The Great British Bake Off: Brilliant Biscuits

11891166_879375068812818_8680916800360836348_nPreviously on The Great British Bake Off: We kicked off with cake week and met our new batch of Bakewells. Marie’s steady but outstanding work won her star baker, Dorret’s black forest cake collapsed into a Bingate-worthy puddle, and Stu was shown the door.

Biscuit week! The Bakewells roll into the tent while Mel and Sue welcome us. Once everyone’s settled, the Signature is announced: 24 biscotti. Mmm, my mum makes some really delicious polenta biscotti. Her grandmother’s recipe, I think. They have two hours. Mary tells us that biscotti are unusual because they’re twice baked. Paul thinks he and Mary both have similar tastes in biscotti: Cranberry, hazelnut, and chocolate.

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The Great British Bake Off: This is No Time to Riff

Who_will_win_The_Great_British_Bake_Off_series_six_The Bake Off is back! Hope you’ve all perfected your pastry and sponge because Paul and Mary have high expectations now!

Mel and Sue welcome us back with a little play on worriers/warriors that isn’t quite as funny as I hoped. Looks like it might take a little while to get into the stride.

Some of the new bakers talk about how shocking and scary this is. One of them is hoping just to serve non-raw food that tastes good. Those are good places to start. One woman tells us she’s quite random: she can start off making a cake, and then by the time she’s finished it’s a meat pie. Say what? That doesn’t sound random so much as…Mad Hatter-ish. And possibly magical.

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Red Grouse

Downton Dish: Casseroled Grouse with Marmalade

Like just about every member of the upper class, the Downtonians are heading north to start shooting some grouse. The 12 August–The Glorious Twelfth–was and still is the official start of grouse-hunting season, when eager sportsmen (and women) hit the heather moors of Scotland and the north of England to hunt this delicious bird which, as it flies low to the ground at up to 80 mph, also offers sportsmen a significant challenge. Red grouse is the type most commonly hunted in Britain (of the four species of grouse to be found here, one is protected, one so rare that most sportsmen avoid shooting them, and one lives in areas so inhospitable hardly anyone seeks them out), and its meat is flavoured by its diet of heather, blueberry, cranberry, and bog myrtle. All the grouse you find for sale is wild: attempts to rear it in captivity have all failed.

Wealthy people like the Sinderbys and the Crawleys would often rent shooting estates in the north from hard-up aristocrats, or buy one of their own and host lavish shooting parties that saw astonishing numbers of birds killed over just a few days. King Edward VII was a keen sportsman and made the rounds of the great shooting estates along with his son, George, who was known for his rather distinctive shooting style: one arm straight along the barrel, turning to shoot birds behind him with a quick, jumpy step. Shooting weekends were highly formal: after the morning drive the guns would meet up with the ladies somewhere on the estate for a multi-course lunch. After that, the ladies would sometimes join the drive, typically as observers, before returning to the house to change into gowns for tea. At the end of the day came dinner–tails and tiaras were de rigeur, and there was usually a ball the first evening. On other evenings, non-shooting guests would stage amateur theatrical performances rehearsed while the men were out on the morning drives.

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Downton Dish: Russian Tea

What with Mary’s ‘sketching trips’ and Edith’s creepiness and Robert’s pouting, you may have missed the little tidbit that Rose has started volunteering. Her chosen cause: dispossessed Russian aristocrats. While perhaps not a demographic one thinks of immediately when the words ‘in need’ come to mind, she’s pretty dedicated to them, and it’s nice to see her getting out of the house and doing something … Continue reading Downton Dish: Russian Tea

Image: Clemens v. Vogelsang via Flickr Creative Commons

Downton Dish: Scouse

Because her sexual encounters always end so happily, Mary has decided to embark on a weekend-long bonkfest (sorry, ‘sketching trip’) with Gil. And apparently she let him make all the plans, because he chose the romantic city of…Liverpool. Oh, Gil. You sweet idiot. Well, while they’re there, they might as well enjoy a hearty bowl of scouse, Liverpool’s well-loved local dish. Scouse, originally called Labskause, was brought to the city by Northern European sailors. The dish was mostly eaten by Liverpudlian sailors and their families, so gradually the sailors themselves came to be known as ‘scousers’ and over time the term came to refer to anyone from Liverpool. Typically, scouse consists of meat (beef, lamb, or a combination of the two), vegetables, and potatoes, though a vegetarian version, known as blind scouse, is also fairly common. Whichever way you make it, it’s a hearty, filling dish, perfect for cold winter nights or multiple days of erotic gymnastics. Girl’s gotta keep her strength up, you know.

