it up really well until it looks like this.

Floretines2.jpg
Boom! Florentine dough.

Yeah, that’s all the dough it makes for 18 cookies. Nuts, huh? (Get it, nuts, because there are nuts in it?)

I would have been freaking out about how much dough there was (or more correctly, how much dough there wasn’t) but I’d watched Mary make these bad boys so I knew that this was nothing to worry about.

Then I popped 18 teaspoons of dough on three lined-baking trays just like Mary told me to, because I followed her instructions to a T(easpoon). (That was another lame baking pun. If you watched the show, you’d understand that I basically have to do this. Like, I have to.)

Florentines3
Lil cookies.

At this point, came the hard part, which really isn’t that hard if you’re not impatient like me. I had to melt the chocolate. Mary always stresses that you don’t need much heat to melt chocolate. Over and over in the Masterclass episodes, to the point where it is almost one of her catchphrases, Mary will say “Now remember, chocolate will melt in a child’s pocket.”

This saying is number one adorable. (I mean, come on. Can you imagine more grandma-like baking advice? I can’t.) Number two, it’s really helpful for people like me who are impatient and end up jacking up the heat as high as possible to make the chocolate melt faster and then end up with ugly chocolate. Because ugly chocolate is a thing. I’ve learned the hard way.

According to Mary, you have to melt the chocolate nice and slow and gently so it comes out all shiny and pretty like this:

Florentines4
Forget gold, silver and diamonds. This is a shiny stuff I’m interested in. I’m sort of easy to please.

I was careful with this chocolate. I even repeatedly checked its temperature because Mary told me to wait for it to cool down a bit before I slathered it on the back of the cookies.

So I waited and waited for approximately forever. I was supposed to let it get down to 79 degrees and our kitchen itself was 78 degrees. Yesterday was hot, guys. So this took awhile. A long while.

 

Then once it (finally) cooled, I used a spatula to spread some of the  chocolate on to the back of the cookies and I used a fork to make these little ridge designs in the back like Mary told me to.

And then I had to wait for that chocolate to set before I could eat one. This recipe may as well have just been called “Wait Around on the Chocolate Cookies”.

Florentines5
Chocolate that is deliberately not setting, just to be a jerk.

Much like how a watched pot never boils, I can assure you that stared-at chocolate does not set.

So I forced myself to walk away and magically the chocolate set. Or it wasn’t magic and just enough time had passed – whichever.

And tada: I had Florentines:

Florentines6
The middle row is upside down so you can see the chocolate underside. Swirltastic.

Anyway, after all was said and done and (set), the florentines were probably my favorite GBBS challenge yet. Crispy, and coated in a rich dark chocolate, they weren’t half bad. Even if I do say so myself. And I’m not even a dessert person (yet).

Next week, I will tackle probably my hardest task to date. I have to make a three-dimensional biscuit scene. Seeing as how I’ve never managed to pull off a structurally-sound gingerbread house in my life, I’m not very optimistic about this one…

P.S. I realize that I’ve been totally slacking on talking about the actual show. But so far only one contestant had been voted off and all my favorite bakers are still around – Richard, the builder who keeps a pencil tucked behind his ear; Kate, who I still want to be my British best friend, but you know only if she feels like it, no pressure; and Iain’s beard. (Yeah, I meant beard not bread. That was not a typo.)

P.S.S. I ironically always misspell typo as type-o. Every freaking time. That’s also weird.

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 4: Savory Biscuits

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

There are a great many things English people do better than us. (For a handy list of them, check out this clip from Love Actually.)

One thing the British don’t do better  than us – is using the word “biscuits”.

I hate the word “biscuits”. They use it to mean “cookies”. They use it to mean “crackers”. They use it to mean, “biscuits” as we Yanks would typically define them.

It’s confusing. It’s annoyingly ambiguous. It has never bothered me until now. But now I’ve moved on to the second episode of The Great British Baking Show – the “Biscuits” episode, so it’s bugging me, far more than my actual baking project did.

