Having decided to enthusiastically bake along with this year’s technical challenges on the Great British Bake Off, I psyched myself up ahead of bread week.
Now, I like to bake but bread never features very highly on my agenda – partly because I try not to eat too much bread (it goes straight to my hips) but also because it takes time and patience.
I have this when it comes to cakes but seemingly not so much with bread.
I was hoping the challenge wouldn’t be too technical – who was I trying to kid – of course it would be, it was bound to be set by the bread maestro himself, Paul Hollywood.
As the challenge was announced I felt a wave of relief wash over me – it was floury baps, surely every one of us cooking along at home would be fine?
As the show played out Paul warned the contestants that the challenge wasn’t as easy as it sounded – typical!
The challenge was to make eight floury baps and fill them with veggie burgers – I decided straight away to fill mine with pulled pork and barbecue sauce simply because the thought of this as the end result would keep me going through the challenge.
I scanned the list of the ingredients – I only needed to buy one – vegetarian shortening. I bought it as part of my online shop and wish to God I hadn’t now – it’s primarily made of palm oil – surely that’s worse that using dairy (but don’t get me started on climate change and farming – I’ll save that for another time).
I had saved my attempt at the challenge for the weekend when I had enough time for the proving process.
Another reason why bread making doesn’t appeal to me is the kneading – when a recipe says to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes (like this one did) after about a minute I think I must be there but alas no – I’m convinced time slows when you’re kneading and it certainly uses muscles that are never used for anything else.
Anyway, I threw myself into the challenge – the pork shoulder was slowly cooking in the oven and, after a dedicated 8-minute massage, the dough was silky and smooth.
It was lovingly placed into a film covered, oiled bowl and placed on the garden wall in the sunshine to double in size. I crossed everything.
An hour later it had risen but still had a centimetre or two to go – I left it for another 30 minutes before splitting it into eight equal portions (and yes, before you ask I did weigh the dough).
Watching the programme I’d been impressed at how spongy the contestants’ dough had been and by this point mine was springing back into place nicely, I was in a good mood.
The eight parcels of dough were left to rest before being covered again for a second prove.
I’m fascinated by the science of bread but I’m not turned on enough by it to really explore it – I think I’d rather attempt my nemesis again, genoise sponge.
Forty five minutes later the dough had risen but not as much as Mr Hollywood would have liked.
So I did what you probably shouldn’t do – I baked them anyway (I needed to be out by 6pm to meet a friend in my local pub – and the delays in proving had set me back).
I popped them in the oven – 200C – for eight minutes.
As I tentatively opened the oven door, (it doesn’t have glass so you can sit on the floor and watch them bake) some were perfectly bronzed and others too much so – but that’s the nature of my oven, I know its quirks and its hot spots but I still managed to forget them in the heat of the moment.
I left my baps on the baking trays for five minutes as instructed and then left them to cool on a rack.
Two hours (and two pints of bitter) later and supper was ready to be assembled – pulled pork baps (seasoned with paprika), coleslaw (with gherkins and pickle juice in the sauce), homemade barbecue sauce (sweet, smoky and sticky) and chunky chips. A Saturday night treat perfect after some local ale – divine.
What would Paul Hollywood say about my baps? They’re probably too squat, the crumb is too tight and the buns are uneven.
But do you know what – I can live with that.
I’m happy with my buns and am happy to be moooo-ving into diary week – I predict a custard tart or two might be on the cards.