I'm a big fan of Bake Off, so I decided to bake every technical challenge this year.
It was one of the worst decisions I have made in quite a long time, honestly. I have never baked before. Before I started this I could not tell the difference between an egg yolk and an egg white. And here I was, about to bake nine technical challenge recipes by Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood, challenges that even the most experienced baker would pull their hair out about.
Let's start with the absolute worst bake of them all.
1. Victorian Tennis Cake (aka The Nightmare That Never Bloody Ended)
Let me make one thing clear: That is not kale on the top of my cake. It is green food colouring and icing sugar, which got screwed up when I mixed it with some glycerine thing to make a fondant. You might be thinking, "Hey Scott, you should have tried making that fondant again before adding it to the top of the cake." I did try it again. Four times. This was the best one.
Let's have a close-up of the shit fondant that absolutely IS NOT kale.
When I posted a picture of my bake on Twitter, every single reply asked if this was kale. Every time I said that it wasn't kale, more and more people asked if it was. Guys, don't torture me. This took me four hours to make. You do not understand my pain. Worse still, the brown fondant was awful and could mend a broken patio. The filling was raw and chewy. And to top it all off, I accidentally added the ingredients into a circular pan instead of a rectangular one. Why does this matter? Well, tennis courts aren't round, are they?
Then Tamal gave this review and the pain went away.
Then I saw this tweet and I felt a lot worse again.
2. Mokatines (aka A Tuna Sandwich Topped With Dog Mess, Sprinkled With Failure)
You're probably wondering if, from looking at the photo on the left, I am doing these bakes badly on purpose. You know, because cake fails make "hilarious" online content. Oh, how I wish that could be the case. These took two hours to bake. Two hours of pain. All that white cream stuff you see on the mokatines on the right? Mine didn't include any. Not because I failed making it, but because I read the recipe wrong and missed the steps where you make it. So I have loads of spare ingredients.
Here's a close-up of a horror and the sponge before it was cut into 12.
Watching back the show, the texture of the filling looks like a peanut butter sandwich. It is also as chewy. But there we go.
Review from a person who ate this bake: "Chewy. Too chewy. This is chewy."
When I posted a picture of this bake I got this reply.
3. Spanische Windtorte (aka The Cake That Caused Me To Drink Lots Of Wine)
Why is the decoration completely different from the one on GBBO? Well, I was doing the washing up while my bake was in the oven and I accidentally threw away all of the cream topping down the sink. Why? I thought it was leftover cream. This was cream that I had just spent an hour and a half putting together. So as you can imagine I was THRILLED when I realised what had happened. Also, this cake contains 12 eggs and nearly a kilogram of sugar. It features a French meringue, with a Swiss meringue decoration stacked on top. It is also hell. I want this cake to burn in hell.
Reviews: "It tastes better than it looks." "Where's the top? Can I eat the cream? Lovely crunchy meringue and fruit."
Just so you know, this was my progress four hours into the challenge.
It looks like something you would use to insulate your loft. If you ever get a quote for loft insulation from British Gas, just do this.
Here is the recipe for this bake, if you want to cry.
4. Flaounes (aka Does Anyone Have Any Idea What The Fuck These Are?)
Essentially these are cheese balls, covered in a bready thing, which is smattered with some cooked sesame seeds. The sesame seeds were the worst. They went all over the surface of the table and all over the floor. The next day I found a few of them in my bed. I didn't even eat them in bed. These sesame seeds are the baking equivalent of glitter. Thanks a lot, Paul Hollywood.
They also look completely different when you nuke them in the oven.
The technical challenge relies on the bakes being uniform. It is evident that I do not have that skill. These also look like the things you made at nursery school. Heck, their ones probably taste better too.
Reviews: "Tasty but there's no moisture left in my mouth." "Not enough cheese." "It should be entirely made of cheese." "I like it."
The recipe for this bake can be found here.
5. Gluten-Free Pitta Breads (aka Yes I Know That These Look Like Potatoes)
So you need to put something called "psyllium powder" in these gluten-free pitta breads, a specialist gluten-free ingredient you cannot purchase from your local Waitrose or supermarket. So naturally I did the obvious: I procrastinated, put off baking these for nearly a month, then panicked, then tried Amazon.com late at night, then despaired. When I eventually got round to baking them they weren't bad. Comments from colleagues included: "I thought it would be the worst but it was actually nice." I feel invincible.
