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The Bakeoff

It's been ten days since the bakeoff and I am a little off the high of winning the regional round so let's sit and chat about that very exciting day. Kitchenaid had told us in advance that this will be a mystery box round and we will have half an hour to go through our books and iPads before they take it all away and we start baking. So early morning on March 18, I joined nine other exceptionally good bakers at the Callebaut chocolate academy. It was so exciting just to be in a professional looking kitchen with all workstations set up with kitchenaid mixers and so many ovens and so much bakeware floating around.

For the first half an hour, I read through the mystery box ingredients list and then started sifting through recipes. That's when the struggle started. We had five mystery box ingredients (chocolate, peanut butter, orange, kiwi, chilli) and the kitchenaid team had assembled a whole lot of basic ingredients but every recipe I came up with had something missing. There were no nuts, no vinegar, no coffee. So I immediately fell back upon my favourite recipe that I had memorised before coming to the competition - a flourless chocolate cake. I'd first made this cake for masterchef auditions many years ago and it was lovely but never baked it since. A big gamble you'd think but it seemed to be the only recipe to occur to me at that time.

The next three hours were a whirlwind of expermenting and baking. I personally was completely awed by the variety of skills on display. We were supposed to make any one dessert of choice and the finished products ranged from eclairs to layered chocolate cakes that looked as if they just came off a professional bakery. I'd decided from the start to stay true to my style of baking and create different elements that provide flavour and textural contrast. And here's my dish that the judges loved enough to pick as a winner: a flourless chocolate cake with peanut butter caramel and streusel.



Ingredients

For Flourless Chocolate Cake
170 grams dark chocolate
3 eggs, separated
86 grams butter
6 tbsp caster sugar sugar

For Peanut Butter Caramel
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup cream
3 tbsp creamy peanut butter

For Peanut Butter Struesel
4 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp caster sugar
30 grams butter
30 grams crunchy peanut butter

Ideally, line muffin tins with paper liners. We didn't have any on the day so I just buttered and floured six ramekins and hoped for the best. Melt butter and chocolate over a low heat and let cool to lukewarm. Beat egg yolks with 3 tbsp sugar until pale in color. Add the melted chocolate and mix well. Separately, beat the egg whites with remaininjg 3 tbsp sugar to stiff peaks. Fold into the yolk mixture in three additions. Bake at 175 C for 20-25 minutes. The cake will rise and then dip and crack as it cools.

For the caramel, mix sugar and water until it resembles wet mortar. If you have white vinegar, add a dash to the mix. Put on a medium heat and cook without stirring until you get an amber colored caramel. Take off the heat and immediately add the cream. Mix well and then beat in the peanut butter.

Mix all the ingredients for the streusel, spread in an even layer on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes at 180C until golden. To assemble, unmould the cake and put it in the centre of the plate. Add a layer of caramel and sprinkle streusel to add crunch.

I personally loved the streusel the best since it wasn't too sweet and added a nice balance to the cake. In the end, it was a fun day with lots of interaction with other contestants, jury and the super helpful chefs from kitchenaid and Callebaut. I also won the red kitchenaid mixer as a prize so I am all excited about the desserts I am now going to create. And yes, don't forget the national finals in third week of April. With a wedding cake designer flying in from Philippines and focus on cake decoration, an alien topic for me, that one should be a doozy!

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