Karen Wright on all things bake off 2022.

20th September 2022

The Great British Bake Off is back! Yes, it is that time of year once again when fans of the show from all over the world settle down once a week, for ten weeks, to enjoy the culinary concoctions, creations and catastrophes that the ten new bakers showcase each week.

The Final GBBO 2022

This year our twelve bakers are, Dawn, James, Janusz, Kevin, Maisan, Maxy, Rebs, Sandro, Abdul, Carole, Syabira and Will. Aged ranging from eighteen to sixty this year bakers offer us a diverse and exciting back story as many hail from counties far and wide.

At last, the final of The Great British Bake Off 2022 has taken place and the winner of this season has been revealed. What a final it was too. The three remaining bakers faced their final challenges. They all appeared to be in good form at the start of day one when they were tasked with the signature challenge and the technical challenge.

The whole episode was themed around our ‘beautiful planet’ and the signature was revealed to be a massive vegetarian picnic. The bakers had three hours to create a summer picnic containing six mini cakes, six mini pies and six finger sandwiches. The sandwiches were to make from a white loaf that they also had to prepare. Quite a task. None of the individual elements were so difficult but put everything together and they needed to be spot on with the timings and coordinate everything using just one domestic oven. The ingredients also had to be all grown in the UK which was another interesting element.

The bakers got to work, and we saw their picnic creations start to come to life. This was one challenge that I think I would have enjoyed very much, especially making those mini pies and the white loaf. I think the hardest thing was to cut that freshly baked loaf into thin slices for the finger sandwiches. I absolutely loved it when they were assembling their picnics ready for judgment, they all looked so beautiful atop the picnic baskets. Overall, the judging went well with all three bakers getting good feedback. At this point there was nothing to give away who would go into the lead, so it was down to the technical challenge to separate the bakers in some way.

The technical was revealed to be a Summer Pudding Bombe. None of the bakers had heard of a summer pudding, which did surprise me. There were a couple of extra twists. The bread for the pudding was the very same loaf that they had baked in the signature challenge. The jelly centre of the pudding was to be made with a vegetarian gelatine which need to be boiled in order to activate the setting. The whole challenge was a bit of a nightmare, and all the puddings were disappointing to look at. There were a few redeeming comments regarding flavours but for a challenge in the final it was a flop. Sandro was last, Syabira next and at last Abdul won his first technical challenge.

On now to day two and the final showstopper challenge. We saw footage of the family and friends gathered outside the tent. It is such an exciting day where all the bakers return along with carefully chosen guests. The challenge was to be a sculpture representing an element of our planet. With a large cake base it had to incorporate at least another three baking skills. Paul wanted to see lots of colour, flavour and imagination.

Sandro explained he was making the world, from the bottom of the seas to the planets above. Abdul however was concentrating on a smaller thing; he was celebrating the bees. Syabira planned to create an orangutang cake, with the orangutang holding the planet aloft. Once the bases of the sculptures were in the oven the bakers were faced with the task of building all the extras and demonstrating those extra baking skills. We discovered that Sandro never times any of his bakes, which I have to say is very risky indeed. Abdul on the other hand has every element written down and timed to the second.  Naturally the stress levels started to build as the clock ticked by.

With one hour left the builders started to build the bakes and we started to see the sculptures take shape. With half an hour left they started to pipe on their decorations and add all the small details to the sculpture. With five minutes left everything was coming together and when the time was called there was a palpable sigh of relief from all three bakers.

Having completed the Bake Off we waited for the final judgement. Sandro went up first with his creation. Paul said it was a bit messy to look at, Great flavour cake but it was burnt. His bread element was stodgy, biscuits were overbaked, but the flavours were good. Syabira presented her showstopper next. The judges liked the design and the colours, mixed comments about the flavours but the shortbread was great. Overall, they said they expected it to be neater. When Abdul presented his bake, again, lost marks for neatness. The choux buns were a proper failure, but the biscuits were a triumph.

