Cher McCarthy, from Basingstoke

Posted by Cher McCarthy on 15/10/2015

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Week Six - Soufflé

Wow, week 6 already!  Can’t believe this is the final challenge.  So soufflé week.  As usual I watched the tutorial a couple of times, read and re-read the recipe and feeling confident I embarked on my mission to create the perfect soufflé ( I know it will be perfect because Raymond tells me so ).  I have all my ingredients prepared, measured and laid out on my kitchen counter, the oven is preheated – nothing will go wrong. 

I have made béchamel sauce before, so was happy with that process, although I have never used Roquefort to do so, as a result I wasn’t really expecting the sort of bluish grey colour of it, I am guessing this is because it’s a blue cheese.  Undeterred I turn to my lovely Kenwood Chef Sense in order to whip up the all-important egg whites.  While the egg whites are doing their thing I decided to prepare my soufflé dishes, this also proved nice and easy to do following the tutorial, only slight snag here was the recipe called for 8 ½ cm dishes and I could only find 10cm dishes, but hey, I’m sure it’ll be fine.  Egg whites done and following the tutorial, I took 1/3 of the egg white and whisked it into the béchamel sauce, and it was looking good! Taking the rest of the egg white I carefully and quickly folded it into the mixture and filled the soufflé dishes, now obviously this is not going to come to the top as the dishes are 1 ½ cm to big, but I am hopeful that they’ll reach the top after being cooked. 

Into the oven they go, 9 minutes later and in they stay as they are in no way cooked; at this point I am having a bake off moment and am sitting in front of my oven watching the soufflés through the oven door.  All in all they took 25 minutes to cook, but they rose nicely and looked lovely……………………….. until I took them out the oven and watched them deflate before my eyes!!  At this point I decided that I will allow them to cool and re-cook them, as the tutorial says I can.

A while later and it’s dinner time, into the halogen go the soufflés – did it help using a different oven?  No it did not, the soufflés refuse to rise ( well, they did a bit, but not enough ) – they sort of visually resemble little Yorkshire puddings I think.  I have to say though, despite visually not being as pretty as I would have liked, they tasted fantastic, we loved them, in fact my husband told me not to lose the recipe.  I will definitely be making these again, hopefully with practice I’ll even get them to stay inflated (and who knows, perhaps I’ll even find the right size dishes to cook them in).

So, one last section to go, London here I come.  Can’t wait to meet the other contestants, I’ve loved reading their blogs and sharing this experience with them.  


Week Five - Walnut Cake

So, cake week.  Given half the reason I am here is because of a dodgy walnut cake, this week should be interesting.  However me and my lovely Kenwood Chef Sense are now best friends and I am looking forward to the challenge.  

My ingredients arrived on Wednesday and I realised I was going to have to bake straight away as I had a day’s holiday on Friday and the strawberries wouldn’t last until Monday; I needed to collect the Hubbie from the airport, but not needing to leave until 8pm, I figured 4 hours is ample time to achieve this.  I had already watched the tutorial and read the recipe and I am happy to get straight to it.  OK, so 8 inch cake tin, happy days!  I have one, but only one, still no problem, it only takes half hour to bake, I’ll make one then use the same tin to bake the other (I now know this is not the best thought through plan I’ve had).  I prep all my ingredients in advance, which took longer than I thought it would, but was still happy time wise when I started making the cake.  Miranda’s recipe was very easy to follow and I quickly had my cake mix ready for the oven, I even went to the lengths of weighing it and halving it as I was going to have to bake separately. 

Into the oven it goes and half hour later I take it out, and it’s not cooked, back in it goes for 10 minutes, still not quite cooked, 5 minutes later I am happy that the knife comes out clean; however time wise I am now struggling, I have no time to let the cake cool as I need the tin straight way to get the other cake in, as a result there was some sticking, not really what I was hoping for. I decide the oven needs to be a little higher and in goes the second cake which does cook in 30 minutes, but didn’t rise quite as well, possibly due to sitting on my kitchen counter for best part of an hour; this cake gets well rested as I now have to abandon it in order to get to the airport.  This cake did not stick, so cooling the cake is a must. 

The strawberry cream was made whilst the first cake cooked, the hardest part about this was not eating it before it went on the cake – delicious!

The next day I brought the cake components to work and assembled in our kitchen, I love this cake, so pretty, and everyone said it tasted great. 


I don’t feel I gave this cake the time and care it deserved, and I had a couple of people ask me to make it again only this time using coffee cream, so I bought another 8 inch cake tin, and in the process Miranda’s book “Bake me a cake as fast as you can” which has a coffee cream recipe.  This time I baked both cakes together and rested them as instructed, the results were much better. 

I no longer fear walnut cake or coffee cream.  Thank you, Miranda.

Week Four - Pastry

My husband asked what this week’s challenge was; cheese and chard tart I told him – his reply was “well you’ve already made a charred brioche so why not a chard tart” – cheeky so n so.

I haven’t made pastry in years, in fact I have never made pastry in our current house and we’ve been there 14 years, but I watched the tutorial, read the recipe, watched the tutorial again and decided making pastry looked like fun, and hopefully would be edible as well.  

Following Raymond’s tutorial I attached the k-beater to my lovely Kenwood Chef Sense and off I went; it was surprisingly easy, and was ready in no time.  Slight moment of panic when I thought I didn’t have a rolling pin, but then I remembered that Mum had passed on my Gran’s rolling pin many years ago and it’s been sat unused in a drawer.  Fantastic tip regarding rolling the pastry using Clingfilm – so easy, no mess and a doddle to get into the tin.  So far so good.

