This post is part of my personal challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the technical challenge for week seven (patisserie week) of series two: iced fingers.
As food personalities go, Paul Hollywood arouses some controversy. There are those who see him as a silver fox and melt in the intensity of his steely blue-eyed stare. His sometimes harsh criticism of the contestants’ bakes just fans the flames of their passion as they consider the challenge of pleasing him. Rightly, they point out that his praise is even more precious given how critical he can be, especially since he tends to judge contestants according to professional standards (even though it’s meant to be an amateur baking competition). Even in the ill-starred US version, The American Baking Competition, which was more or less a farcical parody of everything that makes the Great British Bake-Off, well, great (read into that what you will), the women contestants were going gooey over Paul. To others, Hollywood is a rude, callous, even bullying, blowhard who shot out of nowhere (it was a particular complaint with the first series) and sticks his fingers into people’s bakes for no real reason and likes to contradict Saint Mary of Berry just because. (If you’re in the latter camp, you should definitely listen to his Desert Island Discs interview, which shows a very different side to the picky judge of the competition).
But however you feel about Paul Hollywood, you definitely, definitely have to make his iced finger recipe, which he set as a technical challenge in series two of GBBO. Because they are absolutely nothing short of miraculously delicious.
I grew up in Singapore, and a particular feature of ice cream stalls was the selling of ice cream sandwiches: not scoops of ice cream nestled between two crunchy biscuits, which is usually how ice cream sandwiches are presented, but placed between a pastel rainbow-coloured slice of soft, almost crustless, bread. The idea of eating this never appealed to me and to be honest I was similarly put off by the concept of an iced finger. Cream and jam on a scone: yes. Between soft, slightly sweet enriched bread drizzled with water icing? I wasn’t sure. I was wrong.
The firm, yet pillowy bread contrasts beautifully with the softness of the cream and the jam cuts through the plainness of both. The icing adds a touch of additional sweetness to the bread which harmonises the whole thing and turns it into a teatime treat rather than a bread. You need to make this – it was hearty and substantial yet sweet and light: perfect. Given the time of year, could there be a better time to indulge than Christmas morning? Helpfully, no crazy or expensive ingredients or niche bakeware is required.
Call me if you make them. I’ll come over.
Paul Hollywood’s iced fingers
Via the BBC Food website
For the dough
- 500g strong white flour
- 50g caster sugar
- 40g unsalted butter, softened
- 2 free-range eggs
- 2 x 7g sachets instant yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 150ml warm milk
- 140ml water
For the icing
- 200g icing sugar
- 5 tsp cold water
For the filling
- 200ml whipping cream
- 100g strawberry jam
- icing sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 220C.
- To make the dough, place all the ingredients into a large bowl, holding back a quarter of the water. Stir the mixture with your hands, then slowly add the remaining water to form a dough and knead in the bowl for four minutes.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for one hour. If your house is cold it will take longer, and enriched dough rises more slowly anyway.
- Divide the dough into 12 pieces, each about 70g, then roll into balls and shape into fingers about 13cm long.
- Place the dough fingers onto a greased baking tray (or trays, in my case), leaving space for them to double in size, then set aside in a warm place for 40 minutes. They should just touch each other when they’ve risen. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then set them aside to cool.
- For the icing, sift the icing sugar in a wide bowl and gradually stir in the cold water to form a thick paste. Do this slowly as it shouldn’t be too runny.
- Dip the top of the cooled fingers into the icing, smoothing it with your finger, then leave to set on a wire rack.
- Lightly whip the cream and spoon it into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle. Spoon the strawberry jam into another piping bag. Sliced the iced fingers horizontally, leaving one long edge intact. Pipe in a generous line of whipped cream into the middle of each finger, then a thinner line of jam. If you really don’t want to do any piping you can just spread…decadent.
- Dust the iced fingers with icing sugar and serve.