Mixed messages then from Paul and Prue and very few clues as to who the winner would be. I fleetingly thought Abdul might take the trophy as he did do a few great things. However, as the bakers came outside onto the lawn to hear the result my mind changed, and I thought it would be Syabira that would win. I was correct, she did win, and I was totally delighted for her. All the bakers that get into the Bake-Off tent are winners, that includes me. Bake Off is massive show and is a well-respected all over the world. The winner every year only receives a cake stand and a bouquet of flowers, but the real prize are the opportunities that then present themselves. Well done to all the bakers this year and I look forward now to seeing how their careers develop over the coming months.

Semi Finals GBBO 2022

The semi final of the Bake Off was last week and the four remaining bakers battled it out for a place in the final. The theme for the week was patisserie and that means bakes that are delicate, elegant, refined and precise. Well, that is what I expect when I think of patisserie.

Having spent large chunks of my adult life living and working in France I have had many opportunities to gaze in wonder at the displays of gorgeous mouth-watering creations in both the patisserie shop windows but even in the smallest of supermarkets too. This is where I started my journey to the Bake-Off tent wanting to create something worthy of the word patisserie.

The signature challenge was mini-Charlottes. Individual desserts of a set filling encased in a delicate sponge. The bakers got to work, and the judges visited each of them in turn to ask them what exactly they were going to make. Syabira, who has three-star baker awards behind her now and is tipped as a finalist was making lady finger sponges and her filling was a peanut butter cheesecake with berries. Now I like a bit of peanut butter as much as the next person but in a cheesecake, no thank you! Sandro was also using peanuts but his was to be combined with banana, Oh no, not for me Sandro, thankyou very much! I am not a banana person in puds either. The judges agreed with me about Sandro’s, but he did have plenty going on inside and the sponge was delicious. Janusz, and his plums, was deemed to be sweet and pretty to look at, which I totally agreed with, but the sponge apparently was tough. Syabiras  feedback was all good, she ticked all the boxes, and it was deemed to be excellent. Abduls, they said was a bit messy but had great texture and flavours.

The technical challenge was interesting. Described as a vertical tart, we saw the judges beforehand showing us what it was. A ring of pastry which stands up like a wheel, half filled with chocolate mousse and a strip of raspberry jelly. It is so hard when you are in the tent and reading the words on the sheet you are given, and you just cannot interpret them. All the bakers spent a few minutes scratching their heads, but the penny finally dropped and the got stuck into the bake. Except Sandro who figured out the pastry ring but was baffled by the phrase, ‘cut the mousse in half’. He got there in the end, but it was all a bit tense. The judging was predictable and Syabirahit the jackpot, as her tart was fantastic to look at and Sandro came last.

Going into the showstopper the judges were reflecting on the situation at that point and they said that both Syabira and Abdul were in strong positions but  Sandro and Janusz were struggling. The showstopper was revealed to be a Scandinavian Krokan. I had never heard of this before, so my ears pricked up. It is a massive biscuit that is served instead of wedding cake. A huge, towering affair and our bakers were expected to build a structure of a minimum of sixty centimetres. The bakers got stuck in and I was so glad that I didn’t have to make something like this. As usual there need to be a theme behind everyone’s bake, like a back story. Sandro was making a tribute to his African and UK upbringing, Syabira was making a DNA Krokan to represent life itself, Abdul was making a spaceship to pay homage to man getting to the moon and good old Janusz was celebrating the Brighton Pride with his theme.

Hours passed and naturally the situation was tense and stressful at times for the bakers. Such a lot of work and so much at stake. The Krokans started to take shape and it was fascinating to watch the skill involved. Visually all were stunning, especially Syabira’s, such intricacy and imagination. I felt confident that she would scoop up a fourth star bakeraccolade but no, Abdul, at long last achieved his first. He had piped his biscuit which was an inspired decision and they loved everything about his showstopper. Unfortunately, my tip to win, Janusz was chosen to be the baker that left the tent and would not progress to the final, Sandro, remains by the skin of his teeth!

Janusz was very gracious on hearing his fate, he had said that he was weak with patisserie, so he was probably half expecting things to work out like that. I am now very excited to settle down and watch this year’s final, if I was a betting person I would at this point choose Syabira but a little niggleat the back of my mind is saying Sandro will win, all to play for!