On to cooking the chard, again no problem, but wait, where’s that smoke coming from?  Recipe to close to the pan had caught fire.  Luckily I only set fire to the edge of it and managed to put it out before any damage was done.  “Mmm... Chard two ways” comments my husband.  Grating the cheese was easy using the food processor attachment, all in all at this point I had actually amazed myself, and with the recipe a safe distance away from the cooker I’m feeling confident.

I mixed all the other ingredients together, and popped a tray into my preheated oven.  I assembled the tart as instructed, set the timer for half an hour and was eagerly awaiting seeing how it turned out, I actually had to wait 50 minutes to find out, but it turns out it was worth waiting for! 

I brought the Cheese & Chard Tart to work and my colleagues loved it.  I can’t believe how well this went, my husband actually asked me to save him a slice. I certainly won’t shy away from making my own pastry in the future.




Week Three - Dim Sum

As is becoming my new Monday evening entertainment, watch tutorial, read recipe, repeat until I think I know what I’m doing (this can take a while).  All my ingredients arrived as promised and on Thursday I eagerly went home, excited to try my hand at pasta (what I lack in skill I make up for in enthusiasm).  So, weigh out the flour, wait a moment, Martin Johns’ pasta was white, this flour is brown!  Crises averted when I realised I was about to use strong brown flour instead of bread flour.  Luckily I had bread flour from week one.  The dough came out very well, the Kenwood Chef Sense worked its magic and in no time I had my pasta dough wrapped and resting. 

On to the filling; using the food processor attachment I followed the instructions and was happy to find that I had no problem with that either; I was also happy to find that the pork didn’t have a bone to remove.  The food processor was easy to use and the filling looked like it did on the tutorial.  Happy days!

Roll the pasta, very excited to use the pasta attachment for the first time, but there was a problem; I only have a tiny kitchen so the pasta attachment came over the side of the worktop, this meant I had to sort of guide the dough back towards the work service, so getting an odd shaped pasta.  No matter, I have to cut it anyway.  On to cutting the pasta, cut the pasta into 6 inch squares says the recipe, but wait, I watched Martin Johns do this several times, the square didn’t even fill the centre of his palm fully.  Mr Johns, just how big are your hands?  Watch making of Dim Sum again and decided on 6cm.  

Making the little parcels was really tricky, sticky and fiddly, not anywhere close to watching Martin do it, but I struggled on and got there eventually.  What I ended up with did look a little bit like a pile of alien brains, however my colleagues tried them and liked them.  I am going with ‘they were beautiful on the inside’.




Week Two - Meringue Cake

Well, what can I say!  I have never ever made meringue in my life.  However I was happy to see that we weren’t making salted caramel from scratch. 

I watched Miranda’s instructional video; she makes it look so effortless and easy.  So, first things first, google the gas mark equivalent of 140c and 100c. Um, first problem is that this is gas mark ½ then gas mark ¼ - the lowest setting on my oven is 1, then ‘s’ (for slow I think).  

I managed to separate the eggs without too much trouble. Got the whisk attachment into my lovely Kenwood Chef Sense, and while watching Miranda’s video (again) off I went.  Egg whites stiff, so far looking good, caster sugar in, still looking good, turn down the speed and add granulated sugar.  At this point my mixture tried to run away from me by attempting to climb out of the bowl via the whisk, then when that didn’t work for it, the mixture hid inside the whisk.  Anyway, got it out and onto the parchment, decided to go with the slow setting then try and turn it down from there.  Seemed to work OK, but there was some sticking to the paper to deal with resulting in some cracks.  Luckily the chocolate turned out fine, so I could stick the meringue together with it. 

I assembled it at work because I thought it wouldn’t travel well, everyone said it was lovely (a first for me!).  




Week One - Brioche

Having received my ingredients (not to mention my lovely Kenwood Chef Sense) I was very eager to get home and have a go at this week’s recipe.  I had already watched the video a couple of times and was feeling confident.  I quite often feel confident when I start out, only to have my aspirations dashed to the floor by the time I finish, BUT, this time Raymond Blanc was talking me through it, sort of a virtual hand hold.

I started out well, I weighed out all my ingredients, made sure I hadn’t missed anything and set to work.  The Chef Sense is a dream to use and very quiet, which is just as well because it needed to be going for quite a while.  The end dough looked like the video, but it did take nearer an hour to get to the point where it wasn’t sticky (perhaps I need a new fridge).  The prove went well, I was very pleased with the rise.  Sadly it did go a bit wrong in the oven, I have a gas oven, not electric and my brioche caught a bit on top, you’d think with all the Bake Off I watched I would have thought to check on it and perhaps pop tin foil over it, but no.  

I have to say though that I was very pleased with it when I cut into it.  I brought it into work to get feedback on it and they all said it was very nice (if you picked the burnt top off).  



“Make a lemon drizzle cake” Cher’s friend told her; “you can’t go wrong with a lemon drizzle cake” – unfortunately words can’t explain how wrong Cher’s attempt at a lemon drizzle went. Each year Cher tries her hand at baking for the Macmillan charity Coffee Morning; however, each year, Cher regrettably ends up relying on a shop bought cake as a back-up. Cher works in accounts and lives in Basingstoke with her husband, the same husband who questioned why she was icing balls of stuffing when seeing her attempt at miniature coffee and walnut cakes. She hopes the Kenwood Disaster Chef competition can transform her bakes from tragedy to triumph.

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