Mary Berry sure likes to fiddle with her bakes. The batter of this recipe is simple enough to make. But the templates, and the spreading, and the piping… and the folding, and the wrapping, and the… You get my drift. I found a pretty good video that demonstrated the techniques. She even gives a few more ideas for shapes.

I made my own templates from plastic food containers. I think the template material could be a little thicker. I ended up swirling the batter inside the circle, using the template to keep the circle clean. Not quite sure how thick the cookies are supposed to be. I’m hoping they crisp up a little after cooling.

To make the cigars, I used one of my son’s drum sticks. I got this idea after making the Brandy Snaps from season 2. Don’t worry, I washed it before and after. But if his sticks go flying next time he rocks out to Led Zepplin, I hope no one gets a stick in the eye.

My piping work was not the most artful. But I had a little fun with it. Got a music nerd thing going. They kind of look like Pringles with chocolate glaze. [This will not be the next flavor, please Dear Lord!]


As I blog, it’s Sunday night. Dinner is wrapped up. The baking experiment is done for now. I have a lot of batter left. Ms. Berry says the batter will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. I may go full-on bassoon nerd and have them finished for Lehigh Philharmonic rehearsal on Wednesday. It is Concert Marathon week. So I need to be thinking about something else for the Bel Canto rehearsal while I’m in the final dress for LUPhil. Whelp, there are four more bakes in season 4. I just might finish this week.

Good thing. Capt Hook needs a costume!! (yes, I’m aiming to have this ready for a fitting this Saturday, too.


Dear Auntie Bernice*,

I made my first choux pastry! The crème patisserie turned out really well, too. But I rushed the chocolate ganache on the assembly. I tried to assemble them at the Bach office while the kids were rehearsing. So they turned out a little drippy.Fortunately, the kids are very kind and gobbled them up. I also realized that the choux didn’t fully dry.  The custard filling helped blow them out a bit.

Good thing I had extra dough and custard in the piping bags at home. I tried again so my family could taste them. Baking them to fully dry made all the difference. The ganache was better set as well. I cheated on the whipped cream, using my canister. Two piping bags is enough for one recipe. I’m truly grateful for the inspiration you continue to have for me. I’m blessed with kitchen tools and lots of friends eager to eat my baking lessons. I know if you were here, you’d be helping with critical feedback. I’ll just have to know that every time something turns out right, you had a little something to do with it.

Thank you!

*Dear reader,
Auntie Bernice was the best cook I knew. She was my dad’s sister, and an incredible woman. She laughed loudly, sang loudly, and prayed loudly at church. She made bread every day. She was a feminist, and incredibly generous. She made all of the cheesecakes for my wedding – which also was her birthday. In my earlier blogging days, I wrote a post about her Beethoven’s Birthday dinner parties. I think of her every time I bake.

Apricot Couronne

It’s not his steely blue eyes. It’s not his handsome face, and the mysterious looks he gives contestants. I have a crush on his….. recipes. Paul Hollywood’s recipe for Apricot Couronne was gorgeous. I’ve really come to rely on Meghna’s videos of all the GBBO technicals. They are short enough for a quick tutorial/review if I need a shot of inspiration, clarification, or reminders. If you are thinking about joining this challenge, I highly recommend subscribing to this YouTube channel. Here’s what I mean:

I won’t be making videos like this. Because they already exist.

I shared with the the Lehigh Philharmonic again. Yes, I skipped around the order of season 4. The other technicals will not travel or share well. For the more complicated assembly bakes, there is a full kitchen in the place where Bel Canto rehearses. And there’s less choristers than members of the orchestra.

English Muffins

Bread. I like bread. English muffins turned out lovely. They weren’t perfectly sized (meaning, all the same). But they were delicious! Yes, I would make these again. And just like the description in Meghna’s video, I will not be buying them from the store again.

Couple of things I’m learning about breads from Paul Hollywood. Keep the dough wet. However long it takes to double, let the prove double. The best way I found to prove bread in my kitchen is to put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then put it in the oven with the oven light on. It keeps the drafts away from the bowl. For the second prove, I’ll reuse the plastic wrap AFTER I make sure there is enough flour scattered on the top of the shape so it doesn’t stick. If it’s too much before baking, it can be carefully brushed off before putting on an egg wash (if that’s part of the method).