Quarter Finals GBBO 2022

Last week on the Bake Off it was the quarter finals. It was pastry week. Pastry week can be a tricky week on the show. So much focus seems to be on cakes that pastry and savoury bakes often feel overlooked. I have really enjoyed every episode this year until this one. Yes, we did get a few soggy bottoms to perk our interest, but the overall feel seemed to be as beige and boring as a shop bought sausage roll on a buffet table!

I nearly said vol au vent, not sausage roll but this retro puff pastry was the signature challenge on pastry week. Now don’t get me wrong I love a vol au vent, creamy garlic mushroom or prawns are such standard fillings in these nineteen seventies iconic party bites, so I was disappointed when the bakers were asked to create sweet fillings. So much so that I got my pastry head on this week and made a couple of meat pies to go with peas for bonfire night tea.

The bakers got to work, and we learned from them what their sweet concoctions were going to be. We heard Sandro say that he was determined to get a handshake from Paul and had chosen Pauls favourite flavours for his vol au vent, key lime! Syabira was down the citrus route too with her concoction of orange and cream cheese. Abdul was reminded by Prue that he had yet to achieve star bakers’ status and we saw Paul raise his eyebrows when Maxi explained she was making her pastries square rather than the traditional round shape.

The judges gave their verdicts. Sandro reacted by saying Paul was brutal this week. Syabira, as usual had good feedback, they looked authentic with good flavours and good height. For Janusz it was mixed, they looked good but were a bit raw and quite boring taste wise. Maxis were irregular, flat and dry, Abduls were flat too and Sandro’s were overbaked. So, all in all a bit miserable.

The technical challenge did not involve baking at all. It did however include twenty-nine ingredients. They had to make spring rolls. Using their intuition, the bakers had to judge the consistency of the dough and the blend of ingredients to come up with eight rolls plus a dipping sauce. The judges decided that Sandro had the best rolls followed by Janusz (who only presented seven, but insisted he had made eight) Abdul, Syabira and at the bottom it was Maxy.

Going into the showstopper it was Maxy in the most vulnerable position, last in technical and a poor result in signature. The theme for the challenge was a good one. The bakers had to create a 3D display of eight pies to depict their favourite childhood story or nursery rhyme. What a gift to be given so much scope. We had two depictions of the very hungry caterpillar, one twinkle twinkle little star, we had treasure island and Jack in the beanstalk. The bakers got stuck in and we watched Paul and Prue interrogate them about their pastry choices. Maxy got more raised eyebrows as she was making her own filo, which is the road to madness in my opinion! Sandro seemed unsure as to what type of pastry he was making and Syabira made a good choice making a hot water crust with hot oil rather than lard. Most of the fillings included some sort of curry, certainly savoury although a few bakers did include a sweet element too.

The judging was quite harsh in some respects and some pies were described as depressing. Personally, I thought that the presentation of the scenes was good overall with some great depictions of the chosen theme. It seemed clear to me all the way through the challenge that Maxy was flagging, and it was no surprise when she was the bakers that left the tent. Star baker was once again Syabira, that is the third time, it must leave her as favourite to get through to the final!

Tonight, we head into semi-final, which is very exciting, and it is good old patisserie week. Good luck to the remaining four bakers, all to play for still!.

WEEK SEVEN 

Week seven already in this year’s competition. That means it is the quarter finals up next. It is flying by, and I am enjoying every minute of it. Week seven was custard week. Arguably there was very little baking involved in both the signature challenge and the technical. However, custard is a very important component in the world of baking, so it was good to see it included as a theme.

The signature challenge was a dessert. The bakers were asked to make eight Ilse Flottant. Translated from the French into English it means floating islands. The floating element is a meringue which is poached before carefully placing it on top of a crème Anglaise, which translated means English custard.

A word here about crème anglaise. Whenever I have had any of this whilst on holiday in France it has never resembled what I think of as an English custard. It is thin and delicate rather than the thick enough to stand a spoon up in and bright yellow confection I was always served as a child. We have many a conversation about what makes a proper custard in our house, always a bit controversial.