The first task in this episode is to make “savory biscuits”. Some of the contestants made things we’d traditionally call “biscuits” and others made ones we’d call “crackers”.  It was chaos. Or, you know, it was just people baking stuff.

I went official with it and used a recipe from PBS’ Great British Baking Show website. The recipe is from Paul Hollywood (my second favorite GBBS judge) and it’s called Paul’s Savory Biscuits. (Not a very creative recipe name.)

And yeah, they may be called “savory biscuits” which makes them sound vaguely fancy, but they’re not really. Don’t let the British fool you. These are just crackers, guys.

I’ve never made crackers before, and I don’t know if I’d do it again. It seems like a whole heck of a lot of work for crackers, which you know, come in a box at the store and taste just fine. That being said, as far as GBBS baking goes, this was definitely my easiest task yet which was a nice change of pace after last week’s labor-intensive Classic English Cakes debacle.

Paul’s Savory Biscuits recipe called for me to make a simple dough – just flour, salt, water, egg and a whole heck of a lot of butter. Then you split that dough in half to make two different flavored crackers – sun-dried tomato and poppy seed.

Here’s a pic of the sun-dried tomato that also has Parmesan cheese in it:

SavBiscuits3
I was trying to make a perfect rectangle here. Shapes are hard.

Here’s a pic of the poppy seed dough which has a bizarre amount of poppy seeds. So many poppy seeds.

Sav.Biscuits1
Just a really stupidly ridiculous amount of poppy seeds.

Then after I rolled these bad boys out, I had to cool the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes. (A brief note about me – I don’t like to wait more than 30 minutes to eat crackers. Who does, really?)

After those 30 long (super long) minutes, I got to cut my dough out with cookie cutters. I love doing this because it makes it seem like my extensive cookie cutter collection was a smart purchase. Even if I only use the two round ones, like twice a year.

SavBiscuits2
Oh my gosh, thank goodness I have cookie cutters, right?

After I got good use out of my handy-dandy cookie cutters, I baked the crackers for awhile. Then I baked them a bit longer and a bit longer than that – because my oven hates me and is a liar.

When the baking was finally over, slash I got sick of waiting this long to eat crackers, I pulled the them out of the oven and they looked like this:

Sav.Biscuits4
I tried to hide the ugliest ones in the back. It didn’t work.

As you can see in the photographic evidence above, some of the crackers look quite pretty and others…not so much. But, when I arrange them on a plate like below, they all look like they’re pretty. See:

SavBiscuits5
This plate is a lie.

See what I did there, I cleverly hid the ugliest crackers on the bottom and then not-so-cleverly told you that I did that.

Then after I spent an embarrassing amount of time moving crackers around on a plate, I ate one of them and then I ate another. The fact that I ate more than one is notable because it’s the only GBBS bake I’ve made so far that I’ve been able to eat more than one of at a time.

(I mean, I probably shouldn’t have eaten more than one. There is a heck of a lot of butter in these guys, but I recently realized butter may be my favorite food. In this way, I’m a lot like Andy Dwyer. So yeah, give Andy and I a break. Butter’s the best, guys.)

So yeah, the crackers were sufficiently buttery enough to be good, but even then, they were just crackers.

Next week, things get a bit trickier as I will attempt to make Mary Berry’s Florentines, which are cookies. They’re cookies. I, a suitably stubborn American, am going to call them cookies even if I’m supposed to call them biscuits.

P.S. A special thanks this week to everyone who told me about the Great British Baking Show’s Masterclass series in which GBBS’s judges Mary Berry and Paul of the Savory Biscuits, bake their ways through the show’s recipes with far more skill than I do and with far less complaining about word choice.

 

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 3: Mini English Classic Cakes

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

Ordinarily when I want to procrastinate, I cook something — anything, just something so I can avoid doing what I’m supposed to be doing while tricking myself into believing that I’m still doing something productive.

