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, I’ve been slacking.
Ordinarily, I try to do a bake a week, but this time it took me closer to two weeks, because it’s the first bake I well and truly botched. I mean, I really messed up. Things went…badly.
Like, they were not okay. They were bad.
Things went as badly as things can go when you’re talking about salted caramel and chocolate, which is exactly what I’m talking about because this week (and well, last week) I attempted to make Chocolate and Salted Caramel Molten Puddings.
I know, they sound amazing, right? But sounds can be deceiving. (Why isn’t that a saying? It should be saying.)
Anyway, this challenge was the first one on Season 1 Episode 4’s Desserts episode. Contestants were supposed to make “saucy puds” which are cakes which have filling or sauce at the bottom.
Turns out, my saucy puds would not be saucy at the bottom.
But, as it happens, that was the least of my puds’ problems. Their problems started with the caramel.
Sweet, sweet caramel. Which used to be one of my favorite things, just as Kate, the creator of this recipe, used to be one of my favorite contestants on GBBS Season 1. (Reminder: I’m using the seasons of GBBS available on Netflix in America, so they won’t sync up with what was shown in Britain, homeland of the bakes.)
Just kidding, I still love caramel and Kate’s still one of my favorite GBBS bakers. (Because I mean, just watch this amazing dramatic sigh, she does here in her introduction video.)
But for awhile there, I was a little mad at both of them: caramel and Kate, that is.
Because for me at least, following Kate’s instructions on making the molten caramel did not work. Like, at all.
Here’s what Kate’s recipe told me to do: “For the salted caramel, place the golden syrup, caster sugar and four tablespoons of water in a small pan. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves.Using a sugar thermometer, check the temperature of the caramel. When it reaches 160C (320F) remove from the heat and stir in the cream and salt. Carefully pour the caramel into an ice cube tray. Allow to cool and then place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.”
First off, I can’t find golden syrup, so I went all Nebraskan-land-of-corn with it, and used light corn syrup instead. Also, I used regular granulated sugar instead of caster.
Both of these substitutions could have been part of my problem. But the bigger problem, the first two times at least, was my thermometer. I didn’t have a candy or sugar thermometer. I just had a fiddly little meat thermometer that I couldn’t leave in the whole time, so I had to keep taking it out of the mixture every few minutes and putting it back in. This, umm didn’t work out.
(No pans or spoons were harmed in the making of this caramel, at least not irreversibly. It just took me awhile to clean them. Obviously.)
The first time I attempted caramel, my impatience got the best of me, and I jacked up the heat way higher than I should have and well, you see the pan on the left. Basically the caramel got super-crazy, amazingly burnt on. I’d already cleaned it a bit when I took that first photo.
In my second attempt, I got all the way to the adding in the cream and salt part, but as soon as I put in the cold cream, my caramel hardened up like nobody’s business. There is probably a very obvious sciency reason that happened, but I’m not going to explain that reason here. Instead I’m going to share this gif of how I felt at the moment this photograph was taken:
Except replace the “murder someone” with something slightly less insane and violent, though I really could have gone for a soft pretzel at that moment.
Anyhoo… I put the recipe away for a few days, because well, I was mad at it, but then, I resolved to try again, mostly because I’d already bought all the ingredients, as well as a new sugar/candy thermometer.
And I was like, I got this:
This time around, things went slightly, every so slightly better, because I basically just went rogue. Rather than using Kate’s caramel instructions, which as demonstrated, totally did not work for me for some reason, I just followed the instructions on making caramel that came with my new thermometer:
So, using my new, handy-dandy thermometer, I took the caramel mixture to the “firm ball” temperature of 248 instead. This kept it from burning on to the pan.
Unfortunately, keeping the caramel at this low of a temperature, also prevented it from getting more browned – or, you know, caramel-colored. Once I had added in the cream, slowly this time to try to prevent my caramel hardening, my caramel looked, it has to be said, decidedly pale.
I’m sure actually having golden syrup, rather than light corn syrup, would have helped the coloring. But like, I said, I couldn’t find that, so light corn syrup, and embarrassingly-pale caramel, it is.
The caramel somewhat accomplished, I put it in the freezer and started on the cake-like portion of this dessert.
For this, I just had to melt butter in a large saucepan and put chocolate in it. Then I just removed it from the heat and waited until the chocolate melted. Then, once the chocolate was melted, but still liquid, I mixed in the sieved flour until it was nice and smooth.
