Monday, 31 December 2012

52 Bakes in 52 Weeks.

52 bakes in 52 weeks. That was the plan. The whole reason I thought up this baking challenge was because I had been technically unemployed for 9 months, was working in my parents business and felt, to be honest, really crap that I had nothing going for me. After about two months of my bakes, I was off to Somerset for an interview at my dream job working with children with dyslexia. I got the job, passed my driving test and moved to Somerset in the space of a month. Things had changed quickly. And yet, I still carried on baking. At the start I did it to have something positive to look forward to each week, being jobless, living with your parents and stuck in the middle of nowhere was kind of depressing. It was a great challenge, I got to spend hours thinking about baking, time to sit and create recipes and I have to admit, the best thing really was the praise I got. The comments on this blog have be absolutely lovely, I have also had amazing comments from my friends on Facebook and of course the praise from the B&B guests and my work colleagues (and the kids I see!).

So enough with the serious stuff! What has been my favourite bake... probably the Eton Mess cake. I cannot tell you how happy I was when eating it and how sad I was when it was all gone. I loved creating recipes like the Eton Mess Cake and the Reblochen Quiche, and of course my feeble attempts at sugar-craft. I only burnt myself 4 times (which I think is pretty good considering how clumsy I am) and have even spent nights dreaming of baking! I have spent way too much money on baking equipment which I probably didn't "need" and even enjoyed a day out at The Cake and Bake Show.

So what next? We first I must say to anyone who decides to do a year of baking or cooking, how great and fun it is. But for me personally, I will not be doing another year of a different bake each week, it has served me well but I am slowly running out of ideas. Instead I will be doing a new and possibly harder challenge... but you will just have to wait until the new year to find out that one!

So here it is, my final bake. Number 52. And of course I have set myself a big 'showstopping' challenge: Croquembouche.

  • 200g of plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 150g of butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 250ml of double cream 
  • 3 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 300g of caster sugar
  • 150g of 70% dark chocolate
  • 150ml of cream 
  • Royal icing
  • 100g of butter, softened
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 100g of self raising flour
  • 25g of coco powder
  • 150g of milk chocolate
  • chocolate transfer paper
  1. Sift the flour onto a large piece of greaseproof paper. This will get air into the mixture. I halved this mixture for ease.
  2. Put the salt, butter and water into a saucepan and and gently heat until the butter is melted, then quickly bring it up to boiling point.
  3. As soon as it boils, take it off the heat and pour in the sifted flour then beat it! The mixture will be a mess at first, but keep beating until it becomes a heavy dough.
  4. Put the pan back on the heat and keep beating for 2-5 minutes, until the dough comes into a ball and when you press your finger into it the dough it is greasy.
  5. Tip the dough out into a mixing bowl and allow to cool, until it is just warm.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 200c.
  7. Now using an electric mixer slowly add the eggs in a bit at a time, mix well in between each addition. Once it is all added the mixture should look like a shiny paste and be liquid enough to be able to pipe. If you need to make it easier to pipe, break another egg and slowly add it until you get it to the right consistency. It should fall off a spoon slowly.
  8. Now pipe the mixture with a wide circle nozzle onto a greaseproof paper. Pipe circles about 2-3cm wide.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes without opening the oven door. Then reduce the oven temperature to 180c and open the oven door to let the steam out. Cook for another 5 minutes to dry them out. 
  10.  Remove them from the oven and poke a hole in them so that they can dry out and you can pipe them later. 
  11. Now make the chocolate cake presents. Beat the softened butter with the caster sugar, then gradually add the eggs and vanilla essence (basic cake recipe here). 
  12. Fold in the flour and coco powder then pop in a pirex dish and microwave for 3-4 minutes.
  13. Once cooled break up the cake into cake crumbs and mold them with a little butter and icing sugar so that they stick together (like cake pops). 
  14. Mold them into present shapes then leave them in the fridge to cool. Meanwhile melt the chocolate, then drizzle it over the cake pops on a cooling rack and cover the chocolate with cut up squares of the chocolate transfer paper. Let these harden then peel off the transfer paper to revel 'wrapping paper'. 
  15. Once all the choux rolls have cooled (it should make around 180-200) whip the cream with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and using a small nozzle pipe the cream into the hole you made in each choux. 
  16. Now melt the sugar with 4 tablespoons of water to create a light coloured caramel. 
  17. Start creating the croquembouche by making a circle of profiteroles in a 25cm circle and 'glueing down' with the caramel. Continue building up and inwards. Be VERY CAREFUL of burning yourself on... I burnt myself badly on my finger 5 minutes from the end of a year of baking, typical! 
  18. Once you have built the tower pop it in the fridge so the cream doesn't turn and make the chocolate genache. Warm the cream in a saucepan until you can just keep your finger in it, then remove from the heat and break the chocolate into it and melt it by stirring. 
  19. Let it cool slightly and drizzle over the Croquembouche (I piped mine which I regret as I don't think it looks that good).
  20. Finally, roll out white royal icing and cut out stars to decorate. Spray with silver icing spray then using the caramel stick the stars to the croquembouche and you are done!

I actually found myself rather sad at the end of this bake, a year has passed and in the end I have achieved a lot. But that's just it, it is an ending. However the one thing I have been craving all year is a Kitchen Aid Mixer, well thanks to some money for Christmas and me saving up I have been fortunate enough to buy myself on in the sales! So I now have a Candy Apple Red Kitchen Aid Mixer, which means its not really an ending but a beginning... 

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