Anyway. As you would expect at this stage in the competition the remaining bakers all managed to produce the goods to present to Paul and Prue. We had the usual variations on the theme from Syabira’s Mojito inspired flavour which resembled southern fried chicken in appearance to Janusz’s vanilla latte cups and much more in between. There was an abundance of alcohol included this week too, we had rum, brandy and prosecco. Kevin used prosecco in his meringue which was quite literally a bit of a flop!

The technical was a little different this week as it was done in stages, with Sandro starting alone in the tent and then the other bakers coming in at timed intervals to begin their technical challenge. The reason for this was they were making ice creams in cones. Some bakers have an ice cream machine at home so were familiar with the process, but some had never made ice cream before, including Sandro who said he just waits for the van to come around, which I thought was funny. The bakers needed to make a custard and chill it before then churning it and finally freezing it. Two bakers made fundamental errors. Syabira and Janusz both put hot custard into the freezer. This chilled down the custard but warmed up the freezer so when they needed to freeze the ice cream it was too warm in the freezer compartment to do the job. Their ice cream was not just soft it was runny.

At judging we had the usual run of comments on flavours, textures and so on but by a country mile Sandro came out on top with perfect ice creams and cones. Syabira came last and Janusz next.

Going into the technical it was hard to figure out who was a front runner. Sandro clearly hoped for a star baker award this week and worked incredibly hard in the last challenge to try to achieve that. The bakers were asked to make a set custard gateau, custard had to be the ‘hero’ of the bake. There needed to be multiple baked layers with custard holding them all together.

The bakers set to work and some outstanding baked were presented for judging. Sandro had the most spectacular three-tiered cake with exquisite piping, Abdul made an astonishing Mille Feuille, which was very different as it was pastry, not cake, that was sandwiched between his custard. Syabira once again went down the cocktail route with her flavours and presented a Pina Colada cake which Paul described as “amazing, fantastic, wow, great, impressive and spectacular” clear to see that she was not going to be leaving the cake this week. Maxy did OK but her custard was not the ‘hero’ and Janusz had a good-looking bake, but Paul did not like the taste at all, in fact he likened the custard to wallpaper paste! Kevin though, ah what a shame. He put some unique things in his custard, honey, thyme and bay, the judges loved the taste, but it had all collapsed when he tried to assemble it. Three other bakers gave him a hand to get it finished but all to no avail. This week it was Kevin that left the competition and Syabira once again was awarded star baker.

This week, the quarter finals, is pastry week, this could be a game changer, some of the best bakers come unstuck with pastry. I shall be glued to the screen to see what occurs and who will exit the show at this crucial time.

WEEK SIX

Week six marks the start of the second half of the Bake-Off competition, the challenges get tougher, and we often see some of the bakers flag a bit and lose some energy. This year in my opinion that was not the case. The remaining seven bakers were still full of verve and working extra hard to remain in the tent.

This year we had another first in terms of theme. Last week it was Halloween week. The scheduling was a bit out of sync as it was two weeks before Halloween. Most of bakers were dressed up in costume and they had all tried to impress. I particularly loved Maxy’s wig, it was black and white and very ‘spooktacular’.

The bakers left in the competition are Sandro, Maxy, Janusz, Dawn, Kevin, Syabira, and Abdul. I start to see some front runners and in my book at this stage they are, Sandro, Maxy, Janusz and Syabira. Of course, everything is still to play for, and things can change in a flash.

This week’s signature challenge was to make an apple cake. Paul was quite specific that he wanted cake and not pudding and that apple had to be the ‘hero’ of the bake. I have just returned from Italy where we had apple cake on the breakfast buffet every morning so for me it was very topical and amused me a bit. As usual the bakers all put their own spin on the brief and produced very different looking cakes. Many of them paired the cake with caramel or toffee and used a fair amount of cinnamon too. All these things are a perfect match for apples.

Paul gave out two handshakes when he was judging the cakes. The Hollywood handshake is much sought after and the bakers that were awarded them were Syabira and Maxy. Maxy as usual presented a beautiful elegant and understated apple cake with great flavours and plenty of apple. Syabira sprayed her cake orange which was a novelty look. Prue loved her combination of apple with sour plum and Paul said she was back in the game with such a tasty set of flavours. At the other end of the scale, we saw Dawn with a classic apple cake, but it had sunk quite a bit and lacked real apple taste and Kevin who filled his cake too soon and it melted the filling so looked quite untidy.

