It’s been a busy week and a bit and I’ve only just found time to finally attempt the fourth technical challenge of the final series of Bake Off as we know it, how apropos on the day Mary Berry follows Mel and Sue in staying with the BBC, leaving just Paul Hollywood and the tent remaining on the painful journey to C4.
It was a new one for 2016 – Batter Week. The bakers had to make 12 filled Yorkshire Puddings for their signature; the technical was classic pancakes with a twist, whilst the showstopper was the Spanish traditional snack, churros.
Obviously I am concentrating on the technical, which for this week again, was set by the blue-eyed wannabe Simon Cowell of baked goods, Paul Hollywood. Joy.
This time the bakers were instructed to make 12 lacy pancakes. Not the delicate, thin French crepes, but pancakes in the shape of lacy heart patterns. OK. The bakers reached varying degrees of intricacy with theirs…
Pancakes? I thought. I can do that! Lacy ones? Sure! No problem…
Oh how wrong I was.
I can make a pancake. I have NEVER bought the add-water-and-shake travesties on Shrove Tuesday, instead choosing to make the batter from scratch. Generally speaking, I have always done OK. I would have the ingredients in, and it’ll all be fine. But, perhaps to my detriment, I decided to not waste money on a plastic squeezy bottle, instead opting to use a washed-up old ketchup bottle – it was already in the house, it was plastic and squeezy. No problem.
I think somehow my dislike of Hollywood came through as the two practice ones (yes I know) came out dismally. The batter came out of the bottle unevenly without much control, and instead what resulted were not delicate ornate hearts, but hot messes. We even tried piercing the lid of the bottle but it was just coming out the same. So much so, that halfway through, I decided to completely abandon the ‘lacy’ part and just use the batter up by making boring but much easier ‘normal’ pancakes. My money saving, ultimately cost me.
But usually if I fail a recipe, it involves tantrums, strops and questioning my very competence as a cook. I have been known to make a recipe twice if the first one goes wrong, almost like if getting it right cancels out and vanishes the ‘bad one’. This time however, I regretted nothing. It wasn’t a waste of time or ingredients as we still ate pancakes. We had a pancake day in September. How can this be anything other than joyous?
Final verdict. Pointless challenge and really doesn’t test one’s technical skills, except perhaps how steady your hand is. Yes, I’m saying that because I failed it appallingly, but I really couldn’t give a damn. What is even the POINT of ‘lacy pancakes’ other than being the ultimate in style over substance?
Frankly, churros or Yorkshires would have been more suitable as a technical because I haven’t made either (yes. I have never made a Yorkshire pudding, usually leaving it to someone else in the house who doesn’t mind fiddling with tins of hot fat. I NEVER buy them in!) and they both have their own requirements:
Yorkshires – need to be beaten enough to allow for a good rise, and the batter shouldn’t be too thick. Also the oven temperature needs to be hot enough otherwise they become doughy.
Churros – batter needs to be stiff enough to hold its distinct ridged shape from the piping bag, and they need to be cooked correctly to achieve the crispy outside and fluffy interior.
Lacy pancakes though? Most people can make a pancake. Yes, they look pretty if you can be bothered, but you can’t douse them in lemon juice and sugar (it just spills out everywhere), let alone Nutella or golden syrup (whatever your choice of pancake accoutrement may be) and who eats a ‘plain’ pancake?
Eaten standing alone, they are bland to say the least. I wasn’t going to go out and buy a plastic bottle just for this because let’s face it, I wouldn’t make them this way normally. Life is too short to draw ornate patterns in a hot frying pan when you can just as easily make a duller plain disc pancake, which comes alive when dressed in sharply sweet, citrus-soused sugar or cloyingly addictive Nutella.
At least the sauté pan I bought for the dampfnudel (ugh those wretched things still haunt) actually has other uses in the kitchen so I can sort-of justify that.
My partner summed it up – “making pancakes is usually fun….and this isn’t fun.”
I write this the day after seeing Pastry Week with a far more interesting technical – Bakewell tart. I have made bakewell slices before so that should be slightly more challenging and makes more sense as a technical (more skills put to the test – pastry making, frangipane, icing feathering, timing, being aware of the layers and proportions). Funny how all of Mary’s technicals seem appealing (I will make the Viennese Whirls again as they had rave reviews from my work colleagues) whereas all of Hollywood’s are stressful and pain-inducing. The ‘botanical week’ of next week’s technical in the preview looked to be some kind of herb fougasse (a leavened Mediterranean flatbread in a distinctive spoked shape) that is no doubt set by Hollywood…..so that stressfest is also to come.
So I leave you with this. Don’t bother with lace pancakes unless you are dying to show off on Instagram. Make normal ones instead and have an off season pancake day instead. Far more enjoyable.