I wasn’t generous enough with the semolina. The muffins lost a little height when I transferred the to the hot griddle. I believe I can master these well enough.

Oh – and those “nooks and crannies” are a marketing effort to sell over-proved muffins. (IMHO)

Since I had the oven on, I decided to bake a batch of macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies. Why? I bought a bag of the nuts when I was last in Kenosha. And furthermore, why not?


Egg Custard Tarts

This bake did not go well. Things went south before I even started gathering ingredients. It started with a retail scavenger hunt for a gadget that seemed critical to the success of this bake.

Are 11cm/4.5 inch fluted pastry cutters common in the United States? They aren’t in the Lehigh Valley. Guess how many stores I searched? Go on, take a wild guess. Three? (higher) Five? (higher!) Seven? (even higher!!) Don’t hold your breath while I wind up for a rant.

Our area Restaurant Store opens at 7:30am. Thinking I could swing by for a quick purchase before work, I braved morning traffic and wisely avoided highway 22. I didn’t find what I needed. Discipline (and a tight February budget) kept me from the slightest browsing. But I needed that gadget today because I had 10 egg yolks left over from the second angel food cake made the day before.

Since it was still relatively early in the day, I decided to try Joann Fabrics in Whitehall that opens at 9am. While I did not want to drive on 22 during the morning rush, I acquiesced. Joann Fabrics is another store that is somewhat dangerous for me. I kept the blinders on, even down the fancy planner isle. No fluted cutter. Since I was already out in Whitehall, I might as well go across MacArthur to the AC Moore store. It might be possible that there’s a lingering cutter among the rest of the corpse of inventory. Perhaps it’s even more dangerous to walk into a store that’s closing. All of the items were marked 80% off – even the silicone heart molds. I bought them for another try at the Chocolate Teacakes. And a couple of bags of melting chocolate.

There’s a Walmart not too far from this AC Moore. I’m late for work, but I’m already out in Whitehall. Might as well check here, even though I’m not a fan of this store. At this point, I should have started tracking my steps with my apple watch. The housewares is all the way in the back. I happened to walk through a sewing isle. Picked up a $5 packaged 2-yard fabric and matching thread for a project I’ve been thinking of. But no dice on the cutter. I made sure to put the fabric and the thread back on the shelf. And the silly chip clip. Discipline.

I took a back road to the Michael’s near the Whitehall mall about 1.5 miles on the way back to work. They have cookie cutters. But not the one I need. Since I’m parked at the mall, I might as well stop in Kohl’s. No cutter. But oooh, there’s a Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Sprout LED with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit. I can hear my husband’s sigh from his office. Not going to buy it. No space for it anyway. Discipline.

There’s a Bed, Bath & Beyond in the same mall area. No cutter. But as I walk back to my car, I regret not engaging my exercise app. But…. I just remember there’s a Williams Sonoma in the Lehigh Valley Mall just across Grape Street. At this point, I will pay $10 for a cookie cutter if they have it. And they don’t.

The lovely sales person (that I’m pretty sure works on commission) Tries to sell me a fluted cutter 5-piece set priced at $16.95. The largest is only 4 inches. I need 4.5 inches wide. There’s another set of circle cutters she tries to sell me. No thanks. Discipline.


By this time I have passed the point of no return. I could easily pull out my phone and order the G-D cutter from Amazon while sobbing away my decision to waste all this time. But I don’t give up yet. There’s still Target and The Christmas Tree Shoppe on the way back to the office. Each are another disappointment. I resisted the temptation to buy some fun St. Paddy’s day kitchen towels. No cutter, no sale.

I finally caved in and went to Bev’s Cake and Candy Supplies. Unchaperoned. Elaine found something that will work for now. I’m going to cave in and buy another kitchen gadget from Amazon. Why? Because after all of this fuss, I will be making tarts again. They may not be egg custard, but there will be tarts. And I will need it to be a full 4.5 inches. I’m already thinking of filling them with that lovely lemon custard of the Angel food cake recipe.

