Saturday, 22 December 2012

Bûche de Nöel

Christmas has crept up behind me and kicked me in the baubles and now I find I don’t have the time to bake the usual British classics we all know and love. Just because I’ve left it too late to make and mature a Christmas pudding and cake, it doesn’t mean this year’s table can’t sparkle with the spirit of Christmas cheer.

2012 is the year I’ve decided to go continental, with a Bûche de Nöel taking centre stage. This will, undoubtedly, come as a blessed relief to my nephews, who are yet to warm to the boozy, rich and hearty indulgence of my Victorian Christmas pudding. Once the brandy flame puffs out, all interest is entirely lost and they’re asking if there’s any mint choc chip ice cream instead.

With any luck, this year’s more child-friendly chocolate and chestnut offering will keep their minds off the freezer contents, by diverting their attention to my meringue mushrooms instead.  Mint choc chip might well be delicious, especially when stirred for long enough to make ice cream soup, but festive it ain’t.

Don’t be scared of rolling up the log, if it looks less than neat, you can always mask mistakes by being more liberal with the chocolate ganache coating than originally planned. It’s one of those jobs where a gung-ho attitude will fare you better than any amount of measured caution.

The mushrooms are ever so slightly fiddly, but are cute enough to be worth the effort. And come on, it is Christmas after all, so some boats ought to be pushed out, even if you have left them in the dock until the eleventh hour. As well as the meringue mushrooms, I adorned my Yule log with some washed and dried clippings from the Christmas tree, but sprigs of fresh rosemary will look equally enticing.

Meringue mushrooms

It’s best, though not essential, to make these the night before so they have time to properly dry out.

1 large egg whites
A pinch of salt
2 heaped tbsp. caster sugar
25g dark chocolate
A dusting of cocoa

Preheat the oven to 100°C/ 220°F and line a baking tray with parchment or silicone paper

Whisk the egg whites with the salt until stiff before gradually adding the sugar, a little at a time, whisking between each addition. You should be left with a stiff, glossy and pipeable meringue.

Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a plain, large nozzle and pipe the mushroom caps – little rounds of about 2-inches wide. Next, pipe the mushroom stalks, by piping little upright peaks. Bake for 1 hour, turn off the oven and leave to cool and dry out – preferably overnight.

Melt the chocolate and paint the underside of each cap with it, using a pastry brush. Glue the stalks on to the caps with a little more melted chocolate (you can, if you need to, create a cone-shaped hole in the caps with a small knife, to make attaching the stalks easier). Leave the mushrooms to set upside down, before lightly dusting their tops with cocoa for a more naturalistic look.

Buche de Noel

Line a 9” x 13” roulade tray with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F/Gas Mark 4

200g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
175g caster sugar
6 large eggs, separated
A pinch of salt
40g chestnut flour

Whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. Using the same beaters,but in a separate bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar until pale, thick and creamy. Whisk the chocolate and chestnut flour into the sugar and yolks before vigorously beating in a couple of tbsp. of whipped egg whites, to slacken the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites with a large metal spoon, being careful not to lose any of the air. Pour the batter into your prepared tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Chestnut cream

300ml double/whipping cream
250g tin of sweet chestnut purée

Simply whip the cream and mix in the chestnut purée. Upturn your chocolate and chestnut roulade on to a sheet of baking parchment and spread over a generous layer of the chestnut cream. Roll up the cake, using the parchment to help you. Transfer your roll, seam side down, on to a plate or board and pop in the fridge until ready to ice.

Ganache topping

200g dark chocolate
200ml double cream
75g light muscovado sugar

I like to blitz my chocolate in the food processor for speed, but you can chop you chocolate with a knife if you prefer. Transfer the chopped chocolate to a heatproof bowl. Place the sugar and cream in a saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has melted. Increase the heat and bring to the boil before taking off the heat and leaving to stand for 1 minute. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth, thick and glossy. Leave to cool slightly before spreading it all over the roulade. To make it look more like a log, scratch the surface of the ganache with a knife or fork for a bark-y effect. Pop it back in the fridge to set.

Decorate your serving plate/board, if you wish (I painted mine with textured melted chocolate and added a few sprigs of Christmas tree) before carefully transferring the cake into the centre. It’s easiest to employ a large palette knife or fish slice to do this. Drift the whole board with sifted icing sugar and/ or edible snowflake lustre.

Place your meringue mushrooms in clusters on and around your Yule log and serve. Please remember that fresh cream can only be left out of the fridge for up to 4 hours. If you want to leave your Bûche de Nöel out for longer, I would suggest swapping the cream for chestnut buttercream (75g soft, unsalted butter, 150g sifted icing sugar and a few generous spoonfuls of chestnut purée whisked together until soft, light and fluffy).

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ho ho ho, it's gluten free we go...

Gluten-free needn’t mean fun-free this Christmas. There’s no reason to miss out on any of the festive classics just because wheat’s off your menu. Washed down with a steaming mug of mulled wine, these light and crumbly damson and cobnut mince pies have Christmas all wrapped up.

If you’re catering for gluten dodgers over the holidays, you’ll be pleased to discover that these are simple and quick to make and just as delicious as their wheaty counterparts. My gluten-scoffing friend couldn’t tell the difference when she came over for three one the other day, but you can always stick to wheat with my recipe here, if you’d prefer.

This sweet gluten-free shortcrust is perfect for baking with children, as it has the added bonus of being impossible to overwork. However many times your little darlings scrunch up and re-roll this dough, you’ll never have to suffer another tough or chewy pie again – that’s a little extra Christmas present from me to you, right there.

I made my own damson and cobnut mincemeat last year and still have plenty left, but you’ll have a job finding damsons in December. Try swapping the damsons for plums and the cobnuts for hazelnuts, for delicious and more easily sourced alternatives. If making mincemeat’s not at the top of your festive agenda, by all means buy some in. Just remember, before serving it to any coeliac friends, to check the ingredients. Most mincemeat is made with suet, which has been stored dusted in wheat flour, but you can buy gluten-free vegetarian suet here.

Damson and cobnut mincemeat

425ml apple juice or cider
425g light muscovado sugar
425g cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
425g currants
425g raisins
300g damsons (or plums), stoned
200g fresh cobnuts roughly chopped (you can use hazelnuts instead)
Grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
250ml brandy

Put the apple and sugar into a large pan and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, minus the brandy. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Lower the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to become completely cold. Stir in the brandy or rum and spoon into cold, sterilised jars. Cover with waxed discs and tight fitting lids.