Then, this part got a bit trickier. I had to break three eggs into a large heatproof bowl which I then had to put over a pan of “gently simmering water”. It’s important that you don’t allow the water to touch the bottom of the pan. Then, using a hand mixer, I whisked the eggs in the bowl, while I gradually added in the sugars.
This takes about seven minutes, which in my opinion is a long time to hold a hand-held mixer over a pan of simmering water.
But I persevered, because I eventually wanted to eat this stuff and food is a great motivator.
Eventually the eggs are supposed to get “pale, light and fluffy”.
Then you add your melted chocolate into your allegedly fluffy eggs, along with a pinch of salt (which I’m just now realizing I totally forgot to do. Whoops.)
Now you need your pudding molds which you prepare by spraying with cake release spray. (I used a cake release paste from Wilton that worked great.)
Kate’s recipe called for you to use four individual, 6 oz. pudding (or dessert in America) molds. I used a flexible silicon muffin tray instead. It seemed to work just fine.
Anyway, once your individual molds or muffin trays are prepared with the cake release, you line them with toasted, flaked almonds and dust the inside of the molds with cocoa powder. Then you set them in the freezer, which I totally forgot to tell you to do until now. Shhh…pretend they were already in the freezer.
Take them out of the freezer (because they were totally already in there) and pour in your chocolate-eggy mixture.
Then, place your filled molds in the fridge to chill.
They don’t have to be “super chill all the time”. They just need to chill for at least 30 minutes.
While they’re chillin’, you can make the vanilla cream which has: 100 ml (or 3.5 fl oz in American) of double cream (or heavy whipping cream in American), 50 g. of icing sugar (or powdered sugar in American) and the seeds from one vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise.
I’ve never in my life used the seeds out of a vanilla pod, which is weird, because vanilla bean is my favorite ice cream. (I do not care how boring that sounds. I love vanilla bean.)
But since I had no idea, what I was doing, I followed this video I found online on how to split and seed vanilla beans. It was really helpful.
So I did what he said in the video, just in a way messier way, and, it turns out, vanilla seeds look sort of gross:
Then once you’ve seeded your bean, (That sounded weird, didn’t it?) you need to whisk the cream until it begins to thicken and then fold in the powdered sugar and your vanilla seeds that are totally not dirt.
Then, back to your pudding molds. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which I totally did but my oven totally didn’t preheat because it likes to drive me insane.
Then once your oven is sufficiently-preheated, and is not just messing with you, put your muffin tray or your individual pudding molds onto a baking tray and grab that long-forgotten caramel out of the freezer.
Here’s what Kate tells you to do: “Working quickly, remove the moulds from the fridge and place on the baking tray. Remove the salted caramel from the freezer and scoop out the contents with a teaspoon and push into the pudding mixture, ensuring the caramels are encased in the pudding mixture.”
Which is what I tried to do. I had a hard time ensuring that the caramel was completely encased in the pudding:
Then bake your caramel-filled, chocolate puds for 12 minutes or until, as Kate says “the sides looked cooked but the middle is still a little wobbly.”
But, because of my infinite distrust of my oven, and my paranoia about under-baking things (because germs, guys), I baked my puds way longer than 12 minutes, like closer to 30 minutes. Because, yeah, my oven and I have a history.
But eventually, even I had to take my puds out (that sentence sounded odd), and they looked like this:
Then, once your puds are out, let them sit in their molds for three minutes and, using a small palette knife, go around the inside edges of the molds and carefully slide them out.
Mine looked like this:
Now, on the show this is where the moment of truth came in. When the venerable judges, Paul and Mary, cut into the pudding, caramel was supposed to come out.
And Kate’s puds on the show totally did that. But mine, well, didn’t. I think I’d cooked it so long, all of the caramel escaped out of my bad encasement and was cooked off, which was a bit disappointing.
So I coated my sad cake in my vanilla cream instead, which, immediately got all melty and sad-looking too:
All in all, this bake went, well, not well.
But, in the end, the cake tasted okay (more like a dense, fudgey brownie that was way too complicated to make) and the vanilla cream, though a bit runny and sad, tasted delicious.
So that’s good enough for me.
Next week, I’ll be attempting Season 1 Episode 4’s technical challenge: Mary Berry’s own Tiramisu Cake. And since tiramisu is my favorite dessert of all time, I’m really, really hoping it goes better than this time around.
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P.P.S. I am in no way still mad at caramel in general or Kate in particular. Any problem with the recipe was surely mine (or my dang oven’s). It’s not you. It’s me. Yay caramel! Yay Kate! On to tiramisu!