HOME BAKERS COLLECTIVE: JUNE PROJECT

We just passed Summer solstice. It always makes me sad, knowing that days will be getting shorter and my beloved sun will stay around less and less time each day. Covid-19 is showing its ugly face again, adding more uncertainty to a year that has been full of it from the beginning. But for every yin there is always a yang, and the month of June also brought another group challenge by the tent bakers. This time Alex Tent Baker Extraordinaire came up with the theme, and he was quite straightforward with it. Laminate something. That was his  brief. A brief brief. I loved it! I had quite a few options dancing in my mind, but quickly settled on a Brioche Feuilletée, because it is all about the lamination, no distractions from it. So, without further ado, my assignment is here for you.

BRIOCHE FEUILLETÉE
(recipe from Matt Adlard’s Bake it Better)

for the dough:
415g all-purpose flour
8g salt
50g sugar
85g eggs
153g whole milk
42g soft, unsalted butter
9g instant yeast

for the butter block:
250g unsalted butter

OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE 
(simplified version, original recipe is copyrighted)

The dough is prepared using all the ingredients and allowed to proof for one hour. It is next transferred to the fridge overnight. At that time, the butter block is made with dimensions of approximately 7 x 8 inches and also placed in the fridge.

Next day the butter block is enclosed in the dough and three folds are performed. First a double fold, the other two single folds. The dough is rolled out and cut into four strips, about 2.5 inches in width. Each strip is rolled and placed inside a loaf pan for a final proofing of 2 to 2 and a half hours.

Bake in a 325F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until deep golden. Remove from the pan and allow it to cool completely.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe overview, click here

Comments: If you want to know all the details and tips that make this recipe easier to follow, you will have to join Matt Adlard’s site. It would not be fair to publish his detailed instructions here, plus his video is a great help. I’ve been a member of his online group for a few months and highly recommend it for those interested in all areas of patisserie. I will write a full blog post about it in the near future. Not only you learn a lot, but you get to interact with a lot of cool, baking-fanatic folks. See what they bake, follow their progress, share failures and victories.


Matt bakes it in a slightly different way. He adds a baking sheet and a heavy weight to the top of the pan, so that as the dough rises during baking, it gets squished on top, ending in a cool rectangular shape, laminated on all sides, but flat. I did not have a pan with the appropriate dimensions to achieve that effect, so I went with the regular baking in which it all freely explodes upwards.


No matter how you bake it, the result will be the same: layers of buttery goodness that you roll out and enjoy. Nothing else is needed, as the bread is quite rich and indulgent as it is, but if you want to spread it with jam, more butter, clotted cream, you will not hurt my feelings. And I bet Matt will not mind a bit either.

Alex, thanks for a great challenge this month… It is hard to believe that one year ago   we were all frantically practicing for the show in our own homes, wondering  who were the other bakers, how would we get along…  Good times.

For my readers, make sure to stop by the Home Bakers Collective, to see what my friends laminated this month… If the link is not yet published, try again a little later in the day.

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, June 2019

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – July 2018

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2017

FOUR YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Falafel and a Bonus Recipe

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Toffee Banana Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, June 2014

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Baked Coconut and “The Brazilian Kitchen”

NINE YEARS AGO: Honey-Glazed Chicken Legs

TEN YEARS AGO: French-Style Rolls

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Chicken Breasts, Coffee, and Serendipity

THE HOME BAKERS COLLECTIVE: MAY PROJECT

Another month in this crazy year is coming to its end. For May, the Bakers Collective challenge was set up by Bianca (check her site with a click here). I love how she shook things up a bit. We had to bake something savory but not using yeast. It’s a nice change from sweets, and getting yeast out of the equation makes it a tad more challenging. I settled on my choice almost immediately, because I’ve been flirting with soda bread for a long time. Perfect opportunity to give it a go.

PANCH PHORAN SODA BREAD 
(from Nadiya Hussain)

for Panch Phoran mix (all as whole seeds):
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp nigella
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black mustard
1 tsp fennel seeds

for bread:
250g whole-wheat flour
250g bread flour
1 tsp fine salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp panch phoran (made from mixture above)
400ml buttermilk

Heat the oven to 400F.

