The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 8 La Religieuse

 La Religieuse 1

I’m finally back to baking and blogging after more than a month away. My apologies for my absence, but my other hobby was taking up all of my spare time. As I have mentioned before, my other passion is musical theatre, and I was cast in a local (community) musical theatre production, which hit the stage recently for a one week run. And so my time was taken up with rehearsals and then performances.

However, the musical has now finished and it is back to cooking, cooking classes, baking and blogging. The show went well, with great feedback from the audiences.  The best part was meeting all the children from the audience in character after the show. They loved that. It was a lot of work and over too quickly, but well worth it. It has reignited my love and passion for musical theatre!

But for now, there are no more shows on the horizon so I have more time for my baking and blogging. The final episode of GABO is now a distant memory, however I set myself the challenge of cooking all the technical challenges, and there is only the final weeks challenge left to go, LA Religieuse. However, as usual I did change it a bit. I decided to just do chocolate and vanilla filled versions, rather than the chocolate, coffee and rose.

I have to say I had issues with this bake. Even though I’ve made both choux pastry and crème patisserie before. Part of it could have been that I was recovering from a migraine when I first started on Saturday, and the rest was not reading the recipe correctly and then rushing and taking short cuts at the end. My first crème patisserie was a bit grainy (the sugar hadn’t dissolved using the GABO method which had the sugar in with the milk) and I put the large and small choux pastry in the oven at the same time instead of cooking them separately. So after enjoying some fresh air and sunshine at the Unwined food and wine festival in Subiaco today, I decided to start again. This time I used my normal crème patisserie recipe (which I much prefer) and cooked the choux in batches as it was supposed to, with much better results. I have to admit though, by the time I got to the assembly stage I was tired and rushing. My icing was too runny, and I didn’t want to make a second batch. And I used whipped cream instead of melted white chocolate which wasn’t firm enough. So they weren’t very pretty in the end and not very stable. But they still tasted nice and the choux pastry itself turned out great.

I have to say next time I will just cook éclairs or profiteroles, which can all go in the oven at one time, and they are much easier to assemble.  All in all, after the first failure, I was pretty happy with the outcome taste wise, although they are a very sweet and rich dessert. I am very happy that I managed to get through all 8 of the technical challenges (some better than others). Of course, cooking in your own kitchen is completely different to the high stress environment of the GABO tent, but who knows…I might have read the recipe properly if I was there!

Next up? I start a 5 week Christmas Baking Class with Sarah Brigden from babyCakes this week.

Click here for the recipe

The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 6 Layered Pavlova Torte

 Pavlova Torte I’m afraid this is going to be a very brief post, as I’ve been sick since the weekend. However I couldn’t let the final episode of the Great Australian Bake Off (which airs tonight) go past without at least providing an update on my quest to bake each weekly technical challenge. Week 6 of The Great Australian Bake Off (GABO) saw the bakers attempting a Layered Pavlova Torte with Fondant Strawberry decorations.  Now I had every intention of making the decorations as I enjoy making models and decorations out of fondant. However, after waking up sick on Saturday, by the time I had finished baking the meringue I have to admit I just didn’t feel well enough to make them and I went back to bed instead.  I will give them a go when I am feeling better and will update the post with them. If you are familiar with cooking pavlovas/meringues then this recipe is quite simple. I really liked the addition of the toasted almond meal to the meringue, it helped cut through the inherent sweetness of a meringue and also provided a nice depth of flavour. The simple filling of whipped cream, strawberries and passionfruit was lovely and balanced well with the crisp/chewy meringue. I did pipe my layers a bit thinner than I should have, however I was still happy with the final result. If I was going to make this again, I’d use the leftover egg yolks to make some lemon/passionfruit curd to ripple through the cream filling. I’d also make smaller individual ones if I was entertaining, as it is quite messy once you cut into it! Two more challenges to go. Next up, Breakfast Croissants. But for now, it is time for a nap to try and get over this virus before setting myself up on the couch later with a cup of tea later for the GABO final!

Click here for the recipe

The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 5 Coffee Scrolls (Cinnamon Scrolls)

Cinnamon scrolls

Week 5 of The Great Australian Bake Off (GABO) was bread week, and the technical challenge saw the bakers making Coffee Scrolls.

Now I have to admit, I am not a coffee person. I absolutely love the smell of coffee, but I just can’t bring myself to like the flavour of it. I don’t drink it and I don’t like it in desserts. However, I really like cinnamon scrolls, which is what these really are if you take the coffee out of the icing. So although I am supposed to be replicating the technical challenges, the reality is that I am cooking at home and I am the one who will be trying the finished product, so I decided to omit the coffee. Isn’t that part of the point of cooking/baking things yourself? You can make them the way that you like them.