Sure, I’m putting off writing an article for work, but I made roasted Parmesan potatoes so that’s something, right?

This tactic usually works for me, but this week I was avoiding baking.

I was really dreading making this week’s showstopper challenge – 36 miniature English classic cakes.

But I couldn’t put off this task my normal way, because putting off baking by cooking was a bit too ridiculous even for me.

So instead I wrote my article for work early (for possibly the first time ever). (Side note: If you don’t know, I write bar reviews for the Omaha World-Herald. You can check them out here.)

Then after I did that, I cleaned everything in the house. I vacuumed. I dusted. I mopped. I laundered. Then I considered doing a bunch of ironing that I had been putting off.

And that’s when I realized things had gotten a bit out of hand.

I didn’t want to iron. Sheesh.

My procrastination had to be stopped.

It was time to make these damn cakes.

I had decided to make miniature coffee and walnut cakes. Which are apparently a classic English cake. I had no idea what a “classic English cake” was going in, so I decided to go official and use a recipe from the show – specifically, the contestant Richard‘s recipe. The recipe is available on the GBBS website here.

But, recipe decided, I still didn’t want to make these damn cakes.

Because it looked like so much work. There were multiple cakes. There were three layers. There were too many words in the recipe.

It seemed like there were too many steps, too many opportunities for me to mess things up.

So to hedge my bets and because previous attempts have taught me that “winging it” is not a good idea (see here for an example), I got really anal retentive about it.

RichardCake
Photographic proof of anal retentiveness (and also of bad handwriting).

Then came the actual baking, which took approximately forever. I made the dough and then had to separate it into three pans which would be for the three cakes that would make up my three layers.

I could have baked all the cakes at once obviously, but I didn’t because, frankly, my oven and I have trust issues. We haven’t worked together long and we’re still feeling each other out. (Yes, I know my oven is not a person. I’m just saying, we’ve got to work out a few kinks in our relationship before I trust it. I’ve been burnt before. Get it? Burnt by the oven….okay, yeah, not my best pun.)

Anyway, so I baked the cakes one at a time, and they turned out crazy thin. Like Richard really should have warned me in the recipe about how thin these cakes would be. (And don’t worry, I actually think they’re supposed to be like this. I looked at the pictures of his cake.) But still, to reiterate. It was alarmingly thin for a cake. See, look:

RichardCake2
Alarmingly thin cake.

Then I had to wait for the cakes to cool and cut them into 54 circles. Fifty-four is a strange number for someone making 36 cakes, huh? I thought so too. That’s when I read the recipe fully for the first time. (Yeah, I realize I should have done this sooner.)

Turns out I was cutting them into 54 circles because I was only making 18 cakes. Eighteen cakes with three layers. Not 36 cakes with three layers.

I felt like the Great British Baking Show had lied to me. After all, I had used Richard’s recipe they had posted on their website for their “36 Mini English Classic Cakes” episode assuming (I now realize, incorrectly) that it would make 36 cakes.

It didn’t. It made 18. And thank God for that.

Thirty six cakes would have been way too many cakes for my family to eat. Eighteen is almost too many, because these cakes aren’t messing around.

These are little sugar and butter bombs that explode in your mouth and go straight to your brain (and, probably, though I really don’t want to think about it right now, your arteries).

If you can eat more than one, I’m just going to say it, there is something seriously wrong with you. You must have developed a superhuman butter and sugar tolerance or something. You’re weird.

I just ate one and I feel like a little kid who just drank an entire bottle of Surge (you guys, remember Surge?) and then drank a shot of melted butter.

And I know what you’re thinking here. “Ashley, that’s probably at least partially because of the caffeine, you dummy. These are coffee and walnut cakes after all.”

Nope. I used decaf.

I’m glad I did, because otherwise I think these things may have been way too much for me to handle. Now they’re just this side of way too much.

