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THE GREAT STAND UP TO CANCER BAKE OFF

On Tuesday, The Great British Bake Off returned to our screens for the first of five 1-hour specials in support of Stand Up To Cancer.

 

Our post-move-to-Channel-4 presenting line up of Paul, Prue, Noel and Sandi were joined by celebrity bakers, Roisin Conaty, Harry Hill, Martin Kemp and Bill Turnball, who were challenged with a cupcake signature, a Crêpes Suzette technical and a 3D biscuit scene showstopper – all with hilarious results of course.

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Going into the first challenge, many of the ‘celebs’ were feeling confident, but as is always the way once the famous cry of ‘Ready… Steady… Bake!’ is uttered, the wheels soon came off! The greatest victim of the seemingly simple technical, Martin, had all sorts of trouble with his cupcakes, with even a re-baked second attempt dropping, but mixing up his bowls and trying to bake his buttercream was probably his lowlight of the experience – although it certainly made entertaining viewing.

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When it came to decoration, both Harry and Bill opted to top their cupcakes with jam and sugarpaste (Is a cupcake really a cupcake without lashings of frosting?); while Roisin (who we love by the way after filming an episode of Extra Slice with her in 2017), having professed to never having baked before, went on to wow the judges with her red velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting – earning herself a Hollywood Handshake in the process. However, while they looked perfectly tasty, one has to ask, does a channel 4 Hollywood Handshake carry the same gravitas as its BBC equivalent. He certainly seems a bit faster and looser with them these days…

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After the trauma of the signature, the technical challenge managed to push all of our celebrity bakers to their limits. Crêpes Suzette, a French twist on the humble pancake that marries it with a buttery orange, caramel and Grand Marnier sauce, is a somewhat retro classic these days, but a final flambé never fails to impress guests at dinner parties!

On perusing the recipe, which remained a mystery until the start of the challenge, Roisin’s queries as to what flambé means or what zest even is immediately let us know that this challenge might not be as simple as it initially seemed…

We were treated to all sorts of delightful pancake-themed montage sequences, including poor Bill’s inevitable toss to the floor, before realising that Harry Hill’s former medical career had clearly provided him with an upper hand when it came to the surgical segmentation of an orange. His beautifully sliced orange segments, with ne’er a hint of membrane coupled with some tasty brandy-infused pancakes to scoop him first place and the least said about the rest of the bakers’ efforts the better.

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Finally, we were treated to a showstopper, during which the bakers were challenged to recreate the best day of their life through the medium of biscuits. With creations including a Bill’s bee-keeping themed family portrait, Roisin’s beach bar made out of raw gingerbread and the Live Aid stage itself, it was actually Harry’s depiction of his somewhat questionable holiday with Camilla Parker Bowles that won the day.

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Coupled with his impressive Crêpes Suzette, it seemed somewhat inevitable that the funny man would come out on top and sure enough, Harry Hill was crowned our first Stand Up To Cancer Star Baker.

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Rather poignantly, it emerged that contestant Bill Turnbull had received his own cancer diagnosis during the show’s filming and there followed an incredibly moving video at the end of the episode during which he discussed his struggle with his diagnosis and encouraged men everywhere to get their prostates checked. I am happy to admit that his story moved me to tears and I’m sure his confession that he had prided himself on the fact that he had not been to see his GP for four years rang true for a lot of people.

He added that, “If I’d had a test a few years ago we would have diagnosed it earlier and knocked it on the head earlier and my survival possibilities would be a lot better.

© Love Productions/Channel 4

“I’ve been blessed to have had a wonderful family who still give me joy every day. For me, being a father is the most challenging thing you can do, and the most fulfilling. I have been married for almost 30 years. And that, I consider to be… the best thing I’ve ever done.”

If anything should remind us of the real reason that this series has been recorded, then this surely is it.

Stand Up To Cancer is a joint effort between Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 to bring the UK together to accelerate progress in life-saving cancer research.

© Love Productions/Channel 4

To donate by text, send TEN or TWENTY to 70404 to give £10 or £20 or you can visit channel4.com/su2c. Alternatively, whether you’re a star baker or prone to a soggy bottom, The Great Stand Up To Cancer Bake Off needs you to get baking this spring. It’s easy – order your pack (https://www.standuptocancer.org.uk/bake-off) full of hints and tips, recipes, bunting and more, hold your own baking event and raise some serious dough to fund lifesaving research.