With the omission of the coffee, these have to be my favourite of all the technical challenges so far. Although a little time consuming with the resting time (which really lets you go off and do other things which is why the weekend is perfect for baking), I found this recipe quite easy.  Plus the house smelt amazing while they were cooking and the finished product was delicious. I was actually jumping up and down when these came out and I tore them apart and saw the texture of the bread. I got impatient and didn’t wait for them to cool down enough before I iced them, hence my already thin icing got even thinner, but I didn’t mind. Any more icing and I think they would have been too sweet. I have to confess that I may have eaten a few too many scrolls over the weekend. I’d better get myself to the gym tomorrow!

Next up, Layered Pavlova Torte with fondant strawberries.

Click here for the recipe

The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 4 Quiche with Layered Pastry


As I posted last weekend, for some silly reason I decided to try to recreate the Week 3 (Brandy Snaps) and Week 4 (Quiche) GABO technical challenges at the same time. As I’ve said previously, all was going well until I started to get a migraine.

Normally when I make quiche, I use a shortcrust pastry, so I was intrigued with the idea of using rough puff pastry instead. Quiche is a great portable meal, perfect for work lunches or picnics, and great for using up leftovers from the fridge. You don’t have to stick to the fillings in this recipe. I used to make a cheat’s all in one quiche, without making the pastry (you just add pastry mix in with the filling, and it forms a base – I will post it in the future), but in more recent times I have always made it with the short crust pastry, as previously posted here.

The rough puff pastry worked quite well and was a nice change to the shortcrust, but required a lot more effort and I think is more at risk of the dreaded “soggy bottom”. You do have to make it by hand though. This isn’t a pastry you can make in the food processor. I also found mine needed a bit longer cooking time, as the very centre of the pastry was not quite cooked enough.

I had planned to take step by step photos of the pastry making process and folding, unfortunately when I went to use my camera its battery was flat, so there is only the finished photo. Sorry, I’ll try again next time.

On the whole, the fact that I managed to finish a reasonable quiche while fighting a migraine (and without burning or cutting myself) I think was an achievement, although the edges of the pastry were a bit rustic. It still tasted nice and provided a great lunch/dinner on the run before rehearsals. However, I don’t plan on making it with this pastry again if I’m making a large sized quiche. I might try it with canapé sized ones next time though.

Next technical challenge? Coffee scrolls.

Click here for the recipe

The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 3 Brandy Snaps

First attempt at brandy snaps - more practice needed!
First attempt at brandy snaps – more practice needed!

After a very busy week, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to try to recreate the Week 3 (Brandy Snaps) and Week 4 (Quiche) GABO technical challenges at the same time. All was actually going well until I started getting a migraine.

I had originally intended to keep making the brandy snaps until I had perfected them, just like the contestants in Week 3 who made multiple batches in their quest to create 12 perfect brandy snaps. Unfortunately with the onset of a migraine, I had to throw in the towel after just one batch and admit defeat – for now. I managed about 6 salvageable brandy snaps from my first batch (although they weren’t the best and looked nothing like the ones in the picture from the original recipe), only to then break one when I was filling it with the cream. However, given how I was feeling at the time, I think the fact that I made any of them is an achievement. I will have to try again when I have more time and am feeling 100%!

I also found that my wooden spoon handles were a bit too narrow to get the best cylinder shape. I’ll have to go hunting for a bigger one before I try these again. Also, although the recipe recommended cooking four at a time, until you have got the hang of making these I would recommend only cooking 2 – 3 at a time. It will take longer, but you will end up throwing away less, so you will save time in the long run.

The brandy snaps are very sweet on their own, although the addition of the cream helps to balance this, with nice caramel and ginger flavours. Next time I will also try making some as little cups like I’ve seen before.

Next up, a couple of savoury recipes after a few weeks of only sweet, including the Week 4 Quiche challenge.

Click here for the recipe

The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 2 Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon meringue pie

Finding the time to cook, bake and blog is difficult at the moment, as besides work I’ve also started rehearsals three times a week for a local musical which will be on in a few months. So things are busy at the moment, but it is a good busy and I’m so happy to be singing and rehearsing for a show again, after over a year off the stage.

I did however find time to give the Week 2 Great Australian Bake Off technical challenge a go. Lemon Meringue Pie is one of my favourites, but also one of the desserts I am often most disappointed in when I buy them at restaurants or bakeries as I usually find them too sweet with not enough of the tart lemon flavour, so I was interested to give this recipe a try.

I have to admit that in my rush, I didn’t read the recipe correctly and started making the curd filling in a completely different way to the suggested method. However, it still worked and the end result was a set curd filling. So the method here is what I did, not what was recommended in the original recipe (which you can find here). I also had to add extra lemon zest to increase the citrus flavour and even then the filling was a bit too sweet for me.

I managed to complete the dessert in less than 2 hours (which I think is the time the contestants had). If you have more time, I would suggest letting the pastry chill longer before baking in the oven, as I found it shrank back a lot with only a 5 minute resting time.

I’m looking forward to the next technical challenge – brandy snaps. I’ve always meant to give them a try but have just never gotten around to it.

Click here for the recipe