The Challenge:

Make N identical Maple Cookies

What happened?

So I was rather surprised by this bake. They are rather plain looking maple shaped shortbread sandwich cookies with a maple butter filling. It occurred to me straight away that this was going to be a close one to judge. Any baker of reasonable skill should be able to make shortbread cookies. So the trick here was obviously going to be to have them absolutely identical, perfectly baked and flawless. So right in my ballpark … erm, maybe.

Well I turned out some pretty good looking cookies. But then so did everyone else! This is going to be close

Judging:

There was really not much to tell between all our cookies by looking at them. Bruno and Rochelle must have had a genuinely hard time ranking them. But never the less I came second and I’m pretty proud of that!

Overall:

This was quite an enjoyable bake. However the thing I remember most from it was one little moment. I was putting the raw sugar on top of the cookies before baking. I was leaning close over them concentrating hard on getting an even distribution. The sunlight was coming in from my left and the light was just beautiful with the golden sugar. The cameraman was really enjoying capturing the light and getting a great shot. I think the only shot from it that made it to the cut was the featured image here.

 

The Challenge

Make a pavlova

My Bake

A grilled plum and chocolate pav with praline shards

What Happened?

Well pavlova is a popular dessert in our household and we’ve made quite a few so feeling good. Plus I am really happy with my recipe, it’s come out well in practice. The main star of the show here of course is the meraingue which should be crispy on the outside with a nice chewy center. Meraingue is very susceptable to the ambient climate so to get it just right you have to take into account the weather. Practicing in Richmond it had worked very well. But it had been a warm summer and not too humid. In the tent in Toronto the humidity was very high and i was very worried about the meraingue not drying out at all so I made a decision to leave it for longer in the oven. A decision I would regret!

For the plums I was grilling half and cooking down some other to make a sauce. Then there was a marscapone cream. Marscapone goes beautifully with grilled plums. In fact if you want a simple but yummy dessert just grill some halved plums with a little honey drizzled on, then whip some sugar into marscapone and dollop it on the plums – fantastic! For the sauce component I had been peeling the plums so I could get a nice smooth sauce but after a raised eyebrow from Bruno and Rochelle I switched to leaving the skins on – great idea – much more colorfull sauce!

So we come to final assembly. All the components looked great. I had also made a sheet of almond brittle. Actually I’d made two sheets – one of which had come out far too thick so one of the cameramen had been nibbling it all through the bake! I was aware that we were getting close to time but I wasn’t sure how close. I had my meringue cream layers piled up along with the grilled plums and now I was carefully cutting up my brittle into artfull shards for the top when someone said “15 seconds left”. What???!!!! So I picked up the entire sheet and smashed it onto the bench. Then grabbing shards in both hands started ramming them into the top. Time’s up!!!

Adreneline rush but overall pretty happy

Judging

So the thing about pavlova – like so many baked goods – it might look fine on the outside but you really have no idea if it’s worked until someone cuts into it. So with my pav – the judges liked the look (for once!) but as they cut in we discovered it was dry through and through. I had overcompensated for the humidity. On the plus side they enjoyed the flavor so I think all in all I should be ok

Overall

I was still very happy with the bake. I delivered it on time and looking pretty good and tasting delish! Shame about the meringue but I felt it was an honest misjudgement which didn’t take too much away. Plus it was a meringue with incorporated chocolate which the judges acknowledged was trickier so all good. Feeling in the middle of the packish

Sentencing

Well us boys are not doing well! I was very sad to see Cory go he’s a star and had a lot of great baking experience. As the show progresses we are all bonding more and more and it gets harder and harder to say goodbye!

The Challenge:

An elegant pie or tart

My Bake:

Coffee and salted caramel custard tart

What happened?

Hmm, elegant you say? Weeell I’ll see what I can do. So this pie uses a beautiful French butter crust. Unlike a traditional shortcrust where you try to keep everything as cold as possible, here you heat butter and start to caramelize it before adding the flour. It makes a beautiful sweet, nutty flavored crust. That’s going to be baked separately because what I’m making here is a “composed pie” – filling and crust are made totally separately and then just put together.

So basically there are just 3 elements: the crust, the custard and the caramel. Crust goes fine, came together nicely, rolled out and into the oven. Custard also fine but I slipped behind a bit on the crust and the custard – a coffee infused cornstarch thickened custard – had to go into it hot which made me very worried about it setting. Unfortunately it had also thickened a bit too much before adding it to the pie which meant it had to go into the pie hot – not good for setting.

It was all a bit tight but the custard was more or less set and although I was rushed it was all going not too bad. Then came the caramel. So the idea here was to pipe a fairly elegant little design also incorporating the Greek letter pi – geddit?!¬† It was meant to be salted caramel but when I came to add the salt I discovered I only had coarse kosher type salt on the bench. I was getting a bit pressed for time so I quickly through it in rather than asking for fine. This was my downfall. I put the caramel in a paper cone I’d made and cut a very small tip so I could pipe fine lines. Unfortunately one of those big salt flakes got caught in the end and as I pressed to push it out the bag burst in my hand. Now my hand was completely covered in caramel. I had none spare and anyway the pie was now covered with splats of caramel. I hoped I’d be able to maybe just spread it all over but it just stuck all over my hand and was a total mess.

Overall it looked like a poop in a pie dish. I was pretty disappointed.

Judging:

Bruno and Rochelle both noticed it did not look very appetizing. Bravely they went ahead and tasted it anyway – they are both pros. Bruno liked the crust and they both thought it tasted great. So may have scraped through that again. Not feeling confident though!

Overall:

Bit disappointed. Made a silly mistake and I think it would otherwise have been pretty good.

Great Canadian Baking Show Begins!

Woo hoo! The Great Canadian Baking Show is finally underway! I am ridiculously excited / nervous to see how it’s turned out. We bakers haven’t seen the finished version and so we’re going to be watching along with everyone else. We’re having a little neighborhood party to celebrate and view the first episode.

Hope you like it!!!!

Watch the first episode here on CBC