The dark chocolate and almond liqueur savarin from the Great British Bake Off, Big Book of Baking looked and sounded just gorgeous. A sweet, chocolate flavoured dough with added dark chocolate chips, soaked in an almond liqueur syrup and finished off with a sprinkling of almond brittle. Just the thing for Jon’s birthday – if I could pull it off.
There were a couple of elements to the savarin that I thought could be tricky. First, the sweet dough (my attempt at a sweet dough when I made hot cross buns wasn’t particularly successful) and second, the almond brittle. This involved boiling sugar, which I’ve never found easy. The recipe was only a two spooner on the Big Book of Baking difficulty scale though, and I’d tackled a three spooner in the past and it hadn’t turned out too badly at all (have a look at the Prinsesstårta). I was ready to give it a go.
The first step was to melt some dark chocolate and let it cool. Easy. Next, I mixed strong white bread flour, fast-action dried yeast, salt, caster sugar and cocoa powder in the bowl of the KitchenAid. I mixed eggs and milk together and poured them into the flour mixture and mixed again. The recipe says you can do this with your hand, or in a mixer with a dough hook. I used a mixer. When the dry ingredients were incorporated, I added softened butter and the melted chocolate and mixed again (with the dough hook). I wasn’t really sure how long to mix for. The recipe says 4-5 minutes, but it doesn’t say whether this timing is for when you’re beating by hand or with a mixer. The mixture was supposed to feel very smooth and elastic when it had been mixed for long enough. My mixer was going for a couple of minutes more than the recommended five, and I’m not sure whether the mixture was smooth and elastic enough when it stopped. It was more like a thick cake batter than a dough , but I’d been mixing for over the stated time, and I didn’t want to overdo it, so I covered the bowl with clingfilm and left the mixture to double in size.
While the dough was doubling in size I made the almond brittle. I put sugar and butter into a pan over a low heat to dissolve the sugar. I wasn’t at all sure whether or not to stir it. The Big Book of Baking was in favour of stirring. The recipe says stir while the sugar dissolves and stir when you bring the mixture to the boil. I’ve tried caramel before though, and when I stirred it, the sugar just crystallised all over my spoon. I had a quick google about and, roughly half the recipes I found recommended stirring, and the other half said that stirring was just about the worst thing you could do. I decided to go with a gentle swirl. The recipe says that the mixture should be boiled until it turns a light caramel colour. I preferred a phrase I found during my google research, “the colour of George Hamiliton in springtime,” perfect. So, I boiled the sugar, took it off the heat and added toasted almond flakes and almond extract (the recipe also calls for almond liqueur extract, but, funnily enough, there wasn’t any in Tesco when I looked). I poured the mixture onto an oiled baking sheet and left it to cool. It didn’t spread particularly evenly, but it looked OK.
I’d left the savarin dough to rise for an hour. I checked it. I wasn’t anywhere near doubled in size so I gave it another thirty minutes. I added dark chocolate chips and worked them into the dough, then I put the mixture into a greased ring cake tin. I left it again to double in size while I ironed and, as usual, indulged in a couple of episodes of Home and Away.
The dough rose very nicely in the tin and doubled in size in about an hour. I put it in the oven at 160º fan and made a syrup by dissolving caster sugar in water over a low heat, simmering it for a couple of minutes and then adding a very decent dash of amaretto (and then a bit more).
The savarin was supposed to bake for around 35 minutes. The recipe says that the baking time will depend on the type and weight of the tin so you should check on it after about 25 minutes. It should be “lightly coloured and firm, and a wooden cocktail stick inserted halfway between the side of the tin and the centre comes out clean.” Now, I’m not sure how a cake that’s made with 5 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 50g dark chocolate and another 100g dark chocolate chips, could ever be “lightly coloured” so I relied on the cocktail stick test. The cake wasn’t cooked at 25 minutes. At 35 my cocktail stick came out clean and the savarin looked pretty firm. I took it out of the oven and turned it out. Well, I turned half of it out. The other half was left stuck fast in the tin. I had made an unsalvageable pile of chocolate rubble.
I wouldn’t usually cry over a cake. Swear perhaps and stamp and bit, but not cry. I did over this one though (not very much, but enough to need a tissue). It was Jon’s birthday cake. It should have been fabulous.
I grabbed Mary Berry and had a quick flick through. I had the ingredients for a cappuccino cake and the recipe was simple. Throw all the ingredients into a bowl, mix it up a bit, cook it in two sandwich tins and stick the layers together with coffee buttercream. I decorated the top with the only part of the my savarin that was usable; the almond brittle.
What a terrible day’s baking (the cake was nice, but it wasn’t the boozy, choclately, fantastic creation I’d planned).
I did try to make the remains of the savarin into a sort of bread pudding. Didn’t work. The birds have been eating it for almost a week now, and there’s still some left. I don’t think I’ll be trying another savarin any time soon.