GBBO1: Biscuits and bunting

August 29, 2018 9:13 am Published by Leave your thoughts

It’s back. They’re back. In a tent like whipped meringues, twelve contestants prepare to bake, fold, sift and wilt.

Some people think the GBBO is dull: these people have missed the point. The travel writer Bill Bryson once commented that the British are ‘the only people in the world who think of jam and currants as thrilling constituents of a pudding or cake’. We, the British, like our treats ‘cautiously flavourful’. We like our baking programmes plain and sensible. GBBO is safe, cosy and eternal – with just a little bit of fruitiness.

This year, of course, in an utterly wild throw of the dice, the judges put Biscuit Week first. The contestants were obliged to create ‘regional biscuits’, followed by a homage to the 1980s classic Wagon Wheel, finishing off with a ‘biscuit selfie’. It was all so exciting that Prue spat out a mouthful of pipe-cleaners.

The contestants

One is a DJ. One is a nuclear scientist. One works in Asda. One loves Bollywood dancing. They’re thus your usual cross-section of British society, including someone who is actually French, rather than British. (Of course, for a while, back in the 1300s, parts of France did belong to Britain, so that’s fair enough.)

The biscuits

It seems we’ve learnt nothing, as a nation, from the Jaffa Cake court case of 1991. Some of these biscuits went well beyond the accepted dictionary definition. They were fantastic, chunky, jam-filled, extravagant creations, bursting with colour, with flavour, with crunch, snap and mouth-meltingness.

A special mention must go to the brandy snap death mask ‘laminated with jam’ produced by a man with an eerily twirly moustache. That icing looks like owl feathers, commented Noel, on another bake.

Outside, over the scorched summer grass, an actual owl hooted.

The ingredients

‘Do they have to use cinnamon?’, asked my daughter. You could be forgiven for thinking so. Cinnamon abounded in this week’s Bake-Off. Those not using it threw in spoonfuls of other spices: cloves, cardamom, caraway, ginger and turmeric.

But they weren’t all a roaring success. Some spices the judges found over-powering, while others were so subtle they couldn’t be tasted at all.

So what do you need to pack a real spicy punch, without overwhelming all your other ingredients? You need the finest, organic spices, of course! At Naturally Good Food we’ve got the very best organic cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, turmeric, caraway, coriander and nutmeg. We sell these to the very best bakers in the land.

Manon, of course, stole the show with her ‘exquisite’ bakes, in which she used Matcha tea. This is a low-caffeine, premium Japanese tea, which is great both to drink and to use in baking. See our blog about matcha tea here.

The winner

With her recipes enhanced by just a soupcon of the finest flavours, Manon won Star Baker this week – and her family laughed with glee down the phone. Felicitations! – but of course, il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué. There are many more weeks to go.

The recipes

We’re not all star bakers – but there’s no reason why we can’t all produce the finest biscuits! Most of the contestants based at least one of their biscuits on shortbread. Here’s a recipe for a simple and extremely tasty shortbread, just ready for enhancing with a thousand interesting flavours.

Ingredients

250g plain flour

75g caster sugar

175g butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3.

Grease a baking tray.

Mix the flour and sugar together, then rub in the butter. Knead the mixture to form a paste.

Press the paste into the tray.

Bake for around 30 minutes.

The last word…

….this week goes to Jon: ‘too sweet is like being too good-looking’. He’s right. And that’s why the GBBO, which truly appreciates the beauty of restraint, is such a great success.

Naturally Good Reads v2

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This post was written by Yzanne

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