#SquadGoals: The Great British Bake-Off Edition

Well, I finally did it. I caved like a chocolate soufflé fresh out the oven. I watched The Great British Bake-Off (Or The Great British Baking Show for us Americans).

Of course I’ve heard nothing but good things about it for a while now (see Molly’s spot on post from last year), and for some reason, on a recent Sunday night (morning?) at 12:30am, I decided to press play on season 1 and it was all downhill from there.

About a week and a half later, I’m nearly caught up with the most recent season and pretty much convinced myself I, too, can make scrummy plaited breads with no soggy bottoms. But one of the main reasons I became obsessed with the show is that every contestant was utterly delightful – there was no animosity between them, and in fact, like Molly said in her post, they’re all helpful and supportive of each other. Of course I had my favorites like any other TV competition show, but there were some bakers who stood out for me more than the others, the ones that I would love to hang out with outside of the tent, the ones who would cheer me on even if the cold, hard reality of my lack of baking skills was slapped in my face like a dough being kneaded harshly against the bench.

Have I gone too far with the GBBO refs? Get used to it, muffins. Here are the contestants from the four seasons (that have aired in the U.S.) that I would love to start a squad with. Do you agree/want to join? Read on to find out.

Ready? Set! BAaakkEEE!

Season 1/Series 4

Glenn

The moment Glenn popped up on my screen, I was all in. He’s a teacher who kept a positive attitude but knew when to be comically self-depreciating when need be. I just wanted to give him a hug any time he didn’t get the best feedback from the judges. Plus, he’s a gay British man, which is like, my target demo.

Kimberley

The runner-up had a smile that could light up the room. Yes, I realize that is the cliche-est of all the cliches, but it’s true. She was confident enough in her baking and not the type to beat herself up if she didn’t have a good round. And just back to that smile real quick – who wouldn’t want that on a day when you’re feeling shitty?

Season 2/Series 5

Kate

Kate had light pink streaks in her hair and that’s why I like her. The end.

JK. But anyone who has pink hair has to be a certain type of bold character to wear it proudly, and Kate is just that. Her attitude was the perfect mix of bubbly and not-so-bubbly in the stressful times, and that’s exactly the type personality I’d be into for my GBBO Squad.

Season 3/Series 6

Sandy


You know when you’re just minding your business at work and then your peer makes a snarky comment under their breath, and you’re like, “Wait. That’s really funny,” and then you become pals because you both have the same sense of humor? That’s Sandy. Throughout her time on GBBO, she’d have these one-liners that killed me, and had me thinking about them for days later. She once made a David Attenborough joke that only Brits and rando Americans would get, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Case in point: the GIF above in which Sandy describes how her creme brulee should NOT wobble. Rather, it should only have a little wobble, like so:

Tamal & Nadiya

Alright I’m lumping these two star bakers together, because they’re what inspired me to write this post in the first place. Individually, each of these lovelies had me rooting for them from the first episode. Nadiya (as the internet is wont to tell you) had THE BEST reaction faces throughout the entire competition, and it was like she was reflecting what the viewers at home were doing too. She lacked confidence in the beginning and kept thinking she was going to get cut, but she, like Tamal, was a pretty consistently good baker from the get go. Tamal, an adorable, funny, talented doctor, was just a delight to watch throughout the series, and any time Nadiya and Tamal would get screen time together, I basically just wanted to leap through my screen and hug them both at the same time and force them to be friends with me. Is that too aggressive? Yeah, probably for the best.

And the sweet, sweet words Tamal said about Nadiya in the finale was the most precious. I LOVE WHEN PEOPLE SUPPORT THEIR FRIENDS. AND I LOVE WHEN PEOPLE GAIN SELF-CONFIDENCE. FULL CIRCLE. I LOVE NADIYA AND TAMAL!

Season 4/Series 7

Candice

Like Kate before her, I knew I was going to like Candice because her lipstick game was on POINT. It’s such a simple cosmetic look, but it gives her “a thing” to be remembered by with audiences watching from home. And if she doesn’t have her own lipstick line yet, that’s probably something she should get on. Another reason I liked Candice is that her accent sounded familiar to me, as if I had heard her speak before. Well, turns out, she just reminds me of Victoria Beckham because they have such a similar accent (and kind of from the same section of England). Made me like her even more.

Benjamina

Benjamina is one of those bakers who is so super talented, but due to time constraints and other factors, just isn’t always the star baker each week. But you know she’s got it. And she’s got a good attitude about the competition too, just like many of the others that have proceeded her on this list.

Selasi

Cool as a cucumber – that phrase was made about Selasi. This dude knows how to bake, knows which flavors go with what, and doesn’t freak out completely if a challenge isn’t going his way. Plus the way he talks I could listen to all day.

