The Great British Bake Off effect

Paul and Mary – as comfortable as a Victoria sponge! Photo BBC.Almost everyone you speak to loves the Great British Bake Off! But what is it that makes watching a group of unknown people struggle to create cakes and pies and breads in a very large tent such compelling TV? How did the idea ever get off the ground?

I absolutely love watching it, but I was already a huge Mary Berry fan, but even friends who don’t really like cakes seem addicted to it as well. Sales of cake tins, icing bags and food processors have gone through the roof and supermarkets and shops instantly sell out of unusual ingredients when they are featured in an episode. The programme seems to bring people together, is inspiring and has put the ‘home’ back into home baking. Children all over the country are now happy to be in the kitchen and being creative with their parents – and that surely all has to be a good thing. 

This year’s bakers. Photo BBC.I read recently that the people who created the programme took four years to be able to sell the idea to a TV company. And fortunately for all of us, it was a lady at BBC2 who finally understood the concept. I hadn’t realised, but the whole thing was inspired by the fact that there’s a baking competition at every summer fete in Britain – so obvious when you think about it! And, of course, summer fetes are held in marquees… so that’s why The Great British Bake Off is filmed in an enormous tent!

When I was writing my first novel, ‘A Sticky End’, with my pen pal Julia, the local cake baking competition was a key theme in the book – little had I realised how closely aligned it was to the Great British Bake Off! Perhaps we missed a trick there and could have got Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood along to be a guest judge? No? Oh well… just a thought.

Inside the famous Bake Off tent! Photo BBC.The current series seems to be shaping up really well and I have already been wowed by some of the bakes, and giggled over some of the others that haven’t gone quite as planned! I love the whole ‘feel’ of the show, it is so comforting and British, rather like a jolly good Victoria sponge – sweet, delicious and light and fluffy!

So what are your thoughts on the current series? Who do you think looks a likely winner?

PS. Talking of my novels… book three in the Swaddlecombe series is n-e-a-r-l-y there! I will keep you posted on when it will be published.

 

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A little of what you fancy …

I know sugar isn’t good for us – and particularly if you are diabetic which sadly I am. But I thought these might just be a good idea – especially if I can eat just one (hmmm). I claim no ownership of the recipe, it’s from ‘Mary Berry’s Absolute favourites’ – a brilliant book if you are on the hunt for a new recipe book.

She says she makes it with her grandchildren and I think they are genius as the little size is good for small people and fun for them to make too!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • For the biscuit dough
  • 175g/6oz butter, softened
  • 75g/2½oz caster sugar
  • 175g/6oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 75g/2½oz semolina
  • For the chocolate chip biscuits
  • 50g/1¾oz milk or plain chocolate chips

For the lemon biscuits

  • Lemon, finely grated zest only and 1–2 tbsp demerara sugar

For the almond biscuits

  • 1 tsp almond extract  and 40g/1½oz flaked almonds

Preparation method

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line three baking trays with baking paper.

To make the biscuit dough, measure the butter, sugar, flour and semolina into the bowl of an electric food mixer and mix until a soft dough is formed, taking care not to over-beat. Alternatively, add the butter and sugar to a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until soft and creamy, then stir in the flour and semolina. Divide the dough evenly into three and dust your work surface with flour before kneading each batch.

For the chocolate chip biscuits, knead the chocolate chips into one portion of dough, shape into 20 balls and arrange, spaced well apart, on one of the baking trays. Press down with the back of a fork into discs about 5cm/2in in diameter and bake in the oven for 10–12 minutes, or until golden-brown.

For the lemon biscuits, knead the lemon zest into the second portion of dough. Roll into a long sausage shape (about 20cm/8in long) and roll in the demerara sugar. Wrap in cling film and leave in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until firm and nearly frozen. Slice into 20 even rounds, each about 1cm/½in thick. Arrange on a baking tray, spaced well apart, and bake for about 10 minutes, or until pale golden-brown.

For the almond biscuits, knead the almond extract into the remaining portion of dough, along with most of the flaked almonds. Shape into 20 small balls and arrange on the third baking tray, spaced apart. Place a few almonds on top of each ball of dough and press flat with the back of a fork into discs about 5cm/2in in diameter. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden-brown.

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