I realize that the Surge and melted butter shot comparison made them sound less than appetizing, but really, they’re quite good. (If I do say so myself.)  And really, they don’t look so bad either.

RichardCake7
Sugar and Butter Bombs aka Mini Coffee and Walnut Cakes

They were hard. But it’s the hard that makes it great.

(I did not think of that line myself. I stole it from a Superstore episode I watched yesterday that stole it from a League of Their Own. Both of these things are good. You should watch  them.)

But in this case at least, maybe it wasn’t the hard that made it great. Maybe it was just the coffee-flavored buttercream. (It was definitely the buttercream.)

P.S. A special thanks to my husband who was very nice to me even after I very slightly burned myself this week and then acted more than slightly like Michael Scott in the episode of The Office when he accidentally burns his foot on his George Foreman grill.

Forgot that episode? Here’s a recap. Yeah, I acted sort of like that. Yeah, I know, it’s a miracle my husband keeps me around.

P.P.S. Next week, I break into the second episode of the Great British Baking  show which focuses on biscuits or as we Yanks call them, cookies, or well, crackers. They kind of make both in this episode so I’ll be honest here – I’m not real clear on their definition of “biscuits.” But hey, there’s plenty of time for me to figure that out. Like, I have until next week.

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 2: Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

Cake number two on my baking journey through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS) was a cherry cake. But not just any cherry cake – Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake.

For you GBBS newbies who may not be in the know, Mary Berry is one of the two judges on the show (and the best one). She is basically Britain’s Queen of Cakes, which isn’t a bad title if you can get it.

Also, because it has to be said, every time I type her name I feel like it is something out of a bad, old nursery rhyme. “Mary Berry, quite contrary, baked a cake, made of cherry…” or you know, something like that. You get the idea.

Anyway, I’m getting off track. Back to the cherry cake.

For this attempt, I went really official with it. I got very British. Or, at least as British as a life-long Midwesterner who has never been to Europe can get.

And by this, I mean I used a recipe with metric measurements, guys. I got all gram-y with it.

To do that, I first had to buy a digital scale. Which, admittedly, I probably should have had already, but I didn’t.

I’m more of a cook than a baker. And I’m also more of the kind of cook who just throws random stuff together, sans measurements (metric or otherwise) and simply hopes for the best. Things usually turn out okay.

But baking is a harsher mistress. She requires precision.

So I got a scale. It was pretty cheap, so I figure it’s a small sacrifice to pay for some Mary Berry cake.

But then the shopping got a bit more complicated. It turns out that some of what I assume are standard baking ingredients in jolly ole England are a bit harder to find in Nebraska. Like, way harder.

First of all, the recipe called for 200 grams (look, at me using grams like it’s no big deal) of red glace cherries.

Don’t know what red glace cherries are? Good. I didn’t either. Turns out they’re also called candied cherries and they’re frequently used in stuff like fruit cakes. (Cakes that are not frequently made in Nebraska in April, apparently.)

So I looked for these cherries in tons of stores and by tons of stores, I mean three, and one of them was a home improvement store because I was already there for something else and I figured, eh, what the heck? But yeah, none of these stores had candied cherries.

No biggie. I figured I’d just straight-up substitute maraschino cherries. That’d work, right? They’re the same, right?

No. They’re not. They’re different. Don’t do this.

I didn’t do this. I used a recipe I found online to turn maraschino cherries into candied cherries.

It worked. I think. Again, I have no actual experience with glace cherries or candied cherries or whatever the heck you’re supposed to call them so really I don’t know if it worked.

I’m just going to assume it did because the cherries tasted candied or “glaced” to me. (Again, not that I know what those cherries are supposed to taste like.)

The recipe also called for caster sugar, which I also could not find anywhere (and by anywhere I mean just those three stores). So I used magic to turn granulated sugar into caster sugar and by magic I mean I used a blender. I pulsed it a few times. Supposedly this is all you need to do. But again, I have no real idea if it worked. I’m just gonna assume it did.

