Great British Bake Off Bake-Along:
Tales of Clangers, Craquelin, Curd and more!--Plus a recipe for Choux Bun Turtles!
I've always enjoyed baking. One of my first "dates" in high school involved teaching a boy to make chocolate cream pie at my home, after which he introduced me to "Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom," appalled that I'd never seen it. In college and just afterwards, it was a hobby my dad and I could enjoy together (albeit from a distance), and he graciously equipped my kitchen with fabulous baking books, a Kitchen-Aid, and...well, pretty much everything. Working as a baker post-college helped me hone my skills without damaging my love for the hobby (at least, not too much), although I'm admittedly happy to currently have those days behind me.
All that to say, when a friend invited me to join a Great British Baking Show Bake-Along, hosted by Laura Sampson of Little House Big Alaska, it sounded like the most fun thing since sliced bread. (Errr....that's not how that goes, but you get the point!) I wrote about my love for Great British Bake Off (GBBO) last year (along with my poor attempt at making lace pancakes!), but my passion reached new heights with Series 8, when the show switched channels and brought on Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig as hosts. Yes, I missed previous hosts Mel and Sue, but Noel won me over from day 1 with that raven shirt and his goofy sense of humor.
(Photo from here)
There are a few phrases/sentiments you'll hear again and again on GBBO, from "Well, it looks great...but how does it taste?" to "Oh dear, we've got a soggy bottom," to "I didn't know I could do this--but I did!" Many of the contestants on GBBO, some of whom have only been baking a couple years, improve exponentially from the first week to whenever they leave the tent. But it wasn't until joining the Bake-Along that I experienced just how empowering it can be to try baking things you never would have dared attempt had it not been for the sense of communal effort combined with the competitive drive to become Star Baker (or in this case, Star(bucks) Baker--Laura chose one baker each week to receive a $10 gift card).
In explanation, each Sunday of the Bake Along, Laura set out the next week's challenge, inspired from the corresponding episode from GBBO Series 8, and you had one week to complete it. Most of the time, I got to work as soon as she posted the challenge because I am NOT a procrastinator, and weekends were just an easier time for a big baking project.
Every challenge was something brand-new to me. From hand-raised pies (did not go as hoped, but tasted delicious!) to clangers to cottage loaf to choux bun turtles, nothing was easy--but nothing was impossible, either! For those of you interested in setting yourself some baking challenges, here is a list of each week's challenge, along with a link to the recipe I used, where possible. Get ready for some serious deliciousness!
Week 1: Fruity Cake (I missed this week, as I hadn't yet joined the Bake-Along)
Week 2: 24 Sandwich Cookies--I made "Lemon Slice Sandwich Cookies," aka Lemon Shortbread Biscuits with a Lemon-Ginger Curd filling.
Week 3: Cottage Loaf (Mine was not abysmal, but not quite as "erect" as one might hope!)
Week 4: Millionaire Shortbread--I made Coffee Bannoffee Millionaire Bars, aka coffee shortbread crust, with a layer of sliced banana between the shortbread and caramel layer, topped with chocolate. Basically, a standard Millionaire Bar with the addition of ground coffee in the cookie layer and banana.
Served these at a Miranda Hart-themed party. Someday I will write a post about how amazing she is.
Week 5: Steamed Pudding--I made a Very Lemony Steamed Pudding with Blueberry Compote. This was one of the weeks I thought I might skip, as most steamed puddings are made using a special pudding mold. But you can also do it using ramekins and a water bath, so that worked out fine, thank goodness! Also, while this sounds complicated, it was actually pretty easy and used ingredients I already had on-hand! On which note, I always have an ABUNDANCE of citrus, because you'd never want to be short a lime if you get a sudden craving for a gin and tonic!
Week 6: Hand-Raised Pie using Hot Water Crust--I made Paul Hollywood's recipe for Chicken, Bacon and Apricot Pie. I made the mistake of trying to do an all-butter crust, which did not harden up properly in the fridge, making it difficult to work with--but the end result was sooo tasty!
Week 7: Margherita Pizza--Another week I thought I'd skip, since we were leaving for Wichita for Thanksgiving on Tuesday evening! But I squeezed it in Monday night. Not one of my better bakes though, to be honest. Don't forget to taste the sauce before spreading it on the pizza to make sure you've got your spices where you want them!
Week 8: Bedfordshire Clanger--AKA THE WEEK I GOT STAR(BUCKS) BAKER! Whoo-hoo! A Berdfordshire Clanger is a "forgotten bake," according to GBBO, and I think we should bring it back! It is a type of pie, but instead of placing the crust in a tin, you roll it out in a rectangle, and spread a savory mixture on 2/3 and a sweet mixture on the other 1/3, separating them with a wall of dough. Such a fun idea! I made a Pork and Apple Bedfordshire Clanger. If I make it again, I might try substituting some turkey for part of the pork, as it was a little richer than I felt was necessary. But the apple part was DELISH!
Week 9: Choux Buns--I made Kim-Joy-inspired Choux Bun Turtles with Craquelin and an Orange-Eggnog Pastry Cream Filling. (Kim-Joy was my favorite contestant from GBBO series 9--she made a chocolate galaxy globe that, when melted, revealed the cutest pile of little choux bun turtles). It sounds complicated, and admittedly, these took all afternoon. Worth. It. Since these were one of my favorite bakes, and one that I cobbled together using a few different recipe sources, I'll include the recipe below.
