My First Technical Challenge

I didn’t mind in the least that the Great British Bake Off started with biscuit week. Apparently some viewers were upset. They felt that it should have been cake week first. I don’t understand. I don’t give a flying fig what they started with, it’s a baking show for goodness sake. I have to admit I am a little worried that Noel Fielding is slowly morphing into Clare Balding. The new “do” is disconcerting but I still adore you Noel. Anyway, I digress.

I watched the show, still feeling a little bit sad. I wished with all my heart I could have been amongst those nervous but assured contestants. I watched intently as they made regional biscuits, the standards were high, I was impressed. During the commercial break I made coffee and my husband and I sampled the Chai Latte cupcakes I had made earlier. Then came the technical challenge. Paul had set them a corker. They had to make wagon wheels from scratch. Mmm tricky, I thought to myself. They had to make their own biscuits, marshmallow and jam, all in a couple of hours! Not surprisingly they all struggled to produce a passable result. Some of the wheels looked like they had fallen off the wagon, been trampled on by the horse, then rolled into a muddy ditch!! Finally they were tasked with producing a show-stopping selfie in biscuit form. These were all pretty good. Basically I enjoyed the show, as I always do. It was a good start to the series. As we get to know the contestants better and their personalities begin to show through I enjoy it even more.

So now it was time to decide what I was going to make from the show. I ruled out the biscuit selfie straight away. A likeness of my visage drawn clumsily onto fondant icing would not be appetising. I asked my husband Vern. He insisted it had to be the wagon wheels. Inwardly I groaned, they had looked so fiddly. But I could change them up, make them taste amazing. I gave it some thought, researched some recipes, wrote down some flavour combinations and shopped for a few unusual ingredients which didn’t appear in the extensive contents of my kitchen cupboards. Liquid glucose? No, me neither.

I started with the biscuits. I used a shortbread recipe from one of Paul Hollywood’s books. I make these all the time, my family love them. The whole house smells amazing when it’s in the oven. This time though I added some almond extract and baked them a little longer than usual to make them more robust so hopefully they wouldn’t crumble when handled.  I cut them into quite large rounds as I wanted them to be big, two-handers, like wagon wheels used to be when I was a kid.

While they were cooling I started on my marshmallow. I was expecting it to be really complicated but, although time-consuming, it was actually pretty simple and tasted amazing. I dissolved 400g of caster sugar and one tablespoon of liquid glucose in 200ml of water, stirring all the time until it came to the boil. Then I boiled it until it reached 120 degrees. For this you need a sugar thermometer, which I bought quite cheaply online. Now I had to multi task. While the sugar syrup was coming up to temperature I whisked two egg whites in my stand mixer until they were frothy, then increased the speed until they were thick and fluffy. At one point I thought I had taken them too far but I decided to push on and see what happened. Once the syrup was at temperature I trickled it slowly into the egg whites as they were beating. To my amazement the mixture slowly transformed into glossy, thick marshmallow! I kept it mixing for a good six to eight minutes then added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Next I popped it into a piping bag and topped half of the biscuits with a thick layer. Now this recipe makes a lot of marshmallow. I filled two jars with the leftovers which I will use to fill or frost cakes or just to spread on toast. I would probably just halve the recipe next time.

Now, I have to confess, I didn’t make my own jam. I’m currently working on a rainbow cake for a family birthday and I just didn’t have the time to be cooking fruit so I bought some good quality black cherry jam and used it to sandwich the marshmallow and biscuits together. I then chilled them in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm everything up. Finally it was time to give them their chocolatey coating. I melted two big bars of 70% dark chocolate and added a small knob of butter. The butter helps to keep the chocolate shiny and makes it just a little bit softer so its easier to eat. Now, it pays to use a deep bowl for the dipping process so that when you drop the biscuit in it covers the bottom and sides, then all you have to do is flip it over and cover the other side. I used two forks to lower the biscuit in and carefully lift it back out onto a cooling rack. You could put them into the fridge to set the chocolate but I find this can make the chocolate go dull so I let them set at room temperature. Once they set I let Vern taste one. He commented that the almond flavour wasn’t strong enough and I have to admit it got a bit lost in the shortbread, so I would maybe add it to the marshmallow next time instead. Other than that, he declared them “awesome”, high praise coming from my toughest critic. I call them Cherry Bakewheels, however, I can’t take credit for coming up with that name, my mum thought of it. Thanks mum!

So overall, I’m very happy with how they turned out. They are generous, indulgent treats which can be adapted to suit all tastes and they certainly look impressive to serve to guests, although some people might struggle to eat a whole one. image_557435752830059Next time I will try adding peanut butter instead of jam and coating with milk chocolate. I’m not a fan of white chocolate but raspberry jam and ginger biscuits would go beautifully with it. If you are thinking that making your own marshmallows is too much of a faff, the shop bought marshmallow fluff would be a quick and easy substitute, but I promise, if you have the time, it’s really worth while having a go.

All in all, my first technical challenge was a resounding success. Trust me, not all my baking sessions end well, but I keep coming back for more because I love creating something which my family can enjoy. Stay tuned for my next instalment when I will bake something from the second episode of GBBO and share the results with you.

Thanks for reading. x




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