Gluten-free sweet shortcrust 

Makes 12 deep filled pies with lids.

300g rice flour
200g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
The finely grated zest of 1 orange (optional)
1 egg, beaten
A splash of milk if needed

It’s easiest to blitz the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, before pulsing in the remaining ingredients. You want the dough to be soft but not sticky. If you’re doing it by hand, simply rub the flour and fat together before adding the sugar and forking through the egg before kneading it together gently to form a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan) and butter a 12 hole muffin tray.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of cling film - this is the best way I’ve found for rolling all shortcrust (including wheat), as it doesn’t require any extra flour and keeps the pastry from falling apart. Cut out rounds and line the tray. You can easily patch up any cracks or holes with extra pastry. Fill the pies with mincemeat and top with pastry lids lightly brushed with a little milk. Prick the tops with a fork and bake for 20 minutes.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas is coming... and I haven't done a thing about it yet.

What the hell's happened? Christmas was ages away and all of a sudden it's crept up behind me and bitten a chunk out of my arse. "I can't believe people are already going on about Christmas," I scoffed, while rolling my eyes, "It gets earlier every year!"

Even though the streets of London are shining beneath the glow of fairy lights and Nat King Cole's been crooning through the supermarket speakers since November, I'm only just getting into gear with my Christmas prep. I haven't sent a single Christmas card, our tree still hasn't been bought (we were supposed to get a potted one this year, but failed. Again.) and we still haven't decided whose parents to spend it with or if we're going to bugger off to Iceland and see the northern lights instead. I haven't even got round to making a Christmas cake or pudding, because I've been too busy making everyone else's. This morning, festive cheer turned into festive panic, when I wrote a "to do" list of things to complete before the big day. I've since calmed down and scaled down my plans.

For 2012, I'm going continental. I love traditional, Christmas pudding, set on fire and served with lashings of brandy butter. I love a deliciously rich and boozy Victorian fruitcake, complete with a royal icing snow scene. But this year, I'll be serving Bûche de Noël, panettone bread and butter pudding and lebkuchen. No fuss, no months of maturation and no children moaning about rum-soaked currants looking like rabbit poo.

Although my festive table will be looking more European than usual this year, I can't leave traditional British fare out in the cold entirely. Gluten free mince pies are a must for my gluten-dodging boyfriend. He hasn't had a single one this year so far, which means it's definitely time to crack open the Kilner of damson and cobnut mince meat I made last year, in more organised times.

I'll be posting recipes this week, so keep checking back for festive inspiration for the short of time. What alternative sweet treats will you be serving up for Christmas this year?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Like Cake? Want To Learn More About Cake? Want to Learn How To Decorate Cakes?

Boutique Wedding Cakes by Victoria Glass

To coincide with the UK publication date of my new book, Boutique Wedding Cakes*, I will be teaching a one day class at Cookery School, for students hoping to master the art of cake decorating. 

Want to know how to get smooth, crack-free sugar paste? Want to know how to interiorly structure a multi-tiered cake for stacking? Want to learn how to make sugar flowers and hand paint beautiful, original designs and discover tricks of the trade along the way? Then this class is for you. 

The 19th January 2013 will be a fun day of learning in central London which will include a tasty lunch made by the excellent staff at Cookery School. You will also get to take home your delicious creations for all your friends and family to admire (and, of course, eat). I will personally guide you through all aspects of cake decoration and wedding cake assembly and you'll go away with a copy of my book for further guidance, inspiration and 19 delicious recipes. 

The recipes in the book range from classic tea time treats to decadent dessert cakes, with a few unexpected curveball flavours thrown in, for good measure:

  1. Victorian boozy fruit cake
  2. Chocolate fudge
  3. Orange and polenta cake
  4. White chocolate and cardamom
  5. Black Forest (chocolate and cherry)
  6. Lemon drizzle
  7. Green tea and ginger
  8. Chestnut cake
  9. Sticky ginger cake
  10. Chocolate rum truffle
  11. Fruits of the forest torte with berry ganache (made with real fruit purée)
  12. Orange blossom and pistachio
  13. Chocolate and Guinness
  14. Apple and Calvados with toffee apple buttercream
  15. Chocolate chip and peanut butter
  16. Vanilla sponge 
  17. Espresso genoise
  18. Carrot cake
  19. Red velvet

I have also included recipes for homemade marzipan (including variations such as pistachio marzipan, hazelnut and orange marzipan and chocolate marzipan). Each recipe comes with quantity charts, so you can make any flavour in the size that's right for you - be that a multi-tiered wedding cake to feed 200, or a simple Sunday afternoon treat for 8. This is very much a recipe book as well as a "how to" design guide, to help you achieve a stunningly beautiful cake that tastes every bit as good as it looks.

Come and join me on Saturday, 19th January and book your place to learn the art of cake decorating.

*The official UK publication date isn't until 9th January 2013, but you can buy a copy from Amazon RIGHT NOW.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Great British Bake Off, Episode 8

Danny's ras el hanout spiced almond crackers.

Episode 8 saw the bakers battle it out with biscuits to secure a place in the semi-finals. The signature bake required 48 crackers from each contestant in two hours. No mean feat, by any means. The crackers could be leavened or unleavened, but they had to be thin and crack when snapped in two,  "a little bit like Nicole Kidman" added Mel, as a helpful guide. 

If you're anything like me, you've doubtless found yourself shouting at the telly, asking "why on earth don't you make back-up bakes (bake-ups?)". If the bakers have to make 48 identical crackers, why not bake double and pick out their best ones?

Sweet James cleared this up for everyone on Twitter, when he explained that if they are asked for 48, then 48 is all they are allowed to make. No more, and hopefully no less, but given some of the struggles with counting, who knows. Did Mary and Hollywood really count each individual cracker? 

Hollywood explained this week's challenge, "it's all about the bake on this". Which made us all scratch our heads, trying to remember a time when it wasn't. "I will be testing the snap on all of them", he said, with a disconcerting glint in his eye. This was a "gruelling test of consistency", especially as the tent was so hot that James and John were forced to get their shorts out. 

Brendan continued his compulsive habit of mentioning buffets at every available opportunity, 
"It's not often you make crackers, unless they're for a gathering or a buffet or something"
He certainly loves his buffets. And his measuring tapes. Which he got out again this week for his multi-seed and aniseed crackers. He also likes to oil things. It was his arms for strudel week and he oiled the table this week for his crackers. "I think the challenge is getting them off there" said Hollywood, unconvinced. But much to our relief, Brendan's perfect diamond-shaped crackers didn't get stuck to his work bench and the judges loved them. "They certainly look the part" said Hollywood, refusing to commit before he'd done his snap test, but Brendan was confident in his bakes and was right to be so. He got an effusive "nice bake" from Hollywood and a "really scrummy" from Mary.

