I'm not sure what my favorite part of baking is, but I know near the top is measuring out my ingredients. I'm sure eating the baked goods it up there, too, but there's something very zen about measuring out my ingredients. I love seeing the flour, the sugar, the butter, all lined up in their bowls, ready to be mixed or creamed or melted. There's something very calming about having what you need on-hand, and not have to fumble with measuring cups and scales while you're cooking. You can concentrate on the task at hand, and just take everything one step at a time, because you have each step ready ahead of time. Sure, it's methodical, and probably a bit too much for some people, but I find that you still get creative and alter the recipe as you see fit in the heat of the moment, but having all your stuff ready ahead of time gives you a few minutes to think about the recipe, or the weather, or just clear your mind and be in the moment.
I hate meditation, but I love baking.
People often ask me what I do with all the baked goods that have been coming out of this project (and all the baked goods in-between--you don't think this is the only thing I get up to in the kitchen, do you?). I usually have a couple of whatever I create, but for the most part I give them away. I bring them to work, or I drive up to my family and leave them with my brother to eat. However, sometimes a recipe comes along and I get selfish and I eat the whole thing. Last week's bread was one of those occasions (okay, I shared some with my brother-in-law and his wife, who were visiting), and this week's brandy snaps was another one of those occasions (we did have help from our friend Diana).
In my defense, they get less crispy after a day, so really it was just a race against the clock. I totally did not eat them out of pure desire. Totally not my fault. Right....
This recipe, once you have everything together, is actually pretty easy. It's a bit of a time investment, since you can only cook 4 cookies at a time, but the recipe couldn't be simpler. I say "once you have everything together" because this recipe is super British and calls for 1) demerara sugar, and 2) golden syrup. Both of which are not easily found in the United States.
First, demerara sugar. Demerara sugar is a raw-ish sugar that is, they say, less refined than regular white sugar, so it retains more of the natural molasses cane sugar is found with. It also is larger in granule size, so has a bit of a crunch to it -- not that it matters in this recipe, in which you melt everything down. A good, more easily found substitute would be turbinado sugar, marketed as "Sugar in the Raw," which is similar, but not quite exact. Technically, the grains in turbinado sugar are finer than demerara and they are less "sticky," meaning they have less molasses in them, but they're roughly equivalent.
I used brown sugar, which is a perfectly fine, and much more easily accessible substitute. We're not using the sugar for its texture, so the grain size didn't matter, and I like my baked goods more on the well-cooked/burnt side, so the greater molasses content of brown sugar didn't bother me. Plus, it was raining -- I didn't want to find my way to a specialty store in the rain.
Second, golden syrup. Golden syrup is just a barely caramelized sugar syrup, which gives baked goods a nice nutty and hint-of-lemon flavor. You could definitely substitute corn syrup or molasses for golden syrup in many recipes, and the chemistry of these cookies won't change, but the flavor will. Corn syrup will make them more bland, and molasses will make them slightly bitter. I would opt for molasses if you're in a pinch. I, overachiever that I am, realized I had everything to make golden syrup at home though, so I found a DIY recipe and made my own -- it was well worth the time spent.
After you have everything together though, these are fun cookies to make, if just slightly painful, depending on how calloused your fingers are. I'll explain. Brandy snaps are a shaped and filled cookie, meaning you have to shape them into something (anything!) that can act as a receptacle for, in this case, whipped cream (though I could totally see them shaped into a bowl and hold some vanilla or pistachio ice cream).
In order to do this, you have to handle them while still hot. These cookies cool off quickly, and if they cool enough, the "snap" part of their name will come into play and you won't be able to form them into anything. Right when they come out of the oven, they're still very molten, so you have to wait for 1-2 minutes until you can slide a spatula under them without them breaking or melting. At that point, you have to lift them with the spatula and your fingers, grin through the pain if you're sensitive (I found it pleasurable because my kitchen was cold), and wrap them around your cylindrical implements. I suppose if you're professional you could use cannoli molds, but I'm cheap with a small kitchen, so I used some oiled handles of various tools I have in my crocks. Press the seam together and rest them seam-side-down for another 4-5 minutes until they cool completely. It's easier than it sounds, and after doing 5 batches of these things, it becomes second-nature.
