The Great British Bake Off is taking a retro twist tonight as the bakers look to the past and conjure up three classic Victorian dishes.
Pieminister co-founder Tristan Hogg told us what the hopefuls need to look out for when embracing Victorian bakery in this week’s #AskTheExpert.
The first challenge will see the bakers rustle up an autumnal game pie – a stalwart of the Victorian dinner table. Hogg gave his advice: “For starters, what is really good about Victorian cookery is that it was all really balanced. They came up with food that was healthy so that is what the contestants need to do.
“With that in mind, if I was to make a game pie I would probably get myself a nice bit of venison and add bacon for moisture. I’d use alcohol to cut through the fat, probably a red wine, and then I’d add spices such as a bit of chilli, star anise and black pepper. I’d add a few vegetable for balance, like celery, shallots and carrots for sweetness – not too many different things because Victorian food was relatively simple.
“This is the first thing that could go wrong – you need to cook it for a really long time as you want it to be super-tender. I’d add some freshness in at the end, like fresh parsley or chilli.”
Hogg said that, in the meantime, he’d make a suet pastry, flavoured with paprika, cracked black pepper and rosemary for flavour. He stressed that the pastry and filling must be cold when put together to avoid those dreaded soggy bottoms, and the best way to cook a pie is in a thick metal tin for a good crust.
He warned: “Ceramic or glass dishes would mean a soggy bottom, as can adding a hot filling to cold pastry. They must crimp their bases to the lid and thicken the sauce up enough so it doesn’t spill.”
Lastly, he said pure egg yolk must be used for a winning glaze.
The next challenge is for a Victorian fruit cake and Hogg drew inspiration from his own wedding cake, which featured a pistachio marzipan. He said sweet Indian spices like cinnamon and ginger should go in the mix along with brandy-soaked figs and other fruit, before encasing the mixture in bright green pistachio marzipan and icing as normal.
Finally, the Charlotte Russe “is all about the best ingredients together”. Hogg, who was originally a chef before specialising with Pieminister, said he would use madeleine fingers instead of dried sponge fingers and his custard would be infused with ginger and lemon zest.
Let’s see what happens!