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.

Pumpkin Bread, 2 Ways

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I’ve been on kind of a bread kick lately. That’s less ambitious than it sounds, though – apart from the challah a few weeks ago, I’ve been making a lot of quick breads. They really are so quick to throw together, and they are a wonderful, homey treat to have around. Last week was banana bread and sunflower seed bread, and today I am making a maple pumpkin bread.

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My family has a great pumpkin bread recipe, which I made a few weeks ago with chocolate chips. Check out my cousin’s blog for that recipe! Today I wanted to try baking something with maple syrup. I have some amazing maple syrup that my mom got from a co-worker who produces his own. It has such a deep, complex sweetness, and I was interested to see how I could use it in baking.

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dark, beautiful maple syrup

This recipe is perfect for fall. Especially a day like today, with still, cool air, lots of sunshine…and a broken radiator. No better way to warm up your kitchen than with this aromatic, comforting bread in the oven.

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House-Warming Granola

What’s more comforting than the smell of freshly made granola wafting through the house? Not much that I can think of. I think that’s why I was compelled to fill my new apartment with that warm scent tonight, my first evening in my (almost) unpacked, settled-in home.

This recipe comes from Kathryn, my sister’s college roommate for the past 5 years, and I will never look for another granola recipe. This one is delicious every time. I think the coconut is the secret. (The combination of honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla helps too.)

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Baking Therapy

The semester’s over, I’m officially three years through college, and potentially big changes are happening in my life and my friends’ lives. I don’t always do well with change. So instead of dwelling on this in the days after exams, I made a coffee cake. I choose to call this a healthy coping mechanism. Please keep any opposing viewpoints to yourselves. Thanks.

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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.)

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