After you have everything together though, these are fun cookies to make, if just slightly painful, depending on how calloused your fingers are. I'll explain. Brandy snaps are a shaped and filled cookie, meaning you have to shape them into something (anything!) that can act as a receptacle for, in this case, whipped cream (though I could totally see them shaped into a bowl and hold some vanilla or pistachio ice cream). In order to do this, you have to handle them while still hot. These cookies cool off quickly, and if they cool enough, the "snap" part of their name will come into play and you won't be able to form them into anything.
Like I said, we ate these all in one day. The snaps truly snap. It's a satisfying sound and a satisfying crunchiness between your teeth. You can really fill these with anything that can be piped and stiffened. I could see filling them with cannoli filling, or a stiffer pastry cream. But I actually think whipped cream (or even a spiced whipped cream--I think a bit of cinnamon in the filling would pair amazingly with the ginger in the cookie) is best. The softness and richness of the whipped cream turns these simple cookies into a decadent snack. You can really pop them into your mouth with reckless abandon (and should do so).
I think they're missing brandy though. False advertising.
55 grams (2 ounces) BUTTER
55 grams (2 ounces) DEMERARA SUGAR (or brown sugar)
55 grams (2 ounces) GOLDEN SYRUP (see below for DIY golden syrup)
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon GROUND GINGER
1/2 teaspoon LEMON JUICE
WHIPPED CREAM (heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, spices of your choice -- I recommend cinnamon and/or vanilla extract)
1. Preheat oven to 350F, line two baking trays with parchment, and oil the handle of a wooden spoon or whisk
2. Heat the BUTTER, SUGAR, and GOLDEN SYRUP in a small pan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have dissolved -- about 15 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil, as it may crystallize
3. Leave the mixture to cool 2-3 minutes, then mix in the FLOUR and GINGER and pour in the LEMON JUICE, stirring to mix thoroughly
4. Drop four teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto each baking tray about 4 inches apart from one another -- if your mixture gets too solid in between batches to scoop, place the pan back on the heat for a few seconds to a minute until it comes back to its goopy texture
5. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is spread out, looks like lace, and is a dark golden color
6. Leave the sheet to rest out of the oven for about one minutes, then work quickly as the snaps firm up -- if you can release the cookie using an offset spatula, but they're still pliable, you're in good shape
7. Quickly roll a circle of the warm mixture around the handle of the spoon or whisk, joining underneath, and pressing the seam slightly, then leave to cool completely (just a couple minutes) -- if any of the baked circles on the sheet harden too much to work with, put them back in the oven for a few seconds to soften again
8. Fill cylinders of brandy snaps with WHIPPED CRAM to serve
DIY Golden Syrup
makes ~8 ounces
50 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
3 tablespoons WATER
500 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
300 grams (3/4 cup) BOILING WATER
1 quarter LEMON
1. Dissolve first part of SUGAR into WATER over low heat, and cook until caramelized -- the darker your caramel color, the deeper your flavor, so personal preference wins out here, but I would aim for a dark golden orange color
2. When you've reached your desired caramel color, pour in the second part of SUGAR and BOILING WATER, and LEMON slice and bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes
3. Let mixture cool before pouring into a jar or can (preferably sanitized), and store in the fridge
Bread week. So we meet again. I love making bread. I love how simple the ingredients are. I love the process. I love the feeling of dough on my hands. And yet, despite this love for the craft that is bread making, I'm nervous every single time. Is my yeast still alive? Is my water too hot? Did too much salt touch the yeast? Did I knead it enough? Did I knead it too much? Did I knead too much flour in? Has it doubled in size? Was there a draft? Is it baked all the way through? Those are all questions I undoubtedly ask myself while making bread. Every. Single. Time.
I was actually pretty excited to try out focaccia though. I absolutely love focaccia, and actually eat it with my lunch quite often. My favorite part of a good Italian restaurant is fresh focaccia dipped in a good olive oil and a deliciously dark balsamic vinegar.
I have to say though that, like cheesecake, after making focaccia, the food is not quite the same. Cheesecake is amazing, but when you actually put the butter, the sugar, the eggs, and the massive amount of cream cheese into the mixer that it takes to make cheesecake, your stomach turns a little knowing all that is about to go into your body. With focaccia, it's olive oil. Sure 1/2 cup isn't that much over time, but then you realize you use olive oil on your counter and hands to knead, in the bowl to keep it from sticking, and then poured on top of the dough at least two other times to give it more flavor. In the end, it's a lot of olive oil. And it goes without saying then, that using a good olive oil is really in the best interest of your bread (and your taste buds).