Mix all seeds in a small bowl (you will have mixture leftover).

Put the flours, salt, baking soda and 1 tablespoon of five-spice mixture into a large bowl and mix well. Make a well in the center and add a little over half the buttermilk. Bring the dough together by hand, adding more of the buttermilk if needed (I used the full amount).

As soon as all the flour is absorbed and the dough comes together, lightly flour the work surface, tip the dough onto it and roll into a neat ball. Place on the baking tray. Using a sharp knife, make a cross cut almost all the way down to the bottom of the bread, but do not separate the pieces.

Bake on the middle shelf for 30 minutes, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Allow it to cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: Soda Bread does not get high marks in the beauty department, I admit. It takes rustic to unprecedented levels, but I promise you Nadiya’s version is very tasty. That mixture of spices is perfect. You can buy packages of the mixture, but it’s really quite simple to prepare it yourself, and I happened to have all those seeds already in my pantry. I had fun browsing amazon and reading the comments from people who bought the mix. Some were furious because “it does not have nearly enough fenugreek.” So if you want to make sure to use the authentic “five spice mixture”, make it yourself. I actually loved so much the flavor of this bread, that I intend to make a sourdough version using those spices. Stay tuned.

Although quick breads leavened with baking powder and with little fat in theory do not stay good for more than a day or so, I was surprised by how good the bread tasted after FOUR days once toasted. We froze half of it because with just the two of us there is a limit to how much bread we can consume. But I know I will be making this and other versions in the near future.

Bianca, thanks for such a cool challenge that made me bake something I had never baked before. I am no longer a Soda Bread Virgin!

To see what my tent-baker friends came up for their challenge, visit the Home Bakers Collective site…. (post might take a few hours to show up, so keep that in mind)

ONE YEAR AGO: Purple Star Macarons

TWO YEAR AGO: Smoked Salmon, Fait Maison

THREE YEARS AGO: Kouign-Amann, Fighting Fire with Fire

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, Yin and Yang

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Toffee Banana Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, June 2014

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Baked Coconut and “The Brazilian Kitchen”

NINE YEARS AGO: Honey-Glazed Chicken Legs

TEN YEARS AGO: French-Style Rolls

WANNA BE A TENT-BAKER?


For the past year or so I’ve been part of a closed Facebook group for fans of The Great British Bake Off. It is a very nice online community (almost 20 thousand participants) that at the present time is not accepting new members. Recently Christine, the moderator, asked me to make a video with advice for people interested in submitting an application.  I decided to share it here also, one never knows if some of my readers have been flirting with the idea of baking in the tent. Remember, it all starts with a little thought in the back of your mind… what if? why not?

For the application online, click here

In case you missed my write-ups about all episodes of Season 5…  here they are

Episode 1…

Episode 2…

Episode 3…

Episode 4…

Episode 5… 

Episode 6…

Semi-Final…

Final

EPISODE 5: CITRUS TART, NAPOLEONS AND A PERSONAL NIGHTMARE

SPOILER INSIDE!
If you have not watched the show,
save this post to read later

It was Pastry time, my friends! At the risk of sounding repetitive, I was very excited about that episode.  Once again I was happy with my signature bake and VERY happy with the Napoleons, which I made for the first time in preparation for the show.

Forgive me for taking a small detour. Over the years, as I watched The Great British Bake Off and later its American sibling show, I would be shocked when some contestants admitted in front of the cameras that they had never made… a souffle, or rough puff pastry… or… whatever it was that a technical forced them to face. And that is a criticism I see often in forums online.  People say “If it was me going into the tent, I would make sure to practice all those basic recipes, one by one.”   

So I am here to tell you why that happens.  First of all, when you submit an application, you know that the chances to actually be chosen are very slim. After my 2nd audition in Los Angeles, I was satisfied with my performance, but still not hopeful at all. I know that every person who applies feels the same, because we talk about it, many of the people I met in LA were trying for the second, third, even fourth time. So what I am trying to convey here, is that only when you are formally accepted, you get the pressure to get ready. However, the roller coaster you step into leaves you no chance of practicing for anything but the assignments for Signature Bake and Showstopper. I had no time, no opportunity, no energy to even THINK about what skills could be missing from my repertoire and asked for in a technical.  I am going to date myself big time, but have you played Tetris? You know how the more you advance the faster those stupid pieces start falling, and you cannot blink or you’ll be history? That’s a good description of what it’s like to get ready for the show. We (speaking exclusively about the Great American version) have to prepare for the whole show while in the US, as if we were all going to advance to the final. We must design and test four recipes per week, covering two episodes. It is intense, to say the least.  If you are not fully satisfied with a recipe from this week’s assignment, no time to tweak it, because the next assignment will arrive before you know it.