Brendan's multi-seed crackers

James made smoky cayenne, cumin and chipotle crackers and promised to "make it extra thin for you, Paul". James was the maverick in this challenge, deciding to cook his crackers in one batch, all at the same time, on different shelves. This resulted in a plate of crackers in a variety of hues and one that looked, according to James, "like a little mouse", or, according to me, like the skull of a giant rat. His rogue ratty cracker didn't put the judges off, even after Hollywood had had a good root about. He passed the snap test and Mary said they were, "wafer thin and full of flavour".

James' crackers
John made "Asian spiced crackers" flavoured with cumin, coriander and fennel. John was conscious of the judges' comments about the blandness of his bakes over the last couple of weeks, but was sure his "really good nibbly crackers, packed full of flavour" would do the job. He pricked his crackers with a fork to the rhythm of his Woody Woodpecker impression. He explained that the pricking would prevent the crackers from puffing up, though his Woody Woodpecker impression wasn't essential to the process, but merely an added bonus:
"I'm expecting a few little bubbles here and there, but I don't want it to be like a big flying saucer, for example".
The judges enjoyed John's crackers, which were "lovely and crisp" with a "hint of curry" according to Mary, but Hollywood said, "I'd like to see them a bit bigger". Mary, sympathising with his sizeable appetite, helpfully suggested that he "could always have twice as many". John was thrilled with the judges comments, "I think I've found my confidence again", he said.

Danny made ras el hanout spiced almond crackers with yoghurt and Parmesan, which sounded delicious,
"I've taken a leaf out of Brendan's book, because we're back to the '70's with desiccated cheese"
she said, as Brendan's ears pricked up on hearing his name. Hollywood remained unconvinced by Danny's use of this sick-smelling abomination in a shaky tub. "It's your choice" he said, as if issuing a threat. Luckily, her crackers had "a good consistency" but Hollywood thought they were "very salty", while Mary seemed to enjoy their "fiery flavour".

Cathryn's cheese and pickle crackers
Cathryn opted for cheese and pickle crackers, declaring that "if they're thin enough, they will snap". Mary didn't appreciate her laissez-faire attitude and issued her a firm warning, "Cathryn, they've got to be". Unfortunately for Cathryn, it wasn't only their thinness that was a problem,
"I'm really sorry, I'm so embarrassed. They're disastrous. I'm really sorry"
she said, before admitting that she had only managed to make 46: two below the target number. Mary looked on in horror, but both judges agreed that her crackers had a "great flavour". Sadly, Cathryn's poor execution and non-compliance with the rules of the challenge outweighed any positives. "They're thick and thin. Irregular colours" said a disappointed Hollywood, shaking his head.

At the end of the round, sweet James was pleased not to have received too much of a bashing, "everyone relies on a little bit of luck. Me, I think, more than anyone" he said, despite wowing the judges with his punchy flavours. Brendan, on the other hand, showed no such modesty:
"The competition is variable in the remaining five. There are certainly two or three that I'm keeping an eye on, but may the best man win. It's now all about knowledge and technique and I've been round the track a bit longer than most of them"
he said with a knowing smirk, clearly believing himself to be the "best man". Come on, Brendan, this is supposed to be the great BRITISH bake off. It's practically illegal not to pick holes in your abilities and downgrade your talents here. We only accept that kind of self-congratulation from the Americans. They're allowed, it's in their culture to applaud success, even if it is their own. We like to see people admit their faults and failings, even if they're exaggerated beyond all reasonable necessity. You can't pat yourself on the back here, love! You'll only create suspicion and distrust, no matter how good your crackers and cakes might be. I would have thought Brendan would have known this, having "been round the track" a few times. I'm not sure anything will save his reputation, beyond melting our hearts by dropping something on the floor, preferably that he has spent hours perfecting, and then possibly falling over and landing face first in its crumby remains.

Tunnock's  Chocolate teacakes
After a short interlude about scallop-shaped Aberffraw biscuits from Anglesea, it was time for the technical challenge. Sue sent Mary and Hollywood to the pub, before setting the bakers to work to make "chocolate teacakes", or Tunnock's Teacakes, as they are known to everyone else: a homemade digestive biscuit topped with meringue in a dome of chocolate. Temperatures were scorching in the Bake Off tent, so Mary warned Hollywood that "on this occasion, you'll have to be really kind".

All the bakers struggled with their chocolate. "We don't have a room temperature here" said James, unsure whether or not to bung his tempered chocolate in the fridge to set. All the bakers, except Cathryn, risked the shine on their chocolate for the sake of finishing the challenge on time. They stumbled through Hollywood's recipe for digestive biscuits too. The dough was extremely dry and difficult to bring together. "I'm just going to torture it a bit, until I get it to bind together" said Brendan, revealing a previously hidden side to his character. John was "dripping in sweat" struggling with the demands of the day. "This is hell on a plate" he said, before looking mournfully over to Brendan's tidy and organised work station. "Brendan's just a machine, look at him go!" he said.

Cathryn's teacakes

Cathryn was having "a bit of a 'mare of a day" according to Danny, and seemed to suffer disaster after disaster. Her chocolate wouldn't set, and her teacakes fell to pieces when she tried to unmould them. "They're pooper scoopers! They're disastrous!" she said, in a flap about what to do. "Fridge and pray. Fridge and pray" suggested Sue, but it wasn't enough to save her teacakes. Although Cathryn had made "a lovely crisp biscuit and very good marshmallow", it was her presentation again which let her down and left her in last position.

Danny came fourth. She had had an issue with tempering her chocolate and her marshmallow was "more like whipped cream". John's meringues were "a little bit runny" which left him in third place.

It was Brendan's "first encounter with marshmallow", which is probably why so much of it ended up on his face. Although his chocolate had the best shine, his overly thick biscuits made his teacakes rock, and left him in 2nd position.

Chocolate teacakes

James came first with excellent efforts all round. I hoped he would win the Tunnock's challenge, being the only Scot in the group, and Mary described his teacakes as, "quite an impressive achievement on such a day". James received no congratulations from Brendan for his placing:
"The only thing that differentiated me from number one was the thickness of a biscuit"
he said, which I thought was rather a number two-y thing for him to say. Brendan's confidence, though un-British in its directness, is clearly justified. He knows his stuff and Mary said he was "certainly leading the pack".

On day two it was time for the final challenge, but not before Sue wished James a happy birthday, by detailing the perks of turning 21:
"You can become an MEP or go to adult prison. The choice is your's".
For the show stopper round, the bakers were given four hours to bake and build a gingerbread structure, which is really not very long at all and would go by in a flash. Hollywood was clearly excited by the possibilities of this challenge. He was looking for a bit of "architectural genius" and refused to walk away disappointed,
"If you make me a house, I'll smash it down. I'll blow your doors in"
 he said, drawing on the spirit of the big bad wolf.

John's gingerbread coliseum

Danny used pomegranate molasses in her gingerbread and had decided to construct a two feet tall Big Ben. Hollywood was astonished, that's "nearly as big as Mel" he said. John had an impressive folder of printed plans for his gingerbread coliseum with peanut praline gravel. John's partner, a graphic designer who works for an architect, helped John with his plans which took a week to design,
"This competition means the world to me, you know. To win would be amazing. Everything I want to do in my life is bake, so that's why I'm taking the care now, cos I can't afford to make anymore stupid mistakes".
Cathryn decided to go regal and build Buckingham Palace out of controversial chocolate and orange gingerbread with curly wurly chocolate bar decorations. James decided to make a barn with the inclusion of ginger cake as well as gingerbread, which received this unreadable response from Hollywood,
"Good luck James. Have a nice relaxing day"
Next we were given a little introduction to gingerbread and its origins in Grassmere, Cumbria. Gingerbread was originally "a love token usually given by knights to fair maidens before jousting competitions". I'm extremely partial to a spot of gingerbread and would be absolutely thrilled to receive it as a love token, jousting competition or no jousting competition.

Brendan's bird house with disastrous shredded wheat roof
Brendan's show stopper was a "Fantasy Gingerbread Bird House":
"You know your life has taken a strange twist and turn when you find yourself asking questions about what's a good edible material that would make a good patch roof on a gingerbread house"
he giggled, before explaining to Hollywood his intention to create a "cute, Disney-type setting". A bemused Hollywood didn't know what to say, so he settled on, "Fantastic. Well, it'll give us a piece of your little mind then, when we look at your construction later". 

Brendan created blue sugarpaste bluebirds for his fantasy bird house:
"The male will have a cockscomb and the female doesn't, so I thought I would give her some mascara. You know I've spent years creating a certain image which is now going to be blown apart. I don't believe my life! I really don't!"
Cathryn was so pushed for time that she decided to downscale "Buck House". "I don't think the Queen will like this very much. I think she'd be a bit naffed off with me after seeing this" she said. James' caramel looked in danger of ruining his birthday. "It's quite fun when things go your way, but this is horrible. It's a horrible situation" he said, feeling the pressure. After his barn had "gone from looking rather lovely to absolute disaster", James decided to change route and turn his design into a derelict barn, complete with spun sugar cobwebs. "I think I should get marks for ambition" he said. And he did.

Judgement time came for John first and Mary and Hollywood were impressed. His coliseum was by far one of the best gingerbread structures of the day. Mary said it was "a magnificent construction", while Hollywood applauded John for his "spectacular" achievement. "You've really lifted your game" he said.

Brendan's bird house didn't fare so well, despite the fact that he'd covered it with all the cuteness Walt Disney could spew. "It's a bit... much for me to be honest" said Hollywood and, for once, I agree with him. Brendan's gingerbread house managed to be both over the top and underwhelming concurrently. The design was mimsy, but it was the lack of ambition in the structure and the shredded wheat bite sized roof tiles that pushed it to bottom place in my eyes. Mary shared my dismay for his shredded wheat roof. "I'm somewhat disappointed that we have a breakfast cereal as the tiles" she scolded.

Danny didn't do too badly with her slightly leaning Big Ben, but she failed to really wow the judges with her design or her flavours. Cathryn's Buckingham Palace was declared "stunning at the front" by Mary (it didn't have a back) but her additions of chocolate and orange in her gingerbread divided the judges. Her flavour combinations were enjoyed by Mary, but Hollywood felt they were too busy. "It needs to choose one and run with it" he said, as Cathryn scowled on.

James' derelict barn
It was birthday boy James who stole the show, with his incredibly and unexpectedly beautiful derelict barn. "That looks amazing! There are even cobwebs" said Mary and her enthusiasm was shared by Hollywood,
"If that's the look you were going for: top marks. If it isn't, I'd still give you good marks because the structure that you built is very tricky to do"
They were equally wowed by James' flavours,
"This is absolutely delicious. You'd be able to eat it till the last crumb. I wonder how many of the others we would endure eating till the last part" 
said Mary, sweeping her pointing finger in the direction of the other disgruntled contestants. The barn helped win James the crown of biscuit week's star baker and on his 21st birthday too. What a delightful outcome and he was, as always, touchingly sweet and modest about his talent, questioning whether Mary and Hollywood had only given him star baker because it was his birthday. No, James! It's because you made a cracking barn and everything you baked tasted delicious.

The joy of James' win soon faded to sadness as "on it like a car bonnet" Cathryn became the eighth contestant to leave the Bake Off. She will certainly be missed and the show just won't be the same without her alliterative reviews of each challenge. Despite being sorry to see her go, the judges' decision was fair. She just isn't quite up to the standard of the others:
"I am not surprised. Little bit heartbroken, but it's been the best thing ever"

Next time, it's French pâtisserie for the semi-finals. Who goes? Paul and Mary decide.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Great British Bake Off, Episode 7

Episode 7 had seven remaining contestants. After John cut his finger off and had to go home before the strudel round in episode 6, the judges were left in a flap over what to do. The final ruling was that sending anyone home just wouldn't be fair and so all were given a second chance to shine. Although the drama was high, as seven were to become five, Hollywood was on unusually and unnervingly chipper form. 

Week 7 was all about sweet dough. Hot buns, sweet buns, iced buns and "Mary Berry's hot and firm buns" (thank you, Sue). The first challenge was the signature bake, where the contestants had to make 24 buns made from enriched dough. The dough "must be soft, bordering on the wet" said Hollywood, with his steely blues staring straight into the camera.

Brendan used fresh yeast for added flavour and extra "springiness" for his bunskis: a Polish twist on Chelsea buns using a lemon and poppyseed filling. Mel wasn't convinced that Brendan had done as well as he could have in the naming and proffered "bunkowiec" as an alternative. Makowiec is a poppyseed filled rolled bread and Brendan humoured her by agreeing to the name change, but the producers clearly weren't on board, as Chelsea "bunskis" they remained. When Brendan poured his poppyseed mixture out to cool, I think we could all be forgiven for mistaking it for a tray of steaming cow pats. The smell was apparently intoxicating, in a good way, and the judges were certainly enamoured with Brendan's buns. Mary thought they were "totally original" and  "really unusual and delicious" while Hollywood, in his characteristically effusive manner, nodded while grunting "good bake" through a mouthful of poppyseeds.

Danny made Bakewell buns, inspired again by Chelsea's finest, but flavoured her's with sour cherries and almonds. Mary excitedly declared them to be "for good appetites" while Hollywood was impressed by their enormity. "They look great" he said. Danny's face lit up with pride when her Derbyshire offerings were described as "sheer heaven to eat" by Mary. "Great buns, Danny" said Sue as the judges left to inspect the next contestant's efforts.

James made Easter Chelsea buns, which he described as "hot cross buns, Chelsea-fied". I wonder what Spencer and Caggie will think?  

"There's no technique to this at all, I don't know what I'm doing basically" said James, with refreshing honesty, as he rolled up his raisins. But the panic had clearly set in. Admonishing himself, he snapped, "Stop fiddling with them, or they'll never get done".  Hollywood was concerned with his use of wheat flour and for good reason, as James' buns literally came unstuck. "It's interesting and it's daring to use wholemeal" said Hollywood, as he pulled James' bun apart like an unravelled Cumberland sausage. The "consistency in the bake isn't particularly good" he sighed, while kind Mary, always eager to please, said she thought they had a "lovely flavour".

John, "rocking the Dr Strangelove glove" (Sue), due to last week's injury, made cherry, almond and saffron Chelsea buns. "Good luck little buns, good luck. You're going to need it" he said, ominously, while peering into the oven door. Fearing the worst after fingering his baked buns, John expected some harsh criticism from the judges, so decided to get in there first, "I think they may be under-proved to be honest". But under-proving wasn't the problem. The "structure looks alright" said Hollywood. "I could do with a little bit more flavour in there," said Mary, diplomatically, before Hollywood cut to the chase with a simple "bit bland". Hollywood likes a streamlined approach to criticism, preferring not to waste time by including a subject in his sentences. 
"I think I won't be here much longer than 48 hours"
said John, the voice of doom.

Cathryn made Lady Arandel Manchet buns this week, as a regional nod to her home county of Sussex. "The Lady Arundel Manchet goes back to the 1500s", said Hollywood, disappointing poor Cathryn who had been eager to share her carefully researched knowledge. She decided to fill her buns with cream and jam which left Hollywood bemused. "It's a great idea, because what you've done is blend several different ideas to come up with a new one," he said, attempting humour. "He's creeping round you," said Mary, showing worried Cathryn some camaraderie. 

Cathryn peppered her panic with "oh pants" when she dropped her baked buns on the open oven door. Luckily Cathryn's buns were "robust" enough to survive. Hollywood remarked that they were all different colours and her bottom was quite tight due to being "under-proved", but Mary loved Cathryn's buns, but said she could have done with a little extra jam and cream. 

There was an interlude about the west country classic, Cornish saffron buns and the ritual of the Cornish tea treat, all explained by an amazingly enthusiastic northern vicar. Vicar's wife, Sarah-Jane, coincidentally, had also decided to make Cornish saffron buns, with added nutmeg and orange. "I don't want to get too stressed," she said, only moments before getting too stressed. In the end, she was pleased with her buns, even if the judges weren't. They felt they were a little bit dry and lacking in flavour and a little under-proved. "Thats a bit of a shame" said Hollywood. But Sarah-Jane managed to keep her chin up, in the face of adversity:
"They didn't really like them. A bit of a flop really. As Mary said, there are two more challenges to go, so don't count yourself out yet, love"
 she said, with a nervous giggle, masking inner hysteria.

A panicked Ryan made sultana and raisin lardy cakes. "I'm psyching myself up" he said, punching the air and rolling his shoulders, Rocky-style. He wasn't sure he was going to finish in time, but Sue rolled up her sleeves and helped out by slapping his next piece of dough on the table, ready to fill. "I should have done Chelsea buns" said Ryan, swallowing a hysterical laugh. He needn't have worried. In this round at least. The judges raved about his "excellent" texture and the delicious taste. "I can't argue with the bake on that," barked Hollywood, before standing silently with eyes focused on Ryan's terrified face. "The silverback is silent," said Sue, in an effort to defuse the tension, before Hollywood leaned forward. Ryan wasn't quite sure what was coming next, and neither were we, but we couldn't have been more relieved when Hollywood firmly shook his hand. 

What on earth is going on? I feel troubled and confused. I don't know how to react to this new calm and reasonable behaviour. Is it the calm before the storm or is Hollywood showing a softer side?

Next up was the technical challenge, where the contestants had to make ten jam doughnuts in two and a half hours.

Ryan admitted to being a very experienced eater of doughnuts, but neither he nor any of the contestants except James, had actually made doughnuts before.
"You've got to make sure that inside that doughnut is cooked properly" 
said Hollywood, as if explaining nuclear fission.

Sarah-Jane, despite her earlier attempts to remain calm and clear-headed, said she was "feeling a little bit stressed to be honest, a little bit frightened". All the contestants seemed perturbed by their doughnut dough. "It's just like kneading a big ball of chewing gum" said Cathryn, while experienced doughnut handler, James, was more enthusiastic."Wow, interesting dough" he said, enjoying this new discovery.

After a short interlude about doughnuts in American service clubs during World War II, James shared what gets him most excited:
"It's the most satisfying thing in the world, and that is no exaggeration, the most satisfying thing in the world is putting a bit of bread dough on the scales and it being exactly the weight you want it to be. YES!"
Cathryn looked nervous about taking the "oily plunge" before everyone else, but her doughnuts were "first in the fryer". And Danny was next in, "I think this is big enough. I can't cope with them any bigger. They're like big beasts, aren't they?" she said. Sarah-Jane decided to rely on instincts over, well, everything else:
"I'm not going on times, I'm just going on the colour that they are. The kind of colour I imagine doughnuts to be".
Sweet James had other things on his mind, "I must be seriously below the standard of the rest of the bakers if I don't do well at this challenge, because I've done it so many times before" but Mel soothed his fears by complimenting his "neat syringe". On the other side of the tent, Cathryn's were "haemorrhaging slightly, but they need to be jammy don't they. They're doughnuts!" she said, hopefully. Her love of baking comes second only to her fondness for alliteration and she summed up the "frantic fry time" of the challenge perfectly,
 "Doom is what's going through my mind. Doughnut doom."
It certainly proved to be a troublesome round for the bakers. Ryan's were over-proved, having risen up and then sunk back down again, "they were crêpes when they went in" said Hollywood. Cathryn's were underdone, Brendan's were under-proved, John's were overdone and Sarah-Jane's were raw, which left her in last place. Hollywood described Danny's as "not bad that at all", which Mary kindly interpreted for us. "That means they are very nice", she said, to a beaming Danny. James won the technical round, 
"I actually feel a bit bad, I feel like i've almost cheated the bakers" 
he said, rather sweetly.

The final round was the Show Stopper Bake and week 7 called for a celebratory enriched dough loaf. The bakers started the process at the end of the first day.

James and John decided to make a sponge starter for a greater depth of flavour, probably in John's case, not to suffer a repeat of Hollywood's cutting comments about the blandness of his sponge puddings. Sadly, it didn't work out for poor old John. He had to bin his starter and start again with a newly imagined loaf. "I'm not going to back down and play it safe cos that's not what it's all about" he told Mel, while stuffing a sheet of marzipan with cherries and chocolate drops. Sadly, his stollen was a flop. "I find that a little on the stodgy side" said Mary, while Hollywood, in a rare moment of self-awareness, jumped in with, "it's beginning to weld my mouth together, which is probably not a bad thing".

Danny made a European Christmas Wreath with an orange curd filling for her show stopper. She usually leaves her dough in her outer hall to prove overnight, but unfortunately the tent doesn't have one, so she tucked her dough into a drawer overnight and hoped for the best. Which proved a good strategy as the judges thought her flavours were "excellent".

Hollywood stopped at Brendan's bench to ask,
"Is it a '70's delight today or is it something more in the '80's ?"
Brendan raised his eyebrows at Hollywood, who was too busy being pleased with his joke to notice,
"Um it's going to be a Black Forest Christmas stollen, so I see it as a sort of centepiece for a Christmas buffet table which will allow for some additonal decoration"
Once the judges had moved on, he said, "I think I'm a great bridge between the '70's and today" before peering in Hollywood's direction and saying, "I hope he heard that". He probably didn't. But he did very much like Brendan's bake.

Ryan was the only baker to go savoury and made a char siu bao. Sadly, his dough was raw and by all accounts, a bit of a dog's dinner. "It's a shame. I was looking forward to that one" said meat-loving Hollywood.

James made a kugelhopf brioche baba with controversial whisky jelly. Which was only controversial because of Hollywood's horror of hard liquor.  "It's like an enormous cornea" said Sue, while James was slicing into his jelly. We didn't hear a peep out of Hollywood over James' whisky, but Mary thought it was "a little bit over the top". 

Cathryn made a bonfire tear and share with cream cheese frosting, complete with sparklers. Hollywood insisted she show him her dough and, after reluctantly producing it from behind her back, Hollywood put the wind up her by asking, "is it a choc brioche?". Cathryn made a face like she'd been told off for talking in assembly when it was actually the boy behind her, before informing Hollywood her brioche was cinnamon-flavoured. "Lots of cinnamon to make it go that dark!" he said, with inappropriate flirtiness, "OK. Good luck Cathryn [you're going to need it]".

Luckily, Hollywood was wrong about the cinnamon, but he wasn't convinced by the colour of her bonfire loaf, "looking at the colour of it, it looks like it might have been too late, it's been on the fire" he said, as Cathryn scowled. Mary thought her loaf was too "cakey" but it had a "lovely flavour and icing".

Sarah-Jane went for another plait - this time a six string marzipan, chocolate and cherry plait. "It's a nice colour", she said, peering into the oven at her alarmingly dark mahogany loaf, but she knew she was treading on shaky ground,

"I just don't feel that my loaf is spectacular enough to bring it back"
And she was right. "It's what's on the inside that counts" she said, hopefully, but unfortunately her insides were raw in the middle and were given a big thumbs down from the judges. 

"I love baking in that tent, I love the kitchen, I love the stuff, I love everybody else. You know its just been so much fun and I am sad to be going but I'm also, you know, week 7: amazing!"
Sadly it was time to say goodbye to both Sarah-Jane and Ryan this week, while Danny was finally crowned star baker, denying Brendan a hat trick.

I was so sad to see Sarah-Jane and Ryan go, but the decision was fair. What was most touching was to see the close bond between Sarah-Jane and Cathryn which has blossomed over the Bake Off,
"You have to win now, seriously"
said a sobbing Sarah-Jane while hugging her new bezza. 

Next time, biscuits! Will Hollywood keep up this new found pleasantness, or will old habits die hard?

Friday, 21 September 2012

Cream Tea Cupcakes

I recently went for a last minute jaunt down to the Jurassic Coast for a spot of fossil hunting, fish and chips on the beach and, of course, a cream tea. I have mentioned before that my boyfriend is a gluten-dodger, so we feared getting a good cream tea might be too tricky to find. Thankfully, we found a beautiful hotel called The Alexandra in Lyme Regis, apparently famous for their gluten-free cream teas. We jumped in the car and rocketed over with as much speed as was legal.

Out of curiosity, I also had a gluten-free cream tea and I can report back that it was absolutely delicious, but much more cake-y than I expected. No bad thing. Cogs turned and I decided to make cream tea cupcakes on my return to London, but not just any old cupcakes.

Richard and I stayed in a delightful cottage on Laverstock Farm in Dorset, owned by Emma and Ludo Blackburn. Emma, very kindly, gave me a box of fresh duck eggs to take home and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.

I adore cakes made with duck eggs. The sponge is yellower and richer, thanks to their enormous yolks and you can use them as a direct substitute in pretty much any recipe that calls for hens’, but you can especially taste the difference in a Victoria sponge or vanilla cupcakes.

As it's National Cupcake Week, it had to be vanilla cupcakes, all the way. Once the duck egg cupcakes were cooked, I cut a little hole (about half an inch deep) in their middles, in preparation for a big splodge of jam, or should that be clotted cream?

Now we all know about the scones debate. No, not that one about how you should pronounce it, we will never find a resolution there. I’m talking about the cream versus jam debate: which goes  first? Some think only a lunatic would put the jam on first, while others believe cream-first devotees are only inches away from a long trip to the asylum. Personally, I’m not particular. I’d probably go for cream first if it was nearer my greedy, grabbing hand, or jam first if someone else was occupying the cream bowl. They all go down the same pie hole (or should I say cake hole) in the end anyway.

In an attempt to settle this debate, I looked it up on Wikipedia  did some important research and discovered that in Devon, the cream goes on first and the jam (which must be strawberry), goes on top. In Cornwall, it’s the other way around. As I was so close to the East Devon border, I thought it would only be polite to go native and go for cream first, but there are no such rules in south London. For my Dorset duck egg cream tea cupcakes, I thought it would be only right to try it both ways – it just wouldn’t be in the spirit of fairness not to. 

I’m sorry to say, Cornwall, although they were both equally delicious, Devon won it by a hair’s breadth for being slightly less messy to eat. Having said that, I probably ought to go back and check again, just to be sure, you understand. It just wouldn’t be in the spirit of fairness not to.

Duck egg cream tea cupcakes

For the cakes

Line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/ 350°F (325°F fan)/ Gas mark 4

3 duck eggs
6 oz/ 170g soft, unsalted butter
6oz/ 170g caster sugar
6 oz/ 170g self raising flour, sifted
1 tsp of baking powder (optional)
A generous splash (none of your “a few drops” nonsense) of vanilla extract

Strawberry jam
Clotted cream

Use the all-in-one method (mix everything at the same time) if you are using an electric whisk. If making it by hand, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy, before adding the eggs and vanilla and then mixing in the flour.

Divide the batter between the cases (you want to be quite generous as the cakes need to rise above the paper cases) and bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

You can serve them warm or leave them to cool, before cutting out a shallow cone shape from the centre of each cake (you can just slice their tops off if you prefer). Fill the hole with cream before topping it with a blob of jam. Or the other way around if you prefer.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Great British Bake Off, Episode 6

This week's episode started with a snotty Sarah-Jane under a transparent umbrella outside the Bake Off tent, gloomily looking up at the sky. "These rain clouds are a sign of impending doom", she said, her cheeks stained with tears and streaks of mascara. It was clear from the off, that week six was going to be brimming with high drama. Downton Abbey has nothing on Bake Off. Lady Mary shagging a Turkish diplomat to actual death and the Earl of Grantham's dodgy financial investments pale into insignificance, when faced with soggy bottoms, dropped cakes and Magimix cuts. There were the rumblings of an uprising in the Bake Off tent, with the contestants, Mary AND Mel, all questioning Hollywood's authority. Who knew puddings could provide so much tension and intrigue? 

First up was the signature challenge, where the contestants were given two hours to make two different flavoured sponge puddings with two different accompaniments:
"Six of one, six of another with two different sauces. How simple is that?"
declared Hollywood, though Sue on the V.O. had different ideas:
"Perfecting two recipes is hard enough, doing both at the same time, makes this the most demanding signature challenge the bakers are yet to face".
Hang on, didn't they have to make two different flat breads in week two, both at the same time?  

Ryan's choc fondants and sticky date and ginger puddings used three raising agents. "Last week's star baker, [unnecessarily long pause] you've got a lot to live up to this weekend", Hollywood scoffed, with an intimidating smirk, designed, I'm sure, to further crush Ryan's already fractured ego. 

Danny's sponge puddings
Danny opted for banoffee pudding with walnut butterscotch sauce and orange zest chocolate fondants. Brendan, Sarah-Jane and John all chose to make classic sticky toffee puddings as one of their flavours. "Everyone likes a good sticky toff," insisted John, which possibly inspired his decision to soak his dates in Lady Grey tea. Like John, I always soak mine in black tea too. It really does give a lovely added flavour. 

John's sponge puddings
John was serving his sticky toffs alongside raspberry and white chocolate puddings, enriched with Mascarpone. When asked by Mel if he'd like to win Bake Off, he told her,
"Oh God yeah. So much so, that I've already tried to trip Brendan up a few times today, but that man is infallible, he's just like a machine, I'm sure he's the Terminator".
Or more apposite still, the "bakinator", offered Mel, as we cut to Brendan, happily whisking in his EasyJet-orange shirt. When it came to judgement, Mary enthused about the quantities of white chocolate and raspberries in John's sponge, while Hollywood stayed silent, cocking his head as if listening out for the gift of vocabulary. "Sponge is bland," said Hollywood. "Bland?" questioned a wounded John. "Absolutely," retorted Hollywood "if you never had anything else with it, you may as well be chewing on a piece of card". A now indignant John retaliated, "That's a bit harsh" he reasoned, before Hollywood contorted his face into an unreadable expression, "No, honestly" he insisted. His spicy sticky toff fared better, "Mmm, that's very moreish," beamed Mary kindly, "and you've got the topping just right. How could you refuse that?". Hollywood agreed, but couldn't let any praise hang in the air too long. He took away John's short-lived high with, "That first one needs a lot of work"

Bakinator Brendan's flavours were rhubarb, strawberry and ginger puddings and sticky toffee flavoured with rum. "I haven't gone in for any fancy tricks," he said, while going on to explain his quest for authenticity. "Heston Blumenthal has a lot to answer for" he declared, which earned him a wink from Mary. She wasn't impressed by his use of a blow torch on his sticky toffee sauce though, but he brought it all back with a "perfect" crème anglaise.

Sarah-Jane was flustered again this week, she was "feeling a bit all over the place" as she became increasingly "confused" by all the different ingredients on her worktop. As well as her sticky toffee puddings, Sarah-Jane made her Granny's saucy lemon puddings.
"Sometimes your techniques let you down a bit but your flavours have always been there," 
opined Hollywood, helpfully. Just what Sarah-Jane needs at a time of blind panic and confusion: an insult hidden within a compliment. When judgement time came, Mary didn't think her Granny's saucy lemon puddings were lemon-y enough, while Paul went further, staring fiercely and unblinkingly at Sarah-Jane's worried face, and said:
"That is not a sponge".
Her sticky toffee divided the judges. Mary thought it was a little dry and slightly over-baked, while Hollywood, like a man possessed, silently peered at Sarah-Jane's sponge, fingering it firmly before breaking it into pieces. A confused Sarah-Jane looked on, not knowing what her appropriate response should be. Possibly because there wasn't one. "Can I disagree with you Mary," said insolent Hollywood, "I think the opposite. I think it's actually alright". Apparently prodding the inside of a cake with your fingers is a better indication of whether it's too dry than its mouthfeel. 

Mary thought Ryan's chocolate fondants looked "indulgent", but Hollywood thought they had a "very dry texture". I don't know how he was able to tell without sticking his big square fists in and having a root about, but perhaps the rules for detecting dryness are different for sticky toffee puddings and chocolate fondants.  Mary, who already had a bee in her bonnet about Ryan's use of three raising agents, thought they gave his sponges a "bitter" aftertaste. Ryan was suspicious of this particular criticism:
"What annoyed me most was I think they went in there ready to give me a good kicking because I put three different raising agents in there. I really don't think it made that much difference to the bake"
Cathryn's walnut whips
I was most excited by self-doubter Cathryn's pudding flavours. She opted for chocolate walnut whip puddings and elderflower sponges topped with clotted cream rice pudding. But there was mutiny in the ranks amongst the judges. Hollywood thought Cathryn's rice was "undercooked". "Al dente", he said, "It's not a good thing on that". The worm began to turn when Mel jumped in to say she thought the rice was cooked and Mary followed suit, "I think the rice is cooked". Hollywood placed a mouthful of walnut whip in his mouth and shook his head in horror. "You don't like those either?" asked a frustrated Cathryn. Hollywood, again, without getting his fingers in there, declared Cathryn's walnut whips "too dry". Mary reassured her, while Cathryn scowled justifiably in Hollywood's direction.

James went for Scottish classic, clootie dumplings, this week. He wasn't feeling anxious because as far as he was concerned, "it's a very safe one to play, because it is very nice", before he about-turned and growled, "Stressed! Why am I stressed? Just baking". But he was right to be stressed. His clooties were too soft, because he'd under-floured them. The wheels looked like they were about to come off for poor James, who is usually so relaxed. The bananas in his banana and clove puddings with home-brewed beer got stuck in their dariole moulds. He nearly brought it back with his use of a traditional Shetland blowtorch, but Hollywood eloquently described it as having "too much of a chew".

Danny dropped a couple of her chocolate fondants all over the floor and converse trainers. "I could cry," she said, "it's ruined. It's absolutely ruined. I'm so going out". She was inconsolable despite Mel's best efforts. "I am waiting to be mauled by Paul," said Danny, under a wet brolly, "there's no way I can pull this back". Mary was sweetly reassuring to a deflated Danny, "Accidents happen, don't they? Only too often in my kitchen!" Hollywood stared at her, as if assessing how far he'd have to go before she'd burst into tears, then thought better of it, "both of them taste extremely good, but just be careful of your bake".

After a brief interlude about confectionaries, the bakers were given their second challenge: the technical round. This week's test was Queen of Puddings. "There's always a certain amount of dread that you're going to make a prat out of yourself on the technical challenge" said Brendan, speaking for all the bakers as they tried to do justice to Mary's recipe.

Queen of Puddings
Brendan excluded, the contestants struggled with making jam, making custard and making meringue: the three components of Queen of Puddings. Sarah-Jane and Danny didn't fare too badly in the end, but Ryan's meringue was a little under-whipped. Cathryn's jam was too runny but she came in third place. James' custard had been "obliterated" from over-baking. It had separated and gone watery and left him in bottom place. Brendan won the technical round again,   "sheer perfection and a joy to eat" applauded Mary. 

The final challenge of the weekend was the show stopper round. This week, strudels were on the menu. Within minutes, John was sporting a blue latex glove, having cut his finger on a Magimix blade.

Brendan's spinach, walnut and cheese strudel was achieved by rolling up his sleeves and oiling up his arms. Brendan demonstrated that he knew exactly what he was doing, but Hollywood, as is his wont, chipped in with some extra advice anyway,
"Roll it carefully, so it doesn't break and obviously keeping it moist while you do it"
Vicar's wife Sarah-Jane said she wanted her pastry to be so thin, she could read her bible through it. Hollywood, peacock feathers out, grabbed her dough and started slapping it about on her work surface. Sarah-Jane looked terrified by his grabbing, slapping, flicking and twisting, before having a go herself and getting quite into it, "ooh this is fun!". James looked on sceptically, "It's rubbish," he said, "it is utter rubbish. I mean, it's traditional so you can't slag it, but it's rubbish". Before turning to his KitchenAid, "I mean, this'll put in more power than I ever could", he said, before piercing his raisins with a hypodermic needle; probably just the nearest thing to hand, if you're a medical student. 

Sarah-Jane, keen to share her new found knowledge, got Cathryn to have a go at slapping and twisting her dough too. It was all looking good, until Cathryn's dough pinged out of her hand like a cheap rubber band and fell to the floor. "It's got green carpet in it", she said, "I'm not serving Mary Berry green carpet".  

A dizzy John's earlier Magimix injury came back into focus, as his latex glove filled with so much blood, he had a "blood glove" that leaked and dripped down his arm. Intensive care consultant, Danny, came to the rescue. John couldn't continue and had to leave the tent before his strudel was complete. And there was more drama to come,
"My strudel's got a haemorrhage! Do I mean haemorrhage? Haemorrhage or haemorrhoid?"
asked Cathryn and she wasn't the only one with leakage problems. An exhausted and sweaty James took his strudel out of the oven before it was properly brown, because it had ruptured in the middle, exposing its strawberry innards."That reminds me of John's finger earlier on" said Sue. "It's just like a mush," said Hollywood, on tasting it. 

Cathryn's strudel
Cathryn's couscous strudel was "filled with interest", Sarah-Jane's pastry wasn't thin enough and was too pale, but her filling was "lovely". Danny's strudel was perfect, helping her recover from the earlier mishaps of the day and "clever sausage", Brendan, completed his strudel with a latticed top. 

Brendan's strudel
"I feel slightly drained and hysterical after our strudel dramas", said Mel, as they all sat down to discuss who would be star baker and whose time it was to go. Brendan tipped the scales with his consistency and technical abilities and was crowned star baker for the second week running. Danny was the star of the day in my eyes, when she stopped what she was doing to come to John's bloody aid. The already hysterical Sarah-Jane broke down into full sobs when it was revealed that no one was leaving this week. I almost sobbed myself, but I had drunk three quarters of a bottle of white wine. Hollywood explained the judges decision not to give anyone the chop:
"The thing that John injured himself, it created a new president,"
he said, surprising us all. Who knew John's finger could command such power?

Next week, two contestants will go. Hollywood will be watching them like he's never watched them before. I dread to think what that will involve, but we'll have to wait until next Tuesday to find out. 

Who's baking on borrowed time and who's closer to getting crowned Bake Off King or Queen 2013?