I do have to say though that this is one of the more fun doughs to work with, particularly because of the olive oil. It is a sticky dough, for sure, which is normally really frustrating, but I have two pieces of advice: 1) embrace the mess, and 2) use olive oil. Normally when you're kneading bread dough, you dust your surface and hands with flour and go to town. With focaccia however, you oil everything up. This is because focaccia is a wet dough, which is what gives it all the giant bubbles that form. The wetter the dough, the more water in the dough. The more water in the dough, the more evaporation that occurs in baking. The more evaporation that occurs, the bigger the bubbles. Basically.
Because the dough is so wet, kneading in the classic sense is hard, so the special focaccia kneading technique actually makes life a lot easier. You just fold it over itself for a few minutes and let it be for its first rise.
And so, here's a lesson: let your bread rise the first time. Like, really rise.. As you can see, I didn't quite wait long enough for my dough to double in size -- it was shy by about 20 minutes. While it didn't ruin my bread, I could tell after it baked that it wasn't quite as tall and soft as it should have been. It was still delicious, but I like a spongier bread, and this turned out a bit more dense. But still deliciously oily.
I decided to bake my focaccia in one big half-sheet pan because I don't like doing dishes (have I mentioned that before?), but I could see doing this in a few boule-shaped rounds, or in tiny dinner roll-sized shapes. The benefit of one long big sheet though is you get more dimples. According to Paul Hollywood, this is a critical component of make focaccia, and I, though at first thought he was crazy, now agree with him. After using the amount of olive oil I ended up using for this dish, I realized the beauty of this bread as a delivery mechanism for the light and soft, slightly spicy and deliciously nutty flavor of olive oil. These dimples allow your oil to pool and soak deeper into the texture, lending a flavorful moistness to the loaf. Without them, the dough would, I fear, actually be too dry, and require more butter or a deeper dunk in oil upon consumption (not that more butter is a bad thing...).
A note on topping: focaccia tastes best paired with an herb and a big flake salt. I prefer rosemary as my herb, but many people use oregano as their traditional herb, but I find that reminds me too much of cheap pizza, and not enough of delicious focaccia. I ended up using herbes de Provence on this particular loaf because I didn't have rosemary, and I didn't want to walk back up the hill from the grocery store. Plus, cooking is about improvisation, and I'm all for that.
For the salt, I prefer a Maldon large flake sea salt, because it gives you a bit of a bite. If you can find it, buying a box is well worth the $8. You might think that's ridiculously expensive for salt, but I've had one box that lasted me three years, so it's really not that big of an investment, and it adds so much to your baked goods (sprinkled on a chocolate lava cake, on bread, on ice cream) and savory dishes (sprinkled on a steak, pork chops, sautéed vegetables).
The taste of this focaccia was amazing. We had my brother-in-law and his wife over that night and yes, between the four of us we ate the entire loaf. The crumb was tight, as I wrote before, but it retained its moisture and had a delicate softness. It was rich from the oil, but not in a way that made you feel heavy afterwards. And the crust gave the crumb the protection it needs, but wasn't hard or crunchy in any way, shape, or form -- it just added a certain depth. Dipped in a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and I couldn't keep my hands off the bread.
