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The Bulli Bakers join BritCham charity baking competition
The heat is on! Here at the Bulletin HQ we couldn’t resist BritCham’s invitation to join a charity bake off. Now we had a perfect excuse to indulge in one of our favourite activities – afternoon tea. I say tea, but it actually extends to beer, cheese, chocolate… you name it, we will happily tuck into any of Belgium’s culinary delights. And if research pickings are sparse, cake of any provenance also hits the spot when a long day in the office looms.
In launching the competition, the British Chamber of Commerce is raising funds for Belgian charities while also creating a four-month networking event. The chosen charities are training schemes which come under the King Baudouin Foundation Belgium. Behind the initiative is Britcham’s networking wing Brussels New Generation. The competition consists of three rounds, each of which has a different theme: cake, pie and a favourite Christmas dessert. Teams present their entries to celebrity judges (top chefs and food writers ) who award both a monthly and overall prize.
As the Bulli Bakers’ team leader I’m kicking off the first round, which calls for cake. Any kind of cake in fact, so I plump for cheesecake, largely for logistical reasons. Our entry needs to be delivered to cookery emporium Mmmmh! near Place de Stephanie on October 14. This means I need to bake on Sunday, drive cross country from Namur to the Bulletin office in Groot-Bijgaarden on Monday morning and then shoot across town to deliver our entry to Chaussée de Charleroi at 18.00. We may be rather adept at meeting deadlines, but I don’t fancy risking a fine-crumbed and delicately-iced confection in snarled traffic.
A firmly chilled baked cheesecake should be sturdy enough to stand up to such a potentially risky commute. After toying with seasonal butternut squash we decide this sounds a tad too healthy so opt for our current addiction, salted caramel. My first attempt matches the toffee sauce with a vanilla New-York style filling, topped by a sour/whipped cream mix that has had a final five-minute blast of high heat. In a stab at injecting a local flavour, the biscuit base is a mixture of speculoos and digestive.
It’s with some trepidation – up to know I’ve only licked the bowls - that I deliver my offering to the office gannets now promoted to food critics. We take a five-minute break for appraisal, individually spooning on the sauce and dusting with ground sea salt. The caramel gets a thumbs up but the consensus is that the base is a bit too soggy, and the baked filling needs to be sharper to offset the thick caramel. Watch this space for prototype number two. Cooking doesn’t get more competitive than this!