OK – here’s the recipe. And here’s a video to help you make better choices. When the contestants made them, they only made one large one; not 12 small ones.

So you want to see what happens when you don’t use the right sized cutter? Disaster.


Angel food cake with Lemon Curd

This bake turned out beautifully. I’m not just talking about the angel food. As one progresses through the technicals, the expense is not just the ingredients. You must have the tools. In an effort to save some money, I put out an inquiry on a Facebook group, “Foodies of Bethlehem.” I was hoping to borrow an angel food cake pan so I didn’t have to buy one. Renée King responded quickly. We made a deal that I’d return the pan with a cake in it.

This recipe calls for 10 eggs. The egg whites only are for the cake. What can one do with 10 egg yolks? Mary Berry provides a recipe for lemon curd to use the 10 yolks. This yields way more lemon curd than needed. Wait a minute. Too much lemon curd? How absurd! I did need to make two cakes. But I wasn’t going to double the lemon curd. Still had left-over egg yolks. I could make gelato…

Reading ahead, I saw a recipe for egg custard tarts. Perfect. I’ll just save the yolks for that and shuffle the technicals out of order.

Never before have I purchased three dozen eggs at one time. When Lady B me unpacking these from the grocery bags, she said, “Why not just get a chicken?”

There’s a thought. Maybe we can convert the dog pen into a chicken coop? Of course, that thought has launched many rabbit hole searched on the internet. But it has me thinking anyway.

The other lesson I got from this technical was about passion fruit. The first time I purchased a whole passion fruit, it was quite firm. The available fresh fruits at Wegmans didn’t look fresh. I hunted down an employee to ask if they had fresher ones in storage. Produce guy Rob brought out new fruits, but said the wrinkly ones were good. I was dubious because all of the pictures I’ve seen were round a firm. He suggested we open one to see. Yep, sure enough. Beautifully sweet inside. Here’s a series of images to demonstrate:

The cake and lemon curd was ready to assemble at Lehigh Philharmonic the next day. I wanted to return the pan quickly, so I baked another cake the afternoon before rehearsal. Renée sweetly took her pan back, along with half of the lemon curd. I think I’ll eventually get my own angel food cake pan. This recipe was so yummy. I know I’ll bake it again.

Funny thing about passion fruit. When mixed with lemon curd, it kind of looks like bugs. When I plated the cake, some of the students didn’t know what the seeds were. I told the it was bugs and they didn’t have to eat the cake. But as soon as one students took a bite,… POOF! Gone!


Floating Islands

I tried. I really tried. Twice. I even convinced my husband to let me purchase a new pan. The GBBO Technical challenge required patience, tenacity, and ALL OF THE RIGHT TOOLS. Mary Berry’s recipe calls for a “large lidded pan or deep-sided frying pan.” It’s supposed to look like this.

This technical challenge proved to be a most glorious disaster.

The first attempt was in a 12-inch cast iron skillet with a glass lid that fit the pan. The directions for the recipe are to poach the egg white puffs in the liquid (milk and heavy cream) that will eventually become the crème anglaise.

In order to poach the egg whites, there needs to be enough room between the top of the puff and the lid. I’ve successfully poached eggs in this pan. But I was worried about boil over. Anyone who has boiled potatoes or pasta with the lid on the pot knows that eventually the liquid will boil over. Sure enough, that happened. The whites puffed, and then the cream/milk overtook the pan. I took the lid off to stop the overflow. Aside from the spill, I created blobs of egg whites that look like…. Not sure how to describe them.

Early amoebae of the primordial ooze. Slimy snail droppings. Ogre boogies.

Aren’t they spectacular?

The newly purchased pan wasn’t much better. The liquid still boiled over. But I managed to keep the smaller puffs from getting liquid on the top.

This recipe also called for spun sugar. I don’t have much luck with making caramel from heating JUST sugar. It typically burns for me. Sorry, but after failing twice with this method, I searched  for a different approach. This video not only changed the initial recipe, the instructions were very good. Next time I find myself at a dollar store, I’m getting a whisk so I can cut the ends.