makes one half-sheet pan loaf
500 grams (17 2/3 ounces) (4 1/8 cups) FLOUR
1/2 cup OLIVE OIL (plus more for oiling hands, bowls, surfaces)
1/2 cup WARM WATER
3/4 cup COOL WATER
2 teaspoons SALT
3 teaspoons ACTIVE DRY YEAST
Flaky sea salt (Maldon preferred)
Your choice of herbs (fresh or frozen, rosemary and/or oregano preferred)
1. Mix the YEAST with the WARM WATER and in a bowl and leave to activate -- it should get frothy and bubbly and smell yeasty
2. Mix OIL, FLOUR, SALT and activated yeast and mix until incorporated
3. Add COOL WATER little by little until it all is incorporated -- your dough will be really wet and sticky
4. While still in the bowl, coat your hands with olive oil and fold the dough over on itself about a dozen times
5. Coat a surface and your hands with more olive oil and work the dough by stretching it out and folding it in on itself, occasionally lifting the dough up and slapping it down on your surface with gusto -- if it gets too sticky, add more oil (do not add more flour)
6. Place the dough in an oiled container, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour)
7. When risen, tip dough out of your container onto a parchment-lined and oiled half-sheet pan, and shape and deflate by pressing the dough out to fill the pan
8. Let dough rise for about 1 hour, preheat oven to 425F
9. When ready to bake, use all ten of your fingers to press directly down all over the dough and make dimples (it's okay if you tear some holes, as most of them will fill back up when it bakes)
10. Sprinkle top with large flaked salt (I used Maldon because I'm fancy) and your choice of herb (oregano and rosemary are traditional, all I had was herbes de provence)
11. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on
12. As soon as you take it out of the oven, drip a bit more olive oil over top and let cool
Announcement time! If you've got keen eyes, you'll notice there's a new link in the header at the top of this page titled "The Wedding Cake Project." Pretty self-explanatory, but I made my own wedding cake for when Jeremy and I got married in October, and because it was such an experience (mostly good, but very stressful -- the cake-making, not the wedding; he wedding was fabulous, though I guess that was stressful, too, to be honest. you married folks know what I'm talking about. Newfound respect for party planners, seriously), I wanted to document all the preparation, designing, baking, and decorating in creating such a cake.
So, if you need tips, tricks, or just want some great recipes and pictures, click through and re-live the experience with me.
BAKING THE BAKE OFF | The Wedding Cake Project: In which I dare to make my own wedding cake
I love making crust. Part of me loves it because, let's get real, crust is amazing--it's the best part of the cake. But part of me also loves it, selfishly, because a lot of people are scared of it, but I'm not. And let me tell you why....
I'm not scared of crusts because I approach the crust-making process with optimism and an open mind, and an aim to enjoy myself. I think it's all about your state of mind. Like in the (highly underrated) movie Waitress starring Keri Russell, I think the emotions you're feeling as you're making a recipe impart a certain je ne sais quoi into the finished product. Feeling stressed about what you're making? You'll feel that tinge of trepidation in the texture. Feeling excited about trying something new? A spark in the crumb. Feeling optimistic and hopeful with that pie filling? Lightness and breathability in the taste.
So, a good perspective in embarking on the journey. And a good, clear recipe with minimal directions to trip you up. Here's my strategy: (1) pop your butter in the fridge or freezer for 5 minutes before starting, (2) have your ingredients ready, and (3) rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips (or press with a pastry blender) until you feel like you're at the beach. That's what gets you to breadcrumb stage, and that's half the battle.
The other half is mixing in the liquid. Honestly, this is where I usually feel like I did something wrong, so don't worry if you do. I usually start mixing it in lightly with a rubber spatula, then when things stop splashing around, even if not all dry ingredients are moistened, I turn it out onto a surface and use my hands to bring it all together. If you've ready any "Tips and Tricks" articles about pie crusts, you'll feel like you're working the dough too much and it'll come out "tough" like all the experts say it will. But don't worry: food is way more forgiving than Food Network makes you feel it is.
Mary Berry, foxy minx as she is, had a very cool idea when it comes to rolling out the dough. Usually, you roll it out on a floured surface, then roll it up like a fruit roll or fold it like a crepe to transfer it into the baking dish, but because tart pans have a removable bottom, she recommends you roll it out directly on the bottom, then lift that into the outer ring of the pan and press it in.
A couple tips in doing this.... First, if you don't roll it out big enough, like me, you can always patchwork the dough, tearing off pieces from where you have too much, and pressing it into sections where you don't have enough. Second, make sure to press the dough firmly into every crevice of the tart pan. Third, chill the dough for 10-15 minutes in the fridge before baking. I didn't, and as you'll see, I had a good amount of shrinkage, which messes with the amount of filling you can fill the tart with, and could cause overfilling--again, happened to me.
This post is just full of tips--bookmark it! My next tip has to do with "parbaking" or "blind baking" or basically, baking your crust before you put the filling in, so your custard filling doesn't give you a soggy wet mess. Or, as they put it so deftly on GBBO, the dreaded "soggy bottom."