Reviews: "I like the subtle flavour." "I'm into it." "Maybe a bit chalky?"
If you want to try it yourself, bake a jacket potato or follow the recipe here.
Some people were less than complimentary though.
5. Arlettes (aka The Biscuit I Finished At One Thirty In The Morning For Fuck's Sake)
These biscuits are so annoying. You have to put the mixture in a freezer for nearly three hours to solidify, taking it out every hour to roll into this sort of weird twirly shape, just so you can show the twirly posh design off to your posh friends. I also naively started baking this at 10pm because I thought baking wouldn't take that much time at all. At 1am my biscuits were on my bathroom floor (on a tea towel), because my bake had frozen and had turned into a brick. I was half tempted to whack them against a wall. The taste? OK.
Reviews: "These are very, very crumbly but taste OK." "I can tell a lot of effort went into this."
You can find the recipe for this twirly thing here.
7. Frosted Walnut Cake (aka A Cake That Would Just About Pass At A Charity Event)
This bake is a "would fit at a charity sale in a school hall but wouldn't be the most popular" type of cake. The only problem is that my cake tastes grainy as fuck, but half of the walnut cakes in Bake Off tasted like that that week anyway. And if you did buy this at a bake sale you would spend like 50p on it, so who the hell cares. Paul Hollywood didn't tell the bakers or the viewers how to overcome this grainy problem though, so I'm putting all the blame on him.
Reviews: “It’s a bit gritty. It’s a bit sweet. There are really big lumps of sugar. 5/10." "If I was at another friend’s house and they made it, I would say ‘well done’.”
I made this cake at the same time as some other colleagues for another BuzzFeed article and it's fair to say that my bake wasn't the worst one that day.
You can find the walnut cake recipe here.
8. Baguettes (aka Each Of Them Looks Different From The Other But Who Cares?)
These baguettes are so huge that they barely fit into the picture. They are also supposed to be super identical to each other. Mine looks like a family of baguettes after a severe spell in rehab. But you know what? I really don't care. These are also quite fun to make. You essentially shove some flour and yeast into a tub and you see it e-x-p-a-n-d. You also have to use a thing called a "linen couche" to divide the baguettes while they cool. We didn't have a linen couche so we used a tea towel and unused bog roll.
Reviews: "You should be pretty proud of this." "Not uniform, but not too bad." "This is the best ciabatta I have ever tried."
It was a gloopy, insane thing to bake. And I absolutely loved it.
Bonus marks if you notice all of the flour on my bottom in that picture, there.
If you want to try out this excellent thrillboat of a ride you can find the recipe here.
9. Hot Chocolate Soufflé (aka I Don't Give A Shit That It Looks Crap)
When you make a soufflé you have you have do so many things at once. When you have finished all that, you shove it into the oven immediately so the mixture doesn't harden and cool down, but I forgot to turn the oven on. I. Forgot. To. Turn. The. Oven. On. When I put it in the oven, the mixture had hardened completely. But you know? I DON'T CARE. I HAVE FINISHED BAKING NINE OF THESE TECHNICAL CHALLENGES AND I LITERALLY DON'T CARE. I AM FREE. YOU HEAR ME, PAUL HOLLYWOOD? FREE.
Reviews: "It really needed quite a lot more chocolate in." "It's lacking in chocolate, but it's actually not that bad." "Is this horror over?"
You can find the recipe here.
* Watching the episode first makes you no more experienced a baker.
* Baking would be 10,000x times more fun if it were accompanied by Mel and Sue's commentary. Or Nadiya's facial expressions. Or just Tamal really.
* Some of these recipes were crazy expensive and the bakes tasted very similar to buying them in Asda, which is bloody depressing.
* That being said, there is no better thrill than making something yourself, even if you know and everyone else knows that it tastes totally totally totally shit.
* That tennis bake will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life.
* And I also hate kale so much. SO MUCH.
* BURN IN HELL KALE. BURN. IN. HELL.