Baking challenge: tea party in the sun

I’m a bit behind on posting up my progress on my personal baking challenge. For the final challenge for the series one challenges, I baked up a tea party’s worth of treats for some friends, which we enjoyed in my sun-dappled flat sometime in July. In the meantime I’ve been on holiday and when I returned it was raining heavily. However, a tea party in the rain could be just as good. Especially as, when I made everything, it was extremely hot and actually a little uncomfortable to bake so much. However, it did mean the bread rose incredibly fast.

The final challenge (and also Finals challenge) for the first series of the Great British Bake Off was to make brown and white bread for sandwiches; a miniature pastry; and scones, all coming together in a traditional afternoon tea. I made cucumber and ham and cheese sandwiches, using Nigella Lawson’s recipes for bread; chocolate meringue tartlets; and maple scones (a North American twist on a British invention to be sure). The maple scones were the standout hit; when I baked them, my friend exclaimed “what is this amazing smell filling the room?” With so many baked goods, there were leftovers, which tasted fine the next day, even the scones.

Series four of the Great British Bake-off is now showing, and I caught up on the first episode yesterday (I was away when it first aired) (also, some spoilers below). I was surprised at how simple the first challenges were after the technically demanding and complex challenges of series three (sandwich cake, angel food cake, chocolate cake for series four, versus upside down cake, rum baba and hidden design cake in series three). Maybe the show wants to go a bit more ‘back to basics’? Or maybe they were running out of ideas for challenges – there is, perhaps, a limit on how you can challenge people with cake. Still, despite the simplicity, there were quite a few screw-ups as people struggled under the challenge of time pressure, cameras and (probably) little sleep. Paul was up to his usual antics, and if anything seemed to be playing up to type more than ever: he criticised the concept of a grapefruit cake (why? grapefruit is delicious!) and then said “annoyingly, I really like that”, which is a line he pulled when judging a bacon, peanut butter and chocolate pie for the American Baking Competition, the US version of GBBO. The space engineer who was Star Baker was amazing: the chocolate cigarettes he made looked stunning.

 

Maple scones
Slightly adapted from The Wednesday Chef

  • 130g whole wheat plain flour
  • 120g plain white flour
  • 35g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 85g chopped, toasted pecans (I toast them for about 6 minutes in the preheating oven)
  • 80ml maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-3 TBS milk
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  1. Preheat oven to 200C. In a bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender, two knives in scissor fashion or by rubbing in using the tips of your finger and pad of your thumb, cut or rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs.
  2. Mix in the cooled nuts. Lightly beat the egg, maple syrup and maple extract together and mix in. Add just enough milk, a tablespoon at a time, so that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Flour your hands and pat the dough into a round, 20cm disk (you can make this slightly easier by drawing a 20cm circle on the parchment paper with a pencil and then flipping upside down; you’ll see the outline through the paper). Using a sharp knife, cut down all the way into eigt wedges but don’t separate them out
  3. Bake about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. It will be quite soft. Let it cool five minutes, then remove from the baking sheet and cut into wedges along the lines you marked earlier. Eat hot or warm.

Chocolate meringue tartlets
Adapted from Pittsburgh Needs Eated

You will need about 10-12 mini tartlet tins of between 8-10cm

For the pastry:

  • 115g butter, cold, cubed
  • 230g plain flour
  • 1 TBS caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3-4 TBS cold water
  1. Combine the flour, salt and caster sugar, if using, in a bowl. Rub or cut in the butter, either using a pastry cutter or your fingertips (rubbing your fingertips against the pad of your thumb) until the butter resembles large flakes, like porridge oats
  2. Mix in the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing carefully into the flour each time, until the pastry come together. A very few crumbs is okay. Pat the pastry together into a ball, divide into two and wrap each ball of pastry in clingfilm. Chill until required, but at least 30 minutes. (You can make the filling now)
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the pastry until about 2-3mm thick. Lightly grease the tartlet tins. Cut out circles of pastry to fit the tins and press into the tins. Prick the base with a fork. Cut out pieces of baking paper, scrunch them up and then flatten them out again and place them in the pastry-lined tins. Fill each pastry tins with baking beans and bake blind in the oven until golden, 15-20 mins. Once finished, remove the paper and baking beans.

