Technical Challenge!

Culinary school Edinburgh teaches students how to bake

Like millions of others I love watching Great British Bake Off every week and it is interesting to watch the contestants from a professional point of view. Not just as someone who has written a book on all aspects of baking, but also as a teacher. I have one big beef with the format though. It frustrates me that when the contestants do their technical challenge they are not given all the instructions and it is usually the ones who have made elements of it before who shine, whilst the others who haven’t just flounder! I have taught all aspects of cooking for over 30 years but baking has become a bit of a speciality. I know that when we have 16 students in a kitchen cooking exactly the same recipe that the results can be very different and this is when we have given them the instructions! This is down to some people having a flair for baking and others being better at sauces, fish or meat cooking. We talk our students through everything they make and can tell them exactly what has gone wrong or right and from this they learn a huge amount. So please Bake Off, give them all the instructions for a recipe because it will still be just as compelling, but the competition will be fairer!
Last week they made show stoppers using Dobos Torte as a base. I thought you might like to have your own technical challenge this weekend – try to make a classic Dobos Torte. I have included all the instructions and even a picture!
This is a Hungarian cake in 5 layers. It is fairly complicated. The cake is a whisked sponge, the butter cream is crème au buerre mousseline and it is topped with caramel! The cake mixture will not deteriorate if lack of baking sheets or space in the oven means that all the layers cannot be baked at the same time. If the butter isn’t soft enough the butter cream can curdleso make sure you take it out of the fridge in plenty of time.

For the cake
4 eggs
170g/6oz caster sugar
140g/5oz plain flour
a pinch of salt

For the butter cream
85g/3oz granulated sugar
4–5 tablespoons water
3 egg yolks
225g/8oz unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
coffee essence
55g/2oz hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and ground

To decorate
6 whole hazelnuts, browned and skinned
85g ground toasted hazelnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/Fan oven 170C/ gas mark 5. Usea flan ring or saucepan lid to mark an 18cm circle on baking parchment and turn it over so the pencil mark is underneath. Place on baking sheets.
2. Make the cake: whisk the eggs in a heatproof bowl and gradually whisk in the sugar. Fit the bowl over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water and whisk until the mixture is thick and mousse-like, don’t let it get too hot or it will. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until cool. (If you have a large free standing mixer you can use this instead) Sift the flour with the salt and fold into the egg mixture, using a large metal spoon. Divide the mixture between the prepared baking sheets and spread quickly into circles as marked.
3. Bake in the centre of the oven for 8 minutes or until the cake layers spring back when pressed lightly with a fingertip. Trim the edges neatly, whilst still slightly warm and leave to cool on a wire rack.
4. Make the butter cream: put the sugar and water into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely. When clear, bring to the boil and boil rapidly until a little syrup forms short, sticky threads when pulled between a wet finger and thumb. Allow to cool slightly for about 1 minute.
5. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and pour on the syrup in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick and mousse-like. Cream the butter in a bowl with a pinch of salt until soft then beat in the egg and sugar mixture.
6. Flavour 2 – 3 tablespoons of the butter cream with coffee essence to taste and reserve for decoration. Mix the ground hazelnuts and a little coffee essence into the remaining butter cream.
7. Place one layer of cake on a wire rack set over an oiled baking sheet. Melt the sugar for the caramel in water in a saucepan, once the sugar has completely dissolved bring to the boil and boil until it is a good caramel colour – do not stir whilst it boils. Pour immediately over the layer of cake, covering it completely.
8. Allow to harden slightly, then mark into 6 portions with the back of a large oiled knife, cutting through the setting caramel but not through the cake. Trim the edges of excess caramel.
9. Once the caramel is cold sandwich the cake layers together, sparingly with coffee and hazelnut butter cream and spread it thinly around the sides. Press on the nuts.
10. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large fluted nozzle with the reserved coffee butter cream and pipe a rosette on top of each portion of cake. Decorate each rosette with a whole hazelnut.