Eight-strand plaited loaf – confessions of a Bake Off cheat!

With the exception of talking to pretty girls I’m not someone who generally suffers from a lack of confidence – that is to say, when I come across something I’ve never done before I usually take the cocky attitude that I’ll probably do it quite well.

I wasn’t familiar with Rum Babas before last weeks challenge and thought I did ok with it. For this week’s challenge I wasn’t even consuming alchohol when watching the show on Tuesday so I was able to pickup on some of the details and it didn’t look all that hard . I like making bread and over the last couple of months I’ve probably made 6 or 8 loaves and whilst the plaiting looked a little complex I was sure I’d figure it out. I checked the recipe during the week  and it’s a faily basic white loaf, all of the ingredients for which I already had in my cupboard – no shopping required for this challenge. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/eight-strand_plaited_57815)

As I’d gotten my Rum Baba entry in to our little online competition very late I decided to have a go at this week’s challenge a day earlier and bake on Saturday even thought I’d a 10 mile race on that morning.

I headed in to the Phoenix Park bright and early that morning passing the crowds on their way to the Tall Ships on the Quays. I ran my race and set a new PB and came home fairly tired and chuffed with myself.

Long story short I ate my goodie bag, took another look at the recipe and thought it wasn’t going to take too long so I might as well leave it til Sunday.

I spent the rest of Saturday sitting around watching TV and didn’t end up starting on the bread until well in to Sunday afternoon.

As I said the actual bread dough recipe is really basic and didn’t cause me any problems so I’ll skip over this stage…

I arrived at the plaiting stage without incident and with the instructions written out clearly next to me I began!

Something just wasn’t looking right half way though.

The top of my loaf was a very thick bundle of ‘threads’ and no matter how I tired to get the strands of bread neat and tight it just wasn’t happening for me.

I ended up with this after my first attempt and immediatley started a new batch of dough before I’d even baked the first one. At this stage the clock was ticking on in to Sunday evening and the loaf needs to be proved twice for an hour each time…this was not going well.

I took no photos of this loaf baked and even if I had I wouldn’t share them online!

TAKE TWO!

I tried my best the second time around but I still found that the ends of the plait were very thick and untidy…so I cheated. The photos below have the two ends of the loaf sliced off and formed in to quite a sizeable rounded mini loaf. This wasn’t in the instructions and wasn’t what the contestants did in the show. It was late on Sunday and I basically admitted defeat, cheated and went to bed. The finished loaf looks nice enough but wouldn’t look anything like this if I hadn’t put it under the knife with some cosmetic surgery before baking.

So what started off as a challenge I was confident with ended with two botched attempts and a serious bit of cheating! I hope I can get the energy and courage up to try this again some time but for now I’ll have to try and put it aside and face the next challenge with a bit more caution and a lot more prep and planning!

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Rum Babas from the Great British Bake Off

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So I took last Wednesday off work to catch up on a few things and ended up going over to a friend’s apartment for a glass (bottle) or two of wine on Tuesday night. They’d never seen the Great British Bake off or knew that I tweeted about baking at all…they had no idea what they were letting themselves in for!

I love the Great British Bake Off – I didn’t watch the first season but the second season aired at a time when I was starting to take baking a little more seriously and it really opened my eyes. The range of recipes that are tackled, the imagination that goes in to the bakes and the standards on display are amazing. I couldn’t wait for the third series to start as my twitter feed clearly shows!

Half way through the wine and half way through the show and I’m getting some strange looks off my friend; I’m frantically tweeting every time something happens and laughing to myself as I peer in to my little smart phone world. I wasn’t the best of company for the best part of an hour but I assured them I was socialising online!

The show was doing it’s usual trick of inspiring people to look beyond their go-to, fail-safe recipes and to try something new. A few of us tweeted that we’d be trying to make Rum BaBas this week as they looked so good on TV.  The wonderful online presence that is Caitriona of @WholesomeIE decided to whip us all in to shape and in no time we’d our own hash tag #GIrishBO and a page on Caitriona’s blog to collate our efforts http://wholesomeireland.com/great-irish-bakeoff-challenge/.

Here is my own contribution, such as it is. I really enjoyed making them, they aren’t like most things I’ve made before and they will certainly be making an appearance again at some point – I think they’d make a great dessert for a dinner.

 

The full recipe can be found on the BBC website so I’ll avoid regurgitating it
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/rum_babas_served_with_48561

All the ingredients are things most people would have hanging around (except maybe rum). The only unusual presence here is the yeast and strong flour which is normally used for savoury breads instead of ‘cakes’.

 

The dough turned out to be very sticky and when I was kneading it on my counter top I had to keep scraping in the excess with my palette knife. It’s consistency was something reminiscent of the hair-gel scene in Something About Mary but I persisted nonetheless! The butter is added after the initial dough has been kneaded and makes it a little easier to handle.

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I used large muffin tins to make mine and got seven out of the BBC recipe. I probably should have stretched them to eight as they rise a little once in the tin. I would recommend making sure the tops are smooth or presented well as the shape won’t alter much in cooking and some of mine didn’t look as good as they could have if I spent a couple more minutes on them before baking.

The rum syrup is basic and gets sucked right up by the Babas. (Only the very finest rum was used in the creation of these Babas!)

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The cream and fruit really does work well with the dish so here if my final foodie/artistic photo:

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But after all the photos I plated up my own ‘bachelor’ portion – double the cream and Babas with a glass of rum!
So what started with a few glasses of wine on Tuesday finished with a glass of rum and some babas on Sunday night. I can’t wait for the next episode and the next challenge, tune in to the Great British Bake Off BBC 2 8:00 Tuesdays and then tune in here to see how I get on trying to reproduce some of what they do!