I don't have any pie weights, and I don't like beans, so I didn't have any of the normal things you put into the crust to weigh it down and prevent bubbling. The cheapo way to do this is to just prick it with a fork a bunch like I did. The biggest piece of advice for blind baking though is don't be afraid to get it brown. Like, really brown. The lighter it is, the less cooked it is, and the more filling will soak into the crust. If you have a crispy golden brown-to-brown crust before filling, then you'll have a crispy, flaky crust after filling.
The filling here couldn't be more simple. Take everything and whisk it all together. I was hesitant at first, because it called for four lemons. After Mary Berry's EXTREME lemon soufflé bonanza, I thought this would end up too tart (ha - pun not intended), but it was actually the perfect balance for me. Still a little tart for the husband, but if you're a fan of lemon desserts, you'll be a fan of this. Especially after sprinkling with powdered sugar and a nice heaping pile of whipped cream. I mean, it's dessert--don't limit yourself.
If you're wondering why my sugar is in a magic bullet container, it's for DIY caster sugar. See the recipe below.
Because I had shrinkage in my crust, I had too much filling for the tart, but I didn't let that stop me from using as much of the filling as possible. Were I competing on GBBO, this obviously would not be ideal, so I was cool with the overflow, but I would recommend trying to not overfill your tart pan. It makes it more difficult to remove from the pan, because the filling cooks into a rather sticky custard, and acts a glue between the crust and the pan.
Once I was able to pry the crust from its pan though, I could tell it was going to be good. The crust maintained that toasty brown color, the custard filling wobbled, but wasn't liquid. I couldn't wait to cut into it.
I had to wait, though. When sprinkling powdered sugar on things, they have to be room temperature or cooler, or the sugar will melt into the baked good. So, I put the pie next to a breezy window to cool it off quicker, and whipped up some cream to make the pictures look all pretty.
When I sliced into it, I knew it was going to be good. The knife cut through the filling easily, and there was a satisfying crunch when I applied pressure to get through the crust.
And look at that: no. soggy. bottoms.
Tarte au Citron
makes one 9" round tart
175 grams (6 ounces) FLOUR
25 grams (1 ounce) POWDERED SUGAR
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) BUTTER, chilled
1 large EGG YOLK
1 tablespoon COLD WATER
5 large EGGS
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM
225 grams (8 ounces) CASTER SUGAR* (or granulated sugar)
4 LEMONS (juice and zest)
1. Grease and flour your tart tin
2. Measure out FLOUR and SUGAR into a bowl and rub BUTTER into those ingredients with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs, wet sand, or your own analogy (alternatively, you can do the crust assembly in a food processor, but I refuse to clean one of those)
3. Add the EGG YOLK and COLD WATER and mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until most of the dough is moistened
4. Turn the dough out onto a surface and knead 2-3 times until it becomes smooth (if too sticky, wrap in plastic and chill for 15 minutes in the fridge
5. Take the bottom of your tart tin and place it on a piece of parchment, then put your ball of dough on the tart tin bottom
6. Roll out the dough to about 2" wider than the tin bottom (to account for the pan rim)
7. Fold the overhang loosely inwards, and lift the tin base off of the parchment paper and put it into the surrounding tin component.
8. Press the dough firmly into the tart tin, and take the overhang you rolled out and press it into the sides of the tin.
