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Swiss roll

27 Jan

Swiss roll

It took a few tries before I got the knack of making a Swiss roll, and could tick the next item on the Great British Bake-off signature bake list.

A few things I learned the hard way:

  1. Unless you whip eggs and sugar together until they have tripled in volume, your sponge will resemble an omelette in texture. (That one went straight in the bin.)
  2. Do not over-cook the sponge, or it will not roll without cracking. (I converted that one into a flat, mangled Victoria sponge.)
  3. Do not over-fill the sponge (or spread the filling too close to the edges) – all that extra filling just oozes out the end of the roll (and was dolloped on top when I sliced and served it.)

The fourth one worked like a charm…;-) Continue reading

Date squares

19 Dec

date squares

Each December I faithfully reproduce the traditional family Christmas baking, and each year the ghost of Christmas past haunts my efforts.

The shortbread, cherry slice, butterscotch fudge and nanaimo bars are never as good as I remember them tasting in my childhood.

The only exception to this slightly depressing state of affairs are the date squares. Continue reading

Lemon meringue pie

24 Nov

Lemon meringue pie

Next on my belated list of Great British Bake-off signature bakes is a classic lemon meringue pie.

Where I grew up, most restaurants (at least the kind my family ate in), had at least three types of pie on offer.

Apple, cherry, blueberry, pumpkin, raisin, bumbleberry, saskatoon, rhubarb, pecan, peach… I’d happily order any of them, but if lemon meringue pie was on the menu, they wouldn’t get a look in.

After reviewing several recipes, I settled on this one from The Great British Book of Baking, which was published to accompany the first series of the Great British Bake-Off.

Sweet shortcrust pastry, a tangy lemon filling you could stand a fork in, and pillowy French meringue – it looked and tasted like the lemon meringue pie of my childhood. Works for me.

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Danish pastries

15 Nov

danish-pastry

I was genuinely intimidated by the thought of making Danish pastry from scratch. So much so that it knocked my Great British Bake-off cook-a-long right on the head.

But one of the things children excel at is reminding you of those promises you’d just as soon forget, and there was no way I was getting out of this one.

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Yorkshire pudding

28 Sep

Yorkshire pudding

When I was a little girl, my dad cooked a roast dinner every Sunday. Gradually, he stopped  – maybe roasts got too expensive, or family schedules too complicated, I don’t know. But I do remember years where Sunday night meant The Wonderful World of Walt Disney, roast beef, and bath-before-bed.

We were a meat-and-four-veg family  – typically potatoes, beans, corn and carrots, but sometimes squash, peas, beets, broccoli, spinach or chard featured instead. Whatever the vegetable, it was always boiled or steamed.

But I couldn’t have cared less about roast meat or boiled veg – for me, that dinner was all about the Yorkshire pudding. Never mind that dad’s Yorkshire puddings were often the size and density of hockey pucks – they were utterly delicious, and capable of holding a generous splash of gravy.

While I now know that airy puff is what you’re aiming for with Yorkshire puddings, I retain a fondness for the dense little numbers of my childhood. (I’ve noticed many recipes call for twice the number of eggs dad used, which would no doubt make a difference to the rise.) Continue reading

Chocolate babka

25 Sep

chocolate-babka

The moment I saw those Great British Bake-off contestants tackling chocolate bread, I knew I’d be making chocolate babka.

I first heard of chocolate babka in that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine fail to buy one for a dinner party, but have never made – or eaten – any type of babka until now.

It turns out that making babka is a time-consuming, fiddly labour of love. Part way through the bread-braiding process, I thought “this is the first and last chocolate babka I’m going to make.”

And then I tasted that pillowy sweet dough laced with swirls and knots of chocolate and nuggets of toasted pecan. If I hadn’t been stupified by deliciousness, I could have happily started making another one immediately…;-)

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Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger biscuits)

7 Sep

Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger biscuits)

“Oh, reindeer biscuits!” my daughter said when she saw these cooling on the rack. “Are they for Christmas?” “They’re moose biscuits,” I told her, “and they’re for the Great British Bake-off biscuit week.”

Why moose biscuits? Because I’m a proud, moose-loving Canadian, of course. (And also because it’s the only non-Christmas-shaped biscuit cutter I own…)

When making cut-out biscuits, it’s important to choose the right sort of dough. It’s dispiriting to go to the effort to cut out little bells and Christmas trees, say, and end up with indistinguishable, amorphous blobs.

Of the three go-to biscuit doughs I use to make cut-out biscuits, this pepparkakor one is my favourite. It hardly spreads at all during baking, and the resulting biscuits are fragrantly spiced, and satisfyingly crisp.

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