Get ready to turn the heat up on cancer!

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#BAKEALONGWITHGBBO: Week 9 – Patisserie

What… a… week…!

Going into the semi-finals, it seemed the tent was once again engulfed in an oppressive heat wave and the bakers – and their bakes – were suffering as a result. It was Patisserie Week this week and our final four, Sophie, Steven, Kate and Stacey, were facing a choux bun signature, with craquelin toppings; Prue’s souped-up version of the traditional Belgian Misérables for their technical; and elaborate meringue showstoppers that had everybody cracking under the pressure.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I found this week’s episode particularly hard viewing. Maybe it was the lack of Liam’s humour and youthful exuberance in the tent, but something was definitely missing. Although flapping around in a panic seems to be Stacey’s MO when baking (I can relate!), she seemed to be particularly stressed this week and when Steven’s chocolate basket was melting in the ridiculous temperatures, it seemed like it could be a metaphor to represent his dying hopes at judgement time. I was practically yelling at the television when both he and Sophie were manhandling their cracking meringues and making them even worse. All in all, not fun at all.

Luckily for all of us #teamsteven-ers, he was allowed to continue through to the finals, along with Kate and this week’s star baker, Sophie. But sadly, we said goodbye to Mrs ‘I’m going to go again’ herself, Stacey.

But anyway – that technical? What?! I couldn’t believe the amount of work the bakers were expected to cram into three hours – I was even getting texts from my friends saying, ‘Surely you’re going to skip this one?!’ Well in spite of the fact that Cake International is only a week away and my competition entry is FAR from complete, I was not going to be beaten by patisserie!

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To assemble all of the ingredients for Prue’s Les Misérables, I had to visit three – yes THREE – supermarkets and lay out a small fortune – and that was without replacing my sugar thermometer which sadly died a death during Pastry Week. I actually considered starting a crowdfunding campaign to pay for these at one point…!

Now, there are so many individual elements to this bake, that I’m not going to bore you all with a blow-by-blow account of the whole thing, but rather touch on the highs and lows of the task…

Last time I made a joconde sponge, I managed to knock too much of the air out of my eggs, so I was really happy that I managed two separate successful jocondes for this bake with no problems. Well almost no problems – I might not have mixed my food colouring in as well as I could. There MIGHT be a couple of particularly green hotspots inside my pistachio joconde!

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The French buttercream was a bit of a tricky spot though, as it involved heating a sugar syrup to precisely 116°C, which was difficult without my thermometer. I had to resort to the technique usually reserved for jam making – sticking a tea plate in the fridge and dropping spots of the syrup on to see how they set. It seemed to work and I might actually be a little bit in love with French buttercream now.

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The other hard bit was trying to temper chocolate – still without a thermometer AND in high humidity. I did get to crack out my marble slab though. I got it as a gift last year and this was literally the first time I have ever used it for the purpose it is intended for. If I’m honest, my chocolate isn’t tempered, there is no shine and it still has a low melting point, but I got them on there, so I’m calling it a win.

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When it comes to the taste of this bake, I honestly think that there is too much going on. You’ve got the almond running throughout, then the flavour of lemon from the lemon joconde and the lemon syrup liberally applied to each layer of sponge; vanilla from the vanilla bean French Buttercream; raspberry from the fresh raspberries and the freeze-dried raspberry powder; pistachio from the pistachio joconde AND dark chocolate. Too much! A traditional Misérables simply marries up the flavours of an almond joconde with a vanilla bean French Buttercream – a divine combination. I often think in the case of patisserie that less is more – perhaps a lesson that the Bake Off researchers could learn?

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Has anyone else had a go at the recipe? What did you think? A case of technique-over-taste or did you like the flavour combinations? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Next week, we head into the grand final of The Great British Bake Off! Who will win? Steven, Sophie or Kate? I’ll see you next week to find out…

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#BAKEALONGWITHGBBO: Week 8 – Forgotten Bakes

Is it safe to talk about Bake Off yet? Have we all calmed down?

Week eight brought us to the quarter finals and Forgotten Bakes week, with Prue and Paul (or their researchers at least) scouring ancient cookbooks to find “classic creations of yesteryear that have been overlooked” AKA the most obscure and fiddly recipes they could muster up.

