Here I am, watching a show about, um, baking stuff. A reality show, at that! About mixing ingredients, yeast, dough, sauces, showstoppers! I ‘discovered’ this show about a year ago and have been an obsessive weirdo ever since. It’s my version of lithium, my version of a sedative that keeps me from GOING INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE.
I think, honestly, it’s the calm British voices and the intense concentration of the various bakers that send me into moist-eyed near-still viewings of this baby. I must admit, also, to enjoying the products that arrive from the chaos of flour and frowny faces. The four-layer sponges frosted with piped on buttercream roses in different colors, the elaborate presentations of tiny pastries filled with creamed walnuts and lemon curd, the homely scones, the how did they get their pies to look like that pies; the simple cookies that must all be THE EXACT SAME SIZE AND LOOK ALL THE SAME. How things look really, really counts.
I’m also learning how to be a better baker myself and to want to attempt braided breads and baked puddings and French pastries with those frou-frou names. I want to wade into those rich flavors! Mint and raspberry and cardamom and hazelnut and white chocolate and…! Everything seems made of butter and castor sugar. [Powdered sugar? Sugar from Castor?]
And the British measurements confundle me a bit but then I relax and just go with it. A gram of this, a bit of that, ooh la la–giant multi-layered cake with exotic fillings decorated with hand-made chocolate silhouettes of Man City players. [I know there are two soccer teams in Manchester. I did not learn that from the GBBS.]
I also planted a bit of a garden but that’s quite another post. I just planted some dill and Greek oregano, each protected a bit by an old tire and an end cut off a big plastic pipe.
I also thrill with the great triumphs that come out of the various ovens and nearly cry at the failures that come out of the various ovens. My stomach hurts as I wait for the judges, two stoic British stalwarts named Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, to murmur their pronouncements. Good or bad? That’s a good bake. What happened here? The nods. The pitying smiles as they tap a bit of underdone bread. The tasting of cake that looks pretty but apparently tastes like imitation vanilla cookies run over by a two-decker bus. The technical challenges nearly always makes me go very still, hardly breathing as the remaining bakers who survived the week before’s letting go, rush about trying to all bake the exact same thing. The camaraderie that seems very genuine among the contestants. The hugs given out when something goes oh so very wrong.
I have no idea who those two others are that wander about and crack jokes. The ones that announce what’s what and call out the time remaining, etc. Those two? I can’t remember their names. But the show would not seem the same delightful casserole without their presence. Anyone for a biscuit? Which, by the way, means something entirely different in ‘murica. It’s not a cookie. It’s, well, an actual biscuit, you British tosspots.
Back to the technical challenge musings!
Usually some obscure, very fiddly recipe that they’ve NEVER HEARD OF. A Danish tower of circles, sprinkled with powdered pistachios, with icing piped on it…meant to look like a Christmas tree. Each circle of pastry/cookie, whatever it was, had to be gradually smaller and smaller. The results were…varying. One poor bloke seemed to have skipped the pistachio bit altogether and his vaguely tree-like creation just looked like a stack of weird donut-like circles with icing sprayed near it. I wanted to pat him and say, oh, that’s too bad. In my best posh British voice, of course.
Pastry dough must be cold before it’s used, or the butter or lard will melt.
I’ll not go on too much longer about one of my fave shows. If you have no idea what I’m writing about here…go check it out if you like reality cooking shows pitting one baker against another. Or even just a rather gentle, very family-friendly, so veddy British confection. I do also know there are variations of this show– even an American one. Which they, those at ABC, aired during the Christmas season last year. However, it went away because the American judge had been a bit dodgy with a contestant. The #MeToo movement had led that person to speak up so ABC decided to air something else entirely rather than air already filmed episodes.
The GBBS calms me. Soothes me. Makes me a happy little clam. I thrill over a hard technical challenge and mourn when someone’s pastry won’t bake as it should. I marvel over the lovely cakes produced in a three-hour time limit. My cakes taste okay but they look like shite. I need to work on my presentation, oh yes.
I also use cake mixes a lot, with my grandmother’s words echoing through me about how cakes had to be made from scratch in her day and how marvelous you can just buy a cake mix. One already mostly assembled for you! She was truly amazed and happy one could just go to a grocery store and pick out a box with a pretty cake on front. And add water, eggs, oil and get a cake. It was a modern wonder to her. My gran would have LOVED this show. Oh my lordy, she would have flipped her home permed curls over all that baking and attempted some of it herself, all while smoking a Pall Mall and turning up her hearing aid a bit. But she was quite the excellent baker herself. I won’t go down memory lane here, I promise.
Umble pie– where the servants in a household were fed the innards of an animal, usually a deer, enclosed in a pie crust. Which gave rise to the phrase– humble pie. The more you know.
Please note I’ve not talked about Honest Women or my BOOKS WHICH ARE ON SALE RIGHT FREAKING NOW SO BUY BUY BUY. I’ve kept to my single topic of British baking shows. I want that noted and on the record, please.