Sometimes in order to create something better, it’s necessary to break down a partially formed structure into its component parts so that building can take place from a more stable base. It’s what happens with any reconstruction, whether that be bones, cities or sporting techniques and approach: the British track cycling team are a case to point with their psychiatrists, diet and technical analysis. Such was the case with the puddings challenge for me: in the end, the dropped chocolate fondants heralded a new way of approaching GBBO that was an epiphany.
After the meringue ‘mauling’ and the pumpkin pie that had enough alcohol according to Paul to ‘sterilise wounds’, my baking confidence was at rock bottom. I knew that on a good day I could bake reasonably well to a technical standard, but allying that to quality of flavours was proving elusive. When the puddings hit the floor, I had no belief that the puddings would be sufficiently tasty to get me through the obvious failing that there weren’t enough of them in the correct form. Did I believe I would ever be in the running for Star Baker that weekend? You’re having a laugh, right?
Apart from Ryan, I think I was the one that had the least baking experience at that stage. I bake to relax and as part of an approach to food and cooking based on a desire to eat as well as I am able to. I simply didn’t have the repertoire that some of the others had at the point either in terms of breadth (Brendan) or depth of knowledge (James and his bread passion). I certainly felt very nervous during the bakes and the judging. I am generally able to concentrate on the task in hand and so didn’t find the cameras intrusive as I could shut them out, but I did find the examination during the bakes by Paul and the others nerve wracking. As an enthusiastic amateur with no training and minimal feedback, there was simply no comparison for me with any other sphere of my life. Something I’ve done for over 20 years and been trained to do since the age of 18 is going to come more naturally to me than making a cake under professional scrutiny.
This is not about objective degrees of difficulty but subjective familiarity. We are asked to perform on the stage of TV and I was having a bad case of ‘imposter syndrome’- not really believing I was up to the task or clear as to why I was there, other than I was learning a huge amount and loving the company of my fellow bakers. However hard it was on each of us, it was enormous fun to spend time together.
So I am glad the puddings dropped on the floor, because yet again I learnt, not the least of which is how throughly decent Mary and Paul can be, but also how supportive and kind my fellow bakers are (viz Catherine’s face at my judging and Brendan’s constant gentle, quiet support).
These puddings are lovely. I based them on a plain chocolate recipe I saw James Martin do at a food show some years ago and they are quite easy technically to make, but the trickiness is in the timing and how they are transferred from mould to plate. So before you start, I do suggest you read the tips below. I decided to flavour them with orange and as Cherries Jubilee as a pudding has orange in, I thought using the cherry fruits as an accompaniment to the chocolate sponge would work. Thankfully Mary and Paul were in agreement that they did.
So some tips:
- Use the moulds and the weights of mixture specified with the timings. You are aiming for a shell that is just firm enough to hold the liquid centres and each of these 3 work together. The dariole moulds I use are the ones that come in packs of 4 from Lakeland.
- Prepping the moulds is also important. They need to be dusted with cocoa powder but that gives them a slightly unappetising colour when they come out of the oven. Hence my spraying them gold and then putting the icing sugar star on the top.
- Once removed from the oven, they need to be left to settle for 1-2 minutes before attempting to turn out, and must also be turned out very gently. If either of these isn’t done, then they do split and get a fat bottom. They are fragile and don’t survive being dropped on the floor before turning out, plus you must wait that minute or two for them to firm and cool. I was in such a state I didn’t and brought my own misfortune on myself. They were perfectly cooked, it was how I handled them on removing them from the oven that was all wrong.
- On the day I used fresh cherries, but I actually think a bag of frozen, defrosted works better. They come with a bit of juice already and it’s just easier.
- As the puddings cool they do solidify. I’ve been asked to make them for someone and give them to them like that as cold solid ‘cakes’ with a gooey middle which they wanted.
- Don’t get very bitter chocolate as it brings out the harsh notes in the orange. Go for 50-60% cocoa solids and it will just keep enough sweetness.
- It needs to be orange extract and not orange blossom water which is weaker.
125g very soft butter, plus extra for greasing the moulds
125g dark chocolate, broken into pieces ( 50% -60% cocoa solids is ideal )
4 medium eggs
100g caster sugar
60g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp orange extract
cocoa powder for lining moulds
400g cherries, stones removed
grated rind plus the juice of 1 orange
75g caster sugar
generous pinch (slightly less than 1/2 tsp)of cinnamon to taste
3 tbsp cherry brandy
1 dessertspoon arrowroot
2 tbsp Black Raspberry Liquer ( I use Chambord)
Gold shimmer spray/edible gold dust
This needs 6 dariole moulds, 4.5cm x 6cm.
Heat oven temperature to 220 degrees C/200C fa
- Grease the dariole moulds with butter and brush from the base to the top of the mould in horizontal lines to help the mixture rise. Coat the insides with cocoa powder.
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a bain marie. Stir to a smooth consistency.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric handwhisk for 2-3 minutes until pale and fluffy.
- Sift in the flour and cinnamon in small amounts and fold in gently with a metal spoon.
- Fold the melted chocolate mixture and orange extract into the egg mixture until combined.
- Spoon the mixture into the moulds to three quarters full. Do not fill to the top as they do puff up in the oven.
- Tap the moulds to release any air and bake on a baking tray for 8 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, leave in the moulds for 1-2 minutes and turn the puddings very gently onto the serving plate. (You can use a knife to ease out)
- Spray lightly with gold spray or alternatively brush each pudding with gold dust on the serving plate. Sprinkle with icing sugar.
- Place a small piece of gold leaf on the top of each pudding and serve with the warmed cherries and some segments of orange and peel.
- Stone the cherries if not already done so into a small saucepan .
- Add the orange rind, caster sugar, cinnamon and cherry brandy and leave to warm through on a low heat until just before ready to serve.
- Blend the arrowroot with the orange juice until smooth
- Add the arrowroot to the cherry mixture, and stir over a low heat until clear and thickened.
- Add the black raspberry liquer.
- Serve in small dishes on a plate with a chocolate fondant so the cherries can be spooned over the fondant.