GBBOTC14 #3: Ciabatta you face.

Ciabatta collage

It’s another away bake this week – with our staycation (horrible word) in full flow, we spent a weekend at my mum’s which is where the ciabatting (excellent word) took place. This means I was without my beloved gas oven, among other things. (What do you mean I’m ‘getting my excuses in early’?!)

I have – and regularly use – Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake book, but being away from home (and actually as I tend to do with these most of these challenges, to be honest) I just looked up the linked recipe on the BBC Bake Off website. And then laughed.  Loudly. The Don’s recipe that they link to states that you should make a dough using half of all the ingredients and then leave it to prove for a minimum of six hours, before adding the other half of the ingredients and leaving that to prove for a further two hours (or until trebled in size), and then shaping and leaving to prove for another 35 minutes. That’s 8 hours and 35 minutes. When you add in measuring, mixing, kneading, shaping and baking time (plus nipping-to-the-shops time to get the ingredients which you thought you had, but which it turns out went out of date in 2006, a contingency I’m increasingly having to factor into my baking) you’re looking at at least 10 hours. Continue reading


GBBOTC’14 #2: Florentine is all mine, all mine


Florentine-age kicks (depending on how you pronounce it)

I don’t know if Rabbie Burns was particularly referring to Florentines when he wrote his famous lines about schemes, mice and men, but I suspect that – assuming he too spent one infuriating evening trying to make them – they may have been the catalyst for his frustration and despair.

My problem was pride. Pride, and a hasty purchase. Sorry; my TWO problems were pride, and a hasty purchase. And never having tempered chocolate before. OK, OK … AMONG my problems were pride, a hasty purchase and never having tempered chocolate before.

Let me explain… Continue reading

GBBOTC14 #1: Do che-rry-lee want to hurt me?

cherry cake

It was a watertight plan. “I’ll get back in to blogging!” I thought. “I’ll get to try something new every week and I get to do lots of baking, too! Winning!”. And there I sat, watching the first episode, quietly smug. Claire seems to be a lovely person, it has to be said, but hundreds and thousands? On the Great British Bake Off? Really?

And as for the technical challenge: a cake with fruit in it? Piece of… well. I think you know where I’m going with this. My grandmother has a story about a boiled fruit cake where all the fruit sank to the bottom because she didn’t flour it (this tale isn’t really imbued with enough tragedy if you don’t say it in her thick Valleys accent)… No flour. All the fruit. To the bottom. I’ve heard this story enough times to know the moral. If I have learned anything from her in all my days as a grand-daughter, it’s that you need to flour the fruit. To stop it sinking. To the bottom. That, and that the best way to treat nettle stings is with brown vinegar. Natch.

So, as soon as the fruit cake challenge started, I thought “you want to flour that fruit. Stops it sinking to the bottom.” Done. My first GBBOTC was going to be a triumph. In fact, this entire series was going to be a triumph. Unlike last year, where something went (drastically) wrong with almost every bake and I became a walking disaster area, this one I was going to breeze through, Martha Stewart style, filling my home with heady scents and dazzling creations.

And then I tried to make the sodding cherry cake. Continue reading

Bibs on! The Bake Off’s back…

As an obnoxious teenager with an eating disorder, I used to loudly proclaim that lycra was ‘a privilege not a right’. I would never have squeezed my far-less-than-perfect frame into anything with less movement control than ponte, and believed lycra should be reserved for those whose flesh didn’t oscillate on impact. Ever. So I dread to think what my 16 year old self might have thought of me this week as I powered through the streets of London in my newest piece of cycling attire… (for powered, read wobbled). In a fit of renewed determination to once-and-for-all ditch the baby weight (oh yes, dear reader, we are STILL fighting that fun battle) I have taken to cycling to and from work, and because clothes maketh the (wo)man, (and because throwing money at a problem really is tantamount to putting in actual hard work) I have bought my self some new gear to feel a bit less despondent about the pain, humiliation and (occasionally literal) uphill struggles that come with that. And treated myself to Strava Premium. (If you don’t know what it is, revel in your ignorance and don’t look it up. It’ll either make you hate me or hate yourself.)

I haven’t blogged much lately. In fact, apart from the odd post over on the make/do site, I’ve been pretty quiet since last year’s Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge (GBBOTC). Yes, it’s been a very busy year, but I miss blogging, and inflicting my inane ramblings on the one or two readers who might stumble across this every so often.

Well, if you’ve been anywhere near the BBC, or me, for that matter, in the last week, you’ll have seen that the Bake Off is back. The Bake Off fun starts TONIGHT. Too, too exciting. Continue reading