So now I get to the title of my post. My personal nightmare. It was the week in which I had to prepare the Citrus Tart, Napoleons & Palmiers, plus Sugar Cookies and a Tower of Macarons (!!!!).  I got the assignment on Wednesday, played a bit with ideas and practiced a tart on Thursday evening. Friday I worked in the morning and took the afternoon off. It was going to be a Napoleonic weekend. I had made puff pastry several times, but never the type needed for that pastry, because you essentially squish the pastry during baking. I made my laminated dough, and as I turned the oven on, absolutely nothing happened. The oven was DEAD. We have a BlueStar oven, and technical service is unavailable in our town. To  make a very long and very stressful story short, Phil managed to get a person to drive all the way from Kansas City on Monday to repair the oven. It took him the whole morning and part of the afternoon. So for a full weekend I had no oven and made zero progress in my preparations for the show. I was a basket case. Basket case: a term in English I find amusing. Except when it applies to my own self.

I did try to use our small Breville oven to practice, but it was just not possible to do a good job, especially considering the number of Napoleons needed and the precise dimensions. Honestly I still don’t know how I managed to finish that assignment before the deadline.

Signature Bake
DUET OF CITRUS

My tart had orange and lemon flavors together. The picture does not reflect what I hoped to bake in the tent. The final decoration would be a snowflake stencil (which I had ordered by only arrived after my practice runs) the pastry would be rolled thinner, and the layer of filling would be considerably thicker. But the taste was good, in my opinion.

Showstopper
Napoleons and Palmiers

For the showstopper I chose Napoleon in Sicily and Raspberry Candy Palmiers…  The Napoleons were filled with a coffee pastry cream and a layer of orange jelly made with agar-agar. I don’t have a picture of my palmiers, but here is what the Napoleons could look like (again, who knows what the tent could turn those into).

I haven’t made Napoleons again, but want to do so in the near future, because I really liked the way those turned out, the combination of orange and coffee was quite pleasant to me, and to those who tasted it.

Star Baker was awarded to Dana, who produced a beautiful square sour cherry tart, a great performance in the technical, and perfectly laminated dough in her Napoleons and Palmiers!  WAY TO GO, DANA!!!!

And the saddest moment could not be avoided. The baker to say goodbye to the tent was Tanya. Maybe as a viewer you don’t imagine, but when we watch the show of our elimination on TV, that very sadness of the moment comes back. Big, big time.

To be completely honest with you, I was happy to be eliminated before her, because I don’t know how I would have handled seeing her go. I met Tanya in the hotel lobby as we all had to wait several hours for our rooms to become available. We had never interacted during auditions, even though she also applied more than once, so we actually went through the process at the same time in 2018 and 2019. I immediately felt that I could sit down with her for a long coffee break, one that turns into lunch and dinner, you know the kind?  And I knew I was in front of one damn great baker, comfortable with many different areas of patisserie, including the one that inflicted the most fear on me. Yeah, THAT one. I would say that gingerbread sculptures are Tanya’s favorite thing to bake, and she is just awesome. C’mon, she made a GLOBE of gingerbread. Let that sink in for a moment…  In the tent. With cameras rolling and cameramen drooling in case the globe would roll out of the bench (well, just kidding, they were very supportive, just ready to capture drama if available).

I “borrowed” this picture from her blog, globalbakes.com, to show the kind of attention to detail and elegance she brings to her bakes. These “stained glass” pear slices took my breath away. She mentioned she was going to use them in her cheesecake, and how I wanted to see that in person! I saw on TV and I bet you did too. Just amazing, the final bit of painting gold on the edges? Brilliant (pun intended). The show skipped one amazing compliment she got from Sherry Yard, which I learned about later: Tanya, you’ve elevated cheesecake.  (oh, yes, she did!).

