Quite a chal­lenge

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - By IVY SOON

I had to change two things out of ne­ces­sity. For the eyes of the pea­cock’s feath­ers, Ruby uses mini choco­late eggs, which she paints with food colour­ing.

Since I couldn’t find them, I made lit­tle disks with the coloured dough used for the dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments.

The other di­ver­gence was in the plaits that formed the plumage. In the recipe, nine plaits are ar­ranged like ques­tion marks around the body, but the strands puffed up so quickly – prob­a­bly due to the amount of in­stant yeast in it and our warm weather – that I could fit in only eight of them.

And that’s where I would do things dif­fer­ently if I didn’t have to fol­low the recipe per­fectly. I would cer­tainly use a lot less yeast (the recipe calls for 14g) and let the dough proof overnight in the fridge, but I guess with the cooler tem­per­a­ture in Bri­tain and fourhour time limit for the chal­lenge, the bread needed that ex­tra yeasty boost.

It was a proud dough bird that emerged from the oven. I will ad­mit, I felt the same.

Slight wob­bles

JANE and In­dra’s ob­ses­sion with this show is kind of a given since they bake breads and cakes, and are al­ways ex­per­i­ment­ing with new recipes.

As the hap­less non-baker in the group, I watched the show more in awe and some­times horror (at how hard some of the chal­lenges are).

I em­pathise fully with par­tic­i­pants when things go awry be­cause I have lived through too many bak­ing dis­as­ters.

When we de­cided to do a bake-off chal­lenge, I Googled the par­tic­i­pants’ recipes, scrolled through them and de­cided I couldn’t pos­si­bly man­age even one.

As par­tic­i­pants, they were out to show the judges their skills and bril­liance, and so they used in­gre­di­ents like el­der­flower and laven­der, and tech­niques that I couldn’t pos­si­bly grasp. No one just bakes a cake or a tart or a loaf of bread; there has to be a lit­tle or lots of some­thing ex­tra.

So, on the hand­i­cap of still not hav­ing fig­ured out some­thing as ba­sic as beat­ing eggs and su­gar till “light and fluffy”, I opted to at­tempt one of the judges’ recipes.

I tried Mary Berry’s citron tart, but the pas­try col­lapsed. Then, I tried Paul Hol­ly­wood’s cus­tard tarts. It was mostly be­cause the in­gre­di­ents seemed most man­age­able – eggs, milk, flour, su­gar. The only in­gre­di­ent I didn’t have was nut­meg, which In­dra sup­plied.

What I didn’t re­alise when I was check­ing out the judges’ recipes online was that the cus­tard tart was one of the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges. When I watched that episode, I was a lit­tle, ac­tu­ally a lot, wor­ried be­cause most of the par- tic­i­pants failed mis­er­ably at mak­ing th­ese tarts.

But since I had the full recipe, I thought I’d do bet­ter. Ev­ery­thing went well till I tried to roll out the pas­try be­tween two sheets of bak­ing pa­per. De­spite leav­ing it in the fridge for half an hour, the dough was too soft and stuck to the bak­ing pa­per. So, I scraped up the gooey mess and threw it back into the freezer for another half an hour.

It was still not easy rolling out the dough, and I think I ended up sprin­kling flour a lit­tle too lib­er­ally.

But that en­abled me to re­move the rolled out disc of dough from the bak­ing pa­per, and trans­fer it to the muf­fin tray (though not ex­actly smoothly).

The re­ward for my pan­icky morn­ing was wob­bly cus­tard in crisp tart shells. I ate two while they were still warm and aro­matic, but I doubt I’ll make th­ese again. It was too trau­matic rolling out that soft pas­try. I have even more ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect for the Bake Off par­tic­i­pants now as it must be a hun­dred times more stress­ful un­der that tent.

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