Then once the ingredients were corralled (or the make-shift ingredients, at least), came the hardest part — actually making the cake.

Just kidding. That part was actually way easier than the ingredients search.

For one thing the cake is a normal cake-shape. Unlike the cake I attempted last week, a Swiss Cake Roll, which seems to defy the very laws of nature. Seriously? Who decided we needed to roll cakes up? I’m fine with flat ones. I’ll just take the fillings in layers.

This cake though was just poured into a handy dandy bundt pan. There was nothing tricky a-bundt it. (Horrible pan pun.)

This time, I didn’t go off book, or off recipe like I did last time (mostly to bad results). This time, I followed the recipe exactly and I didn’t mess around with the recipe either, I used Mary Berry’s recipe from the official GBBS website.

And since I followed the recipe exactly, that means I did every little thing Mary Berry asked me to do which meant the recipe was time-consuming. Though this cake was technically easier than last week’s, it still took awhile. I’ve never in my life spent so much time drying cherries with paper towels, and I hope I will never spend that much time doing it again.

But apparently it’s important because that’s what helps ensure that the cherries are evenly distributed throughout the cake. At least that’s what one of the GBBS contestants said as she was baking her cake. Then she won that challenge.

I, however, would not have won.

My cake isn’t bad and it tastes really good, but Mary Berry (in her infinite generosity) would still have had to dock me some points.

For one, my cake cracked again, probably because I over-baked it a bit, again.

A little something about me — I’m an over-baker. Nine times out of ten, I will over-bake rather than under-bake things. Food safety, yo.

Unfortunately, that led to my cake being a bit dry. Fortunately, the icing helps.

The icing was just a mixture of lemon juice from one lemon and some powdered sugar. I don’t know what kind of wimpy lemons they have in Britain, but my lemon must have been too juicy because my icing was so runny it ran down the sides to form a little lemon icing sea in the middle of my cake. A gosh darn delicious lemon icing sea. (I really like lemon.)

Anyway, here’s a picture of my Mary Berry Cherry Cake where I just realized you totally cannot see the lemon sea. If I wouldn’t have told you about it, you never would have known. Oh well. My bad.

Cherry Cake

Anyway, there’s probably some sort of lesson here about how when life hands you lemons, you should make lemon icing with it, provided your lemons aren’t too juicy. But I’m too lazy to look for that lesson now. I’m tired from hand-drying seemingly a million cherries.

Next week, I’ll attempt to make classic British cakes. 36 of them. In miniature. (Yeah, I’m not sure how I’m going to do that either.)

P.S. A special thanks to Mattie who helped me on the ingredients search.

P.P.S. I just realized it’s my second post and I still haven’t talked about GBBS much. Here are my favorite contestants in the first episode of the first season: Richard (a builder who always keeps a pencil tucked behind his ear like any good carpenter), Kate (who I want to move to Nebraska so she can be my British best friend. You know, if she felt like it. No pressure.) and Iain’s beard. (Yeah, beard not bread. That was not a typo. I know what I said, what I typed, and what I meant.)

P.P.P.S. I won’t apologize for my possible overuse of post scripts. I love post scripts almost as much as I love lemon icing. So, yeah, a lot.

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 1: Swiss Cake Roll

If you’re one of my Facebook friends or one of the approximately 15 people I talk to in real life, you’ll know that at the moment I cannot (will not) stop talking about The Great British Baking Show.

As the name suggests, it’s a British baking show and it’s great.

Twelve amateur bakers compete in three baking challenges each week and then, at the end of each episode, the show’s judges, everyone’s fantasy British grandma, Mary Berry, and bread-making guru, Paul Hollywood, send one of the bakers packing.

(Sidenote: I just realized right now that Mary and Paul’s names sound totally made-up.)

Anyway, at the end of the ten-week competition, one person is crowned Britain’s best baker. For this, the winner is awarded an overly-large bouquet and a not-very-impressive plaque. This show leads me to believe that the British are easy to please trophy-wise.

