Monday, 19 October 2015

My GBBO Challenge #10: Iced Buns

Yes, I know it was a couple of weeks ago but I'm still happy about Nadiya's much-deserved win.

The final wasn't much of a nailbiter as Nadiya was the best baker in each challenge by a mile. The haters just don't have a leg to stand on. Although I guess Tamal's showstopper was quite the eyecatcher:

I'm not sure that it works as a piece of art, but you have to admire the sugar work.

It was interesting that it was a relatively simple set of challenges for the final. I think the idea was that the contestants had to produce perfect bakes, and sometimes the hardest thing to do is a simple thing perfectly. On that note, let me introduce you to my iced buns…

OCD Panic Rating: 1/5
Handwashes: 4

As the judges mentioned in the episode, there is no reason for iced buns to be as amazing as they are. It's pretty much a bread roll with icing on it, yet they are one of the most satisfying bakes you can get.

I'd never attempted these before and didn't have a recipe to hand. After a bit (a lot) of enjoyable Googling for recipes, I found this one from former GBBO contestant Ruby Tandoh. I liked the idea of making buns with a lemony flavour. Also, aside from giving them a reasonable amount of time to prove, it didn't look too time-consuming a recipe.

The dough starts off quite sticky. The fifteen minutes of rest specified in the recipe is crucial for allowing the liquid to mix into the dough better, making it substantially easier to knead. You don't need to flour the surface or your hands. I was slightly worried that I had killed the yeast (I poured the salt straight onto it like an utter idiot) but it proved reasonably well when left under a hot light. I separated the dough into six sausages and gave it a bit longer to rise again.

Before I put the buns in the oven, I tried to space them out enough to be distinct buns but to be touching like a proper batch bake. This did not go so well. It turns out that they need to be a lot closer together than I had anticipated. It also turns out that you need to shape them much more carefully than I did:

There's some serious deformity on show here, as well as my weird shadow! They had a soft, springy feel though, so I was confident that the bake was a reasonable one.

Once cooled, it was time to decorate. This is not my strength. I cut the buns through horizontally and spread some lemon curd liberally over the base. Then I made some lemon-flavoured icing with a bit of orange colouring in for effect. I think it was too runny…

So it's the aesthetic part of the bake that is the real challenge, I see! I soldiered on, adding some whipped cream before serving. Despite the dodgy icing and shape, the cream pulled it all together into something very appealing:

(Yes, I do have a plate with a tapir on it. It's awesome)

Not too bad in the end, I don't think. It was virtually impossible to eat without making a complete mess, a situation not helped when I dropped half of it on my lap. I regretted adding squirty cream at that point, although it did taste bloody good. The lemon icing is a bit tart by itself, although it's ok in small quantities.  Overall, it's a well-flavoured iced bun, just not up to the standard of the ones you'll get from a proper bakery. In fact, and this is awful to say, there's something about the artificial-tasting mass-produced ones that is unbeatable.

I'll get my coat.

Key Points:
  • Shape the buns carefully before baking or you'll end up with rejects like mine.
  • As they're only cooked for twenty minutes, the buns won't grow much more in the oven. If you want the batch bake look, make sure they're quite close together.

Win Rating: 3/5

Looking back at the bakes I've done as part of the GBBO Bakealong challenge, I can definitely say that they have not all been successes but I've learnt something from each one. Sometimes it was a lesson as simple as making sure you have the right equipment to hand; sometimes it was a reminder that the decoration is often the most difficult part of a bake.

The mokatines were my least successful bake of the series. My biscotti and, in particular, my chocolate tart were good enough to warrant inclusion in my usual repertoire. I'm certainly more willing to experiment with what I make, and am confident that I can rescue most failing bakes. That level of knowledge and confidence needed to adapt a recipe and to make it your own can only be acquired through experience.

I won't be challenging Nadiya's crown any time soon though.  If you think you could, you can start the application process here.

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