The technical was a good challenge. The bakers were tasked with making eight identical smores. Smores are common in America, they involve graham crackers which are like digestives, marshmallow and it is all sandwiched together with chocolate ganache. Always difficult when you are not given much in the way of instructions, but all the bakers did manage to present a tray of smores to the judges. The judges decided that it was Syabira who did the best and at the other end of the scale Abdul limped in last.

Day two is always the showstopper challenge. This week they were asked to create a spooky hanging lantern which could be smashed open like a pinata, and delicious treats would fall out. A difficult challenge I thought, reminded me a bit of my week five when we hand to make a hanging biscuit chandelier. Quiet a nightmare to construct. If the bakers used biscuit dough which all except Sandro, did it had to be robust enough to hold up but fragile enough to smash too. After a few hours of struggle things started to come together. The last half an hour is always tense and this week you could see the stress levels starting to rise. It is always a joy to see the challenges take shape and this week everyone did meet the brief, the lanterns did hang up, well sort of in some cases!

The spookiest ingredient in the showstopper was used by Janusz. He included powdered crickets and a whole cricket in his treats. Prue was very impressed by this and said it is the way forward in sustainable eating! His lantern looked wicked too! Syabira created a wonderful lantern with smashing flavours once again and Sandro, well his all chocolate hanging globe was fabulous. When it came down to judging it was obvious to everyone that this week star baker would be awarded to Syabira as she hadn’t put a foot wrong all week. At the bottom of the judging comments were Kevin and Dawn and it was decided that it would be Dawn that would leave the competition. She took it well and said that she had had the time of her life as did I when I was in the big white tent.

WEEK FIVE 

Last week on the Bake Off it was dessert week. I quite enjoyed my dessert week when I was on the show, even though I came last in the technical challenge, I managed to pull out all the stops and make a cracking showstopper, which was a huge melting chocolate domethe size of a football, well almost! I would have struggled with the showstopper challenge this year though, Mousse cake with a hidden surprise, my take on it later!

First up then, the signature challenge. This year the eight remaining bakers were tasked with making eight individual steamed puddings each. They had two hours to make them which is just about the right length of time required. Paul said, “they need to be streamed to perfection, as it is a classic British bake and the puddings needed to be moist and not dry. Carol got off to a poor start as she was making plum puddings and she burnt her first batch of plums. Kevin went right off Piste and his puddings were steamed Clootie puddings.There were all manner of flavours and ingredients being used and some different steaming techniques. Unfortunately, poor Carole used a steam bath, and the water was not hot enough, the resulting puddings all collapsed. Januz as per usual created beautiful bakes as did Maxy and Sandro.

The technical challenge was interesting. It was a classic lemon meringue pie. Normally the bakers are given minimal instructions which is to test their baking skills but this week there were no instructions at all, the paper simply said, set the oven temperature and make a lemon meringue pie. Dawn was confident, as she said she must have made at least five hundred of them in the past, poor Sybira had never made one at all, so she had to keep an eye on what the others were doing and try to follow suit. Everyone made the pastry and blind baked it to prevent the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’ then they set to and made the lemon filling. This was where we saw Dawn come a cropper, she had made hardly any filling at all. The last step is to whip up a gorgeous billowingmeringue which everyone managed without much bother. Of course, tension is always present in the tent and mistakes can happen at any time. The pies did make it to the judging table sort of intact, but many were cracked and broken. This week it was Janusz at the top of the leader board and surprisingly Sybira at the bottom.

On now to the make-or-break Showstopper challenge. The mousse cake with a hidden surprise. The bakers needed to use gelatine in the bake to get everything to set. I am not a massive fan of gelatine and tend to substitute it with Agar Agar. Either way it can be tricky to get the correct consistency, too much and everything is rubbery and bouncy and not enough and the dessert won’t hold up. The bakers had to hide an element inside too so that when it was sliced open something extra was visible. We had bees, bones, strawberries, cupcakes, toadstools and all sorts as the hidden element. Some worked out beautifully and some failed miserably.When the showstoppers were finished, we had some super looking creations. Sandro made planet earth with a red jelly core as the surprise, Abdul made a gorgeous mirror glazed cake with small planets on the top, Januszmade a visually stunning cake, as did Maxy. Carole’s looked great in my eyes and Dawns didn’t work out design wise. However, it is not all about the style it must taste great too. Seemingly Dawns cake tasted fabulous, and Carole’s didn’t.

