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#BAKEALONGWITHGBBO: Week 6 – Pastry

IT’S PASTRY WEEK! And I have Man Flu. Which is the absolute worst! But, that isn’t enough to put me off getting down and dirty with a batch of gorgeous buttery pastry.

I actually have a love-hate relationship with pastry – in that I love to eat it in ALL its glorious forms, but there are certainly some types that fill me with the utmost of dread. I’m looking at you filo…

In the tent, our favourite home bakers were challenged to create four signature short-crust pies with a savoury filling and individual-yet-linked decorations, technical pastel de natas (also known as a Portuguese custard tart – my other half’s absolute favourite pastry in the whole wide world) and a showstopping hand-raised hot-water crust pie.

It was also the week when we FINALLY saw everyone’s favourite student baker, Liam, claim the star baker crown and a nation rejoiced. Before quickly being reduced to tears when it was announced that our first previous star baker would be heading home. In spite of Stacey’s paper-logged watercrust and oddly miniature technicals, it was lovely Julia who departed the tent, leaving even Sandi misty-eyed.

Back in the Mr Baker’s Cakes kitchen, the pressure was on to produce something wonderful. As I’ve already mentioned, the other half is a massive fan of a crisp, creamy pastel de nata and a baking fail would simply not suffice. Can you hear me jinxing myself yet?

Paul’s recipe, as always available in my recipes section, is definitely a very ‘technical’ bake and rather more complicated than other Portuguese tart recipes I have seen before. In addition to a tricky rough puff pastry, the bake also includes an unusual custard requiring a sugar syrup to be made. Time constraints meant that a lot of multitasking was required for this particular challenge – never usually my strong suit.

Like the bakers in the tent, I started with the pastry, as the number of chills required between each roll and fold mean that this isn’t a quick recipe and I used chilled bottled water, frozen butter and a bucket of iced water to cool my lava-hands to ensure that everything was kept as chilled as possible.

The trickiest challenge here was always going to be the custard though and in particular, keeping the milk and flour mixture moving, whilst trying to heat the sugar syrup to exactly 112°C. I simply don’t have enough hands to hold a whisk, a pan handle and a sugar thermometer all at the same time. In true Bridget Jones-style, a quick sieving ensured that any flour lumps were quickly removed before the various elements were whisked into my egg yolks.

I opted to avoid hand-sharping my tart cases and copied the technique favoured by a number of the tent bakers – rolling the pastry out and then lining the muffin tin. It seemed to work well enough and still resulted in the much sought after lamination swirl on the base, so that’s something at least.

Riding high on my apparent lack of issues, I fear I may have become a bit cocky. Because, for probably the first time ever during a #bakealongwithGBBO bake, I didn’t watch the oven. In fact, *whispers* I started working on this week’s Cake project. So it wasn’t until my (same one as in the tent dontcha know) timer went off that I looked at my tarts and it seems I bypassed brown spots and went straight to… well, brown.

I think, without my usual diligence, I had allowed my slightly unreliable oven to creep a little high, resulting in the brownness – which is totally a real word by the way.

However, as always, the proof is in the eating and, to give Paul his due, they are pretty darn special. It’s not often I will wolf down a sweet bake, but after my initial taste, I was itching to go back for more…

The other half is insisting that one should wait until the tarts are cool before enjoying them and had to be forced to even bite into one, so the initial, coerced opinion of, “It’s alright”, will have to do. But my initial reservations regarding brownness aside, I think this was a pretty successful endeavour after all. Phew!

Next week sees another first for the tent: Italian Week! This week’s preview seems to imply that the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the tent not only have serious implications for the bakes, but for some of the bakers too. *gulp*

I’ll see you then!

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