Tag Archives: British Baking

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 24: Croissants

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

Hey guys, this week I made croissants. If you’ve been paying like weirdly close attention to my progress through GBBS, you’ll know this isn’t what I was supposed to be making, because for the first time ever, I skipped some stuff.

Please see my last blog post where I explain why things are a bit jumbled up at the moment – and why I’ll no longer be baking every single bake from every single episode. I give a lot of reasons for that in my last blog, but one of the main ones is because it is quite frankly, taking forever. And, well…

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So instead, I’ve started to make just one of the challenges per episode. (Reminder: I’m going through the seasons as they appeared on Netflix in the U.S., which is so not the order in which they aired in the U.K.)

Or, that was what I had decided anyway, but then all of the bakes in Season One Episode 10 were so good, I decided to make almost all of them. I know, I know. I’m all over the place these days. It’s anarchy up in here.

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Photo Credit: Giphy. P.S. This GIF is from the Netflix show, Maniac. It was so weird, but I loved it. Just FYI.

But at least it’s chaos with pastry.

Anyway, on to the croissants.

I’ve always loved croissants, but I’ve never made them myself, much in the same way I love hand-knit sweaters, but I’ve never tried to make one of those either, because that looks hard and time-consuming, plus you can just buy them instead.

And it turns out, making croissants did take forever, but it wasn’t particularly hard.

What I’ve noticed going through this baking challenge is that, by and large, I much prefer making breads or pastry rather than cakes or desserts. Because, for the most part, the cakes or desserts on this show have about a million steps and as many ingredients.

With the breads and pastries, there are usually fewer steps (and ingredients) and though the process itself may take forever, most of your time is just spent doing a little something then abandoning the dough while it rises or chills. From there, it’s just a matter of killing time between small bursts of activity. And I’m pretty good at that.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

At this point, I usually tell you which recipe I’m using. But, this time, I’m not going to do that because I had some issues with this recipe – in that some of it appeared to have mistakes and I don’t want to throw the cookbook under the bus.

So yeah, if you want a croissant recipe that’s more fool-proof, I recommend checking out Nancy’s recipe for Raspberry and Almond Croissants from this episode of GBBS. That woman can bake. I should have used that recipe too, but I didn’t. You live and you learn ya’ll.

For instance, I learned that I like making croissants, but I don’t like doing it with this recipe. Because this recipe got confusing right from the start. Like I said, there were very few ingredients listed in the recipe: just all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, one (1/4 oz.) package dried yeast, 18 tablespoons butter, 1 large egg and milk. But here’s the thing – the recipe’s instructions never told me to add the milk, it told me to add water instead. So I had to make a choice. I made an executive decision to add water instead of milk (in the same amount the recipe specified for milk).

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Photo Credit: Giphy

This was likely the wrong decision as almost all of the other croissant recipes I saw called for milk. But I didn’t look at those recipes at the time, I just forged ahead with my water over milk choice. It seemed like the best idea at the time.

How was I supposed to know? This blog is called “Sometimes I Bake Mistakes” not “Always a Master Baker Who Does Everything Perfectly” which would be a totally braggy, jerkface name for a blog anyway.

Though I had some issues with the recipe’s instructions, I was very happy about its ingredients, because I had all of them on hand – including way more than 18 the tablespoons of butter needed for the recipe. (Sidenote: ever since I started doing this baking challenge, I’ve been stockpiling butter like nobody’s business.)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, to make the croissant dough, I combined flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Then using a knife, I mixed in enough warm water (that probably should have been warm milk) a little bit at a time until it formed a soft dough. Then I  popped that soft dough back into the bowl and covered it with plastic wrap lightly-coated with cooking spray. From there, it was chill time, so I put the dough in the fridge for an hour.

Then after that, I rolled out the dough to a rectangle that was 10 by 17 inches, and it was time to add the butter. So much butter.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I got those 18 tablespoons of butter and smashed em up with a rolling pin until it was one cohesive butter block that was about a half inch thick. Then I put that butter into the middle of that dough rectangle and folded it up like a little butter package, folding the right third of the dough to the center and the folding the left third of the dough on top of that.

Then I chilled the dough again for an hour. When I took it out, I rolled it out again, this time to a lager 24 by 14 inch rectangle, which I again folded into a little dough bundle and chilled for another hour.

From this point on, there’s a lot of dough rolling, folding and chilling (including an overnight chill) but that’s pretty boring to talk about, so instead I’m going to skip ahead to when I brought the dough out of the fridge after its overnight chill.

At this point, I ran into a bit more confusion with the recipe,  which called for me to roll my dough out into a larger rectangle, cut that rectangle in half and then cut each half into squares which I would then cut into triangles.

Now, I’m not going to say I’m a pro at math – because I’m not. But I do know that a square needs to have equal sides, so when the recipe told me to cut the dough into 1 by 5 inch squares, I was like seriously confused, because isn’t that a rectangle?

This was me:

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Photo Credit: Giphy

It was so confusing, so instead I made the executive decision to ignore their recipe’s measurement instructions and instead just make squares that had, you know, equal sides. Guys, I literally just looked up a square to make sure I wasn’t the one messing up. Somewhere along the line, a geometry teacher seriously failed me, because I was only like 89 percent sure I was right. But then again, I’ve also never been great at percentages.

Me again:

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, back to the bake that had way too much math in it. From there, I took my dough triangles and rolled the long end toward me and curved the ends of it to give it a crescent shape – you know, like crescent rolls. Then I set them on parchment-lined baking sheets, covered them with lightly-oiled plastic wrap and let them rise again. There’s a lot of rising and chilling in this. Croissants are lazy apparently, just resting and chilling all damn day.

Once the croissants were successfully risen – they were supposed to double in size – I brushed them with one lightly-beaten egg and baked them for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then I reduced the oven’s temperature to 375 degrees and baked them for another 10 minutes because the recipe said to bake them for another five to ten minutes and I always go for the higher number. I like my foods well baked, just to be safe, because:

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway… when I took the croissants out of the oven they looked a lot like croissants and they tasted a lot like croissants too. Though, in retrospect, they did taste sort of like something was missing and with the benefit of hindsight, I now know that something was milk. The milk was the missing thing.

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Photo Credit: Giphy P.S. This GIF is from Schitt’s Creek. You should watch Schitt’s Creek. P.P.S. I just realized I keep telling you to watch shows on Netflix. I’m not even doing that on purpose. It’s not like they’re paying me or anything. Though, that’d be really cool if they did. Just throwing that out there internet. 

FYI, It was not my fault, for once. It was totally the recipe’s fault.

The missing milk aside, the croissants were pretty good. After all, it’s hard for something to be bad if it has that much butter in it. Though they weren’t as flaky as I would have liked them to be or as nicely shaped.

Next time, I’ll try a different recipe and see if I can’t improve on my croissant-game, because this is one bake I definitely want to try again and again – until I get better at it and my croissants get better too.

Full disclosure, I’m not good at being bad at things. For most of my life, if I tried something, and it didn’t come naturally, if it didn’t come easily, I would simply never do that thing again. That’s something I’m trying to work on – hence this blog. Because it may have taken me 30-some years to figure it out, but I realized that failing things, being bad at things, is good for you. That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow.

And if right now you’re thinking, “Uh duh, everyone knows that,” well, good for you, pal. You obviously are more well-adjusted than me, though frankly, it’s rude to say “Uh duh” to people so it seems like you have room for improvement too.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So let’s grow, improve and learn together, ideally while we’re eating pastries.