Nailed it!

After crying “uncle” on the islands, I took the remaining egg whites and plopped them onto a silicone baking sheet to toast them into smaller meringue puffs. I finished making the crème anglaise, floated the toasted meringue puffs on that and put little clumps of spun sugar on it. My serving plate of choice was a flat pasta server. The kids devoured the crème anglaise, like a soup eating competition. Lady B said the spun sugar stabbed the roof of her mouth.

This is quite possibly the most difficult recipe thus far in the GBBO Technical Challenges.


If I were truly going to be a spoiled brat, I’d insist on a gas stove top. But since we don’t have a city gas line to house, I’ll just not poach egg whites in hot milk again.

Fondant Fancies

What on earth possessed Mary Berry to come up with this recipe? There are 6-7 separate parts of these dainty little tortures. Genoese sponge cake, marzipan topping secured with sieved apricot jam. Buttercream to seal in the crumbs of the cake cubes, fondant to dip each little cake, and chocolate drizzle.

To achieve this masterpiece, I needed to take a spin to Bev’s Cake & Candy supply store. I brought my daughter with me to supervise. I get big ideas that are usually beyond budget. For this recipe, I needed a new 9×9 inch cake pan with a loose base and 2 pounds of fondant, which I would normally make from scratch, but the fondant had to be manipulated into a dipping consistency. I didn’t feel confident that homemade fondant would work. Now that I know what this recipe needed, I couldn’t have done it with my own fondant. Three 10 oz. bags bags of marshmallows are much less expensive ($2.98) than a 2-pound container of pre-made fondant ($19.99).

Of course I bought some other tools I know I’d need for future bakes. Extra pie weights, acetate sleeves, and a mid-sized angled frosting spatula. So grateful to my sister-in-law for the gift certificate. My daughter did a great job pulling me to the register before I went overboard.

I started the bake after coming home from an event at an arts center. The moments on stage and in after event reception conversations were spinning in my head, along with the eve of Brexit, the impeachment hearings, and the oncoming Imbolc (St. Brigid’s Day), not to mention a long Bel Canto rehearsal and my sick doggo. We also ran out of heating oil earlier in the day. Warming up the kitchen with the heat of the over and the smell of baking always make a home cozier, no matter what time of day or night.

I had studied up on the method by watching GBBO Masterclass season 5, episode 2 on Netflix. technicals. I made my own marzipan, only half of this non-egg white recipe. It was all that I needed for a 9×9 square layer. I also switched to reusable piping bags – much better for refilling while in the piping stages. I ended coming with my own technique for getting the fondant on the cakes. Mary’s seemed straight forward. But after dropping two of the cake cubes into the fondant, dipping was no longer an option. For the final chocolate drizzle, I used a squeeze bottle. So much easier to control!

I finished around 2:30am. Happy to have them set in the cool and drafty kitchen until the next afternoon when I share them with the concert choir. Yes, I spoil them.

Since baking this technical, our beloved dog Buddy died. He was the best sous chef. He was quick to pick up any dropped ingredients, saving me from sweeping. He pre-washed the plates as we stacked them in the dishwasher after dinner. He happily tasted all of my cooking. He saved my from many bad pizza crusts.

He was the sentient being that was always happy to see me come home. He slept by my side and nursed me back to health when I was gathering recipes for this baking challenge.

I named my kitchen, “The Hair of the Dog” because I frequently had to pick out dog hairs in our food.

I will miss him.

Fraisier Cake

Mary Berry’s Fraisier cake is more proof that I will never bake another cake from a mix. This cake was like a Victoria Sponge, but most of the ingredients are whisked over simmer water. Still wishing I had a hand-mixer, I got the job done with the whisk attachment of the emulsifier. Folding in the flour was easy. But I should have sifted it. Found a few lumps later. Yes, I picked them out.

My first crème pâtissière was ok. The consistency was thick enough to hold its shape. I wasn’t going to have runny cream again! I also learned how to use a reusable piping bag. These are much easier to add cream to the bag so I don’t have to cram it all in at once and have it ooze out of the top. Also, cleaning reusable bags is super easy – just turn them inside out. Voilá!

