Happy Bake Off Week Five! And apologies there was no article last week, it was a busy one and baking slipped under the radar.
However, to make up for it I went all out this week to create two recipes in a combination for German and dessert week.
I let loose when it came to the dessert and created a wonderful apple strudel, and for the German influence, I made Empire biscuits, which are not limited to the European country but rather show how recipes transform and develop in every country they go to.
Let’s start with the biscuits. I decided to make Empire biscuits, they go by many other names but in Germany, they were known as imperial biscuits, double biscuits, German biscuits – the nomenclature goes on and on, but they are just a few.
The original names were the Linzer biscuit and later the Deutsch biscuit but it was renamed the Empire biscuit in England at the outbreak of the First World War. We can only imagine why.
This biscuit made its way across Europe through the power of invasion, and while that is a little far-fetched, as with a lot of foodstuffs, they were transported during the war and made their way into the status quo through soldiers eating the local dishes based on where they were stationed.
In Northern Ireland, it remains known as the German biscuit, with Scotland varying depending on the region.
Very similar to Jammie Dodgers – or jammy biscuits – they are two butter-based round biscuits sandwiched together with jam and iced with a glacé cherry on top.
They’re incredibly cute, the perfect teatime snack if you want to show a modicum of fanciness and they’re super easy to make.
The recipe is as follows, I got mine from the website Snack:
- 300g plain flour
- 200g butter
- 180g icing sugar
- 100g sugar
- 1 large egg
- Raspberry jam
- Glacé cherries for decorating or sprinkles if you prefer.
They take around 40 minutes to make, and literally 10 minutes to cook. With a dab of icing and a cherry, you are done.
It’s the same process as the jammy biscuits. You start with your butter and sugar which you cream together (if the butter isn’t softened, microwave it for 10-second intervals until soft).
Note – do not microwave until melted, this won’t work at all. Do not let it get to this stage, if you do you have failed, sorry.
Once the butter and sugar are mixed until smooth and velvety, add one large egg and beat together until combined.
Then add the flour and mix it in to make a dough. If the dough is too warm (and it will be unless you have a cold stone or microclimate kitchen) wrap it up and pop it in the fridge until it has firmed up slightly.
Then, take it out of the fridge and roll out until the dough is 1cm thick, cut out using whatever circular object you can find and bang in the oven for 10 minutes.
You are not looking for any colour on these biscuits, keep them pale. Once cooked, cool them off completely and add your icing.
This is where you can go a bit wild. I kept it simple with just icing sugar and water mixed into a thick glaze but you can experiment with mirror glazes, fondant icing for shapes or just some candied peel for a traditional style.
Add a glacé cherry or your choice of a finisher and hey presto, you’re done.
It’s super simple, super pretty and has a wide history behind it.
Now onto the next recipe, which I did on a whim using some old puff pastry I had in the back of the freezer.
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As I missed dessert week I thought instead of making a bake-off dessert I would do my all-time favourite which is apple strudel.
Spurred on by the constant glare of the dying pastry in the freezer draw I grabbed a few apples, some sugar and spice and got to work.
Yes you can make your own puff pastry but trust me it is quite a lot of work and it’s one of those few things that’s just as good when bought from a shop.
If you are making puff pasty, however, it is all about the lamination. Lamination is the process of folding and rolling butter into dough over and over again to create super-thin layers. It’s what gives your croissants a delightfully light texture.
If you do it right then puff pastry should have between 500 and 700 layers but the store-bought stuff will do the same job, you just can’t boast about it.
The recipe for this is completely made up by yours truly but it goes like this.
Grab some apples, they can be any really as long as they are fresh, I don’t care. Peel the apples, core them and cut them into small cubes then add them to a saucepan with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar and some spices.
The spices can be adapted but nothing beats cinnamon, a bit of clove and nutmeg. It is pumpkin spice season after all.
Then you just cook the apples in the spiced sugar mixture until softened (not a mush!) take them out and let them cool and move onto the pastry.
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Frozen puff pastry needs to be defrosted in case you didn’t know and then taken out of the fridge 10 minutes before you intend to use it, any sooner and it may begin to melt which is just sad.
How thick you want your pastry depends on whether you need to roll it all, but I would suggest rolling it a little just to give it shape.
You can do whatever you want in terms of design but I went for mini pasties instead of one big strudel, mainly because my puff pastry was old and starting to dry out so I had to remove some bits, leaving me with less than intended.
Then all you do is drop a bit of filling into the pastry, fold up so it’s neat without any gaps and bake until golden brown, flaky and just wonderful.
Optionally you can add a sprinkle of sugar and egg wash for added shine and pomp but that’s up to you.
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