9. Place the tart tin onto a baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
10. Preheat the oven to 400F
11. Prick the entire bottom of the tart with a fork before placing it into the oven (optional: add a piece of aluminum foil on top of the crust and fill with beans, pie weights, or rice)
12. Bake tart crust for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and completely dry (if using beans, pie weights, or rice, bake 10-15 minutes, remove aluminum foil, and bake an additional 10 minutes)
1. Break the EGGS into a large bowl, add CREAM, SUGAR, and LEMON JUICE and ZEST, and whisk until completely combined and smooth
2. Open the oven and place the baking sheet with the crust on the rack, then, with the oven door open and the rack accessible, pour the filling into the tart crust and push the rack back into the oven and close the oven (note: this weird process will keep you from spilling tart filling everywhere)
3. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the outer edge of the tart is set, and the center is slightly wobbly, but not liquid
4. Leave to cool about 15 minutes, then when the tart is firm enough, remove by either holding the bottom or placing it on a jar or mug, and gently pushing the tart sides down and away, then slide a thin spatula under the tart and transfer to a plate
5. Serve warm or cold, dusted with sifted powdered sugar or top with whipped cream
* a note on CASTER SUGAR: Caster sugar, while common (I think) in the UK, is not so common in America. We have granulated sugar. Granulated sugar particles are larger than caster sugar particles, so 1 cup of each will actually have a different amount of sugar, and mess with the sweetness of the final product. However, 8 ounces by weight of each type of sugar will be equivalent. Caster sugar is preferred in custard tarts such as this one because it dissolves easier in the liquid before baking. You can very much just use granulated sugar and be done with it, but in my effort to be more exact, I took the 8 ounces of granulated sugar I had and threw it into a blender for about 20 seconds until it was broken down into smaller particles -- DIY caster sugar
Season 2 begins...! And we start with the ever-classic Cake Week. And a recipe that encapsulates why I wanted to do this project. Trying new, sort of different recipes that taste delicious and use techniques and flavors and ingredients I don't normally use in my everyday baking. When I get a cake craving, I would normally turn to a trusty recipe and sale it up or own depending on how much cake I want to eat. I wouldn't make up a pan to cook two different cakes and trim and construct a checkerboard log of deliciousness. Too much work. But for the Bake Off? Anything.
Call me an OCD organizational nerd, but I love a recipe that starts with good pan prep. And this is a fun pan prep. I suppose you could just use two loaf pans to cook this, but then you have to clean two pans, and I like to minimize my dishes. That's why I always prefer to make pie dough by hand and not with a food processor (I also don't own a food processor), and why I make whip cream by hand and usually whip egg whites by hand. It's not that I feel more "legit" by doing it the manual way, it's that I have to do less dishes.
I actually decided to do everything manually in this recipe, including the beating of the batter. I've noticed as you bake more and more you start to see patterns in ingredients and instructions. So, when I started reading the recipe for the Battenberg, I noticed that it's basically a Victoria Sponge, that later gets doctored up. You just dump everything into a bowl and mix it up. This time, I just took a wooden spoon to it, and, as I learned in S01E01, didn't worry about over-mixing.
This is where the recipe gets fun -- mix coffee and walnuts into half of the batter and vanilla into the other half of the batter, and you start to see the two tones of the cake that will eventually show.
Two words of warning. First, if you use the recipe from a *.co.uk site, remember that Mary Berry loves self-raising flour, and if you use all-purpose flour, add more baking powder and salt per the standard conversion. I do not have self-raising flour because I live in San Francisco, my kitchen is small, and I don't need extra flours hanging around. I also have a fleeting attention to detail and forgot to add more baking powder and salt into this recipe, so yours may end up puffing up more than mine and creating a much more precise square shape in the end. Second, try to keep the parchment part in the center of the pan straight when pouring in the batter. I did not, and the walnut/coffee batter created a bit of a squiggly line in the pan, which yielded unequal amounts of the two cakes. Not that it was a big deal--I trimmed the excess anyway and got to eat the scraps--but just a best practice you can follow.
It doesn't seem like a lot of frosting, so I actually ended up adding in another knob of butter, but I think I actually ended up with too much. This cake isn't your standard cake + frosting assembly. The frosting actually acts as a simple glue to keep everything together, not as a big portion of the cake. So don't go overboard.
I love a recipe where you get to use a ruler. There's something about the exactitude in a ruler-based construction that gives me solace. Especially because I'm not the greatest at the "decorating" part of "cake decorating." I excel at the baking part, that much I know. But putting it all together and making it look pretty? I get nervous and perfectionist. But I do love seeing everything lined up, even, exact, prepped.
Putting everything together though is exciting, because it means you're that much closer to eating the full thing. Sure, I snack on scraps and lick the spatulae (who doesn't?), but your first bit of a completed project is what it's all about. Except if you're making brownies. Then it's all about the batter.
At every point in making a cake, there's a moment where I think "I did this all wrong. I should throw this away. This is going to be terrible" and this moment was the one for this recipe. My layers weren't even, I thought I had either too much or not enough frosting, my marzipan was not rolled out evenly, it was too thick, and everything was sticking everywhere. I'm not a fan of wasting ingredients though, and I am stupidly optimistic. Nothing is ever perfect, and while you can strive for perfection, you always need to keep perspective and say, "Let's see what happens."
