About My Great British Baking Project
March 8, 2023
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A Project Begins
Welcome to perhaps the most delectable section on the Moonbelly blog and one of the biggest projects I have ever taken on: Katrina’s Great British Baking Project, or Bake Along with Bake Off! On this side of website, I take inspiration from my absolutely favorite comfort show, The Great British Bake Off*, and recreate recipes from the show, one episode at a time. If you aren’t familiar with Bake Off, first of all, if you love baking even a little, you GOTTA get on it. I believe it is truly the most heartwarming and magical show in existence today. But in case you don’t have time to watch all of the seasons before you continue reading this post, let me give you a little rundown.
About Bake Off
The show takes place in a tent in the beautiful and often rainy English countryside. The contestants (usually 12 per season) are all amateur bakers from across the UK. There are two hosts, comedic and comforting in nature, who change from season to season. There are also two judges, Paul Hollywood (who has been a judge since the beginning) and Prue Leith (who joined in 2017), both accomplished and well-known British bakers.
The energy of the show very much exemplifies a quality I love – the bakers take their baking very seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously. It is a wonderful balance of integrity and lightness.
In each episode, the contestants participate in three Bakes, all within the same theme (cake week, bread week, vegan week, etc. etc.). Each bake is judged separately, and the combined results determine who goes home and who wins the episode.
- First comes The Signature, where bakers create their own interpretation and flavoring of a bake that is a bit more simple. Most of the time, these are to be baked in individual portions (which must look perfectly identical, of course), something like scones or small tarts, but not always. The judges visit each baker’s station to lay down judgment.
- Then comes The Technical, where bakers are given only a set of ingredients (hidden under a gingham cloth, of course) and pared-down instructions for a recipe that is often quite obscure. With directions that honestly leave out most of the important information, the bakers do their best to execute the bake properly, even though they often don’t have a clue what it should look or taste like. It’s very good television. These are judged blind, so the judges don't know which baker made which presentation. They are ranked from the worst interpretation to the best.
- Finally, The Showstopper, which is 1000% named correctly – these large-scale and intricate bakes are truly SHOWSTOPPERS! They are often cakes or have a cake base, (but not always, of course) and are always elaborate, heavy on detailed and difficult decoration, and contain multiple elements and techniques. The bakers must bring their creations up to the judging table, which is quite harrowing for the more delicate bakes!
At the end of the episode, the baker who struggled the most is sadly sent home. Then the baker who excels is named Star Baker (hence my apron, a Hannukah present years ago from my friend Lauren!), an accolade that is simply a title, since no prizes or money can be won on the BBC (where the show first aired). At the end of the season, the final three bakers follow the very same format with the three bakes. The top baker of the whole season is announced at a large picnic with all the top three’s families and the eliminated contestants. The winner receives a beautifully engraved cake stand and a gorgeous bouquet. Everyone hugs and cries and is really proud of themselves and each other.
It’s honestly so, so sweet.
The Hollywood Handshake
Another topic of note is that judge Paul Hollywood is known to be something of a hard-ass. He is difficult to please and quite stoic. However, when he truly is impressed with what a contestant has baked, he reaches out and shakes their hand. This act of respect is highly coveted and always very exciting for everyone in the tent when it happens!
My Great British Baking Project
I have set up a few rules and parameters for myself in regard to how this project will unfold. These rules are DEFINITELY subject to change at any time.
MY BAKE ALONG WITH BAKE OFF RULES
- I will choose my favorite sounding Bakes from the Signature and Showstopper categories.
- I can look up recipes for everything, including the Technical.
- I will not give myself a time limit. I am the production company and the baker, and I'm doing this to learn, not stress!
- I will write out what I wish I did differently and keep it for my future reference and to share with you.
- I can purchase whatever ingredients and supplies I need.
- Bakes will be rated X/10 Handshakes, both in terms of likeliness to bake again (aka how much I enjoyed the flavors) and in terms of my execution of the bake.
So now you are up to speed! I have started with Collection 5 which is the oldest season available to me on US Netflix. The first episode is Cake Week – I made a Bonfire Apple Cake (with cinnamon mascarpone cream), Chocolate Peppermint Mini-Rolls, and a Banana "Ramen" Illusion Cake showstopper.
The only thing I can promise about this project is that it will be messy and that I will learn a whole lot. I just hope it all tastes and/or looks good!
I can’t wait to share it with you!
*For confused friends in the US regarding the show name: The show’s official title is “The Great British Bake Off”. It used to be distributed under this actual name in the US, but it is now called “The Great British Baking Show” because “Bake-Off ” is a trademark owned by Pillsbury. I will use the name “The Great British Bake Off” since that is the actual title and also I just like it better. 😉