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:
And for a moment, I was like, umm, never mind, I’ll just skip this challenge, because:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
I love pesto, but I also realize that it looks totally disgusting.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
Then you cut the strips and twist them twice, which seems really weird and scary but it actually it wasn’t.
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.
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:
And predictably, I was pretty pleased.
It was pretty awesome.
Also, awesome. There’s a “new” season of GBBS on PBS right now.
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:
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.