Until next time, I’m wishing you better days and buttercream. –Ash

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Photo Credit: Giphy
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Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 23: Scones

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

Hi all, it’s been awhile. I’ve been slacking, between work and well, looking for more work, I haven’t had much time to bake, let alone blog about it.

My bad.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

But, last week, I did – I made scones. Which, if you were keeping track, was totally not what I was supposed to be baking this time. The last time I wrote, I was working through season one’s eighth episode – “Advanced Dough.” (P.S. I’m referring to the seasons as they appeared on Netflix – which is totally not the order they aired in the U.K.)

Anyway, the last time I wrote, I was actually supposed to take on a complicated bake called a povitica but for the first time ever, I decided to skip a challenge. (It was one of the most labor-intensive bakes I’ve ever seen on the show and I’m not quite up to it after the surgery I had in June.)

So I was going to skip to the next bake instead – donuts. But, here’s the thing, I skipped that too. I noticed that I was putting off bakes that are harder to share – that aren’t good the next day or that have be refrigerated, etc.

I was also procrastinating on some bakes in which the ingredients were really expensive and/or hard to find in my Midwestern town. I hate to waste food and quite frankly, I’m cheap, so I thought about the situation, calmly…

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Photo Credit: Giphy

…and I decided to change the system.

Instead of trying to bake every single thing from every single season of GBBS – which is forever-taking, I’m going to focus on baking one thing from each episode – or roughly ten bakes per season. If, for whatever reason, I skip an entire episode, I’ll make 15 bakes from that season instead – sort of a baking penalty.

This way, I can hopefully start making up some ground and maybe one day actually catch up to where they are on the show.

Cool? Cool.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Now on to the bake:

Once I got into a skipping mood, I skipped the entire season one episode 9 – Patisserie episode. The challenges in this one were a little too intense for me now, but maybe I’ll come back to them later on (hopefully when I’ve acquired more baking skills).

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So, instead, I blazed ahead to the final episode of season one: predictably called: The Final. In this episode, the contestants take on pastries like croissants and a technical challenge where they have to make scones, mini Victoria sponges and tartlets.

In the next few weeks, I’ll take on variations of these challenges myself. I’m particularly excited to try to make croissants. But, for now, I started with the scones, because well, I wanted some scones.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

The contestants made tea time scones which resemble our American biscuits. But, I went with a different approach and made Lemon Rosemary scones from my The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays cookbook. You can also find the recipe on the Pioneer Woman’s aka Ree Drummond’s website.

 

These scones don’t look like biscuits, instead they look like little sugary triangles of joy. Or well, that’s what they looked like to me anyway when I saw them in the cookbook.

I’d marked the page to remind myself to make these years ago, but back then, scones seemed scary to me. At the time, I hadn’t attempted (and in many cases failed to) make a Baked Alaska or a Swedish Princess Cake or a Hungarian Dobos Torte so I thought scones were hard.

Turns out, they’re not.

First things first, I gathered up all of my ingredients. Then I had to make my scone dough, which was easy. I just shifted together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a big bowl. Then I added two sticks worth of cubed, cold butter. It looks like there’s a lot of butter in here – because there is a lot of butter in here.

Then, thus butterfied (I don’t care that that’s not a word. It should be.) I used a pastry cutter to combine the butter into my dry ingredients in that big bowl.

Then I added one egg, the zest of one lemon, and the leaves from one rosemary sprig to one cup of heavy cream in a measuring cup. I poured this into the bowl and stirred it gently with a fork until all of the ingredients were combined.

I didn’t do so well with this process, so I just mixed it all together with my hands. Which it turns out, wasn’t that bad of a plan, because the next step called for me to use my hands to “press the dough into a ball.”

So basically, I was just a recipe mind reader or something, doing something Ree told me to do even before she told me to do it.

I’m a genius.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Or, I was a genius – until we got to the next part – cutting my dough. I was supposed to press my dough out into a roughly rectangular shape. Which I roughly did.

Then I rolled it out to be about one third of a inch think. I got a ruler and everything.

Precision, guys.

Then I was supposed to use a pizza cutter or knife to cut that rectangle into 12 smaller rectangles. I used a pizza cutter, but maybe I should have used a knife because my rectangles weren’t well, even. We’re blaming the pizza cutter on this, not my tendency to “eyeball” measurements that shouldn’t be “eyeballed”.

From there, I cut my totally-not-even rectangles in half to make 24 smaller triangles, which were also, fittingly not-even.

I transferred the widely-different-sized triangles to two baking sheets I’d lined with baking mats and baked them for 18 minutes at 350 degrees.

But, I actually baked them for more like 25 minutes, because I have a tendency to over-bake things and I guess my definition of “just barely golden brown” is different than most people’s definition and is also quite possibly wrong.

But whatever, when they came out they looked pretty good.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

But they looked even better when I covered them in a bunch of lemon-rosemary glaze. While the scones were cooling, I made a glaze by combining shifted powered sugar, a bit of whole milk, the juice and zest of one lemon and the leaves from one sprig of rosemary.

I’ll be honest here, I totally used more than the juice of one lemon. Because my lemon was dinky. (Dinky is a technical term, right? I thought so.) So I used the juice of two lemons, because lemon also happens to be my favorite flavor.

Thanks to my overzealous lemon-ing the rosemary in my Lemon Rosemary Scones didn’t stand out much. But that’s okay. (I mentioned I like lemon, right?)

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That’s James Corden with a lemon. Bringing it. You’re welcome.

Anyway, at this point, I was supposed to let the scones cool completely before I dipped them in the glaze to fully cover them. But who in the world can wait to let baked goods completely cool down?

Not me, that’s who.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So my glaze didn’t stick as well as it should have because my scones were still a bit warm. But, not to be outsmarted by temperatures, or glaze, or instructions, I just popped my coated scones in the fridge for a bit, then took them out and dipped them a second time.

This is the only time double-dipping is allowed, let alone recommended.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, in the end, I thought my scones were pretty darn good. But seeing as I’ve never eaten a scone before, I really have no basis of comparison.

They were darn fun to bake though and there were no major disasters, so I’m going to count this as a major win.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Boom, look! It’s scones!

Next time on the baking blog, I’ll either make croissants, or a Victoria sponge or a tartlet. Who knows? It’s anarchy over here now.

Until then, thanks for reading the blog, and feel free to share it. I’ve gotten rid of my Facebook page, so I no longer have a Sometimes I Bake Mistakes presence there, but you can share it for me, if you feel like it. No pressure.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Also, you can always follow the blog by just hitting that handy follow button over there. See it? Good. Just click that. There, you can put in your email address and get sent the blogs by email. You’ll only get emails when there’s a blog, which, based on my track record, isn’t that often.

P.S. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I talk about baking and other stuff and follow pretty much any Great British Baking Show contestant ever, in the hopes that it will somehow teach me be a better baker.

Anyway, peace out.
– Ash

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 22: Enriched Sweet Fruit Loaf

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

Hi, all.

This week in my Great British Baking Show blog, I’m tackling the first challenge in season one’s eighth episode — “Advanced Dough.”

I made a panettone, which is an Italian Christmas bread.

And, guess what? It went totally fine.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I know. I know. No one is more shocked than me.

The whole process was greatly helped by one of my favorite cookbooks: The Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking book by Caroline Bretherton. It has more than 350 recipes and helpful photos to help you well, step-by-step. You should probably get it.

