Tag Archives: Sometimes I Bake Mistakes

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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Photo Credit: Giphy

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

 

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Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 15: Tower of Pies

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 this week I was supposed to make a  tower of pies that was at least three tiers and included three different types of pie.

And, I did. Technically. Kind of.

But not really.

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Photo Credit: Giphy

I did make three different kinds of pies and I made one of those kinds of pie into a four-tiered tower.

My tower was just significantly smaller than the towers made by the GBBS contestants. And, also, I took about three weeks to make all of my pies, when they made all of theirs in one afternoon.

I did this for a few reasons. Number one, because, time-wise I just didn’t have a whole day to devote to pie-making this month.

Yeah, I know, it shouldn’t take me all day to make three pies. But, in case it wasn’t clear by now, I have no idea what I’m doing so it very well may have taken me a whole day.

Number two, three pies are just too many pies for me to have around the house at once. That’s a lot of pie for two people to eat.

And, yeah, okay, I could share. But sometimes you’re leery of sharing something you baked when you have absolutely no idea if you got it right.

Like “Hey everyone, come over here and eat this stuff I made. It may be awful, but just eat it anyways and don’t be a jerk about it.”

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Photo Credit: Giphy

But, of course, I did make people eat them anyway and they were very generous about them even though the pies didn’t warrant it.

(It pays to be friends with nice people who lie to you sometimes when you need it.)

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Okay, anyway, on to the pies.

This time, I took a break from the British and went very American with my pies. I used three pie recipes from Ree Drummond, a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman. They were from two Pioneer Woman cookbooks I already owned – The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime.

From Holidays I used her Pecan Pie recipe and her Caramel Apple Pie recipe. Both of these recipes use her Perfect Pie Crust recipe from the same cookbook.

From her Dinnertime cookbook, I made her Individual Chicken Pot Pies. (I then, very briefly, made these individual chicken pot pies into a pie tower. More on that later.)

Let’s start with the pecan pie. I’ve never made a pecan pie in my life. I’ve also never eaten a pecan pie. So I had no idea what I was doing with this one.

In a way, this was a relief, because I knew whatever I made, it would be the single greatest pecan pie I’d ever made in my life.

(It would, by this logic, also be the worst, but I decided not to focus on that.)

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Photo credit: Giphy

Anyhoo, here’s some pics of the pie in progress.

As you can see, I didn’t make any huge mistakes here. It was a baking breakthrough!

And naturally, I did a dance in celebration.

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Photo credit: Giphy

Let’s just ignore the fact that pecan pie is actually pretty easy to make and all I did was make a pie crust, mix a few ingredients in a bowl and then dump that mixture and some pecans into a crust.

This may have been a bad pie for me to start out with because it gave me a very inflated sense of self-confidence in my pie baking skills. Because, it actually ended up looking like a pecan pie. (I think)

See, look.

Then, I made the Caramel Apple Pie which sounds delicious, but wasn’t as delicious thanks to my poor execution and way too much caramel.

I just said “too much caramel” which is something I never thought I’d say. But seriously just look at this.

See that pic at the end? That’s supposed to be a drizzle of caramel. A drizzle.

I don’t know if my store-bought caramel sauce was too thin, or if I just put it on the pie when the pie was still too warm, but my pie looked like it had been hit by a caramel thunderstorm not a caramel drizzle.

My friends who I forced to eat it were very nice about it, but, again it was possible they were just being nice. (You can never tell with these people. They’re crafty like that.)

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Photo credit: Giphy

Then for my pièce de résistance – my pie tower – I used my individual chicken pot pies.

These were made from a pie crust the Pioneer Woman calls “All-Butter Pie Crust.” It has three whole sticks of butter in it. Three! Just in the crust! It was insane. If for some reason, you want to raise your cholesterol, eat this.

All in all, this bake was pretty easy. The only problem I had was I’d accidentally bought the wrong size of pot pie pans online and then I was too lazy to return them and try again. The ones the Pioneer Woman uses in her recipe are deeper so they can take more of the filling. Mine were smaller so I had lots of filling left over. Like a whole bunch.

That picture toward the bottom right is all of the leftover filling.

But aside from having a bunch of leftover filling, I was pretty psyched about how these bad boys turned out.

