While English muffins are fairly simple to make, they do take time. The key to a good flavor and lots of little holes inside is a long, slow rise. Unlike most yeast breads, English muffins are "baked" on the stove, usually on a hot griddle or cast iron frying pan. This makes them nice and toasty on each side, but still slightly squidgy in the middle.
The popularity of grissini spread throughout Italy and even as far away as France, where Napoleon, in the early 1800s, established a stagecoach courier service between Turin and Paris to provide him with a regular supply of what he dubbed “les petits bâtons de Turin” (the small sticks of Turin). For my grissini, I chose a basic recipe, adding my own touch by using a homemade “everything bagel” seasoning mix to flavor the breadsticks.
When I saw that this week’s challenge was a chocolate cake, all I could think of was Bûche de Noël. I used a classic chocolate genoise sponge recipe as the basis for my showstopper, but I put my own take on the rest, with a coffee mousse filling and forest-floor-inspired decorations.
Once you’ve had homemade angel food cake, you realize there really is no comparison with the kind that comes from a box. What sets angel food cake apart from other sponge cakes — and what makes it a suitable food for angels, apparently — is the fact that it contains no egg yolks and no fat. The only leavening in the cake comes from beating air into the egg whites until they form a meringue-like consistency. This creates a high-rising cake with a light, airy texture that would probably float on a cloud (making it easier for angels to eat it, no doubt)!
Orange and cranberry is a classic combination, and the spices make the whole cake smell and taste very Christmasy. Having just discovered cranberry curd this holiday season, I wanted one more excuse to incorporate it into my baking repertoire.
The challenge seemed simple enough: Bake a chiffon cake. My plan was to create a yin-yang cake, contrasting the traditional flavors of a black forest gâteau (dark chocolate and cherries) with a lighter version featuring amaretto and almond flavors: a black-and-white forest gâteau. This is a cautionary tale of the cake that almost wasn't.
Fondant fancies are little cakes, often layered with jam or marzipan, covered with a thin coating of fondant and usually adorned with icing or sugar paste flowers or other intricate decorations. Watching The Great British Bake Off bakers making their fondant fancies was quite entertaining, until I had to do it myself. Trying to create 25 identically sized, uniformly coated miniature cakes can be extremely frustrating, not to mention messy!
For this signature challenge, Paul and Mary specified a pithivier with a savory filling. It being the end of summer, I had plenty of tomatoes, a few sweet peppers and a freshly made batch of pesto on hand. I love how roasting vegetables brings out the sweetness by caramelizing their naturally occurring sugars. It does the same to garlic, mellowing its flavor.
Only the French would name a pastry after a bicycle race, but I messed with their tradition a bit. Originally, the Paris-Brest was filled with praline cream. I decided to mix it up and make a fruity variation, with mango curd as the base layer, followed by mascarpone cream and blueberries.
The fraisier gets its name from the French word for strawberry, la fraise. Visually stunning, the fraisier is distinctive because of the layer of strawberry halves arranged so that the cut sides line the outside of the cake. The result is an elegant confectionary creation that would make an exquisite ending to a festive dinner party or a stunning addition to a dessert table at any large celebration.