(P.S. No one is paying me to say that or anything, I just really like this cookbook. Though, for the record, I would like to be paid to say stuff. I’m not above it.)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway…the process was easy. I just added some yeast to warm milk in a jug. And in a large bowl, I mixed sugar, bread flour and salt.

After the yeasted milk got a bit frothy, about five minutes later, I whisked in melted butter, two eggs and some vanilla.

(Side note: Is it just me or is frothy a disgusting word?)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway…then I mixed the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients to make a soft, sticky dough.

From there, I kneaded the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes until it was all elastic-y and then I stretched it out flat. This shouldn’t have tired me out, but it really, truly did.

So I took a brief, graceful rest and then got back at it.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I chopped up about a cup of mixed dried fruit – cranberries, golden raisins and apricots. And zested one orange. Then I put the zest and the fruit on top of my stretched-out dough. I kneaded it all up again to mix in the fruit and set it in a lightly-greased bowl to rise for about two hours.

And boy, did it ever rise.

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Boom! Monster Dough!

I’m always very excited about rising dough and I have to resist the urge to just sit and stare at it while it does its thing.

And whenever I remove the covering cloth to reveal the risen dough, I feel like Rafiki in The Lion King when he holds up Simba to the adoring masses for the first time. Like, TADA! Look at this!

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This is exactly how I feel, if you just imagine Simba is dough. That really would have changed the whole movie, but not necessarily for the worse I think. I’d totally watch a movie about dough rising and maturing to one day rule over a kingdom. Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway… after my dough was risen. I punched the air out of it and moved it to my prepared pan. The recipe called for an 8-inch spring form cake pan or a high-sided panettone cake mold. I had neither.

I used the 9-inch spring form cake pan I had. That meant my cake was a bit shorter and rounder than it should have been, but given that I’m usually a bit shorter and rounder than I intend to be too, I decided not to fuss about it.

And just like last time, the dough rose beautifully and I was all like – TADA!!!!

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I brushed it with egg wash and put it in a 375 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. But I took it out after 20 minutes to cover it with foil because it looked like it was browning too much.

When it came out of the oven, it was shorter and rounder than a panettone is supposed to be, because I used the wrong pan. But it was beautifully brown and pretty darn good. (The only exception was the fact that it got a bit too brown on the bottom. But…shhh we won’t talk about that.)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Then I had to wait for the bread to cool and cover it with a dusting of powdered sugar, so it looked like this:

And frankly, it was pretty good, if I do say so myself.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Next week, I’m supposed to take on a complicated bake called a povitica, but for the first time ever, I’m going to skip a challenge. This is one of the most labor-intensive bakes I’ve ever seen on the show and I’m not quite up to it after the surgery I had in June. Sorry about that.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I plan on coming back to the povitica later, but for now I’m going to skip to that episode’s Showstopper challenge – donuts.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Donuts are something I think we can all support. Because frankly, even the mention of them makes my mouth water and now all I can think is:

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Until next time, grab yourself some donuts and then like the blog on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and all that other social media stuff.

And please share it with your baking or gif-loving friends.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Bonus trivia tidbit: The Great British Bake Off was renamed The Great British Baking Show in the U.S. to differentiate it from Pillsbury’s famed bake off. Thank you, Sharon, for hooking me up with that trivia!

If you have more fun facts on baking, GBBS, GBBO or all things British, please let me know. I’m all ears.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Until then, wishing you better days and buttercream,

– Ash

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 21: Eclairs

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

So, it’s been awhile since my last bake. I had hip surgery last month and I didn’t think my already-lackluster baking skills would be improved with me on crutches.

And all in all, I’m glad I waited because these eclairs I made for the Season 1 Episode 7 showstopper challenge were a smashing success – as in they looked like I’d smashed them repeatedly with my fists and then dropped them on the floor.

They were a mess – a delicious mess.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

In this episode of GBBS, contestants were challenged to make 24 eclairs of two different varieties. I didn’t do that because I figured eclairs were best served fresh and I didn’t really have 24 people to share eclairs with at 9 p.m. on a weekend when I decided to make these. (Note to self: I need to make more friends). Also, laziness. Laziness is why I didn’t make 24 eclairs of two different varieties.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Though, in my defense, I think all laziness in the months post-surgery is called recovery. So I recovered my butt off by making only 12 eclairs of one variety.

Wanting to keep things classically GBBS, I used Mary Berry‘s cookbook. For the uninitiated, Mary Berry is everyone’s favorite judge on GBBS. She’s the queen of baking and the British fairy godmother we all dream of. (We all do that right?)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

P.S. Do not talk to me about the new shows with the new judges. I cant even handle that right now…just no.

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Besides, after being away from baking for so long, there’s no one I’d rather bake with then Mary Berry herself. So I used Mary’s cookbook Baking with Mary Berry: Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Pastries from the British Queen of Baking.”Get it on Amazon: here. (Then while you’re there, get my books. That was a truly tacky segue into that but I don’t care. I’m just excited you can buy my books on Amazon.)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Moving on…

I used MB’s coffee eclair recipe which, bless her, was simple and only had a few ingredients.

The first thing I had to do was make the choux pastry which, bless Mary Berry again, is explained step-by-step with pictures at the beginning of the book.

It’s pretty simple. You just put butter in a heavy saucepan with some water until the butter melts and it comes to a boil. Then you take it off the heat and add some shifted flour and a pinch of salt.

From there you stir it quote “vigorously” until it all comes together in a soft ball. Then, once it’s cooled a bit, you gradually add in two lightly beaten eggs, one at a time. You beat that all together until it forms a shiny paste. Which I was totally able to do ya’ll.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Then I had to put the choux into a piping bag with a half inch nozzle and pipe it on to a prepared baking sheet that had been buttered and sprinkled with water. (The water helps to create steam which gives the pastry a crispy crust.)

And here’s where I made my first mistake, folks.

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Photo Credit: Tumbler

I didn’t read the instructions fully. I just assumed since I was making 10-12 eclairs with a top and bottom half that I would pipe 20-24 things. You know, because of math. Had I read the instructions correctly (or just completely) I would have realized I was only piping 10-12 eclairs that I would then cut in half to get a top and a bottom.

At this point, I could have scrapped the pastry dough off the baking sheet, put it back in the piping bag and started again. But, I didn’t do that. (Because laziness, er, I mean recovery.)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I baked the pastry for 10 minutes at 425 degrees and then lowered the temperature to 375 degrees and baked them for another 20 minutes.

Meanwhile I made the filling which was just whipping cream, whipped.

Maybe it’s just me, but straight-up whipping cream didn’t do it for me. So I broke from Mary’s recipe and added 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and a 1/2 tsp. of vanilla to the whipped cream. I thought it tasted better.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Then I made the coffee icing which was just instant coffee, butter and water, mixed with some powdered sugar. To make it, you put a bowl over a pan of simmering water on the stove. You put the instant coffee, butter and water in the bowl and heat it until the butter melts. Then you take it off the heat and mix in the powered sugar.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Then I had to assemble the eclairs with the coffee icing on top and the whipped cream in the center. And this is where it turned into a real mess – my frosting was pretty thin so it may have been smart to let it chill and thicken a bit before I attempted to frost my eclairs but I didn’t because – impatience.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

From there, my lack of patience and watery icing led to a sort of coffee flood. The icing was too thin to stay on top of my eclairs so it basically just got everywhere.

This would have been a problem, had I not just decided to just scoop it all up and eat it with a spoon.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I am nothing if not a problem solver.