So, in spite of everything I knew was going wrong with the cake, I said "Eh, we'll see what happens." Did I say I'm not great at decorating? Here's a tip for the rest of you who suffer in that arena: hide your mistakes! I couldn't roll the marzipan out thin enough to cover the cake without it tearing (possibly because I used 7 ounces instead of 8 ounces--since my grocery store only sold marzipan in 7 ounce tubes and I wasn't going to buy two of them).
It right here I realized I had left out the extra baking powder and salt that I should have added for using all-purpose instead of self-raising flour--it became obvious my square was more of a rectangle. But man, it looked pretty. Proportions notwithstanding, the checkerboard was there, the colors were there, the walnut decorations were on point, and my patchwork job was invisible underneath the cake.
The taste was fantastic. Obviously, if you're not a walnut or coffee fan, you're not going to like half of this cake. But as a devoted fan of both (and vanilla), it was great. I'm not even the biggest marzipan fan, but the sweetness of the marzipan was countered by the bitterness of the coffee, and just gave it a nutty almond flavor that played well off the nutty walnut flavor. The frosting added the right amount of moisture to cut through the cake, which is on the dry side, and it was fun to eat--like a black and white cookie where you get to eat the flavors individually or together. Plus, it's pretty gorgeous, and definitely impressive for such a simple batter.
Coffee + Walnut Battenberg
makes one ~4"x8" rectangular cake (serves 5-10)
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) (7 tablespoons) BUTTER
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) (1/2 cup) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 large EGGS
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) FLOUR
1 3/4 teaspoons BAKING POWDER
1/4 teaspoon SALT
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) GROUND ALMONDS
3 teaspoons MILK
1/4 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
1 1/2 teaspoon INSTANT COFFEE
25 grams (1 ounce) CHOPPED WALNUTS
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) (1 cup) POWDERED SUGAR
40 grams (1 1/2 ounces) (3 tablespoons) BUTTER
1/2 teaspoon INSTANT COFFEE
1 1/2 teaspoons MILK
225 grams (8 ounces) MARZIPAN
5 WHOLE WALNUT PIECES (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 325F
2. Prepare an 8" square pan by greasing the pan and cutting a piece of parchment paper about 2x as long as the pan (16"), then fold the parchment to create a divider in the middle of the pan, with overhang on either side to lift the cakes out of the pan when baked
3. Beat BUTTER, SUGAR, EGGS, FLOUR, BAKING POWDER, SALT, and GROUND ALMONDS for 2-3 minutes, until the batter is smooth, light in color, and glossy
4. Divide the mixture into two different bowls
5. Into one mixture, stir in VANILLA and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the MILK
6. In another small bowl or ramekin, dissolve INSTANT COFFEE in the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of the MILK
7. Into the other mixture, stir in the now liquid coffee and fold in the CHOPPED WALNUTS
8. Transfer each of the two batters into the two sides of the pan
9. Bake 35-40 minutes, until toothpick in the center comes out clean
frosting and assembly:
1. Sift POWDERED SUGAR
2. Beat together sugar, BUTTER, INSTANT COFFEE, and MILK until smooth and fully combined
3. Take cooled cake out of pan and trim into four equal strips
4. Glue strips together in a checkerboard pattern with a very thin layer of frosting in between each strip of cake
5. Frost the top of the cake and set aside
6. Roll MARZIPAN out on a surface lightly dusted with powdered sugar in an oblong shape, large enough to wrap around the cake (mine had to be 8"x7", as it was 8" long and a little less than 2" on each side)
7. Lay the cake frosting side-down on the marzipan and frost all long sides (no need to frost the ends), make sure to keep a bit of the frosting for final assembly later
8. Fold the marzipan up and join the seam at the top with a little bit of water or frosting.
9. Place the cake seam-side-down on your serving platter, and finish with any or all of the following:
> crimp the edges of the long sides with thumb and forefinger
> score the top of the cake in a diagonal line or diamond pattern
> sift powdered sugar over the top
> place 5 WHOLE WALNUT PIECES on top of the cake, evenly spaced, and secure with leftover frosting
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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