Around the world cakes....Baked cheese cakes and an international cake.
Let's start with the cheese cake. Our fav at home is the Cotton Cheese cake from Japan. It's fabulous. I make ours with lemon zest and rum soaked muscats.
The long slow water bath bake takes so much time, resting and cooling time meant , I couldn't make it happen in the time frame given. It takes too long to slow water bath bake and then needs to cool in the over, then it needs fridge time before it's stable enough to take out of the tin.
Ricotta cheesecake I was going to go with and fill with brandy soaked sultana's on top
I was going with a baked ricotta cheese cake, with a cake crust but then discover Antonio was doing that too, and I don't like to compete with people so the rush was on to find something else. A friend had once made us a Neapolitan cheese cake, it was a hit at the party so I went with that.
Test baked at home, perfectly but to make the biscuit base in the time frame was really cutting it fine. Having made a biscuit base in the chocolate slice challenge weeks earlier I thought I won't go through that again, I will use a typical aussie style and use a bought biscuit base (and who doesn't like Oreo's!) and I will make up for it by baking ice cream wafer biscuits for the decoration in the baking time.
Perfectly baked on the inside in test baking at home
When we arrived on the day, we didn't have the right sized tin for my cheese cake. I had 2 choices, a much larger tin (which would blow out my baking time and make my cheese cake flatter (lower, no height) or a smaller tin (but that meant it would be undersized for the specification of the bake) so thinking on my feet, I used the larger tin and fit the centre with a small ring to make the cheese cake a bunt shape. Meaning that thinking on my feet, the design I had in mind changed too.
At this stage even though Matt and Maggie are mortified at store bought base (also Liv was making hers) I was thankful I did it because at the end, the cheese cake was still hot due to all the changes when I placed the decoration on it.
Serving up was ok, it looked nothing like that I had originally planned. Thank god I had brought my trusting cake slider as it saved both Liv and I in getting our hot cheese cakes to be camera ready!
I was slightly forgiven for the cookie base with the ice cream wafer cones and truffles to match the theme of Neapolitan.
How am I feeling? I should have gone home last week!
Technical bake time. They snavel us out of the shed, hiding behind the potting shed. Am thinking what is going on!
The crew take Liv down to the shed, shrouded in mystery. Liesel, Antonio and I sit and wait.
Then they take Antonio.
Liesel and I talk and we get shushed. Yeah like that's going to happen with us 2!
Next is me. Waiting outside the shed with the curtain pulled down. I can smell... Porcini!! I'm salivating!!
Ushered in, no speaking, no looking around, filming begins. It's Souffle! Always wanted to try and make one but have never tried it at home. What a great place to start... not!
All my fav ingredients are on the bench, oodles of cheeses, porcini. I think I am going to have my lunch here!
GOD I LOVED THIS BAKE!!! It was so challenging. I had no idea what I was doing but for the first time (aside from Matt's chocolate cake) I was making something I liked and would make at home. (Sorry guys, I am a fussy italian mama!)
I just get the soufle into the oven with moments to spare to make it in time for it to bake in the 40 min window. I go to clean up my bench and see behind my mixer the Assago cheese.... sitting in the bowl I put it in, crumbed and ready to go into the souffle mix... FUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!
I died at that moment. My stomach bottoms out, my heart races and my head pounds. I'm screwed. I break out in a full body sweat..... This was the strongest tasting cheese of the 3. It will be noted that it's missing.
I sit quietly, pretending nothing as my brain ticks... I start to eat the evidence in panic..... From the footage on TV, it's the first time you see my truly anxious. I really felt sick. Am chewing the tips of my fingers by this stage.... internal upper cuts are happening.
Watching that oven like a hawk, nothing was moving forever, it wasn't rising. 20 minutes into the cake and it's hardly moved. Am thinking, my goose is cooked this time! Am praying hubby doesn't think I threw the bakes to come home on purpose!
Liv's is the first to come out of the oven. It's risen really well. The judges have their back to us, I can't hear what they are saying but Liesel can and she gives Liv the thumbs up. I look at mine baking, it's not looking good for our hero right now.
Not long after, it's Antonio. Another great rise. I am so focused on his souffle I finally forget about mine. Next thing I know the gorgeous Claire is at my bench whispering 'Times up". I take out my Souffle and it's HUGE. I pray as I gently hand it over to Claire that it stays like that.
Chewing on my nails while Matt and Maggie judge my semi final technical bake. All I hear was "Wow" as it arrived. Liesel, bless her cotton socks, gives me a big smile, thumbs up and is nodding.
Liesel's was equally as impressive and we sit and wait for judging. How good were we, all 4 were well risen and didn't collapse!
My first number 1 in technical... finally!! And on a bake I forgot the cheese in!!! Don't tell anyone because I didn't.... hahahahah
Showstopper time, International Cake.
