The Great British Bake-Off: Baking Porn for Brain and Belly

The Great British Bake-Off: Baking Porn for Brain and Belly

Memo to self: have cake on standby whilst watching the Great British Bake Off. Every time I watch it my mouth inevitably waters and I have to make do with whatever spongey substitute I can find in the kitchen. An avid baker myself, being faced with the mediocrity that lies in my larder does make me contemplate trying some of the great recipes that are brought onto the Bake Off, and cardamom Madeira and frosted walnut cake have already made their way onto my baking wish list. Refreshingly, this year the novel recipes aren’t the only thing that stands out. The diversity of the bakers, whether it’s in terms of ethnicity, county, occupation or age, is finally reflective of the modern multicultural Britain we are all (hopefully) familiar with. Within the Bake Off tent Lithuanian bodybuilders, prison wardens, travelling photographers, mothers, fathers, grandparents and accountants can come together to compete for the Star Baker accolade, all whilst showing their drooling viewers how clichéd recipes can be injected with a healthy dose of novelty.


gbbo2015-12Why is baking so damn enthralling? Does the warmth of the oven call to our love as a nation of stodgy, comforting foods? One thing is for sure; the Great British Bake Off shows the complexity that can be involved in baking, but also how simple it can be if you desire it. Watching the Bake Off and getting to know its contestants and their varied backgrounds highlights that baking really is accessible to everyone. Especially when everyone has access to a bookmakers, as was found out earlier this week when bookies were flooded with bets on one particular contestant winning the series and had to swiftly close any betting on the victor’s identity. I have no notion of who might win the series at this stage, but my current favourite is Mat. His gin and tonic madeira cake caused quite the cheer from the family sofa, it being a family favourite. I can’t resist adding some quick advice for those thinking of making it; adding about 9 shots of gin to the batter might sound like something that would make Mary delirious with joy, but the alcohol evaporates off during baking and helps with the rise whilst leaving you with a wonderfully light, moist, smooth sponge with a tart aftertaste of gin.

In addition to Mat I found all of the contestants delightful, which made the stab of sympathy that jolted through me when Dorret’s mousse failed to set even more torturous. Before my eyes her Black Forest Gateau sunk into a chocolate-cherry mess, made even more woeful when Paul admitted that her sponge lying underneath the disaster was like ‘chewing on a tyre’. Usually the judges are somewhat lenient when it comes to genuine baking catastrophes, but when it comes to innovation I was disappointed to find that neither Mary nor Paul enthused about anyone who altered the typical approach to either the Madeira cake or the black forest gateau. At this point we come to Stu. Stu, with his metal collar tips, would have perhaps gotten along better with more adventurous tastebuds (Heston Blumenthal, perhaps?) with his addition of beetroot to his chocolate sponge and the mixture of chocolate and lime for his Madeira cake. Beetroot is known as an unexpected but surprisingly effective addition to chocolate bakes (especially brownies), often adding a richness found in dark chocolate whilst keeping the sponge moist. Think of it as serving the same function as carrot in carrot cake (or courgette cake, a recipe I have been eyeing up for a while); you probably won’t notice the sneaky vegetable edging its way into the sponge. But unfortunately Stu’s beetroot-cherry-chocolate-meringue cake didn’t seem to win over Mary and Paul, and he was booted off the show.

Tomorrow I shall be adding cream of tartar, eggs and walnuts to my larder in an attempt to create Mary’s frosted walnut cake. This is what I adore about the Great British Bake-Off; it inspires me to try new recipes, familiarise myself with unusual ingredients (until now I thought tartar was only to be found alongside fish and chips in sauce form) and is, unashamedly and frankly, true baking porn.

 

Zoe Delahunty-Light

 

Featured images from the The Telegraph and The Guardian.

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