And to gauge by GBBS (yeah, I’m going to acronym it from here on out), British people also appear to be much (much) nicer on reality television than Americans. Not only are they not mean to each other, the contestants actually go out of their way to be relentlessly, aggressively nice to each other.

It’s weird, but in a good way. It’s also exactly what I needed in my life right now.

I’m guessing I’m not alone when I say I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by negativity lately. That seems to be going around.

I needed some nice in my life and the GBBS is chockful of nice, so I fell in love with it and then became slightly obsessed with it.

So obsessed, that I’ve decided to try it myself.

I’m going to attempt to bake my way through the competition from the nonjudgmental, no-television-crew safety of my kitchen.

But then I’m going to blog about it, because to tell you the truth, I’m sick of talking about bad things so I’ve decided to talk about cakes instead (at least most of the time).

Baking’s nice because it’s one of the few things in the world where even failures can still turn out to be kind of delicious.

Which leads me into my first GBBS challenge I tried this week — the Swiss Cake Roll.

(Point of clarification here: I’m going to be using the GBBS episodes available on PBS and Netflix as my guidelines. So when I say I’m doing a recipe from season 1, I mean the first season on PBS or Netlfix. This will differ from what was season 1 in the U.K.. Just roll with me on this, please. And, yes, that was a pun with the word “roll” there. Puns happen a lot on this show and they will happen a lot in this blog, too.)

Anyway, the Swiss Cake Roll was the baker’s very first challenge. Some of the bakers made great ones, others made okay ones, but none of them made one quite as ugly as mine.

In my defense, I’ve never made a Swiss Cake Roll before so I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.

Not in my defense, I went into this a bit cocky. Like all adults who were once type-A children, I was overly-confident in my ability to follow directions. Plus, since I’m just a wee bit Swiss, I assumed that I had some sort of innate ability to make baller Swiss Cake Rolls.

I did not.

My cake was crack-tastic, in that when I tried to roll it up, it got a whole heck of a lot of cracks in it. Cracks that I then tried to cover up with a bunch of powdered sugar and strawberries.

Swiss cake roll_1
And it sort of worked.
Swiss cake roll -2
But, not really.

Also, the cake wasn’t so much rolled, as it was badly folded.

And since I used a recipe that called for the traditional jelly as well as cream, the roll was a bit overstuffed and some of the cream smooshed out. (I’m pretty sure “smooshed” is the most technically-correct word in this scenario.)

Basically, it wasn’t pretty and it would definitely be considered a Pinterest fail.

But, all in all, it tasted pretty darn good even if it looked pretty darn bad. So I’m taking that as a small victory.

See how chill about that messed up cake I was just there? I was all “Keep calm and carry on” and stiff British upper-lip about it. But in real life, when my messed up roll-up was completed, I cursed, whined to my husband about it, dramatically hurled myself on the couch and then had a beer.

But then I actually tasted it, and yeah, like I said, it wasn’t half bad, provided I just covered it with more strawberries and pretended it was a pound cake.

I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of lesson in there about how a situation changes based on how you look at it, but honestly I’m too lazy to look for that lesson right now. I’m tired from baking cakes. But, I just thought I’d throw that out there, so you could tease that lesson out yourself if you were so inclined.

I’m pretty sure there’s also a lesson in there about how when you have a problem, you should just throw some sugar at it. But, it’s possible that lesson only works with cake.

Annnnyyyyway, in the future, these posts will include the recipe I used. But this week I’m not doing that because a) it was a test run, b) I actually mix-and-matched two recipes at once, which I now realize was a really bad idea, and c) because I want to protect the innocent recipe-writers who really should not be blamed for my cake-tastrophe. (That was another pun. Like I said, that’s going to happen a lot.)

P.P.S. Next week I’ll attempt Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake. Apologizes in advance to Mary Berry and to cherries.