It was freaking delicious. And the eclairs were delicious too, despite their looks. They were so delicious, in fact, that I was planning on sitting down with a cup of tea and eating one like a proper English lady. But I’m not a proper English lady so I ate an eclair while I was waiting for my tea water to boil. Then I ate another one while the tea was brewing.

Shhh…don’t tell anyone.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

All in all, I might actually make these again, and if I actually follow the directions, who knows, they may get even better.

P.S. Any mistakes in this bake are fully my own and do not reflect any wrongdoing or miscommunication on the part of Mary Berry – who we all know is the queen of baking (and our hearts.)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Next time, I’ll move on to Season 1 Episode 8 “Advanced Dough” where I’ll have to make an enriched sweet fruit loaf. Yeah, I’m not totally sure what that is either. But I’ll be okay right?

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Until then, you can check out the blog’s page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and just generally share the blog with all your friends and stuff. Or not, the ball’s in your court.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

 

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 20: Kouign Amann

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

When most people can’t sleep, they read or watch T.V. or you know, do something normal.

But, I’m not most people. So when I can’t sleep, I bake obscure pastries featured on The Great British Baking Show.

Because, well, because…

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, the weird thing I did this week was make kouign amann, a Breton cake, which was the technical challenge in season 1 episode 7 of GBBS.

Don’t know what kouign amann is? Yeah, I didn’t either, and neither did any of the contestants on the show.

Basically, it’s a traditional pastry from the Brittany region of France – a region known for its butter. According to this handy article from the Huffington Post: “kouign amann” is the Breton phrase for butter cake. Which makes sense, because there’s a hell of a lot of butter in this thing.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Kouign amann is usually a round cake made with bread dough which is layered with butter and sugar. Supposedly it’s similar to puff pastry, but it just has fewer layers. Ideally, it’s cooked slowly so that, as the dough puffs up, the butter melts and the sugar caramelizes. According to the Huff Post article, it’s “simple.”

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So I went into the kouign amann challenge relatively confident, with emphasis on the word “relatively.” The way I figured it, if even the GBBS contestants didn’t know how to do this thing, I shouldn’t feel bad even if I totally blew it.

That being said, the GBBS contestants had very minimal instructions whereas I had a complete recipe. But hell, they’re practically pros and I’m just some woman baking in her small kitchen in Nebraska when she should be sleeping. I figured if I made something edible I’d call it a win.

I did.

(And I only set the fire alarm off once.)

 

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Photo Credit: Giphy

More on that later – first, let’s start from the top where, I totally killed it. Compared to other technical challenges that can have upwards of 20 ingredients, the kouign amann ingredients list was very short.

All I needed was strong plain flour – or as we say in ‘Merica – “bread flour”, fast action yeast – or instant yeast as I usually call it, salt, warm water, melted butter, cold butter and caster sugar.

Note that the recipe mentions butter in two forms – it’s not messing around.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I just had to put the flour in a bowl of a freestanding mixer with a dough hook. Then I put the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other. (This is important for fancy baking reasons that Paul Hollywood always talks about). Then I put the water and melted butter in and mixed it on slow for two minutes and medium speed for six minutes.

When I was mixing it on medium speed, it definitely sounded that the dough was going to fly out of the mixer and hit me in the face or something. It didn’t. And I was totally not worried that it would. Not at all. I just always make this face.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway, after the dough miraculously stayed in the bowl, I just had to dump it on my floured work surface, make it a ball and put it in a lightly oiled bowl. Then I had to cover that with Saran Wrap and let it rise for an hour.

And I totally nailed that whole process, ya’ll. 

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I was smug, like this. I was, however, significantly less adorable because, unfortunately, despite how much I want to be, I am not Kristen Bell.  P.S. I love Kristen Bell, in case that was not clear.

Then came the fun part. I had to take a big ole chuck of butter, place it between two sheets of parchment paper and bash the crap out of it. Okay, technically, the recipe didn’t say “bash the crap out of it” but I assure you, that was the gist of it. Then I had to roll my bashed butter out into a 5 and a half inch square and put it in the fridge to keep chilled.

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This is all just butter.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hmm, that seems like an awful lot of butter,” you’re right. It’s so much butter.

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Since butter’s not a carb, it’s practically a health food, right? I thought so. Photo Credit: Giphy 

Now here is where things got tricky, because I had to do a bit of math – or just, you know, simple counting and measuring.

I had roll out my risen dough into an 8 inch square, then I had to place my butter square inside of that square on a diagonal. That meant that each side of the butter should face a corner of the dough. Then I was supposed to fold the corners of the dough, up and over the butter to close it up like it was in an envelope.

(Best thing to ever be in an envelope.)

From there, I had to roll the dough out into an 18 by 6 inch rectangle and then fold it in thirds. This was supposed to make a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Then I had to wrap it in Saran Wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

I had do do this process twice more so that in the end I had done a total of three of these turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between each turn. Since I’m easily distracted, I could have totally forgotten a turn – so that’s why I kept track of what I did on this handy Post-it-Note. (Shh…I know I spelled “kouign amann” wrong there.)

After the last turn, I was supposed to roll the dough into a rectangle like before and then sprinkle the dough with caster sugar and fold it into thirds again. Then I had to roll it into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle, sprinkle the dough with more caster sugar and cut it into 12, equal squares.

If that looks like a lot of sugar to you, you’re right. Also if it looks like my square are not equal or even squares, you are also right. At this point, I didn’t care that they weren’t equal or squares, I just cared that they looked like dough, so I shoved them into my prepared muffin tin as instructed.

I had greased a 12-cup muffin tin with oil. Then I was supposed to gather these “squares” up by their four corners and put them in the tins. The corners were supposed to come together in the middle of each tin so they looked like pretty, four-leaf clovers. Then I was supposed to sprinkle them with MORE caster sugar, and leave them to rise for 30 minutes until they were slightly puffed up.

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These do not look like four leaf clovers.

Anyway, this is when things took a slight turn for the worse. Okay, remember in the past when I would complain about my oven? It was basically my arch enemy. It was one of my least favorite things. It would not preheat. Or it would preheat and then decide to turn off in the middle of cooking for no reason and with no warning. It was a wild card basically.

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This was my oven. Photo Credit: Giphy

But last week I got rid of that crazy jerkface of an oven and got a brand-new one. The good news is it works great. The bad news is, when I screw up recipes, I have no one to blame but me, so this one is on me guys. This burnt one is on me.

So the recipe told me to bake the pastries for 30 to 40 minutes at 425 F. until they were golden brown. I was supposed to cover them with foil halfway through cooking if I felt that they were starting to brown too much. So that’s what I did. I checked ’em around the 20-minute mark and they looked like this:

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They look promising, right?

I thought they still needed a bit longer though, so I put them back in the oven. And here’s where things went a bit wonky. Remember that butter? All of that butter? It started pouring out of these babies like crazy – so much so that it rained down onto the bottom of my (formerly pristine) oven and started to burn on.

Which set off the fire alarm – at midnight.

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By frantically turning on every fan in the house and waving a tea towel in front of the alarm, I got it off pretty quickly. The dog didn’t even bark and my husband didn’t even seem to notice. (In retrospect, I’m not sure either one of them woke up, which is sort of not good. Since that’s what the alarms are for.)

Anyway, while I was doing this – I ended up cooking my kouign amann too long. Like way too long – so that when I took them out of the oven, they looked like this:

Ummm…yeah.