Ed. Note: I’m obviously watching all this in a bubble, and don’t know any of the politics or media spectacle or post-interviews any of the contestants have done since the show. All I knew was that Nadiya won and everyone loved her. That’s it. Apparently, when searching for Selasi GIFs, there was a rumored thing going on between him and Benjamina? I’m afraid to dig too deep into it, because in full disclosure, I’m not quite done with this season and don’t want to be spoiled :\

Bonus: Mel & Sue

THE NEXT SEASON OF GBBO IS NOT GOING TO BE THE SAME WITHOUT YOU TWO (OR MARY). I DON’T KNOW HOW WE SURVIVED WITHOUT YOUR PUNS AND CHEEKY INNUENDO ON TV ALL THESE YEARS IN AMERICA.

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The Great British Bake Off Is Pure In Heart

Did you watch the premiere of a new season of The Great British Bake Off last night? If so, I’m horribly jealous … or I would be if jealousy didn’t run contrary to the spirit of The Great British Bake Off, a show that is at its core pleasant, gentle, soothing and entirely pure in heart.

Bake Off employs calming narration, a delicate pastel color scheme, a reliable format and real-life fairy godmother Mary Berry. It is basically like watching Mr. Rogers or Shining Time Station, but for adults. It cuts through the ugliness of reality competitions and resists cheap “extreme” challenges or manufactured rivalries. While we await the U.S. airing of series 7, let’s look at all the ways the Bake Off is the most pure and kind reality competition on television today:

Mary Berry Is Mary Poppins’ Granddaughter

In my head, Mary Berry was named after her beloved granny, Mary Poppins – because how else do you explain their shared delightful temperament, coupled with a firm instance on perfection (or practically-perfection)? Mary never met a sneaky innuendo she didn’t like, but she’s also excellent at playing the well-bred grandmother who doesn’t know what you’re all snickering at. Plus she’s a style icon to boot, always sporting a smart scarf or a well-tailored floral blazer or that one bomber jacket that sold out in a day. If you worry that getting older will make you dowdy or dull or stuck in the past, just look to Mary (age 81!) and rest assured that such a fate isn’t inevitable. And is it just me, or do her eyes actually twinkle sometimes?

Sue Perkins Is A British Rachel Maddow

I mean. Sue Perkins is her own person. But she has a quick and dry wit that’s very Rachel Maddow-without-the-politics. Or maybe the funniest NPR presenter? Just tell me that Sue Perkins doesn’t own a library tote. I’ll wait. She’s also always quick with a dad joke, which is objectively speaking the most pure-in-heart category of humor. Sue is a comedian, not a baker, so she’s really just around for the laughs – although she did make an earlier foray into food television with The Supersizers, a great program where modern people consume the typical diet of historical periods. It is funnier than it sounds.

Everyone Is Helpful

Remember that show Zoom? Whenever the kids were doing a craft or a race, all the other kids gathered around saying encouraging things. That’s basically how Great British Bake-Off Is. Contestants who are done with their bake lend a hand to fellow competitors, tell people they’re doing well, or just calm down the other bakers during their more ruffled moments. The judges and hosts offer practical advice instead of watching the contestants muddle their way into disaster. If you want to watch people be nice to each other for an hour, you’ve found the right show.

Anybody Can Bake!

Whether you’re a senior citizen or a school-aged kid, you could watch and enjoy GBBO. The field of competitors isn’t age-segregated either, and there have been bakers as young as 17 (sweet, pleasant Martha) and as old as 69. Obviously reality shows have to cast based on both talent and personality, but it’s so refreshing to see a show that doesn’t rely too heavily on the young and conventionally attractive (no worries: if you like conventionally attractive people, there are plenty). Contestants have ranged from posh, Aga-owning teen Flora to the more working class builder/dad Paul, proving that baking – and talent –  cut across all classes.

Given the events of this year, it’s also been great to see that a number of the top competitors haven’t been of British descent. It’s important for viewers to see bakers of all different backgrounds concoct some of the more traditionally British challenges – and make them better by drawing from their own influences. Where scripted television still has trouble writing roles for Muslim women that aren’t either boring and obedient at best or extremist at worst, through a reality show audiences got to meet Nadiya, full of personality and ambition. When even central and eastern European immigrants face discrimination and stereotyping, Bake Off presented us with Ugne, a shoe-loving female body builder. In a year of Brexit and Donald Trump, this is the kind of content I want on my television.

The Best Of Reality Competitions

While I’d rather focus on what Bake Off is instead of what it isn’t, we have to discuss what reality competitions can be at their worst. We’re talking about those cheap tactics that producers think are going to keep viewers tuned in – but which I’d argue are completely unnecessary (and I think the 10 million viewers tuning into the series 7 premiere last night would agree with me). Drawn-out personality clashes between competitors or judges have no place here. Neither do unnecessarily extreme challenges that you see on some other cooking competitions; why include that if these challenges are hard enough? Even the participants’ interviews are free of that reality tv posturing about being the best. Or is that just an American thing, maybe?