When the judges sat down to discuss the bakes it became clear that Dawn, Carole and Sybira were under threat of one of them being asked to leave the tent and that Janusz, Maxy and Sandro were in the running for star baker. In the event, it was Carole who left the tent and Sandro was awarded the accolade of star!

I really liked Carole, she had bags of personality, and it was a shame to see her go. She took it well and agreed that it was the correct decision and that it was her time to go. Next episode, Halloween!

WEEK FOUR 

Paul Hollywood visited Mexico again earlier this year, guess what the theme was for week four in this years Great British Bake Off? You guessed it, it was Mexican week!

It is quite common to take a country and use it to set the challenges in the tent. Last year we had German week, and, in my series, we had Danish week. I quite like it as I am always interested in cuisine from around the world. I have not been to Mexico so I was quite intrigued how the bakes would unfold.

The two bakers who had been ill the previous week were back, so we had a full complement all trying to work hard to remain in the tent for another week. This week of course thethreat of not one but two bakers possibly being eliminated was hanging over them all.

Noel and Luke opened the show wearing colourful ponchos and sombreros and set the mood perfectly. The signature challenge was to make twelve identical Pain Dulce. These are a cross between a bread and a cake using an enriched dough including yeast. Most of the bakers chose to make a version called a Concha, which is a round bun with a topping of biscuit that is called craquelin. The bakers needed to introduce a complementary Mexican design too. As usual there were lots of different designs coming through. My favourites to look at were Kevin’s and Janusz.  Anything that containsyeast needs to have enough time to get a good rise. Unfortunately, there is never enough time given in the tent to get the rise, and the judges then criticise the bakes for beingtoo dense, under proved, tight and stiff which seems very unfair to me. Overall, I thought the bakers did really well with this challenge but of course we only get to see and not taste the bakes.

For the technical challenge Paul asked the bakers to make Tacos. All the bakers knew what a taco was but had never made them from scratch. They had to make eight tacos using yellow field corn and top them off with steak, guacamole, refried beans and picco de gallo which is a salsa. The bakers all struggled to press the dough thin enough and this was reflected in the judging, Paul said most of them were too thick. I didn’t think this technical challenge was very hard in term of the baking element and was more of a cooking challenge which of course is a completely different ball game. Carole, James and Reb’s were at the bottom of the judgingwith once again Maxy doing brilliantly and coming in top.

On now to the showstopper. I thank my lucky stars that I never had to make this one. A tres leche! This means three milks! The bakers had to make a minimum of four layers of cake and then pour a solution of condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream all over them. The milk soaks into the cake and as you can imagine results in a very moist cake. The problems with such a moist cake is that it can easily become soggy which is not a great texture but also the cake can easily collapse. The bakers set to work with all the Mexican colour and flavours they could include. Surprisingly some of the cakes did turn out well and looked attractive so hats off to them. Dawn made a simple but visually stunning cake in my opinion and Kevin rose to the challenge and produced a masterpiece. James was over ambitious and that can be a killer and result in a disappointment at judging. My overall favourite once again was Janusz’s , the colour and design was fabulous and Sandro’s was a stunner too, oh and once again Maxy was outstanding.

This week two bakers did leave the tent; they were Reb’s and James, and it was very sad as we saw Reb’s tears flowing. Star baker on the other hand was once again Maxy. She is such a strong contender and I fully expect to see her reach the final.

Join me again next week as I review week five, dessert week!

WEEK THREE

Bread week often falls on week three each season of the Great British Bake Off. It did this year, and it did back in 2018 when I was on the show. I really love making bread and I feel that my bread week in the tent was my favourite. Bread is such a wholesome thing to make, it is very therapeutic too, all that kneading and bashing the dough around, it can be a good work out.