Not only I loved being around Tanya in the tent and hotel, but I had the chance of meeting her adorable daughter Haley and enjoying dessert together the three of us at Laduree.  Not sure that would happen without Tanya being eliminated, so it’s one of those bittersweet things that life brings me sometimes.

Before I leave you, let me share a recent post by Tanya, in which she goes after the cookie of her imagination and does not rest until she bakes it. You can learn a lot about baking just with that post alone. She left the tent carrying with her amazing compliments from Paul and Sherry, who clearly saw her elimination for what it was, just a bad baking day. Tanya: a remarkable baker, and a fantastic human being that I am so glad I had the chance to meet.

Go say hi to Tanya and give her a special virtual hug today…

ONE YEAR AGO: Brazilian Chicken and Heart of Palm Pie

TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Tahini Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: The Complicit Conspiracy of Alcohol

FOUR YEARS AGO: Candy Cane Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

SIX YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

NINE YEARS AGO: Gougeres

TEN YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

BREAD: EPISODE TWO OF THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW

SPOILERS INSIDE!
If you have not watch the show yet,
save this post for later…

For those who are not familiar with GABS, Bread is Paul Hollywood’s “thing.” Everybody who’s been on the show over the years is afraid of baking bread for him, for obvious reasons. I am not too worried about bread in general, but bread sculpture is a whole different story. I don’t like it, in fact anything with the term sculpture makes me go into hyperventilation. When I got the assignment for Bread and the showstopper was a sculpture based on the Twelve Days of Christmas I considered buying a one-way ticket to Mongolia. And some ultra-heavy coats. But before that happened in the tent, we had a signature bake and a technical.  Let’s talk about those.

SIGNATURE BAKE  

HOT’N CRUNCHY BREADSTICKS

We were supposed to present 12 breadsticks, all uniform in size, with a certain minimal length and we could make them crunchy or soft, it would be up to our personal taste. I opted for crunchy and went with a three-stranded braid, made with three different flavored doughs. Which requires me to share a very important statement with you.

The assignment was to last for 1 hour and 45 minutes. That obviously includes proofing time and baking. What possessed me to go for 12 three-stranded braided bread sticks? Honestly I don’t know. Of course, I practiced at home, I did it twice. I felt that time wise it was a bit tight, but doable. What I did not take in consideration was the Theory of Tent Relativity (TTR),  in which time shrinks at different rates depending on the Daring Factor (DF) of your bake.

I am tweaking this post after having watched the episode, so I know they did not show one particular moment in which Paul and Sherry visited my flour covered station a second time to see how things were going, and those penetrating blue eyes stared into mine and asked “do you think you have enough time to finish them?”  The look on his face left little room for doubt. He thought I was doomed. He then grabbed Sherry’s arm and told her they should leave me alone to work. And that’s when I realized I had no idea of how much time was left, but I knew the finish line was a lot closer than I hoped for. With a shiver up my spine, I tried to keep calm and braid on.

Did I say keep calm? Yeah, right. I braided like the Energizer Bunny would with a brand new battery and a full can of Red Bull. I baked those breadsticks at a higher temperature and took them out of the oven with less than 30 seconds to spare.  I was shaking inside and really upset at myself for designing a bake with such high probability of failure. Live and learn.

Now if you watch the show, you know that the REAL touchdown was scored by Tanya who got “the handshake.”  Actually, our group is doing pretty good! Handshake on the very first episode to Sarita, and again on Bread.  Tanya’s breadsticks were gorgeous, elegantly twisted, with a sprinkle of cilantro all over, and deliciously hot. Yes, we get to taste each other’s bake once it’s all said and done. Rather… done and judged!

In the future I will share a modified version of this recipe in which I dealt with the problem of excessive moisture in the Kalamata olives. Stay tuned, these breadsticks are a bit labor intensive, but I now made them five times and everybody loves them.

