If you’re one of the 13 million fans of The Great British Baking Show or GBBS on PBS then you’ll get this and might have even done it yourself.
I’m hooked, follow along each week and fall in love with the bakers. I feel their pain when there’s a disaster in the kitchen. I admire them for making their signature bakes, blind technical challenges, and showstoppers on a time limit in front of a camera. I couldn’t do it, no way and I’m a pretty experienced cook/baker.
So, for fun I thought I’d put myself through the GBBS tech challenges.
Let’s get to a few things straight right off the bat. It’s not a true challenge. I know that.
I have clear advantages. From the start, I know what the challenge is. My recipe isn’t stripped down. I know what it’s *supposed” to look like. I’ve seen others make it with successes and failures.
And here’s why all that doesn’t matter. You can give the same recipe to 12 (in this case 13) different people and 12/13 different results get churned out.
I’m giving myself the same time limit that the bakers get. I know, I know – I’m in the comfort of my own home without a TV crew or judges in my face asking me unnerving questions to shatter my already fragile confidence. So, again, an advantage, but I still thought this would/could be fun. I just want to see if I can produce something anywhere close to what Paul and Mary would approve of and/or what it should look like. We shall see.
This week’s challenge was Mary’s Walnut Layer Cake. A sponge, with buttercream filling, caramelized walnuts, and meringue icing. I’ve made cakes with walnuts in them, I’ve made buttercream, I’ve caramelized nuts and made meringue icing. This should be easy…right? I have 1 hour and 45 minutes to get it done. Time starts now – BAAAAAKE.
First almost disaster – only put three eggs in the batter instead of four – saw the lone egg before I added the flour mixture – disaster averted.
2nd batch of walnuts look pretty good –1st batch was a sticky, glob of a mess.
54:22 to go – cakes are out. While they were baking I made the buttercream and stuck it in the fridge. Next is the cooked icing – fingers crossed.
I started the meringue icing before I spread the buttercream on the layers – CRAP. Now the buttercream is a little to cold to spread, and the layers aren’t totally cool yet.
This on the clock thing is praying on my mind. I feel like I have to get it all done…NOW. Which is so wrong as I’ve seen in many episodes.
Also, I was so worried about the cooked icing that I spread the buttercream on the warmish layers and watched them slide – aaand, I put the top layer on upside down. Now I've got something that looks like it belongs in a Whoville bakery, not the gingham alter.
While trying to check the consistency of my marshmallowy icing – I lifted the whisk [electric] still whisking away and gave myself, and the surrounding area a nice sticky shower. I needed a set of tiny windshield washers for my glasses. I’m nervous for no reason – I’M NOT BEING JUDGED.
So now I’m scared ABOUT the time, and scared OF the icing and Mary and Paul [who don’t exist in my kitchen]. I toyed with the idea of taking the icing off the hot water and continue whisking it until it cools – that’s the way I’ve made this stuff before – heat and whisk until the egg whites are a little frothy and the sugar is dissolved – Igotthis.Iknowthis.
Well I didn’t do that.
I decided to continue on with the disaster in the bowl and once again, sprayed myself and kitchen with the now gooey, runny white stuff [wish I took a picture to show the hilarity of it]. I even had time to redo the icing, but for some reason the idea of being on the clock made me forget all sense of any baking technique. I was in grab, go, goop, momentum, all because of the DAMN CLOCK.
I completed the challenge with 16:31 minutes to spare, but I could have used the time better – I need better time management - I screwed up the easiest tech challenge.
Verdict – the cake turned out okay. There were a few larger pieces of walnuts in there [which I didn’t mind, [but old blue eyes probably would have had something to say]. I thought it was on the tough side, possibly over cooked. My layers were even. The buttercream was fine, but due to spreading it on warmish layers, it eeked out of the edges.
The second batch of walnuts were, also, fine. But I placed them wrong on the cake [again, I even knew how they should have been placed]. I tried to move them around, but they left funny marks. The cooked icing? Effing disaster. A Runny, grainy, mess.
To put my tech challenge in perspective [with my other contestants] - my walnut cake was most like Stu’s on the icing side and Ian’s on the cake side. I had height, I had even layers, I had decent butter cream, some larger chunks of walnuts and grainy icing. I think I’d have been 11th in the challenge. That was Stu. He went home.
I’m already nervous for next week’s challenge. I had no pressure except the timer on my iPhone and that’s what I turned out? I DON’T know how they do it.