So, what did I make of Bread week this year? A bit of a mixed bag I thought, some slightly controversial ideas about what makes a bread a bread! First up as usual we had the Signature challenge. It was to make a couple of sharing pizzas! PIZZAS! I couldn’t believe it, in my eyes a very simple thing to make and not challenging enough for the tent. Of course, there is always room for chat around pizzas, should pineapple be on a pizza? Crispy bottom or deep pan? The bakers all did decent pizzas IO though. Some of the bases were a bit droopy that was my main observation. We had all manner of toppings going on, from figs and chilli jam to Tartiflette, you name it, somebody was having a try with it, Janusz even had a full English breakfast as his theme.

The Technical challenge was Pain Raison. Now then, in my book this is a pastry, I think it could sneak in under the bread theme as it does have yeast in the enriched dough, but it is really classed as a pastry, certainly in France from where it comes. One of my favourite breakfasts when on holiday is the Pain Raison. Come to think of it the word Pain in French means bread, so, well, yes maybe Paul Hollywood is right. The problem with the technical apart from not knowing what lurks beneath the tea towel that hides the ingredients from the bakers is that there are very few instructions given. It is Ok if you have made the bake before but problematic if you haven’t. The bakers all managed to pull it of with varying degrees of success. To be fair, with the time given I think they all did well, as traditionally the dough should be chilled for hours before baking and of course they didn’t get much time at all. Janusz pulled it out of the bag once again and came topin the judging.

Doing well in the technical challenge really does set you up for success when faced with day two which is the Showstopper Challenge. The challenge was to make a Smorgastorte! Ever heard of it? No neither have I. Translated from the Swedish it means sandwich cake. The bakers had to build a massive sandwich that looked like a cake but was very savoury. I was not too keen on the idea of this and won’t be rushing to make one anytime soon. The bakers made some loaves and then sliced them up and built up a cake like structure with sandwich fillings of their choice. Most of the bakers stuck to the Swedish theme and there were an awful lot of eggs, cucumbers, mackerel, cream cheese and dill being used. I think I would have made some mini meatballs in a redcurrant sauce, like the ones you get in Ikea and swerved all the herrings and so on! Anyway, there weren’t any out and out disasters and many of the Smorgastorte looked beautifully retro, something Fanny Craddock, remember her? would have been proud of.

Two of the bakers, Reb’s and Abdul were missing this week as they were both ill. This added an extra dimension to the judging, and it was announced that nobody would be sent home after all. The relief on a few of the bakers’ faces was tangible as they all got a free pass to week four. However, two bakers, not just one will have to leave the tent one of the weeks. Same thing happened in our year when Terry was ill one week, ironically both Terry and I were eliminated together the week he returned. Star baker was once again awarded to Janusz who is really showing how strong a contender he is to go forward to the final and possibly be the winner. All to play for still!

 

WEEK TWO 

Week number two of this years Great British Bake Off was biscuit week. Although it is generally thought that they do the ‘easy’ the first few weeks I don’t think that is necessarily the case. Biscuits can be tricky things to get right, especially for the judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. Many a good baker has fallen foul of biscuit week. I enjoyed my biscuit week back in 2018, most probably because nothing went wrong for me and my showstopper biscuit ‘selfie’ adorns my wall at home to this day (well, a life size photograph of it does).

It is all a question of texture, not too dry. Not too chewy, must have a ‘snap’ neither underbaked nor overbaked. The signature was a macaron this year and in the words of the youngest baker Maisan “what can go wrong with a macaron” Another baker, Janusz, last week’s star said, “there are eighty-seven things that can go wrong with a macaron”!

I have had a go with these fiddly French fancies a time or two, but I have never really got on with them, too much sifting, resting and generally faffing with them so I am pleased I wasn’t challenged to do them in the tent.

The challenge was to make an illusion macaron, so one that resembled something else. We had mini burgers, raccoons, carrots, melons, peanuts amongst the offerings. To be perfectly honest, I was impressed by everyone, nobody really messed up big style, not in my book anyway. We had two handshakes this week in that challenge too, Maxy and Dawn, so they were well set up as they embarked upon the tricky technical.