I stupidly bought a bottle of cherry liqueur because I couldn’t find kirsch. I wonder how long I’ll have this bottle before I end up throwing it out. I remember seeing many GBBO bakes that use crème pâtissière. I hope the recipe will still call for this stuff. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying it straight up.

I’m getting pretty confident with tempering chocolate. The decorations were simple. I was pretty happy with the treble clef. Hearts – not so much. I also had some left over home made marzipan, so I didn’t have to make more for this recipe.

I found a demonstration video, but I didn’t need to consult it for this bake. I should have. The pastry chef video sieves the creme pat before cooling and putting it into a piping bag. It would have made a creamier texture. Cutting the cake went well. I have a cake layer wire cutter that I use for the middle of the cake, after I score the side with a serrated knife.

Assembly was straight forward. But gosh darn, if I didn’t remember the pixie dust again. I have the darned powdered sugar shaker can. Maybe it’s just too good for me. I don’t deserve it. (lol)

Tempering the chocolate is a pretty consistent technique for me. I melted a little too much, so I happily used the silicone cactus moulds my SIL Mary got me for Christmas. Aren’t they adorable?

The best thing about this bake was that I got it done in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I had just that amount of time to get home from work and put it together in time to celebrate a Bel Canto chorister birthday next week. Sorrel is a great kid. They have their driver’s license and are such an incredible leader for the younger kids in the choir. I’ve learned so much from them. They know that the way I like to show my love is by baking.

Chocolate Marshmallow Teacakes

To make this dessert, I had to fork over more money to Jeff Bezos. I bought a set of silicone 3-inch diameter half sphere moulds. For good measure (pun intended), I also bought a set of 3-inch cake/mousse mold rings with pusher. I would use just one circle as a cookie cutter for this recipe. The set of the moulds will be used for future bakes. And because I just don’t have enough piping tips, I bought bigger ones.

Would Mr. Bezos sponsor my baking challenges? Or at least send me a gift card? Get on that, internet!

The Chocolate Marshmallow Teacakes were a process! There is no way I’d be able to make these in a competitive time constraint. I don’t recall watching this recipe demonstration on GBBO Masterclass. But I found a very helpful YouTube page that demonstrates a few smart techniques. For instance, Paul Hollywood’s instructions are to use the back of a spoon to run the chocolate around the moulds. The video brushed the chocolate into the moulds. That worked much better for me.

The cool part of the ingredients was using my own homemade golden syrup. Baking with a real vanilla pod is a luxury. But I spared the precious pod for another time; using a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste instead.

I’ve made marshmallows before. This recipe called for an egg white marshmallow. And the biscuits called for wholemeal flour. That’s whole wheat flour to us Americans.

Here is what I did wrong.

  1. Runny Marshmallow. I didn’t cook or whisk the marshmallow long enough. I don’t have a hand mixer. I use the whisk attachment to my emulsifier for recipes that require whisking over a pan of simmering water. The hand held was getting warm. I was afraid I might burn out the poor little motor. I added a half teaspoon of powdered gelatin to help hold the shape. It still wasn’t stiff enough. But I went with it anyway.
  2. Biscuits too thin. I made a biscuit sandwich of melted chocolate in between two layers of biscuit. Then coated the biscuit sandwich with more chocolate. This was to make sure the base of the teacake was study. It was a little too much chocolate. Yes, there is such a thing.
  3. Dome of chocolate was too thick. Again, concerned that the shell would break or not hold it’s shape, I painted two layers of chocolate. I was thinking that the technique was working so well, that I should just keep doing it.

The final results were really big teacakes with a LOT of chocolate a runny marshmallow cream. When I cut them, they looked like a car rolled over the dessert.


One of my co-workers tasted it after it was cut. He said it tasted ok. I wrapped up individual teacakes and gave them to a few friends at a parent high school theater meeting and one at orchestra rehearsal. I warned each of them to make sure they ate it on a plate. Would I make these again? Probably not. But I will do the chocolate dome again.

These bakes are getting more complicated. I’m still loving the challenge.

%d bloggers like this: