My Great British Baking Show Challenge!

I recently finished watching the entire first season of The Great British Baking Show. I generally dislike cooking/baking reality shows, but this one is everything I could ever want. I love the hosts and the contestants; it’s not overly competitive or sensational; and it’s amongst home bakers, who I can actually relate to.

I feel so inspired to do more baking, and to challenge myself to try different recipes and techniques. When I saw that a number of the recipes from the show are available online, I knew that I had to try them.

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I decided to start with the technical challenge from Episode 1. The contestants all made judge Mary Berry’s Classic Cherry Cake with Lemon Icing. There were a few challenges along the way, including getting the cakes out of the bundt pans, making candied cherries, caster sugar, and self-rising flour, and perfecting the consistency of the icing.

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If you’d like to see how I did, check out the video!

Here’s the recipe, from Mary Berry. I’ll copy it down below, in case the link isn’t permanent. Just remember to generously butter your pan!

Cherry Cake with Drizzle Icing

Ingredients

  • 200g (7oz) red glace cherries (see notes below)
  • 225g (8oz) self-raising flour (see notes below)
  • 175g (6oz) softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 175g (6oz) caster sugar (see notes below)
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 50g (1¾oz) ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs
  • For the decoration:
  • 175g (6oz) icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 15g (½oz) flaked almonds, toasted
  • 5 red glace cherries (quartered)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 23cm/9in bundt tin or savarin mould with butter.
  2. Cut the cherries into quarters. Set aside five of the quartered cherries for the decoration later. Put the rest of the quartered cherries in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper and toss in two tablespoons of the flour.
  3. Measure all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and beat well for two minutes to mix thoroughly. Lightly fold in the cherries. Turn into the prepared tin.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until well risen, golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.
  5. For the icing, mix the icing sugar together with the lemon juice to a thick paste. Drizzle over the cooled cake using the back of a spoon, sprinkle over the toasted almonds and reserved cherries.

Notes:
This recipe makes candied cherries from maraschino cherries. I used it as a guide for candying my jarred cherries. This is a recipe for candying fresh cherries.

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This article explains how to make your own self-rising flour.

If you don’t have caster sugar, you can pulse granulated sugar in the food processor until it’s a little finer. Then measure out the 175 grams.

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Letting go

[Disclaimer: I wrote this a couple months ago. I don’t know if it’s still relevant to me, but maybe it will be relevant to someone. I apologize for posting a summer recipe in the first days of fall. But this recipe is a keeper – if you find yourself with some juicy berries or ripe stone fruits, give it a whirl.]

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I noticed that when I’m knitting, I make a lot of unnecessary movements with my hands – holding the yarn in place, trying to ensure that it doesn’t slip off the needle. I’m trying to be aware when I can let a little something go. It’s amazing what a difference these tiny adjustments can make.

I’m thinking a lot about letting go these days. Lots of changes in my life means working hard to remember that change doesn’t have to mean losing something. Every experience remains a part of your story. I don’t need to clench my fists tight around the past in order to keep it with me.

Sometimes in a yoga class, Continue reading “Letting go”

Plum Dessert for One

You can learn so much about a person just by seeing what he/she eats. It can tell you about someone’s heritage or their stress level; it can tell you what makes them feel comforted or what inspires them; it can tell you about who they’ve known or where they’ve been. It’s the way people take care of themselves. It fascinates me.

The way people feed themselves when they are alone can be particularly interesting. If you’re similarly nosy curious, I highly recommend the book Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. It’s a book of short personal stories by all these wonderful writers about the weird, random, embarrassing, and/or comforting ways that they feed themselves when they’re not feeding or impressing anyone else.

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So here’s a glimpse into what I made myself one quiet night at home. I had the baking itch, but no one to share treats with. I also had some plums sitting around from a slightly disappointing batch I had bought earlier in the week, so I was inspired to turn them into a mini fruit crumble. Continue reading “Plum Dessert for One”

Baking Again in My Fair City

After one train ride, two flights, three taxis, one shuttle, and one heart-racing drive through a flash flood…I’m home!

I settled into a temporary apartment in Madison, and have been spending every day on the job hunt. And then yesterday, I embraced my current joblessness (after dropping off a couple apps in the morning) and had a lovely, sunny, lazy Madison summer day.

First stop in the morning was the farmers’ market. I have been excited for this all summer! Wednesday’s is not as big as the city’s amazing Saturday market all around the capital square, but I love being able to wander through the two rows of vendors and compare all the products.

I should really bring less cash next time, because I cannot resist all those veggies! My only big splurge, though, was 2 pints of raspberries.

Continue reading “Baking Again in My Fair City”

Banana Mandel Bread

So, I’m a college student – I study important things and allow myself to believe that my classmates and I will be the ones to change the world. But sometimes, when I get home from the grocery store, tie on my apron, and stare into my cabinet with four different kinds of flour, I feel a little bit like a housewife.

I usually embrace it. Putting on my apron and pretending that my only worry is how my cake will turn out is pretty fun. And I know my roommate doesn’t mind the slightly 1950s-esque image of me pulling fresh cookies out of the oven as she gets home from class. (I guess a good housewife would cook more wholesomely– I use a little too much butter and sugar.)

Today, though, I’m all done with classes, so I have been cooking and cleaning all day and it’s freaking me out a little. Plus I’ve been in the kitchen all afternoon making mandel bread – so…. yes, I’m becoming a Jewish housewife. I guess I just have to come to terms with that. I did stop myself from putting my apron on today because it just would have been too much.

Continue reading “Banana Mandel Bread”

Cha Cha and Apple Bread

I take a dance class every Thursday night. I started last semester, and I totally love it. It’s the kind of workout that can be exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, and it makes me want to go dancing every Thursday!

After an hour and a half last week of salsa, cha cha, and bolero, it wasn’t long before I was dancing around my empty apartment. The cha cha practice dissolved into an adrenaline-driven solo dance party, as usual. The perfect ending was my over-dramatic bolero performance to “My Heart Will Go On.” I hope my blinds were closed.

But my plans for later that night fell through, and I was a little deflated. I was quickly into sweatpants and on the couch, but instead of watching too much TV and feeling unsatisfied with my evening, I got myself into the kitchen to finally make this bread. I saw the recipe a few weeks ago (obviously, immediately after Joy posted it), and I was really excited to try it. I’ve been trying to find some tasty, (semi)-healthy goodies to have for breakfast.

I am so happy with this bread. Wow. The texture is just wonderful: the crispy sugar crust contrasts perfectly with the moist bread, which is speckled with soft chunks of apples and crunchy walnuts. And I love the warmth from the cinnamon. Make this. Your home will smell fantastic.

(Sorry I don’t have more pictures. I made this before I found the one spot in my apartment with natural light.)

Continue reading “Cha Cha and Apple Bread”