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But, then I figured, eh, why don’t I try to scrape off the brunt bits. So I did, and turns out that, underneath that pile of crap were actually delicious, buttery, sugary pastries – which yeah, may have been a bit too browned – but were so full of butter it didn’t really matter.

finished kouign aman

There’s probably some lesson in here about how you should look for the best in even the crappiest of situations. But, I’m going to ignore that lesson and instead suggest two things I learned from this: number one: don’t bake at midnight, number two: you can never have too much butter.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Next week, I’ll move on to the showstopper challenge of the Pastries episode, which means I have to make éclairs.

This should be a breeze, right?

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Tune in next time for what may well be a complete disaster.

P.S. If you like the blog, please consider following it by email. Just click on the convenient “follow” button on the right-hand side of your computer screen that looks like this:

How to follow

You’ll just get an email every time I write a new blog – which, let’s face it, is supposed to be every week, but is more like once a month. So though that means I’m lazy, that also means I won’t be clogging up your inbox.

P.P.S. Or follow me on Twitter @ashleystrehle. Sometimes, the amazing Nadiya Hussian from GBBS likes my stuff, for real. It’s really happened. I’m not even making this up.

OK, that’s the end of my post-scripts.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 19: Savory Parcels – Empanadas

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

It’s been a rough couple of weeks on top of a rough couple of years.

At times like this, you’re supposed to talk about turning lemons into lemonade.

But, let’s be real, guys, lemonade isn’t that darn great.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So I say, when life hands you lemons, just shove those in the crisper drawer of your fridge where you will inevitably forget about them and then need to throw them away in a few weeks when they get all gross.

And in the meantime, make something actually good instead, like something fried.

Admittedly, this doesn’t have the same ring to it as the lemons to lemonade thing, but I find it works better.

Because do you know who likes fried food? Everyone.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Which leads me to this week’s baking challenge – savory parcels. In Season 1 Episode 7 of GBBS, contestants were charged with making a fried pastry with a savory filling.

I chose to make an empanada – a stuffed, fried pastry popular in Spain, and Latin American countries and well, here, too, because they are delicious.

I didn’t go with just any empanada though, I made Gloria’s Empanadas from the Modern Family cookbook.

(Because of course I have a Modern Family cookbook. Thanks, Mom, for buying me a gift that perfectly combines my love of T.V. with my even greater love for food.)

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Whenever I get a new cookbook, I meticulously go through it and mark all of the recipes I want to try with a little Post-it-Note. I’ve had this recipe marked for years, but I didn’t make it because it seemed like a whole hell of a lot of work. And I just wasn’t feeling it most days.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Turns out I was right to be leery of this recipe. Gloria’s empanadas were so much work. Like, it took me most of an afternoon work.

The recipe wasn’t hard exactly, but it took some time because I made everything from scratch – the filling, the dough, and the accompanying salsa. And though none of these steps were hard – they were nonetheless, time-consuming.

Like this recipe just kept going on and on and on…

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Photo Credit: Giphy

The filling was pretty easy  though. It was just needed a potato, vegetable oil, an onion, garlic, ground beef, cumin, tomato sauce, pimento-stuffed green olives, capers and pepper. It looked like this:

making filling

Embarrassing sidenote: for longer than I want to admit, I thought capers were fish. Like, I was stone-cold positive capers were fish until I was well into my twenties. Okay, until well into my thirties. Okay, until like a few months ago.

Turns out, capers are not fish. They’re this – which you probably already know. I didn’t though, because I had never actually seen them, or when I saw them, I didn’t know what I was seeing. It just knew there was a thing called capers and they sounded like fish and I hate fish so I figured I hated capers too.

But turns out I really like capers, because they are totally not fish.

Mind blown.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

For the dough, things were a bit more complicated, because I needed masa for arepas or precooked instant cornmeal. I couldn’t find in my regular grocery store, so I just got it on Amazon.

I could have gotten it from a local specialty store, and I probably should have. But I’ll be honest, it’s cold out there and I’m avoiding going outside as much as possible at this point. This is pretty much exactly what I have looked like for the past two months. But grouchier and with slightly less mustache.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I may never leave the house again. Instead, I will get all my necessities, like fancy flours, delivered straight to my door.

To make the dough, I just had to put together the special flour, some hot water, a bit of butter and a pinch each of sugar and salt. Then I kneaded it a bit, waited a bit and it was done. Easy peasy.

 

Nailed it.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

The hard part, or just the time-consuming part, was getting the empanadas ready to fry.

To set up the empanadas, I had to make 32 lil’ balls of dough and then smash those 32 lil balls into four-inch flat circles. Then I took a tablespoon of filling and placed that into the middle of each circle. From there, I had to fold the circle around the filling to make 32 lil half-moon empanadas.

Note to self: next time, don’t use a recipe that makes 32 individual things. Because when you make 32 individual things, that means you have to do a bunch of things 32 times. Which, not surprisingly, takes forever.

After that came the important part, the reason for the deliciousness – the frying. The recipe called for me to put two inches of oil in a large pot and heat it to 350 F. But I didn’t do that.

Instead, I used my handy dandy deep fat fryer. (Shout-out to Mattie for buying me a deep fat fryer a few years back.) I just programmed the deep fat fryer to 350 F and set the timer to about eight minutes for each batch and it worked like a dream.

Which is more than I can say for my favorite GBBS contestant, Kate, who was eliminated from the show this episode. She was kicked out of the competition, in part, because she didn’t have her deep fat fryer programmed right and it shut off during cooking.

I didn’t do that, thank goodness. Though, if it did, it wouldn’t have really mattered, since I’m just in my kitchen and not in a reality T.V. baking show and I just would have turned it back on.

So I guess, for me, it’s no biggie.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Though if I were in a reality T.V. baking show, these empanadas wouldn’t have gotten me kicked out. They were pretty good. They were crispy and miraculously not burned (that much). The filling was well, filling. And the simple salsa with just tomatoes, green onions, hot sauce and cilantro was good too.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

In fact, everything was so good, I might actually make this again.

Of course, I’d cut the recipe in half though, because 32 empanadas is too many empanadas to make. It’s not too many too eat, but it’s definitely too many to make.

Thankfully, next week’s challenge only requires me to make 12 things. Unfortunately those 12 things are Kouign Amanns – a Breton cake that none of the GBBS contestants had even heard of before the show. Which I am totally not scared about at all, obviously.

Actual emotion:

 

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Anyway… tune in next time to see what may well be a massive disaster, or you know a smashing success, whichever.

If you want more of Sometimes I Bake Mistakes, follow the blog on Facebook or catch up with me on Twitter.

P.S. Sharing is cool, guys. Please spread the Sometimes I Bake Mistakes love, by sharing the blog on Facebook or whatever cool social app the kicks use these days.

Laters, gators.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 18: Hungarian Dobos Torte

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

I am not usually a laid-back person. I’m not a “let’s just wing it” sort of gal.

Most of the time, I’m at the other end of the spectrum. I’m the type of person who actually reads Terms and Conditions documents all the way through. I’m a champion list maker.

Like Leslie Knope, this is one of my favorite hobbies:

Jammin on planner

You get it. I’m finicky and I really, really hate it when stuff doesn’t go according to plan.

Sort of like this:

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Photo Credit: Giphy

But not exactly like that. Sometimes I’m more British with it and it looks a little more like this:

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But however I decide to show my emotions, this is what’s usually going on inside my head:
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But, if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that most things are beyond your control. Even if you are the most perfectionist, meticulous, persnickety person in the world, it’s still impossible for you to stop all bad things from happening.

Sometimes, stuff just happens. Sometimes that job doesn’t work out, despite your best efforts. Sometimes you get in that car accident. Sometimes you get really sick, for no good reason.

That’s just life. That’s the deal. You get the good with the bad. So instead of focusing on a doomsday, high-alert, stop-everything-bad-from-happening approach, you can try a different track.  You can try to shift your focus to the good stuff. You can try to fill your life and your world with good things and appreciate them more when you see them.

Even if the good stuff is just dark chocolate buttercream.

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Which leads me back to the bake. I’m now working through GBBS’s Episode 6 “Continental Cakes”. My assignment was to make a Hungarian Dobos Torte, which is a layered sponge cake with chocolate buttercream and caramel topping. It’s famous in, you guessed it, Hungary. (Here I could insert a lame pun about it making you hungry, but I won’t do that to you. Never mind, I already did.)

The GBBS contestants were supposed to make a two-tiered version, but for the sake of my sanity and because I like to avoid food waste, I went with a one-tier version instead.

I used a Hungarian Dobos Torte recipe from the Cooking the Globe blog. (I’m so disappointed that I didn’t think of this blog idea first myself. I’ll just have to follow and cook along with his.)

I chose this recipe because it seemed more manageable than Dobos Torte recipe Mary Berry used on GBBS’s Masterclass. Plus, the caramel work seemed less daunting.

The GBBS contestants were also judged on their caramel work on this cake. It needed to be chockablock full of caramel. (Look how I just casually used British slang there? Chockablock sounds so much better than “a lot”.)

Unfortunately, my caramel work wouldn’t have won me Marys’ praise or one of Paul’s handshakes.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

But, more on that later. Back to the cake.

Technically speaking, the cake wasn’t too hard. The ingredients were pretty standard, though it took me some time to find almond flour in my small hometown. The sheer amount of ingredients, though, was surprising. This cake has three sticks of butter and a full dozen eggs. Just. In. The. Cake.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I know, it’s nuts, right?

My first task was to separate the eggs, which I did seamlessly.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

From there, it was pretty straightforward. First, I had to beat the butter with half of the sugar until it turned white and fluffy. Then I was supposed to add in the egg yolks into this mixture, individually, beating after each one.

And here’s where I made my first mistake.

Call it distraction or just a moment of not-thinking, but I accidentally added in the egg whites instead of the egg yolks.

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I was supposed to add the egg whites later after I had beat them until soft peaks had formed. This would have made them light and fluffy, and in turn, it would have made the cake lighter and fluffier.

But…I did that wrong.

At this point, I could have started over. I didn’t do that though, because I didn’t want to drive into town to get more eggs and because I didn’t want to waste all the eggs I had already used. I’m cheap, even if my mom was the one who bought the cake ingredients this time.

So, cheap and lazy, I forged ahead with my slightly-messed-up cake. I added in the vanilla extract, salt, lemon zest and the rest of the eggs and the sifted flour. It looked like this:

Batter

The recipe told me to make six, 9-inch circles with my dough, using about one cup of dough on each circle.

I traced a pie tin on parchment paper and I ended up having enough dough for seven dough circles.

 

I cooked each dough circle individually in a 425 degree F oven for 8 minutes. Thankfully, I was using my mom’s oven and not my own, so there were no cooking surprises like I often have with my unreliable oven.

Once the layers were cooked and cooled, I trimmed them into neater, 8-inch circles using a smaller, 8-inch pie tin as a guide.

With how thin they were, my cake circles sort of looked like pancakes. Had I added the whipped egg whites like I was supposed to, the cakes would have probably been fluffier and, therefore had more height.

But, oh well.

As the cakes were cooling, I started working on the buttercream. I mixed four egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. I had to whisk it continuously until the sugar dissolved and the mixture reached (about 160 degrees F) which is also warm enough to cook the egg.

Then I removed it from the heat and beat it until it was light and fluffy. This took about six minutes. Then I added the butter, lots of butter and beat it some more and repeated that process again with the melted chocolate.

 

This process took some time. It was boring and forever-taking.

Once my frosting was ready, it was time for assembly. This was pretty simple. It was just a layer of cake, then a layer of chocolate buttercream until I used up all my layers. I used about a 1/3 cup of buttercream on each layer, like the recipe suggested. I put the rest of the buttercream into a piping bag and decorated the tops and sides of the cake.

 

I was supposed to use toasted almond slices to decorate the sides of the cake, but I didn’t do that because I don’t like flaked almonds that much (and again, laziness).

The recipe told me to refrigerate the cake overnight and in the morning I was planning on making the top caramel layer. Basically, I was supposed to make a caramel with sugar, butter and heavy cream. Then I was supposed to very quickly use a buttered knife to spread that caramel onto one of the cake layers I had set aside. I would then cut that into eight pieces and artfully decorate my cake with it.

Ideally my cake would have then looked like this:

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Photo Credit: Cooking the Globe

 

But, my finished cake did not look like that, because my caramel looked like this:

Failed Caramel

Obviously, the best time to attempt to make a caramel sauce for my cake was about 10 minutes before I was supposed to head to my family Christmas celebration, right?

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Photo Credit: Giphy

 

Yeah, it wasn’t the best timing. As the photograph of my caramel clearly proves.

I should have seen this coming. If you’ve read this blog before, particularly, my Self-Saucing Pudding attempt in Week 10, you’ll know I have issues with caramel.

 

I just left my sugar on a few seconds too long and it hardened up on me. It’s possible that I could have done it in my second attempt, but I didn’t have time for a second attempt. So my cake went without its caramel topper.

It was just a chocolate cake which was a little denser than it should have been because of my little egg mistake with the batter.

But, heck, it looked like a cake and it tasted like a cake, so that’s pretty darn good.

 

And, I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the good I can get.

I hope your life is chockablock full of good things this holiday season and all through 2018! Happy New Year’s!

P.S. Special thanks to my mom who let me take over (and partially destroy) her kitchen on Christmas Eve before she had to host the family Christmas dinner there. Sorry I covered everything in chocolate buttercream and splatters of cake dough.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

P.P.S. Like the blog? If so, please consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter or whatever cool social media app kids use these days that I’m not smart enough to understand. Thanks! Love, Ash.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

 

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 17: Swedish Princess Cake

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

You know when you watch something on television and think:

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Photo credit: Giphy

That’s not the way I felt when I saw Season 1 Episode 6 of GBBS where the contestants made a Prinsesstarta (Princess Cake).

Instead, I felt a bit like this:

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Photo credit: Giphy

I felt like there was no way in the world I could make this cake. And it turns out I was right to feel that way.

At least for the most part.

I couldn’t make a Prinsesstarta.

I could make parts of it though and I’m taking that as a win, because this was by far the hardest thing I’ve had to bake in my GBBS challenge. I mean, come on, just look at this recipe.

There are two dozen ingredients and just as many steps.

I had to make a sponge cake, vanilla custard, raspberry jam, whipped cream, a fondant rose and marzipan.

But…I didn’t actually end up making all of those things.

We’ll get to that later.

First, let’s start with what went well – the custard. It was amazing custard. It was beautiful. And it made me feel like this:

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Photo credit: Giphy

I didn’t technically follow the custard directions though. I was supposed to make the custard with milk, egg yolks, caster sugar, cornstarch, butter and 1 vanilla pod.

But,because the grocery store I visited only had one crazy-expensive vanilla pod for like $15, I swapped out the vanilla pod for the three teaspoons of vanilla extract instead. I found the conversions here.