Our signature challenge, this week, was the Bedfordshire Clanger, a pasty-like, suet pastry-based bake that marries savoury and sweet fillings to provide a whole meal on the go – and provide ample opportunities for witty word play. Would anyone ‘drop a clanger?’ (Incidentally, yes. Kate did.) The technical required the bakers to create a Cumberland Rum Nicky, topped with a 14-strand lattice and served with a batch of traditional rum butter. Finally, the show stopper saw the bakers crafting a selection of elaborate fat-less sponges with no raising agent: the Savoy Cake. Served on a plinth also made of sponge.

At the start of the episode, we were treated to a VT of the nation’s favourite uni student, Liam optimistically declaring, “I just need to be consistent, bang out three good bakes and I should be fine. See what happens, innit?” And as it happened, Liam did remain consistent, failing to impress the judges in any of the three rounds and sadly, he was sent home, with Stacey claiming Star Baker.

As the nation collectively gasped in horror, accusations began to fly around. How had Kate survived after quite literally dropping a clanger? Did Stacey deserve her star baker win after ripping the oven door off its hinges? Both have fielded complaining tweets admirably this week and ultimately, the judges’ decision is final, but I know many didn’t take the decision well – myself included (I do love a GIF).

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Now, after my BB8 dramas last week, it looked like I wouldn’t have time to craft my Cumberland Rum Nicky before tomorrow’s episode arrived, but thankfully this week is half term and so I have afforded myself the luxury of a day of baking today. Granted I also have my Cake International pieces AND a tutorial to complete this week, but my Nicky was top of my list.

On the show, the bakers were provided with a gorgeous wide-rimmed pie dish in which to create their Nickys (Nickies?), but I don’t have anything similar at home and my local supermarket failed to provide anything also. I decided to use a flan tin instead and just opted to mentally prepare myself for this to be a terrible decision, as is usually the case when one deviates from the GBBO recipe.

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The recipe calls for the inclusion of medjool dates, which are large and amber in colour, but I already had some bog standard dried dates in the cupboard, so I just used those. These were coarsely chopped and added to chopped apricots, crystallised ginger, brown sugar and 50ml of rum. The bakers were not afforded a way of measuring their 50ml of rum, so, in sympathy, I opted to free pour too. These were then left to soak (in my grandmother’s old pudding basin) while I tackled the pastry. As always, Paul dictated a particularly fiddly method of crafting a sweet shortcrust, but luckily it was not vastly dissimilar to those we have seen before and so this made for a fairly easy start to the bake.

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The #disasteroftheweek struck, when it came to splitting the pastry to ensure I had some set aside for my fourteen-strand lattice. In my distracted state (the phone rang), I managed to drop the third I had set aside for the lattice on the floor. Brilliant. Due to time constraints (and laziness), I decided that I would just make my lattice from the cut-offs, once I had lined the tin. This meant I could only manage a ten-strand lattice, but I honestly don’t think it would have been too much of an issue even in the tent. Paul’s usually OCD about such things seemed somewhat lacking this week.

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Once finished, it was time to place it in the oven for an initial bake of 15 minutes (after which I trimmed the edges – flan tin, remember?) and a second bake of 20  minutes at a slightly reduced heat.

While it was in the oven, I turned my attention to the rum butter and immediately screwed it up by adding my rum too quickly – causing the mix to separate and curdle. Yum. Luckily I had enough time and ingredients left to go again – which meant I got to hand-beat my butter twice! Yay*!

[*please note some exuberance may be sarcastic in nature.]

Removing the gooey tart from the tin provided a final challenge, but luckily I eventually managed this without a hitch and then it was time to taste it!

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VERDICT: All in all, I don’t think the Cumberland Rum Nicky deserves to be consigned to the history books. The rum and the ginger pack a flavour-filled punch and rum fans in particular will like its pairing with rum butter. I found the two together a little over powering, but the Nicky on its own is delicious. I could easily see it proving a popular addition to our Christmas dinner dessert selection.

In tomorrow’s episode, our final four, Steven, Sophie, Stacey and Kate, head into the semi-final, facing challenges including choux buns and a meringue sculpture showstopper.

I’ll see you then…!