I sit at my computer with my iPad constantly streaming GBBO in order to start breaking down all the bakes. Then I have to pause and breathe into a paper bag after looking at the list, because I think I’ve made a mistake and I might poop my pants. Don’t worry I haven’t actually pooped my pants...yet. (I’ll let you know). After a few deep, yogic breaths I start looking at the list again and realize how much I am going to learn after research and baking… an inkling of excitement starts to bubble up. Then, the enormity of the ingredients and the actual sheer amount of things I have to make starts to hit me-- will this be the time I actually poop my pants?
In case you are wondering, I didn’t. But there are few things that I actually did do:
I’ve ordered a couple of books that I thought could give me some insight. Of course, I had to order at least one book by the “King of Bread” himself, Paul Hollywood. I chose “How to Bake.” I’ve read through the “Introduction” and “Getting Started with Bread,” to glean helpful tidbits especially when I get to all the crazy bread parts (can you say lion bread sculpture anyone?). I can’t wait to start practicing my eight braid plait.
I stumbled up on a book when I went to visit the empire of Chip & Joanna Gaines (@magnolia) in Waco one afternoon called “Crusts: The Ultimate Baker’s Book.” It is big and beautiful with a hardcover and built in bookmarks. What’s not to love? It has a great intro and forward, and if you are a little bit of a nerd, the section “A Brief History of Breadmaking” will make you turn pages with glee. I know that this recipe bible will be useful as I research from week to week.
My neighbors have been really supportive (I love walking across the street to share bakes with them), which is amazing since we have only lived in the neighborhood for five short months. As I was delivering a bake the other week (custard tart), my neighbor, Anne, insists that I take from her collection of cookbooks, since she doesn’t cook or bake anymore. Kevin, her husband, loves (LOVES) sweet things, especially sweet baked things. You can imagine, I am grateful to have a place test my bakes. They have lived all over the world so their cookbook collection is eclectic. She gave me the cookbook “A Sterling Collection: Recipes from Britain.” Apparently, it was written by a group Anne used to belong to across the pond “The Kensington Chelsea Women’s Club.” Sounds classy. There were a lot of a recipes for main courses and things like that but I was able to copy recipes for: Creme Anglaise, Wafer Biscuits, Creme Brulee, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Tarte Au Citron. All of these will be useful for my baking adventure. I also copied Steak Pie and Treacle Tart recipe because I love me steak pie (especially with some stout) and Harry Potter’s favorite tart is treacle so obviously….(#hufflepuffforlife). Oh, come on...you know I am nerd.
Due to the heart stopping amount of British cakes that I have to make in my first “Showstopper,” I figured I’d better bake a British cake. Since I am born and raised in America, many of these British cakes I have never tasted before. I decided to start with the classic: Victoria Sandwich Cake. I chose this first because I know that I have do this as a technical in one of the seasons (it’s not cheating! It’s being smart) and I know that the sponge can be featured in a variety of different bakes. Overall, I think it went over quite well! It seemed delicious to me. The sponge was light and springy and a good texture. However, I did modify the jam recipe (gasp!)...since I baked a Mary Berry recipe. I was nervous about doing that, but I make my own jam often in order to control the amount of sugar that goes into the jam. This recipe required a lot of sugar (in the sponge and jam), at least, to me. It was a little to cloying for me so I amped it up with juice from one large lemon. Actually, looking back on it I was surprised that the recipe for jam didn’t require any lemon juice. Gotta have that acidity! I didn’t modify the amount of berries or sugar… just added the lemon juice and adjusted the cooking time. Like I have said before, I feel comfortable cooking so I don’t get too frazzled with messing with something on top of the stove - hopefully, that plays into my favor when I have to make some stuff not in the oven.
Everything I have heard about a Victoria sponge is not to overmix. So I was careful to heed that advice. But in fact, I think I almost undermixed the batter. The butter didn’t seem to have incorporated smoothly into the mixture, so I am glad that I decided to turn on the mixture a few more minutes. I think I got that “soft dropping texture” that the sponge calls for. My baked sponges were pulling away from the tin and springing back to touch. These sponges are lighter than I had expected. The buttercream recipe was simple and straightforward. Again, I modified the amount of sugar in the frosting since I personally don’t like super sugary frosting (that’s why I love Asian cakes so much, it’s not as sweet as an “American” cake).
Disclaimer: No, that isn’t ramen noodles... I just didn’t know what the eff I was doing. #bakepractice