I knew straight away what I wanted to make but my issue was how to make it into a showstopper. Moving away from Italy, I needed to show that I can do something else other than Italian and American flavours and techniques. Being a huge fan of French cooking, I finally had a bake that I could throw this skill into. The Pomme Charlotte is superb!! One of my personal favorite flavours in desserts is apples. Combine this with with a spiced apple jam.... omg!!
The plain but amazing Pomme Charlotte!
I found this gorgeous little french bakery in our last trip to Paris that made different sized macarons and even sold them stacked - hence the design idea and colouring was perfect for the Charlotte to give it height and drama for a showstopper. Plus, I still hadn't had a chance to show I can make awesome macarons!!
Drawing inspiration from Paris in spring, the pink roses, the butterflies and the apples... the design was born.
Maggie and Matt did their usual walk around. Claire, "So what are we making today Monica?" I reply "Pomme Charlotte!" and then Matt drops a bomb shell on me..."You know, the first time I ever made in the kitchen was apple charlottes? I made hundreds...." Crap! Now the pressure is really on!
I make the sponge biscuit on the outside, perfect. Light, fluffy, perfectly cooked. These are one of my mums FAVOURITE biscuits so I had to nail them. I had made oodles of extras and I would always leave any extra bakes at the end of my bench for the crew to nibble on while they worked. Plus I liked to read them to see if I was on the money and for these, I was.
Maggie was concerned that my apple chips that were in the Dehydrator drying for the decoration on the outside where too thick and wouldn't be ready in time, so I second guess myself and do another batch thinner, slicing the top off one of my fingers in the meantime.
I think the pressure really got to me in this bake as I knew the apples were fine as I had done them at home at the same thickness in the time frame and as I had so much spare time up my sleeves, I then started to make amaretti cookies for decoration too.. face palm moment.... over thinking it again!!!
The first batch of what I like to call "Little Bastards" aka Macarons came out of the oven and they were rough. I wasn't happy with the look. Tasted and ate fine but not the smooth finish I wanted for this. It's the semi finals, I had to have everything perfect so I set about to make another batch. As I am putting them into the oven I see Jon, our gorgeous French chef wander past my second bench eyeing off the first batch of failed macarons with a frown and I think to myself, thank god I remade them!
The second batch are perfect! I made various sizes, all cooked perfectly with no browning so they stayed white to match the colour scheme of my showstopper...... squeal!!!
Placing everything on the Charlotte is when I went a little nuts. Was moments to spare and I threw it all on there. My dried apple slices, even the thick ones where perfectly crisp. I kept thinking this wasn't showstopper enough. So far they loved grand and over the top.... not this time....
The finished Pomme Charlotte
As we are sitting waiting for food porn shots I see and over hear Matt say to a crew member as he looks at mine "It's a mess...."
Food porn shots happening
Am crushed. As we are sitting there, waiting to start filming I am taking a few bits off mine to calm it a little.... yes, eating the evidence again... But I am no longer feeling great.
And then judging happens and Matt goes for. "Can I just say to you, calm the fuck down, take a Valium or something, too much. Go make a cup of coffee of something Monica" I nod. Ok. Point taken.
They then dig into it and the frowns turn upside down. The sponge biscuits are great. Not enough bavouris but I did leave it a little dryer to ensure no collapse on the day as I no longer trust the fridges and freezers in the shed.
Matt then decides to try one of the macarons on top and he goes for the biggest one. He eyes me off and I know he's thinking the challenge of making a big one is a good chance if anything was wrong it was that one. He bites into it and laughs and says "Oh Maggie, you have to try this" He looks at me and says, "You can give Zumbo a run for his money" I am shocked and reply "Don't tell him!" and Matt laughs and says " I will because he's a mate of mine" and with that I felt slightly better.
Moving back to my bench, Maggie and Matt are whispering to each other and I hear Maggie comment about how amazing the sponge biscuits were and that she couldn't stop eating them as they picked more off it and how I needed to pull back on the decoration, was too much.
Final judgment, on the stools was between myself or Liesel to go home I think. I was learning forward mouthing my name to Mel to send me home - to be honest, the idea of making a masterpiece cake in the finale scared the hell out of me! She smirks at me. It was Liesel. After I have a bit of a cry (yet again, far out!) at both the fact I lost my girlfriend but also that I had to make an opera cake and a masterpiece cake.
We have a final interview and Jane says to me "How do you feel, you are in the finale!!!" I am quiet and say "How did I get here, I am just a little mum that bakes at home..." am really overwhelmed as the reality of where I was and how far I was into it hit home.
Finale here we come.....
Miss you my little girl!
Get the recipes here:
Baked Cheesecake - https://www.lifestylefood.com.au/recipes/25968/neapolitan-cheesecake
Pomme Charlotte - https://www.lifestylefood.com.au/recipes/25964/pomme-charlotte I can't recommend this one enough to make at home, it's fabulous!
Lots of love, Monica <3
Pic of Matt taking a pic of Maggie, using the clacker thingie... Thanks Ash!!! hahahahahah (only the team would get this comment!)