TECHNICAL CHALLENGE

COB LOAF

Reading the recipe, I remember feeling so good about it, I felt I was going to surf through like a pro (famous last words). It is a simple, straightforward bread, just using what seemed like a huge, almost excessive amount of herbs (it was not, it tasted amazing!). I had no issues with mixing the dough, it proofed nicely, it shaped nicely. Then, in the final last step, slashing the surface in the criss-cross pattern, Sally had a bad, very bad intuition about it. I slashed it in a way that was probably perfect, but then I went back and essentially murdered it. Why did I do that? Because I thought that cob would indicate a flattish shape, pretty much like cobblestones that covered the streets of London in the 1700’s. Brilliant. I thought I was nailing it, when instead I was adding a nice nail to my own coffin. Even when I placed my poor specimen of Cob behind my picture, I was feeling good about it. But when Paul came in and described the perfect Cob as a plump round loaf, I felt a strange coldness inside my soul. Like a Game of Thrones “Winter is Coming” sensation.  So the last in technical was not surprising. But not very easy to take either.

Not everything was bad about the technical, though. How often do you see a 4ft 11 +1/2 inch female beat a former football player in arm wrestling? There you go.

Free entertainment for the viewers, thanks to a very sneaky camera I had no idea was in play. What? You think Mr. Spice let me win? Seriously? Nah… I cannot possibly take another blow to my ego.

 

SHOWSTOPPER CHALLENGE

GOLDEN ORNAMENTS CHRISTMAS TREE

I was not looking forward to that challenge at all. Coming last in technical the afternoon before made me very anxious, I knew I had to do a good job, because a bad bread sculpture would easily destroy any good performance brought by my breadsticks. Every person who gets last in technical is immediately at risk of being eliminated, so I went into the tent with a very heavy weight on my shoulders.

At home, I practiced the sculpture three times, which meant over 13 hours devoted just to one assignment of the show. The rings went from full braids to twists, back to double braids, the way to shape them and proof them was also a bit tricky. I wanted them to look as proportional as possible to the tree.

The tree posed problems to bake perfectly. That component I made in fact five times at home, trying to get a good balance of taste and proper texture for it to stand up. Not easy, and don’t think I got there at showtime. And the ring bases in the show could have a lot more fruit, but at least it allowed me to pass safely through another episode.

Sherry liked that the sculpture had movement, as the rings kind of bounced a bit as I walked to the stand. That bit did not make it in the final edition of the show, but it will stay in my mind as a gentle pat in the back.

And with that we come to the person being eliminated second.

My very dear Carlos, fellow South-American, kind, warm-hearted and oh-so-witty! Carlos brightened up our time in the tent and the very long hours off-filming hanging together in what could be called “the green room.” He always came up with ways to pass the time. For instance the first time we were sitting in those stools waiting for the technical judgment in CAKE, we were sitting there for a long time. Staring at our photos standing in front of us over the bench. So Carlos starts making up captions for the photos, trying to decide what each person looked like. It was hilarious and he hit all very very well. Here is mine:  Hollistic Alternative Medicine Therapist!  Me, of all people!  But I gotta admit, he hit it perfectly. Here are the others so you can pay attention next time the show is on…. Helen is running for Office…. Dana is running for City Council… Tanya hosts a Farm to Table Blog…. Marissa is ASB President….  Alex depicts the best Linkedln profile picture… Brother Andrew is a Missionary to indigenous unreached peoples, and Carlos (according to Marissa) is a contributor to High Times Magazine…

So, as you can see, we found plenty of ways to keep ourselves entertained, and Carlos was a huge part of it. He started his food blog recently, where he mixes recipes with pretty deep thoughts about himself and the world. A unique guy that I am so glad I had the chance to meet. I always tell him he could be a fantastic writer for stand-up comedian acts. We, and almost all bakers in the group have kept in touch pretty much daily since we left London, and there is not a day that goes by without Carlos making me laugh with a remark about something, from stuff that happened in the tent to things we are exchanging about our current bakes.  I feel lucky to be part of this small community of baker-addicts.  Yeah, that’s what we are…. Carlos, it was very sad to see you leave the tent… You are my favorite male Peruvian baker on this season! (wink, wink)

ONE YEAR AGO: Apple and Sobacha Caramel Dome Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Cocktail Spiced Nuts

THREE YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

FOUR YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

SIX YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Homemade Calziones

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

NINE YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

TEN YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye