Thursday 9 October 2014

Bake Off final and a bundt cake

A few years ago my husband bought me an aluminium bundt tin for my birthday. It is in the shape of a castle and is fab. We've used it several times for birthday cakes, and while I love using the tin, we've always struggled to get the cooked cake out without the details crumbling off, or a chunk just getting stuck (particularly when I made a giant crème caramel in the tin; the 'schlop' noise it made when it broke while I tried to pop it out was amazing, but not quite the desired effect. I don't think the tin is intended as a serving dish!). We've improved things by perfecting our tin greasing - half an hour with some butter and a pastry dish, then dusting with flour. But when we were watching European cakes week we had a moment of realisation: a bundt tin should be used to make a bundt cake, not a Victoria sponge. It seems so obvious now I say it, but it had never occurred to us until then!

So this week, in honour of Bake Off final, I'm trying something new and making a bundt cake. A chocolate orange pandoro to be precise. I had a quick look at the ingredient list before heading out yesterday morning, noting that we had everything in house apart from chocolate (if it's in the house it gets eaten), eggs (we had a few, but not the 10 required) and an orange, and duly added them to the shopping list.

Having successfully acquired the requisite ingredients, I headed home after lunch and at 2.15 actually read through the recipe. At which point I got a bit of a surprise. Apparently this bundt cake has three proving steps, each of which last 2 hours, plus an hour and a half proving in the tin. So seven and a half hours of proving time! 7 1/2 hours!!! And that's without any mixing or kneading or baking. I'm not used to this very time consuming cooking- chocolate cake is ready to eat in an hour (if you don't mind getting slightly warm fingers whilst eating). I was committed by this point though, so got started.

Step one was easy: make the starter, it took mere seconds (I almost screwed it up though - I've always assumed those sachets of yeast contained one teaspoon, no idea why, they clearly say 7 g on the back, and dried yeast is not terribly dense. But three sachets did seem like a lot, so I checked. And actually one sachet contains about three teaspoons. One sachet seems much more reasonable.). And was then left for about two hours (I had intended scrimping on the proving time, but the children needed attention at the same time as the cake and they won).

Step two wasn't terribly difficult either: add a few more ingredients and knead for 10 minutes. Kneading is easier when you don't have a baby in a carrier on your chest, but I count such hindrances as an occupational hazard of parenthood. Then back into the bowl for another two hours of proving (again no scrimping, it was tea time by this point so everyone needed feeding).

Step three, again pretty easy: stir in some more ingredients, chop some chocolate, stir that in too, then knead for another 10 minutes. No baby attached to chest this time, so much easier. Then leave to prove for another two hours, during which I put the children to bed, even though this meant missing watching Bake Off live (to avoid spoilers I switched off the wifi on my phone, shut the laptop and left the phone in another room for a few hours!).

Step four: transfer the mixture to the tin. I was good and prepared the tin properly, using a pastry brush to coat the inside with melted butter and then dusting with flour, I can't remember the last time I prepared a tin properly, but part of this exercise was getting the cake out of the tin with all the detailing, so it made sense to give it the best chance. I then pushed the mixture from the bowl to the tin and stretched it out to fill the tin before covering it again and leaving it to rise for another hour and a half, during which time I caught up on the final...

...From day one I had said that Richard was my favourite, along with Martha and Norman (so self-assured it was funny, he really added humour), but that I thought Nancy would win (based on nothing in particular, she's never done anything spectacular, but hasn't really done anything badly either). I was so disappointed with Richard, he was clearly just having a bad week. And after the second round and the tart au citron disasters from Luis and Richard, Nancy was clear favourite; that the technical was seemingly so simple was an excellent idea, it really showed any weaknesses. I would have done very badly at it, while I can make a Victoria sponge, scones require a recipe and I've never made a tart au citron. All their show-stoppers looked amazing, but the challenge itself was a bit odd - everything seemed a bit disjointed - I'd much rather have one of the elements served to me at a time! Based on the final Nancy was definitely a worthy winner, but I think all three finalists were excellent, and would have been happy whoever won.

I've really enjoyed this series, it's been the best so far, and I really feel that substance won over style, which was needed after last year. It's encouraged me to try baking some things outside my comfort zone - I would never have attempted a prinsesstarta if I hadn't seen it on the programme. And I'm looking forward to the next series, even though I have to wait nine months for it...

After Bake Off I returned to the kitchen and a well risen dough that had filled the tin nicely. Later than planned (11 pm) the cake went in the oven, and delicious smells started to fill the house.After 40 minutes I went to take the cake out of the oven to find that it was now massive, and a little dark on top. But when released from the tin (it came out so easily, much better than when the tin was used with a sponge cake) it looked magnificent (edit: the back right turret clearly didn't fill properly, more poking required next time!). And there was virtually no residue left in the tin. Result!

Tasting had to wait until the morning. And the verdict? Actually a little underwhelming for so much effort. It's tasty, but a little dry, and the outside is a bit over-baked. It'll taste better with a cup of coffee, or maybe spread with butter or nutella. I won't be in a hurry to make it again, but will look out other slightly less time-consuming bundt recipes so we can use the tin again.

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