GBBO4: Back to school

September 19, 2018 9:59 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Who loves dessert, hands up? Everyone loves dessert! And Dessert Week on the Great British Bake-Off was a truly golden week. From Karen’s flowing lemon robes, to Kim-Joy’s matching ochre tights and eye-shadow, this was a mellow, yellow week, with more than a few gold stars awarded.

The sun shone, custard-coloured ducklings chirped, bright-orange mango was spun into globes, stuffed into roulades and trickled across toppings (‘I saw a caterpillar at the zoo that looked like that’ mused Noel). Gilded-peach spheres burst open to reveal opera cakes, ‘complicated’ tarts, phoenix eggs and the elixir of life.

Outside the tent, the summer ticked by. The yellow dandelions turned to seed clocks. In a simple sum of subtraction, there are just nine contestants left. Or actually, this week, eight. Terry had a sick note.

Best of British

This being the vicious, cut-throat world of Bake-Off, the other contestants immediately agreed that he could have a free pass into the next round anyway. Just as happily (note: this IS a spoiler), the judges decided that for this week only, given his absence, it would be unfair to send anyone home.

It truly warms your heart, Bake-Off, showcasing all the qualities we British pride ourselves on: self-deprecation, humour, understatement and Noble Self-Sacrifice. The contestants apologise frequently (mainly, in the case of Rahul, when they win). When Ruby got into a bit of a tizzy, Jon helped her out by making her chocolate sauce for her. Alan Sugar and your acolytes: there is much you could learn here.

Back to school

I think we all learnt something from Bake-Off last night, though. It wasn’t exactly straightforward cooking: don’t kid yourself that meringues-in-a-tent are as easy as the bakers made them look. (And I really wouldn’t try that thing with the chocolate-painted, shrivelling balloons and scalding sauce at home.) The contestants have, of course, been given time to do their homework in advance. Rahul explained that, like a schoolboy, he has a glass of milk every morning to get him off to a good start.

We got lessons in biology (‘It looks like a brain’, thought Briony, of a blancmange. ‘Cerebral cortex’, corrected Sandy); chemistry (reverse spherification, magically turning mangoes into egg yolks), French (working on the pronunciation of ‘langues de chats’) and Maths (‘Do you understand the word ‘sphere’?’, glared Prue).

We had a school dinner dessert – albeit a rather fine, fruity version of a traditional blancmange. It was accompanied by cats’ tongue biscuits, reminiscent of the names given to desserts in girls’ boarding schools (jam roly poly = Dead Man’s Leg). We had the kind of tension more usually seen in the last half-hour of an A-Level History exam (‘Bakers, you have ten minutes left’, intoned the invigilators, Sandy and Noel). Throughout, the contestants battled to produce a perfect wobble, crack and swirl, as if in a 1970s school disco dance-off.

Who was the golden boy (or girl) this week? Dan got Star of the Week, as his daughter put it. And no-one was asked to leave the room.

It’s all about the sugar

The signature challenge this week was meringue, which as Prue pointed out, is basically sugar, spun into peaks, wisps, clouds and dreams. Some came crashing down. Others floated away.

To capture your own dream meringue, you need the best sugar. It’s generally recommended that you use caster sugar, which, having been passed through a very fine sieve (a caster), is especially suitable for dissolving. At Naturally Good Food we sell golden caster sugar (slightly yellowish in colour, with a faint caramelish taste), as well as organic white caster sugar.

There are some bakers who swear by a mixture of caster sugar and icing sugar – or even use a pinch of granulated sugar. Again, we stock all of these at Naturally Good Food, specialising in organic and unrefined varieties. Unrefined sugar retains as many of the minerals present in the original source as possible, and gives a wonderful taste. Write it out 100 times: if you’re eating pure sugar, make it the best sugar.

For your other cooking needs, you might require a different kind of sugar. We’ve got the lot: dark brown soft sugar, light brown soft sugar, demerara, light and dark muscovados, rapadura and Sucanat sugars, coconut palm sugar, jaggery and a whole host of syrups and nectars.

Our blog Sugar for my honey provides crib notes on all of them.

Your Homework This Week

If we could, we’d provide a quick and easy recipe for a Melting Chocolate Ball Dessert – the kind that explodes to reveal a huddle of choux pastry space turtles with cocktail umbrellas. But I’m afraid that’s only for the top set.

Instead, for bakers of more mixed abilities, we’ve got a recipe that’s won us a number of fans over the years and proved one of our most popular blogs ever. It’s a perfect recreation of a genuine favourite: Chocolate sponge and custard – the school dinner way!

It’s delicious and very easy to make. And it will make you feel six years old again.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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