Quite a challenge
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.
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.