I am a fan of wholesome BBC baking show The Great British Bake Off, truly one of the highlights of my summer (and, since I tend to watch it on catch-up, autumn, too). In fact, I was slightly resentful of the Olympics for eating into my GBBO TV time (I think the bake-off started slightly later to take the Olympics into account). While watching the third season – which definitely featured some of my favourite characters (it was shocking to realise that James’ jumpers have numerous enthusiastic fans and not just, er, me), I idly thought that it would be afun project to bake all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off – seasons one, two, and three. And so here I am today.
Well, not quite. The bakers have a couple of hours (usually three to five) to do each challenge, and they bake three recipes over a weekend. I’m not participating in the bake-off and I don’t have that kind of time, or capacity to eat that much baked goodness in one sitting, even. So my challenges will be more spread out, and though they won’t have the ticking-clock factor of the show, they will have the ticking-clock factor of my life.
Looking over the challenges from the last three seasons, what I’m most struck by is the evolution of the show, from challenges that were simple and sweet and what a regular, good home-baker would have in their repertoire (a signature cake) to more complex creations that I can’t imagine the average home baker makes regularly – such as hidden design cakes. However, that’s for season three – I have dozens of recipes to get to before attempting that! I suppose in a way that evolution will be useful for me – I can practise and perhaps veen improve. And I do like a project.
For anyone not familiar with the show, each episode is themed around a certain baked or dough-based good (cake, biscuits, choux pastry, etc). Bakers make three recipes: one, a signature bake, to showcase their personality (or to reflect a dish they regularly make – again, as requirements became more creative, this early requirement fell by the wayside a bit); second, a technical bake, where each baker makes the same recipe and they are judged against one another; and finally a showstopper bake. The showstopper should, as the name implies, be a celebratory showpiece. Hmm. We’ll see.
So we start with this very simple challenge from the very first episode of the very first season of the Great British Bake-Off, the signature cake. A cake the bakers made regularly, a recipe close to heart, hearth, and home. All right then.