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Image courtesy Rev Stan, via Flickr Creative Commons

Downton Dish: Cinder Toffee

Welcome back, American friends! Time for you to get caught up on Downton, and this first episode’s a doozy. You get scheming, illicit sex, fireworks over the dinner table, and an honest-to-god bonfire. So what could be more appropriate to snack on this episode than that Bonfire Night favourite, cinder toffee?

Also known as honeycomb, puff candy, and hokey pokey (for reasons unknown), cinder toffee is a sweeter, more widely appealing Bonfire Night treat than bonfire toffee, which is made with treacle and can be a bit bitter. Either one can be part of the menu as people gather around to watch the fireworks and burn Guy Fawkes in effigy every 5 November.

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Trick or Treats: Sugar-Free Spiced Pumpkin Breads

Since the Little Anglophile started solids a month ago, I’ve been having a lot of fun trying out new things in the kitchen. Making food for a baby has some special challenges: no whole nuts, no honey, very little salt and sugar. I stumbled upon a recipe for banana bread made without sugar, which he’s taken to like an adorable bald duck to water, and I thought surely I could find other baby-friendly bread recipes like it. How about pumpkin bread? It’s fall! Surely there must be one out there!

Ha, no. Every pumpkin bread recipe I came across either had sugar (quite a lot, in most cases) or honey. So much for that.

But I was undaunted. Nay, said I. The Little Anglophile shall not go without some pumpkin bread, thus discovering the very elixir of autumn. I myself would go forth, armed only with a sack of plain flour and a can of Libby’s and I would make this work.

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Cinnamon Waffles with Caramel Apple and Walnut Sauce

I love the autumn. I love the colours and the crispy air and the golden light. And I love the food. Man, the food! Warm stews, roasted vegetables, squash of all types, game birds, pears and apples. So, so good.

This time of year, I tend to go on a baking binge. Cooler temperatures make me want sweet comfort foods, and it’s no longer uncomfortable to have the oven on. Last week I ushered in October with some pumpkin muffins. But this week, it was all about the apples. I love apples. And I love caramel. And the two together…oh, man. Amazing! Now, I know some of you are looking askance at this recipe and thinking: I dunno, that’s gonna take, what, five hours or so of pilates to burn off? But you know what? It’s the weekend.

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The Great British Bake Off: Back to Basics

bakeoff-14_3066651cPreviously on The Great British Bake Off: Richard the Builder, Nancy, and Luis killed it, overcame all the competition, and made it to the final.

We’re reminded of the three finalists’ awesomeness: Richard’s éclair stair and amazing biscuit pirate scene, Nancy’s beautiful first-challenge orange and chocolate cakes, Luis’s delicious looking filled bread and spicy dragon biscuit.

Mel, Sue, and the judges enter the tent to deliver the first challenge: Viennoiserie—an assortment of pastries such as pain au chocolat. They have to make two types. And they’re off!

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The Great British Bake Off: Pretty Patisserie

capture3.jpgPreviously on The Great British Bake Off: We’ve had dough week, but then there was advanced dough week, which meant filled sweet breads and doughnuts. Once again, Richard rocked, while Martha’s overproved doughnuts sealed her fate.

Mel and Sue welcome us back for the semifinal. Semifinal already! They adopt strange fake French accents because it’s patisserie week.

Luis interviews that, at this point, the judges are going to be super critical. Unlike the total pussycats they’ve been up until now. Chetna can’t wait to get in and start baking this week. Nancy says that one side of her wouldn’t be too disappointed if she left now, having made it this far, while the other side is telling her to buck up and get to the final. Richard’s just trying to keep the momentum going.

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