Because they did not have soggy bottoms (which our judge Mary Berry would have hated) and they were solid enough that I could actually stack them. Into a tower. Like this:

Pie Tower

Tada!

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Now, this tower may have only lasted for a few seconds while I took a picture of it before I got scared and took it apart. But it was still there. Ever so briefly. Like a gosh-darn double-rainbow or a freakin’ shooting star.

And it had me feeling really, really good about myself.

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Photo Courtesy: Giphy

So, all in all, this bake challenge wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, because, well, I sort of cheated. (Which always makes things easier.) But, it was also easier than I thought it would be because I actually got better at making pie crusts. As in, I learned something guys! Which was sort of the whole point of all this.

Next time, I’ll start learning about European cakes because I’ll move into Episode 6’s Continental Cakes episode.

This is going to be tough. Really though. I have to make stuff like this.

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Photo courtesy: BBC

But, thankfully, I’ll get to start out making just a yeast-leaven cake, which I’ve also never done before. But, heck, I’d never made a pie tower before this week either, so who knows what I can bake up?

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Photo Courtesy: Giphy

Probably something wonderful (or, something wonderfully terrible). Either way, I’ll blog about it. So catch you next time. It’s either gonna be great or awful.

P.S. A special thanks to Sugar Bear (you know who you are) for the caster sugar which will help me bake like a real Brit.

P.P.S. Sharing is cool, guys. If you know some people who may like the blog, please share this post or let people know about the Facebook page. Your friends will either like it, or they’ll think it’s dumb, but since they’re your friends, they’ll probably be nice about it either way. So, share it, if you feel like it, no pressure.

P.P.P.S. Just in case this wasn’t clear. Ree Drummond, a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman, is a gosh-darned cooking and baking genius, so any problems with the recipes are due to my execution and not anything she did. She’s the best.

Until next time.

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Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 7: Rye Bread Rolls

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’ve reached bread week and I’m pretty damn excited about it, because, like Oprah, I. Love.Bread.  (Yeah, I totally used that video in last week’s blog but I’m not even embarrassed to share it again, because I love it that much.)

I’ll share it in every single bread week blog if I have to and I’ll probably have to, because I just love bread that darn much. (P.S. I just Googled “I love bread” because, well, I do things like that, and this bizarre/possibly amazing video came up. I can’t tell if it’s brilliant or the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s one or the other, I’m sure of it.)

Anyway, now that that song’s stuck in my head (and possibly yours) I’ll get to the point: this week’s challenge was rye bread rolls and I totally nailed it, guys.

My rye bread rolls were much better than al-rye-ight. (Get it, alright? Okay, that was embarrassing.)

Ordinarily I try to use recipes from the official GBBS website. They post several of the contestants’ recipes for each episode. Unfortunately they didn’t post any of the rye bread roll recipes this time so I had to go rogue. (That may have been the lamest use of the phrase “go rogue” ever.)

It took me awhile to find a rye bread roll recipe that seemed easy and had ingredients I could actually find at my local grocery store. But eventually I settled on this recipe from Taste of Home.

I picked it because I’d heard of all the ingredients, but that didn’t mean I could easily find all of the ingredients. I can’t tell you how long I wandered around the grocery store looking for nonfat dry milk powder. Turns out it was in a totally normal spot in the baking section, but, anyway, in case you have a hard time finding it too, it looks like this:

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Once I saw the package I remembered that we used to have some of this in our cupboard because of Y2K. Because who didn’t have weird dry milk in their cupboard because of Y2K?

Anyway, I also couldn’t find the rye flour, which was kind of a big deal considering it’s the main ingredient in rye rolls. Eventually I found a whole grain rye flour in the health food section. (Ordinarily I avoid the health food section, because I’m sorry, it just has to be said, that section smells weird, guys. It just does.)

It was easier to round up the rest of the ingredients though: active dry yeast, water, eggs, butter, all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar and molasses. I skipped the suggested caraway seeds and used the kosher salt instead because caraway seeds were like $6 for a small container and I’m way too cheap to spend that much on seeds. I’m not made of seed money.

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Here’s a picture of the rest of the ingredients totally not missing caraway seeds at all.

From there, the recipe was pretty straight-forward. I just had to dissolve the yeast in warm water and then mix everything up in a big ole bowl. The recipe had me add 2 cups of the all-purpose flour first, mix the dough and then add the rye flour and an additional one to two cups of all purpose flour and mix again. I was supposed to make a soft dough.

In my very amateur opinion, all dough looks soft. I mean it’s dough.

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It looks soft, I think. But, yeah I really don’t know.

Then I had to dump my (hopefully soft) dough unto a well-floured surface so I could knead it.

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Dough that “kneaded” to be “kneaded”. Ugh…that was a bad pun.

Confession time: I have no idea how to knead dough.

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I’m pretty sure I just punched the dough for 8 minutes because the recipe told me to knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, and as I had no idea what I was doing, I figured I may as well just do whatever I was doing, longer.

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After I’d punched the dough or actually kneaded it (who knows) I had to put it into a greased bowl, cover it and let it rise for an hour (or until it had doubled in size).

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Dough ready to “rise” to the occasion. Yeah, the puns aren’t going to get better.

Here’s a little tidbit about me, I’m never patient enough to wait to let things double in size, so I just took it out after an hour because I was sick of waiting.

Then after that, I had to roll the dough into 30 well, rolls and brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle on a bit of that kosher salt we talked about earlier. This took awhile, there were a lot of rolls.

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I was going to make a pun here about how I was “on a roll” with roll-rolling but even I thought that was too much.

Then,  here’s the worst part: I had to wait for the rolls to rise again. This was supposed to take about 45 minutes.

I took the photo below when I felt like the rolls had been rising a long time, like a really long time. As you can see by the timer on the oven, it had only been 7 minutes. Patience is, uh, not my thing.

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Rolls taking forever to rise. Lil’ slackers.

Thankfully, the baking bit went much faster. It only took about 17 minutes to get these babies golden brown. That’s more than what the recipe told me to do but yeah, I’m an overachiever (and, also usually an over-baker). This time though, my tendency to go baking-overboard worked out.

The rolls came out looking pretty great. I didn’t even have to try to hide any ugly ones in the picture this time.

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The beer is not part of this but I just think it’s a really good beer and you should drink some.

Anyway, if I’m going to get real honest and a bit braggy for a second, let me just say these rolls were by far the best thing I’ve baked yet. They remind me of soft pretzels in that they’re delicious like them and I want to eat way too many of them and also, I did eat too many of them.

Frankly when these bad boys came out of the oven looking good and tasting even better I was tempted to do a bit of this:

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But I didn’t of course, because, I’m way classier than that, obviously and a better dancer. Or not.

The point is, these rolls were good. You should make some.

Next week, I’ll tackle a much tougher challenge: ciabatta loaves. At that point, I probably won’t be feeling Chandler-victory-dance-level cocky. So for now I’ll take the wins where I can get ’em and I’ll eat a bunch of rolls. Because I can and because, if I haven’t mentioned this yet, I love bread.

P.S. If you’re liking these blogs, please consider subscribing. There’s two ways to do it. You can follow the blog by email and get a notification each time I make a post, or if you’re a fellow WordPresser (not even sure if that’s a word) you can follow that way too. There are buttons to do both on the right-hand side of this page. If you do, I’d really appreciate it. Like I’ll feel like this:

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So thanks in advance. You’re the freaking best. In that way you’re a lot like bread.

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 4: Savory Biscuits

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).

***

There are a great many things English people do better than us. (For a handy list of them, check out this clip from Love Actually.)

One thing the British don’t do better  than us – is using the word “biscuits”.

I hate the word “biscuits”. They use it to mean “cookies”. They use it to mean “crackers”. They use it to mean, “biscuits” as we Yanks would typically define them.

It’s confusing. It’s annoyingly ambiguous. It has never bothered me until now. But now I’ve moved on to the second episode of The Great British Baking Show – the “Biscuits” episode, so it’s bugging me, far more than my actual baking project did.

The first task in this episode is to make “savory biscuits”. Some of the contestants made things we’d traditionally call “biscuits” and others made ones we’d call “crackers”.  It was chaos. Or, you know, it was just people baking stuff.

I went official with it and used a recipe from PBS’ Great British Baking Show website. The recipe is from Paul Hollywood (my second favorite GBBS judge) and it’s called Paul’s Savory Biscuits. (Not a very creative recipe name.)

And yeah, they may be called “savory biscuits” which makes them sound vaguely fancy, but they’re not really. Don’t let the British fool you. These are just crackers, guys.