Week 10: Gingerbread Cookies--Sadly, I made gingerbread cookies with Joss on the day before this challenge was set, having failed to give Wikipedia a glance so I could get a heads-up on what the week's challenge might be. But the signature challenge from the final episode of GBBO series 8 was a collection of mini bread loaves, so not wanting to fully give up on the challenge, I made Unicorn Challah (minus the marshmallow fluff because we didn't have any)!
Had to share because...so pretty! And also...unicorn food!
Now that the Bake-Along is over *sob*, I'm trying to figure out how to keep challenging myself in the kitchen. For this year, I want to make a list of common GBBO challenges that I still haven't tackled, like spun sugar, homemade fondant, entremet, mirror glaze, baked alaska, etc., and work on them throughout the year. What would you add to the list? If you make any of the above bakes, please let me know! I'd love to see them!
Thank you, thank you again to Laura Sampson for hosting this Bake Along, and to all the other bakers who participated! I had to go back through the group posts to find my photos, and it was fun to be reminded of all the impressive entries made throughout the challenge! Serious talent.
Choux Bun Turtles With Craquelin and Eggnog-Orange Pastry Cream
I used the recipes for Pâte À Choux and a modified version of the Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream found in "The Art and Soul of Baking," by Cindy Mushet, an excellent source for all kinds of recipes! I made their Gingerbread Scones fairly often. It can be found on Amazon for anywhere from $2.34 to $806?! It's a good book, but I'd recommend looking for a copy somewhere closer to $2 than $800 :)
Eggnog-Orange Pastry Cream
I made this last, but since you have to wait the longest for it to cool, it'd make more sense to get this made and put it in the fridge while doing everything else. You can also use an ice bath to cool it faster.
- 1 c. whole milk
- 1/2 c. eggnog
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 6 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 c. flour
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 Tbsp. butter, cold
- 2 Tbsp. Cognac
1. Pour milk and eggnog into medium saucepan. Heat until just below boiling and remove from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, yolks, sugar and orange zest, blending well. Whisk in the flour thoroughly. Pour about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Slowly pour this new mixture back into the sauce pan, again whisking constantly.
2. Heat mixture, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil. Cook another minute (don't stop whisking!), until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk in butter and cognac.
3. Place a piece of saran wrap over the mixture as it cools so it doesn't develop a skin. Place in refrigerator once cool enough to do so.
I used this recipe as my guide--hopefully you have a kitchen scale! If not, just search craquelin recipes or leave it off to save time--although it does help the turtles look like they have shells!
- 60 grams light brown sugar
- 60 grams flour
- 55 grams salted butter, softened
- Mix all three ingredients together well in mixing bowl; finish by squeezing into a disc using your hands.
- Place disc between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll out to 3 mm thick.
- Place in freezer for 30 min. During this time, you can start working on your choux buns
Spiced Choux Buns
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 c. water
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 c. flour
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 4 eggs
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice butter into 1/2-inch squares. In small bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
2. Put butter, water and salt in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. After the butter melts, put heat on medium/medium-high and bring to a boil. As soon as it reaches a boil, remove the pan from the heat and add in the flour mixutre. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the flour until the dough forms a ball. Place pan back on stove top over medium heat and cook for another minute.
3. Place batter into electric mixer and beat for one minute, just enough to get some of the heat out before adding the eggs. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs together well. With the mixer on a medium setting, add the eggs to the batter a couple tablespoons at a time. They should blend in completely before you add the next portion. Once all the eggs have been added, the dough should be ready to pipe! [There are some more complicated notes in the "Art and Soul" book about what exactly your Pâte À Choux should look like at this point and what to do if it doesn't, but mine was fine...so hopefully yours will be, too!]
4. Place choux batter in large pastry bag--I didn't use a tip, just cut off about a 1/2-inch whole at the end. Pipe turtles onto a silicone- or parchment-lined baking sheet. I started with the large circles (mine wer eprobably about 1" in diameter, but the turtles altogether were pretty big! So probably 3/4" for the central circle is better), and then went back and added five smaller circles for the head and feet, and then a little tiny dollop for a tail.
5. Once piped, beat another egg in a small bowl and brush the tops of the choux batter with the egg, using this opportunity to smooth out any pointy parts (some of my turtles looked like they had sharp, upturned noses, so I obviously didn't spend as much time on this as I should have!). Make sure the egg doesn't drip down onto the parchment, though, or the turtles will stick!
6. Remove craquelin from freezer and place on counter. I used a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out craquelin hearts, and laid these over the turtle "shells", with the pointy part facing the tail. You could also use a circle-shaped cutter, or anything you want, really. Just make sure it's about the same size as that central circle.
7. Place turtles in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. At this point, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, rotate the pans and bake for another 20 minutes. Then, reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake 10-15 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
I tried experimenting with some different shapes, that's why they don't all have feet in the first picture!
8. If you pastry cream is cool enough, place in pastry bag using a smallish decorating tip (I used a star-shaped one with a decent-sized opening; it was big enough to insert easily into the turtles, but not so big that it did damage to the choux buns). If desired, use a small knife to slice a small hole in the back of each turtle. Insert pastry bag into this hole and squeeze until each turtle is filled with cream.
9. In a double boiler (or microwave, if you have one), melt chocolate. Once melted, place in pastry bag with small, round tip. Pipe faces onto the turtles. Ta-da! You're done! Give yourself a pat on the back--because altogether, this is not a fast process!
Thanks for reading to the end! :) Have any of you done something similar to this Bake Along? Have you personally challenged yourself to try any Bake Off recipes? I'd love to hear about them!