The technical challenge where nobody has a clue what they will bake until they reveal the ingredients and a very sparse sheet of instructions. I might have done OK with this one as at least, once revealed, I did know what the bake was. The old classic biscuit, a Garibaldi! AKA, a fly pie!

The bakers got stuck into it and made a fair attempt. Interpreting the scant instructions makes it difficult to visualise the biscuit if you have never seen one in your life. Naturally then there were irregularities in the appearance not least of all as they were tasked with dipping the biscuits in chocolate and feathering a pattern on them. This is quite controversial in the biscuit world as it is not authentic at all. Two of the bakers misunderstood the word feathering and instead of making the well know pretty pattern with the white chocolate dragged over the dark, they made feathers out of white chocolate. To be honest, I thought that looked amazing. Poor Abdul came in last, and a surprise turn saw Reb’s come top in the technical.

On to the showstopper then. With very few out and out mess ups so far it was all to play for. The challenge was to create a three-dimensional face mask out of biscuits. What wonderful opportunity to play up your creativity with this bake. Getting the basic mask made, good and strong was the hardest part and most bakers chose a gingerbread as this is the sturdiest dough for this type of thing. The range of design ideas was quite incredible, and the results were outstanding. There were feathers, bright colours, flowers, horror, cubism all manner of beautiful masks. Just before the end when the bakers were asked to present their masks poor Carole came a cropper. Her beautiful mask broke and there was nothing at all she could do to salvage it. She cried and cried, and my heart went out to her. She obviously thought she was going to get the ‘chop’ but no, she made it through to week three. Maxy was awarded Star Baker and quite controversially, young Maisan left the tent!

All in all, another great week from the big white tent and well done to all the bakers in there. See you after next weeks exciting “bread week”

WEEK ONE 

Week one was as usual, Cake Week. The signature challenge was in my opinion quite straight forward. The bakers were challenged with making mini sandwich cakes. The results were generally quite good and there was a good variety of shapes, flavours and techniques to be judged by Paul and Prue. It was Rebs and Will who received the harshest critiques and at the other end of the scale it was Janusz , Abdul and Sandro who received the most praise.

The Technical challenge quite often sorts out the ‘wheat from the chaff’ as none of the bakers have a clue as to what is going to be expected of them, it is a total surprise as to what lurks beneath the tea towel that hides the ingredients for the challenge. When the bakers uncovered the ingredients, they discovered that this week’s challenge was to make a multi layered red velvet cake. What makes this bake quite unique is that the sponges rise from the use of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda rather than self-rising flour. To get the red colour in the sponge copious amounts of red food colour gel is used, but like everything else in the technical deciding how much of anything to use is quite difficult to decide. The filling and topping of the cake is traditionally a mix that includes cream cheese. This is quite a difficult thing to get a perfect consistency. I thought the bakers all produced a good-looking cake but of course they all must be judged, and I remember how nervous you feel as you await the verdict. James came in last on this first technical and Syabira came in top place and Paul Hollywood even said her cake was better than his!

The second day of the competition is the biggest and scariestday. If you have done well on day one, then it is an opportunity to ensure you get through to the next round but if you have had a couple of poor bakes then the Showstopper challenge can be a game changer. Do well and you stay in but if you have a third poor result then you may well be the person that must leave the tent.

The showstopper challenge was an interesting one I thought. The bakers were asked to make a cake that resembled their home, or at least a home that they have lived in at some point in their lives. Quite a challenge as most buildings have squared edges and I find making a square cake very difficult.Also making components like windows and doors that look realistic in such a short space of time can be daunting. The bakers all settled for quite a stylised look which was quite sensible really as if you were over ambitious with the details you could easily have run out of time. Will struggled with this challenge, he was trying to make a replica of his north London flat out of chocolate and orange sponges and the details out of gingerbread. Syabira made a very good showstopper and with her success with the technical I thought she was in line for star baker. However, it was Janusz that won that accolade, his rendition of his childhood home in Poland was deemed fabulous. His use of soy sauce in the cake and spiced orange buttercream impressed the judges and he was awarded Star Baker. Poor Will was the first baker to be sent home. Always difficult to be the first baker to leave the tent and he took it well.

So, week one is done. We have met the bakers and we go forward and look to enjoy week two, Biscuit week!

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