Otherwise, I did what the recipe said. This involved a lot of cooking over low heat and a whole lot more whisking. I whisked and whisked and whisked it until the mixture thickened (and my arm hurt a lot).

It was a lot of work, but it was worth it because in the end it looked and tasted like custard.

 

And, just in case I haven’t made this clear yet, it was:

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Photo credit: Giphy

It was so good, guys.

The jam on the other hand, wasn’t quite as good. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the custard, which, again, was amazing. (Sorry, I’m really jazzed about the custard.)

Anyway, back to the jam, I was supposed to make it using raspberries and jam sugar. But I couldn’t find jam sugar in my grocery store, so instead I swapped in caster sugar.

It seemed to work okay, but, again, I have no real frame of reference since I’ve never made jam before. It tasted slightly worse than what I’ve bought in a jar though.

This is because I overcooked the jam a bit, even though I very diligently used my sugar thermometer.

Okay, okay, you got me. I may have walked away from the pot (and the thermometer) for a bit.

 

 

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Photo credit: Giphy

But rather than holding my head down in shame and walking away, I decided to just  use the jam anyway. This is mainly because I only had one container of raspberries and I wasn’t about to go out and buy another. Again with the cheap thing. This seems to be a recurring theme.

Anyway, on to the cake. I didn’t mess up the cake (that much).

The cake was just a simple sponge cake. It was just eggs, caster sugar, cornstarch, flour and baking powder. The only hard part about it was I had to cut it in thirds, horizontally.

Why is Mary Berry constantly making people cut cakes in halves and thirds? Just make multiple, separate cakes, Mary. It’s easier. Sheesh.

Anyway, I was excited I was even able to cut my cake into three layers.

I wasn’t excited that you could see some bits of flour in some of them though. If you look closely at the second pic you can see the offensive flour spots. But, shhh….we don’t need to talk about that. Let’s just focus on the fact that, otherwise, the cakes were  a massive success.

The marzipan on the other hand. Well, there’s only one way to describe the marzipan:

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Photo credit: Giphy

It was a complete and total disaster.

Just for comparison sake, let’s look at what the marzipan is supposed to look like. See that nice, smooth green cover on top of the cake on the left? That’s the marzipan. See that mess that looks like green ricotta cheese on the right? That’s my marzipan.

It looks, disgusting, right? Here are two appropriate reactions to my marzipan. These are the only appropriate responses to my marzipan.

It was nasty.

I was supposed to make the marzipan by mixing ground almonds, caster sugar and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Then I was supposed to add eggs and almond extract.

From there I was supposed to knead it until it formed a stiff dough, turn it out onto a surface dusted with icing sugar and add a tiny bit of food coloring to it.

I went wrong right from the beginning though with my ground almonds. I tried to grind the almonds myself just using a food processor. This didn’t break them up into small enough pieces though, so instead of being like flour, my ground almonds were more like almond chunks or chunky peanut butter.

This was a mistake. A big one.

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Photo credit: Giphy

This made it impossible for me to do the next step of my marzipan process. I was supposed to roll the marzipan dough into a circle large enough to cover the cake and then gently set it on top and smooth down the sides.

But I couldn’t roll my marzipan, because, just a reminder, it was like chunky peanut butter.

I threw it away. Then I proceeded with my cake sans marzipan. (A girl only has so many almonds.)

Besides, it was the same cake, basically. It was just naked.

So I started the layering. There was a lot of layering.

I spooned a quarter of the custard into a piping bag and piped a border of it around the first sponge. Then I spread the jam between the custard border.

Then I whipped some cream and folded half of it into the remaining custard and spread this over the jam. I put on the second sponge on top of that and spread over the rest of the custard cream and put the third sponge on top.

You get it. There were a lot of cream, cake and custard layers going on. Here’s what the process looked like in action:

Even after all of this layering there was still  more custard and cream. So that got slathered on the sides and piled on top.  So in the end, it looked like this:

It looks decidedly less impressive without its marzipan cover and the accompanying fondant rose and chocolate swirls, but, you know what, it still tasted good.

It tasted really good, like a very fancy cream puff that took a whole heck of a lot of time to make.

But considering how scared I was to even attempt this in the first place, I’m taking the whole thing as a win. Besides, next time, I might even do better. You never know, it’s possible.

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Photo credit: Giphy

Okay, okay, it’s doubtful. But possible, all the same. At least next time there is no marzipan. I’ve got that going for me.

Next time I am attempting to make a contemporary version of the Hungarian Dobos torte though and these things look pretty scary:

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Photo credit: Giphy

But who knows, maybe next time, I will actually do all the steps. That’d be cool.

So, yeah, check in next time to hopefully see me do better, or you know, fail spectacularly again. Whichever.

Bye…

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Photo Credit: Giphy

P.S. You can follow me on Facebook here and Twitter here. You know, if you feel like it. No pressure.

P.P.S. Please don’t judge me for how few followers I have on Twitter…I know it’s embarrassing.

 

 

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes: Celebrity Edition

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

Sorry, I’ve been slacking.

This time I was supposed to make a Prinsesstårta or a Swedish Princess Cake. But I didn’t, because I’ve been distracted by a sinus infection which has me all like:

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Photo credit: Giphy

So seeing as how I’m going to need all of my energy (and the few skills I have) to take on the dreaded Prinsesstårta, I decided to put it off, at least until after Thanksgiving.

So instead, I’ll update you on some important Sometimes I Bake Mistakes celebrity news.

Just FYI, I consider everyone on reality cooking or baking shows celebrities, especially everyone on GBBS. That includes the hosts, judges and even the contestants – most especially the contestants. The contestants are my favorite.

And my absolute favorite of these favorites is Nadiya from GBBS season 3 (or season 6 in the U.K.). Spoiler alert – Nadiya is the winner of that season. But that’s not the reason I love her. I love her because of the speech she gave when she won.

This one:

Nadiya

 

That doesn’t do the speech justice. You should really watch Nadiya say it here.

But seriously that speech is amazing right? Just got-punchingly, ridiculously amazing. The way she tears up at the end, I just, I can’t even. This is what I look like every time I watch it:

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Full disclosure – that speech right there was the reason I decided to do this baking project/blog.

I’ve never been very good at trying things that are hard for me, that don’t come naturally. I’m not very practiced at doing things that require, well, practice.

Odds are, if I tried something once and it was hard for me, this is how I reacted to doing it again:

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Photo credit: Giphy

This isn’t a personality trait I’m proud of, but it’s one I know I have. I’m attempting to change it.

Thanks to Nadiya.

Because if you watch season 3 of GBBS you will see Nadiya fail, pretty spectacularly a bunch of times. Girl could not handle the technical challenges there for a while. But like a true Brit, Nadiya keeps calm and carries on. She just never quits.

What she does instead, is bake and make the best facial expressions the world has ever seen.

I mean just look at this:

 

Just as amusingly, throughout the season you also get to see Nadiya’s sassiness grow in proportion to her confidence. Which means by the end of the season, she goes full on smart-ass on the judge Paul.

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So, yeah, you get it. I love Nadiya. She’s inspiring. She’s funny. She’s not going to take Paul’s nonsense without a comeback. She’s a cake baking genius with world-class facial expressions and, oh yeah, she’s a liker of my tweets.

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I kind of buried the lead there, but anyway, to repeat: Nadiya liked my tweet. This tweet:

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See. Here’s proof.

