Such excitement! This week I was lucky enough to go to the filming of Extra Slice with my Sunday Bake Club pals and of course to take a bake with me.
We were told in advance that it was patisserie week and were asked to bring something with the theme in mind, if it could be something spectacular or funny all the better. So I began to plan but with a really busy week of orders I knew I wouldn’t get chance to practice. My first port of call was this pretty book by Jill Colonna – Teatime in Paris. Its a lovely book with step by step guide to french patisserie showing you how to master some of the basics.
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I was struck by a Paris Brest a kind of doughnut shaped ring choux filled with french pastry creme (crème pâtissière). I knew that a kind of religieuse was on the cards but had no idea what it involved – the only kind I had ever made were the little ones.
So creative thoughts flowing how about a cone of choux rings decreasing in size on top of each other and topped with a large choux bun with Mary Berrys face on. What could possibly go wrong? I had a whole half an afternoon to do it in – best get started!
Well inevitably it was a disaster – I tried to make thick choux rings and they were a soggy mess ending up being used by the family as frisbees! On the plus side they were complimented as the best sweet Yorkshire puddings they had tasted.
Without the luxury of time to perfect my bake I thought I would revert to plan B and make a croquembouche instead. Plan B was hardly something I knew well however. I’ve only ever done one croquembouche before for my daughters 18th 3 years ago, we tried to stick it together with white chocolate and my caramel skills were then untested so it was distinctly wonky!
but at least I now knew how to work with caramel and was happy with making choux buns!
The key to choux is adding the correct amount of egg to much and the rise will be insufficient – too little and can make odd shaped buns but Jills book has a great step by step guide to the stages.
100 odd choux buns later and creme pat made, I was ready for construction.
One thing I did know was that I didn’t want to fill and construct the night before so I set the alarm for 6 am and left the final construction until the day.
I don’t have a proper croquembouche cone so I made one from a large sheet of card lined with parchment paper. I filled my buns with a pistachio pastry cream based on the recipe in Teatime in Paris for hazelnut cream but just used ground pistachios instead of hazelnut praline. I make my caramel in a large flat bottomed frying pan gently melting sugar until its all dissolved then heating to a rich brown colour without stirring. Its important to stop the heating once you have reached caramel stage by dipping the pan in cold water, but you can warm it through afterwards if it goes to solid to dip your buns in!
To make the croquembouche cone you simply layer up the buns around the cone, its a lengthy process and fiddly especially at the peak of the cone, also watch your fingers – caramel burns!
Once completed it sets quickly and you can simply peel away the paper cone. I decorated mine with a raspberry rose fondant drizzle, crystallised rose petals and sliced pistachios. I then swirled spun caramel all round the cone to finish the look – and hurray it was complete in time if still with a slight Tower of Pisa tilt.
Next challenge was to get it to the ITV studio! I travelled by train and steadfastly took up two seats despite a busy carriage. The Sunday Bake Club gang met at Waterloo and we walked together to the studio armed with our cake boxes.
As we had been invited as part of Sunday Bake Club to the filming we were lucky enough to skip queuing outside and went straight in to deposit our bakes and sign our secrecy disclaimers. It was such a relief to hand over the tower in one piece, so a trip to the pub was in order and a well deserved glass of wine, whilst we waited to go back to watch the episode of Bake Off and the filming.
On our return there was much excitement as all the Bake Club gang were going to be able to sit on the tables in front of the panel, we felt like superstars as we were guided away from the the crowd to our seats. Some of our number having produced the requisite amazingly funny and unusual bakes were chosen for filming and the rest of us sat in amongst them. Our bakes were brought to us and my cone was still standing albeit it with a mysteriously missing bun and the spun sugar having melted away. However things all started to go wrong when we were asked to lift our bakes up and montrer nous votre gateaux (show us your cakes)! It was all distinctly wobbly and required support with my finger through the screening of the next weeks episode. The studio was really cold and accelerated the sugar dissolving – by the time filming started the whole thing had collapsed and became a messy pile of choux buns and I was a sticky mess – but no photos as we weren’t allowed our phones on in the studio.
I felt a little better having seen the Religieuse a l’Ancienne towers collapsing during the episode screening after just a couple of hours. Mine had done pretty well to stay complete for 12 hours! It was a great day we got to meet Paul who was evicted from the tent that week, and I learned a few tricks for the future if I ever attempt a choux tower again – maybe one day I will even make a Mary Berry Choux ring effigy! We wouldn’t know if we made the final cut until the actual episode but we have already seen some of our bakes on the trailer and apparently my red hair makes an appearance under the studio lights too!
I hope you enjoy tonights’ episode – lets see if my disintegrating croquembouche made it on film!
Finally able to see us on the small screen you may spot me next to Johns fab marmite macarons
along with my rather deflated bake
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