Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Bake Off

I watched a new TV show yesterday evening. It's called "The Great British Bake Off". 
It's a kind of "Masterchef" meets "The hairy bakers" meets "X-Factor":6 or 7 elimination round to crown British best amateur baker. 

There's a pair of presenters moving around, interviewing the contestants and talking about baking and cakes through the ages in Britain.
This proved to be the most interesting bit to me, as ready as usual to pick any bits and crumble of random information up.
For example, if you're British and you're eating a massive carrot cake with enough calories to lit lights on Oxford Street at Christmas, it's not because of your waistline or blood sugar level you're feeling guilty or worried.. nope! It' all due to some puritanical sense of guilt instilled onto your ancestors by those dodgy Cromwell republicans! 
One reason more to have kept up with monarchy I guess.
Apparently, monarchy has a lot to do with the idea we have of wedding cakes. The traditional 3-tier White triumph of cream and sugar craft decoration descends from Queen Victoria's wedding cakes and its evolution in her children wedding cakes.
I'm definitely tuning in for some other of this sweet notions. 

But how about the competition?
The format is just like Masterchef, with the 2 judges and voice overs trying to set a thrilled atmosphere and some suspense. And failing miserably.
As interested in cakes as I am, I just found it very gloomy looking: I have fun while baking and this people were doing a lot but not smiling much. Lots of frowning, tears, worried faces... this is what unsettled me the most about the show, alongside the running time: 1 hour! They could have been done in 45 minutes maximum!
I couldn't however help but noticing the same pattern that seems to be on this program so all participants do have something similar and they could take part in any of this type of shows (which reminds me: Masterchef should be on tonight... what can I say? It's irritating and still I love it!). 

There is the mandatory proportion between stay-at-home mums and business women. The police force is represented by a no-nonsense Mancunian lady.
No cooking show would be complete with the standard iron-man highly competitive manager who takes all his hobbies as a matter of life and death.

While watching the show I was also translating a recipe, so that I could post it here for Liz. 
I had some white chocolate I wanted to get rid of: I bought it for the NutQuella, but used only a part of it, so had to find a way to use what was left. 
I don't like white chocolate and couldn't imagine any friend of mine wanting to eat it (I can barely accept people eating milk chocolate, imagine me befriending a white chocolate lover!!!), so what to do? 
I don't like throwing away stuff, so I started digging around the recipes folder in my mac (it's called gnam, something like "yummy" in Italian) and ended up on an almond and hazelnut I baked last year. It was a spin-off of the hazelnut cake recipe I read on "Nonna Genia", a book about Piedmont food.
If I had done a spin-off, what could stop me from a spin-off of the spin-off?
So I baked the cake and felt happy that people liked it and asked me for the recipe.
Still, sitting in the living room with Maria, watching the show... looking at those cakes on TV and then looking at the pic I took at my office desk my cakes:

It's not just the crappy picture I took! All those cakes looked so much more!
Higher, spongier, bigger...
They were all with so many layers, creams, frosting... Frosting and decoration a go-go! So much around the cake that I was left with the suspicion there was not a lot worth mentioning or tasting inside. The icing sugar I sprinkled my cake with looked so, so, common. And boring.

I want to learn how to decorate cakes and cupcakes as it's done here, bacause it's not something very popular in Italy, unless you're a 
Maître Chocolatier busy recreating the Rome landscape using an Easter egg.
Even so, I still think there is a point where you need to stop to arrange layers of icing sugar and chocolate sculpture to think about baking the cake.

Not to mention that one of those cake would never look that nice in my office desk, for the simple reason that if it doesn't get crashed while I cycle to the station, there are still some high chances somebody will inadvertently kick it on the train!

Anyway, once the show was over, I finished my translation and here's the recipe for the "white chocolate and almond cake with just icing sugar as decoration: it may not look nice but tasted otherwise".
I might have to find a shorter name though...

170 gr flour
30 gr cornflour
100 gr butter, melted in a bain-marie
150 gr sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
3-4 drops vanilla extract
100 gr white chocolate
60 gr almond
icing sugar for decoration

Preheat the oven at 180°C.
Blend the white chocolate chocolate with the almond and set them aside.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they're very smooth. 
Add the butter and the vanilla extract, then the flour, cornflour and baking powder (better if you sift them all together before adding them to the mix).
Add some milk if the mixture is too hard.
Whisk the egg whites until they're very firm and combine them with the other ingredients.
For last, add the blended white chocolate and almonds.
Cover a tin with some greaseproof paper and pour the mix inside it. 
Bake for about 35 minutes.
Once baked, leave in the oven for about 10 minutes to let it cool down and set.
Once completely cool, sprinkle with icing sugar.

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