Here’s the tweet:

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I was talking about Nadiya’s new cooking show on Netflix – The Big Family Cooking Showdown. I’m calling it Nadiya’s show but there are other people there. Nadiya is just one of two hosts.

The show is about what it sounds like: families competing in a cooking showdown. At the end, one family is named Britain’s best amateur cooking family. Sound a bit like GBBS? Of course it does. It’s designed that way to play on the hearts and minds of GBBS lovers.

And it works.

I love it almost as much as I love GBBS. Not just because of Nadiya, but because it’s, well, nice.

It’s a nice show about nice families cooking really, really nice food.

If a show could be a Hufflepuff, this show would be a Hufflepuff. (Seriously, if you don’t know what a Hufflepuff is, go read Harry Potter already. It’s sort of ridiculous you haven’t yet, no offense.)

Anyway, what really makes this show great is exactly what made GBBS great – the contestants are nice to each other, genuinely nice to each other. They support each other, encourage each other and go crazy for each others’ food.

I’d gladly eat dinner at any of their houses. Which I why I was so psyched when two of the three contestants from the winning family liked my tweet too.

It made me feel like this:

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I admit it may seem silly and so “millennial” of me to get excited about something on social media.

But bear with me here, I know that Twitter and all social media gets a bad rap for being artificial – for taking away from real human interaction. And yeah, sometimes it does do that. Other times it’s just another platform for jerks to be jerks.

But sometimes, social media can do the opposite. Sometimes it allows people who would never cross paths in real life to spread a little kindness to each other.

And that’s pretty cool.

There’s something special about a famous baker/television presenter/queen-birthday-cake-baker taking time out of her day to like the tweet of some Nebraskan lady who is not a famous baker/television presenter/queen-birthday-cake-baker.

Because even though we lead very different lives, things like this are proof that we all have so much more in common than we think.

Most people at their core just want to share some nice food with some nice people and that’s why shows like GBBS and The Big Family Cooking Showdown are so great. They celebrate this commonality. This sameness. Which is pretty damn neat.

So watch some GBBS and The Great Family Cooking Showdown already and while you’re watching, remember that awesome Nadiya lady liked my tweet, so we’re practically best friends now, right?

 

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Photo credit: Giphy

Or you know, not, whatever.

P.S. If for some crazy reason Nadiya ever sees this, I just want to apologize if I came off a bit creepy. I swear I am not creepy, though, in retrospect, saying that did not make me sound less creepy. My bad.

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Photo credit: Giphy

Anyway…Happy Thanksgiving! May your holiday be filled with nice people and really nice food.

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter here. I have embarrassingly few friends on here but Nadiya does like my tweets sometimes, just so you know, in case you forgot…

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Photo credit: Giphy

Update: Nadiya just liked my tweet about this exact blog post!

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This tweet:

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I can’t even handle this! Me right now:

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Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 16: Yeast-Leavened Cakes

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

***

After last week’s Tower of Pies challenge, which, I’ll be honest, was sort of a mess sometimes, I was pretty psyched going into this week.

I just had to make a yeast-leavened cake. And I’ve made cakes. Tons of cakes. So basically, I was like, I’ve got this.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

This sense of overconfidence has burned me (and my bakes before). Just check out, well, most of my other baking blogs for proof of that.

But this time things actually did go well.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Shocking, I know.

But it turns out that making a yeast-leavened cake is just a whole heck of a lot like making cake and also sort of like making bread.

And I’ve done both, and you can do both too.

Because I really cannot overstate how easy this particular bake was. I used a King Arthur Flour recipe for a Yeasted Lemon Cake. Here’s the recipe.

It’s really simple. I just had to combine flour, instant yeast (not active dry yeast), sugar, salt, warm milk, melted butter, eggs and lemon zest in a tube pan. (I used an angel food cake pan and that seemed to work just fine.)

Then, the hardest part for me – I had to wait, for an hour for the dough to raise. The waiting always sucks.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Then after the excruciating (or just mildly boring) wait time, I just popped the raised dough into the oven. (Heads up, it didn’t raise nearly as much as I thought it would but I put it in the oven anyway, because I’m impatient and I wanted to eat my cake.)

 

So basically the whole thing was easy peasy. A piece of cake. (Yeah, I couldn’t resist making that pun. Roll your eyes all you want.)

 

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Photo Credit: Giphy

And for once, my oven actually worked. Like I put something in the oven for the amount of time the recipe instructed and the oven actually cooked the thing like it was supposed to. It was amazing.

Heck yeah!

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Photo Credit: Giphy

But then I had to make the syrup and obviously something had to go wrong here because nothing had gone wrong so far so I was totally pushing it.

For the syrup I just had to combine sugar and water in a saucepan, boil it and simmer it for 10 minutes until it thickened. Except after 10 minutes and then 15 minutes and then maybe 20 minutes (I stopped keeping track) it still hadn’t really thickened. Like at all. Just check out this nonsense.

 

So yeah, I took my not-very-thickened syrup and added lemon juice to it like the recipe told me to, which obviously made the syrup even thinner. At this point, my syrup wasn’t so much syrup as it was just weak lemonade.

Then once my cake was cooked I was supposed to brush the syrup over the bottom of my cake. Since my syrup wasn’t really brush-worthy, I just tried to drizzle it on with a spoon. Then I had to wait for the cake to cool for five minutes.

This is the point where many people who commented on the recipe’s webpage ran into problems. They claimed that when they flipped their cake over onto a baking rack covered with parchment paper or onto a baking sheet, their cake would break up and become a big mess.

But mine didn’t, guys. So I think that means I have become a baking genius.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

Then once my totally-not-ruined cake was flipped over, I had to drizzle the rest of the lemonade/lemon syrup mixture on top of the cake and then let the whole thing cool completely.

This took practically forever (or maybe like a half hour) I don’t know. I lost track. I just wanted my cake.

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Anyway after it had finally cooled. The cake looked pretty damn awesome.

 

And it tasted good too. A few people had commented on the recipe that they thought the cake was too dry and not sweet enough.

I disagreed. Thanks to my overly-runny syrup my cake wasn’t dry at all. It was moist

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Photo Credit: Giphy

(Yeah, sorry about that. I hate that word too.)

Anyway, moving on…

I didn’t think the cake should be sweeter, because, as a whole, I usually think desserts are way too sweet.

Besides, a few days after Halloween and pounds of leftover Halloween candy, a less-sweet, fruity cake almost seems healthy. Almost…but not really at all.

I got off pretty easy this week with a cake that actually ended up looking (and tasting) like a cake.

Next week, though, things get real. I have to make a Swedish Prinsesstarta (Princess Cake).

It has sponge cake, marzipan, fondant, jam and custard. All of which I have to make from scratch. It has more ingredients than I even want to count and the recipe has two dozen steps. Two dozen. Also it looks like this:

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Photo Credit: BBC

Yeah, if you’re looking at that picture and thinking there’s no way in hell Ashley can make that, I’m right there with you. Just looking at that pic sort of makes me feel like this:

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Photo Credit: Giphy

So yeah, check in next week for what will probably be a total disaster.

P.S. Sharing is cool, guys. If you know someone who likes baking, stupid GIFs or just reading about someone else’s mistakes, please share the blog: sometimesibakemistakesblog.wordpress.com or the Facebook page with them: www.facebook.com/sometimesibakemistakesblog.

P.P.S. This is totally unrelated, but if you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, just do it already. What are you waiting for?

Go watch Stranger Things now. Just trust me on this.

Bye.

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Photo Credit: Giphy