I’ve never made crackers before, and I don’t know if I’d do it again. It seems like a whole heck of a lot of work for crackers, which you know, come in a box at the store and taste just fine. That being said, as far as GBBS baking goes, this was definitely my easiest task yet which was a nice change of pace after last week’s labor-intensive Classic English Cakes debacle.

Paul’s Savory Biscuits recipe called for me to make a simple dough – just flour, salt, water, egg and a whole heck of a lot of butter. Then you split that dough in half to make two different flavored crackers – sun-dried tomato and poppy seed.

Here’s a pic of the sun-dried tomato that also has Parmesan cheese in it:

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I was trying to make a perfect rectangle here. Shapes are hard.

Here’s a pic of the poppy seed dough which has a bizarre amount of poppy seeds. So many poppy seeds.

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Just a really stupidly ridiculous amount of poppy seeds.

Then after I rolled these bad boys out, I had to cool the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes. (A brief note about me – I don’t like to wait more than 30 minutes to eat crackers. Who does, really?)

After those 30 long (super long) minutes, I got to cut my dough out with cookie cutters. I love doing this because it makes it seem like my extensive cookie cutter collection was a smart purchase. Even if I only use the two round ones, like twice a year.

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Oh my gosh, thank goodness I have cookie cutters, right?

After I got good use out of my handy-dandy cookie cutters, I baked the crackers for awhile. Then I baked them a bit longer and a bit longer than that – because my oven hates me and is a liar.

When the baking was finally over, slash I got sick of waiting this long to eat crackers, I pulled the them out of the oven and they looked like this:

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I tried to hide the ugliest ones in the back. It didn’t work.

As you can see in the photographic evidence above, some of the crackers look quite pretty and others…not so much. But, when I arrange them on a plate like below, they all look like they’re pretty. See:

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This plate is a lie.

See what I did there, I cleverly hid the ugliest crackers on the bottom and then not-so-cleverly told you that I did that.

Then after I spent an embarrassing amount of time moving crackers around on a plate, I ate one of them and then I ate another. The fact that I ate more than one is notable because it’s the only GBBS bake I’ve made so far that I’ve been able to eat more than one of at a time.

(I mean, I probably shouldn’t have eaten more than one. There is a heck of a lot of butter in these guys, but I recently realized butter may be my favorite food. In this way, I’m a lot like Andy Dwyer. So yeah, give Andy and I a break. Butter’s the best, guys.)

So yeah, the crackers were sufficiently buttery enough to be good, but even then, they were just crackers.

Next week, things get a bit trickier as I will attempt to make Mary Berry’s Florentines, which are cookies. They’re cookies. I, a suitably stubborn American, am going to call them cookies even if I’m supposed to call them biscuits.

P.S. A special thanks this week to everyone who told me about the Great British Baking Show’s Masterclass series in which GBBS’s judges Mary Berry and Paul of the Savory Biscuits, bake their ways through the show’s recipes with far more skill than I do and with far less complaining about word choice.

 

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 3: Mini English Classic 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).

***

Ordinarily when I want to procrastinate, I cook something — anything, just something so I can avoid doing what I’m supposed to be doing while tricking myself into believing that I’m still doing something productive.

Sure, I’m putting off writing an article for work, but I made roasted Parmesan potatoes so that’s something, right?

This tactic usually works for me, but this week I was avoiding baking.

I was really dreading making this week’s showstopper challenge – 36 miniature English classic cakes.

But I couldn’t put off this task my normal way, because putting off baking by cooking was a bit too ridiculous even for me.

So instead I wrote my article for work early (for possibly the first time ever). (Side note: If you don’t know, I write bar reviews for the Omaha World-Herald. You can check them out here.)

Then after I did that, I cleaned everything in the house. I vacuumed. I dusted. I mopped. I laundered. Then I considered doing a bunch of ironing that I had been putting off.

And that’s when I realized things had gotten a bit out of hand.

I didn’t want to iron. Sheesh.

My procrastination had to be stopped.

It was time to make these damn cakes.

I had decided to make miniature coffee and walnut cakes. Which are apparently a classic English cake. I had no idea what a “classic English cake” was going in, so I decided to go official and use a recipe from the show – specifically, the contestant Richard‘s recipe. The recipe is available on the GBBS website here.

But, recipe decided, I still didn’t want to make these damn cakes.

Because it looked like so much work. There were multiple cakes. There were three layers. There were too many words in the recipe.

It seemed like there were too many steps, too many opportunities for me to mess things up.

So to hedge my bets and because previous attempts have taught me that “winging it” is not a good idea (see here for an example), I got really anal retentive about it.

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Photographic proof of anal retentiveness (and also of bad handwriting).

Then came the actual baking, which took approximately forever. I made the dough and then had to separate it into three pans which would be for the three cakes that would make up my three layers.

I could have baked all the cakes at once obviously, but I didn’t because, frankly, my oven and I have trust issues. We haven’t worked together long and we’re still feeling each other out. (Yes, I know my oven is not a person. I’m just saying, we’ve got to work out a few kinks in our relationship before I trust it. I’ve been burnt before. Get it? Burnt by the oven….okay, yeah, not my best pun.)

Anyway, so I baked the cakes one at a time, and they turned out crazy thin. Like Richard really should have warned me in the recipe about how thin these cakes would be. (And don’t worry, I actually think they’re supposed to be like this. I looked at the pictures of his cake.) But still, to reiterate. It was alarmingly thin for a cake. See, look:

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Alarmingly thin cake.

Then I had to wait for the cakes to cool and cut them into 54 circles. Fifty-four is a strange number for someone making 36 cakes, huh? I thought so too. That’s when I read the recipe fully for the first time. (Yeah, I realize I should have done this sooner.)

Turns out I was cutting them into 54 circles because I was only making 18 cakes. Eighteen cakes with three layers. Not 36 cakes with three layers.

I felt like the Great British Baking Show had lied to me. After all, I had used Richard’s recipe they had posted on their website for their “36 Mini English Classic Cakes” episode assuming (I now realize, incorrectly) that it would make 36 cakes.

It didn’t. It made 18. And thank God for that.

Thirty six cakes would have been way too many cakes for my family to eat. Eighteen is almost too many, because these cakes aren’t messing around.

These are little sugar and butter bombs that explode in your mouth and go straight to your brain (and, probably, though I really don’t want to think about it right now, your arteries).

If you can eat more than one, I’m just going to say it, there is something seriously wrong with you. You must have developed a superhuman butter and sugar tolerance or something. You’re weird.

I just ate one and I feel like a little kid who just drank an entire bottle of Surge (you guys, remember Surge?) and then drank a shot of melted butter.

And I know what you’re thinking here. “Ashley, that’s probably at least partially because of the caffeine, you dummy. These are coffee and walnut cakes after all.”

Nope. I used decaf.

I’m glad I did, because otherwise I think these things may have been way too much for me to handle. Now they’re just this side of way too much.

I realize that the Surge and melted butter shot comparison made them sound less than appetizing, but really, they’re quite good. (If I do say so myself.)  And really, they don’t look so bad either.

RichardCake7
Sugar and Butter Bombs aka Mini Coffee and Walnut Cakes

They were hard. But it’s the hard that makes it great.

(I did not think of that line myself. I stole it from a Superstore episode I watched yesterday that stole it from a League of Their Own. Both of these things are good. You should watch  them.)

But in this case at least, maybe it wasn’t the hard that made it great. Maybe it was just the coffee-flavored buttercream. (It was definitely the buttercream.)

P.S. A special thanks to my husband who was very nice to me even after I very slightly burned myself this week and then acted more than slightly like Michael Scott in the episode of The Office when he accidentally burns his foot on his George Foreman grill.

Forgot that episode? Here’s a recap. Yeah, I acted sort of like that. Yeah, I know, it’s a miracle my husband keeps me around.

P.P.S. Next week, I break into the second episode of the Great British Baking  show which focuses on biscuits or as we Yanks call them, cookies, or well, crackers. They kind of make both in this episode so I’ll be honest here – I’m not real clear on their definition of “biscuits.” But hey, there’s plenty of time for me to figure that out. Like, I have until next week.

Sometimes I Bake Mistakes; Take 1: Swiss Cake Roll

If you’re one of my Facebook friends or one of the approximately 15 people I talk to in real life, you’ll know that at the moment I cannot (will not) stop talking about The Great British Baking Show.

As the name suggests, it’s a British baking show and it’s great.

Twelve amateur bakers compete in three baking challenges each week and then, at the end of each episode, the show’s judges, everyone’s fantasy British grandma, Mary Berry, and bread-making guru, Paul Hollywood, send one of the bakers packing.

(Sidenote: I just realized right now that Mary and Paul’s names sound totally made-up.)

Anyway, at the end of the ten-week competition, one person is crowned Britain’s best baker. For this, the winner is awarded an overly-large bouquet and a not-very-impressive plaque. This show leads me to believe that the British are easy to please trophy-wise.

And to gauge by GBBS (yeah, I’m going to acronym it from here on out), British people also appear to be much (much) nicer on reality television than Americans. Not only are they not mean to each other, the contestants actually go out of their way to be relentlessly, aggressively nice to each other.

It’s weird, but in a good way. It’s also exactly what I needed in my life right now.

I’m guessing I’m not alone when I say I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by negativity lately. That seems to be going around.

I needed some nice in my life and the GBBS is chockful of nice, so I fell in love with it and then became slightly obsessed with it.

So obsessed, that I’ve decided to try it myself.

I’m going to attempt to bake my way through the competition from the nonjudgmental, no-television-crew safety of my kitchen.

But then I’m going to blog about it, because to tell you the truth, I’m sick of talking about bad things so I’ve decided to talk about cakes instead (at least most of the time).

Baking’s nice because it’s one of the few things in the world where even failures can still turn out to be kind of delicious.

Which leads me into my first GBBS challenge I tried this week — the Swiss Cake Roll.

(Point of clarification here: I’m going to be using the GBBS episodes available on PBS and Netflix as my guidelines. So when I say I’m doing a recipe from season 1, I mean the first season on PBS or Netlfix. This will differ from what was season 1 in the U.K.. Just roll with me on this, please. And, yes, that was a pun with the word “roll” there. Puns happen a lot on this show and they will happen a lot in this blog, too.)

Anyway, the Swiss Cake Roll was the baker’s very first challenge. Some of the bakers made great ones, others made okay ones, but none of them made one quite as ugly as mine.

In my defense, I’ve never made a Swiss Cake Roll before so I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.

Not in my defense, I went into this a bit cocky. Like all adults who were once type-A children, I was overly-confident in my ability to follow directions. Plus, since I’m just a wee bit Swiss, I assumed that I had some sort of innate ability to make baller Swiss Cake Rolls.

I did not.

My cake was crack-tastic, in that when I tried to roll it up, it got a whole heck of a lot of cracks in it. Cracks that I then tried to cover up with a bunch of powdered sugar and strawberries.

Swiss cake roll_1
And it sort of worked.
Swiss cake roll -2
But, not really.

Also, the cake wasn’t so much rolled, as it was badly folded.

And since I used a recipe that called for the traditional jelly as well as cream, the roll was a bit overstuffed and some of the cream smooshed out. (I’m pretty sure “smooshed” is the most technically-correct word in this scenario.)

Basically, it wasn’t pretty and it would definitely be considered a Pinterest fail.

But, all in all, it tasted pretty darn good even if it looked pretty darn bad. So I’m taking that as a small victory.

See how chill about that messed up cake I was just there? I was all “Keep calm and carry on” and stiff British upper-lip about it. But in real life, when my messed up roll-up was completed, I cursed, whined to my husband about it, dramatically hurled myself on the couch and then had a beer.

But then I actually tasted it, and yeah, like I said, it wasn’t half bad, provided I just covered it with more strawberries and pretended it was a pound cake.

I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of lesson in there about how a situation changes based on how you look at it, but honestly I’m too lazy to look for that lesson right now. I’m tired from baking cakes. But, I just thought I’d throw that out there, so you could tease that lesson out yourself if you were so inclined.

I’m pretty sure there’s also a lesson in there about how when you have a problem, you should just throw some sugar at it. But, it’s possible that lesson only works with cake.

Annnnyyyyway, in the future, these posts will include the recipe I used. But this week I’m not doing that because a) it was a test run, b) I actually mix-and-matched two recipes at once, which I now realize was a really bad idea, and c) because I want to protect the innocent recipe-writers who really should not be blamed for my cake-tastrophe. (That was another pun. Like I said, that’s going to happen a lot.)

P.P.S. Next week I’ll attempt Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake. Apologizes in advance to Mary Berry and to cherries.