For the filling:

  • 170g dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 60g caster sugar
  • raspberry jam and freeze-dried raspberries to decorate, optional
  1. Beat the egg whites together on medium speed with the cream of tartar, vanilla extract and salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the sugar and continue to beat until the whites are stuff but not dry.
  2. Pour the melted chocolate over the egg whites and fold in. I only folded this in a few times to get the rippled effect between chocolate and meringue. If you want an even brown colour, fold for a slightly longer time.
  3. Once the tart crusts are ready, spoon the filling equally into each one, making sure the batter reaches the crust around the edges. Return to the oven and bake until the filling is dry, about 10 minutes. It may have slightly cracked on top, which is fine. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack, removing them from the tins once cool enough to handle.
  4. If desired, decorate by dipping a pastry brush into some seedless raspberry jam, painting a sweep over the cooled meringue and scattering with freeze-dried raspberries (the jam is just to make them stick)

White bread
From How to be a Domestic Goddess (very minor adaptations and instructions in my words)
You will need: a large loaf tin, greased with olive oil

  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra to knead
  • 7g dried yeast (easy blend is easiest, as the name suggests as it doesn’t require activating)
  • 1 TBS sea salt or 1/2 TBS fine salt
  • Approximately 300ml water
  • 1 TBS unsalted butter, melted
  1. Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a bowl. Pour in 200ml water, mixing it in as you do with a spoon or your hands (hands is easier!). You may need to add more water to make it all come together. Mix in the butter.
  2. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about ten minutes until the dough is springy and elastic and smooth and shiny and loveliness. If it’s too wet, add a little more flour, and if too dry, a little water, but remember, a slightly wetter bread dough is better than a too-dry one (truth!)
  3. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough so it is greased all over). Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm-ish, draft-free place for about two hours, until doubled in size. Do check after an hour though as sometimes they can rise quite quickly.
  4. Preheat oven to 220C. Once doubled, punch the dough down, knead lightly for a minute and fold into a loaf that will fit in the loaf tin. Try to avoid visible seams – if there is one at the bottom pinch it together until as smooth as possible. Place seam-side down into the loaf tin and cover loosely with the clingfilm for half an hour (or more if your room is on the colder side) until puffed up and almost doubled in size). Just before popping in the oven, whisk off the clingfilm and dust the top of the loaf with flour to give a lovely caramelised-flour top.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes until cooked through. To test, flip the bread out of the loaf pan (wear oven gloves!) and tap it on the bottom; it should sound hollow. If it doesn’t, pop it back in the oven for 5-10 minutes (without putting it back in the tin). When ready, remove to a rack and let cool completely (out of the loaf tin, again)

Brown bread
From How to be a Domestic Goddess

  • 200g rye flour
  • 200g wholewheat bread flour
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 7g easy-blend yeast
  • 1 TBS sea salt or 1/2 TBS fine salt
  • 1 TBS melted butter
  • 300-400ml water
  1. Mix the flours, yeast and salt together in a bowl. Pour in 300ml water, mixing it in as you do with a spoon or your hands (hands is easier!). You may need to add more water to make it all come together, and the brown bread may take much more water than the white above. Mix in the butter.
  2. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about ten minutes until the dough is springy and elastic and smooth and shiny and loveliness. If it’s too wet, add a little more flour, and if too dry, a little water, but remember, a slightly wetter bread dough is better than a too-dry one.
  3. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough so it is greased all over). Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm-ish, draft-free place for about two hours, until doubled in size. Do check after an hour though as sometimes they can rise quite quickly.
  4. Preheat oven to 200C. Once doubled, punch the dough down, knead lightly for a minute and fold into a loaf that will fit in the loaf tin. Try to avoid visible seams – if there is one at the bottom pinch it together until as smooth as possible. Place seam-side down into the loaf tin and cover loosely with the clingfilm for half an hour (or more if your room is on the colder side) until puffed up and almost doubled in size). Just before popping in the oven, whisk off the clingfilm.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes until cooked through. To test, flip the bread out of the loaf pan (wear oven gloves!) and tap it on the bottom; it should sound hollow. If it doesn’t, pop it back in the oven for 5-10 minutes (without putting it back in the tin). When ready, remove to a rack and let cool completely (out of the loaf tin, again)
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4 thoughts on “Baking challenge: tea party in the sun

  1. I love tea parties! Looks like you went through quite a bit of effort – you even made the bread which I am in complete awe of. My skill with yeast is non existent. 😦 Very impressed.

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