Instead, GBBO shows what reality tv competitions can be at their best. You have talented contestants trying their hardest, interesting challenges that actually teach us about history or travel (remember that Victorians episode?), and suspense generated naturally instead of artificial, hyped-up gimmicks.

GBBO Exists Outside Of Time

As if this show didn’t already remind me of a mature version of the public television shows of my childhood, it also seems to exist entirely outside of time. I mean, I never know when any series of The Great British Bake Off originally aired, thanks to the wonders of PBS’s screwy scheduling. It’s all clearly from at some point in the 2010s, but beyond that it’s anyone’s guess. Series 5 (UK) was Season 1 (US), and then Series 4 (UK) was Season 2 (US), and Series 6 (UK) was Season 3 (US). Don’t even try to remember which season aired first. It’s exactly like tuning into your local PBS affiliate c. 1993 and never knowing which cast of Ghostwriter you were going to get.


From Mary Berry to the tranquil pastel baking tents to the cheerful competitors, the Great British Bake Off is everything reality shows can be. If you get to watch a new series right now, enjoy! I’ll be here with my weirdly ordered PBS repeats in the meantime – not because I don’t want to jump ahead, but because watching with a torrent is NOT very pure-in-heart. Besides, I think Mary Berry would be disappointed in me, and we can’t have that.

 

 

Faux Cronuts: NAILED IT.

By now, most of you have heart about the new food fad called the ‘cronut’. In short, it’s a mix between a croissant and a donut. NYC-based chef Dominique Ansel is the man behind the craze, who developed 10 different receipes before perfecting the cronut that it is today. Having only been in production since May, the delicious dessert has become so increasingly popular that people have even slept at the steps of the bakery overnight to nab one of the only 300 cronuts they make each day.

While many report that it is in fact worth getting up early, waiting in line, and paying the $5 for a cronut, it still seems silly that anyone would spend so much of their precious sleep time for a pastry. But food fads (and any other fad, really) are like that. You hear about something amazing, it becomes viral, and the next thing you know, it’s all over the news, and you’ve heard about it so much that the only logical next step is to drink the kool-aid and go.

But for those who aren’t in spitting distance of Ansel’s bakery, there are many imitation recipes for you to try out a cronut at home. With the help of my baker friend Eva, we attempted to recreate this magical pastry, using the following recipe from the Los Angeles Times. Check out how we absolutely nailed our very first cronut attempt…

Recipe by “Home & Family” Chef Hayley Christopher

1 tube of any refrigerated crescent roll dough

cinnamon sugar (1 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon cinnamon)

or just eye it like we did until it looks pretty

1 stick melted butter

4 cups vegetable oil (for frying)

  • Unwrap the dough and separate it into four square sections, fixing the perforations with fingers.

Easy enough. Also, this event happened in my kitchen, not baker Eva’s so we did the best we could with what we got. AKA my cutting board wasn’t big enough, AKA I don’t bake.

  • Brush three sections with melted butter and cinnamon sugar. Stack the dough squares with plain square on top.

Also didn’t have a brush so used a tablespoon. 

  • Roll it out then brush with melted butter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar mix on top. Fold the dough over and roll it out again.

Also slightly modified it by making two cronuts and did not roll them out enough. We are experts.

  • Cut circles with a biscuit cutter. Let the dough circles sit for 20 minutes.

We had a biscuit cutter. Decided we didn’t need it. Skipped to the 20 minute wait.

  • Partially bake the dough circles at 400 degrees for five minutes, until Cronuts puff up. Set them aside to cool.

And then realize you should probably clean your oven when it starts to get rulll smoky up in your kitchen.

To fry

  • Heat the vegetable oil to medium heat.

Read: put a disgusting amount of oil into a pan and prepare to be disgusted and never want to eat fried food ever again

  • Fry the Cronuts for 60 to 90 seconds, until golden brown. Place them on a paper towel to drain.

It may be disgusting, but it is cool to see the dough all friiiied up. SCIENCE.

  • While warm, roll Cronuts in cinnamon sugar mix.

Roll/sprinkle, whatever.

  • If desired, pipe in whipped cream. Enjoy!

NO. Don’t enjoy this yet. Next step that is not written is to cut open the cronut and discover it’s not fully cooked, only to put it back in the oven for another 10 or so minutes so it IS cook and pretend everything went smoothly. Then it will come out like this:

And you will have a project that turned out just like those Pinterest NAILED IT projects that you laugh at at 1am on a Friday night by yourself.  We discerned that we need to actually roll out the dough more when we were making the cinnamon sugar layers so the pre-cook in the oven before hitting the fry bucket actually you know, cooks it. But I mean, it was still edible and tasted okay. We just need Dominique Ansel to come to LA.