GBBO4: Holy Cow!

September 18, 2019 11:31 am Published by 3 Comments

It’s Dairy Week – delights, disasters and delicacies all made from genuine animal milk. Dairy, we are promised, will be taken ‘to its limit’. If you’re vegan, click here to bypass this blog entirely.

It's Dairy Week - but is it all land of milk and honey?

‘The dairy world is a hotbed of innovation’, reads Noel carefully from a script. Is this even remotely true? Has anything new been invented in the world of dairy since Tess of the D’Urbervilles cavorted about in the West Country with her cows?

Dairy’s ‘creamy decadence and microbial benefits’ have made it the new ‘darling of artisan bakers, bucking the plant-based trend’, bluffs Noel. Any vegans still with us? Click here to leave right now.

One thing’s for sure: it’s a milky week, all right. The bakers are up to their armpits in buttermilk, yoghurt and cream. Milk-white ducks and swans paddle around the white meringue peaks of the Bake-Off Tent. But something acidic is brewing. Trouble is fermenting in the marquee. It’s not entirely the promised land of milk and honey.

Dairy Delights

Things get off to a good start. Prue loves pretty much all the Signature Bakes, made with cultured dairy products, gobbling up chocolate and raspberry cakes, homemade limoncello buttermilk bakes and homages to rhubard-and-custard. Only Michael’s is seriously dreadful. ‘You’d better tell us all about it’, she sighs, more in sorrow than in anger, before Paul twists the knife: ‘You’ve lost the definition, it’s ripped slightly, half of it’s missing, it’s cracked down the middle, the icing looks terrible’. Not much milk of human kindness there.

A load of bull?

Not into dairy? Possibly vegan and still reading? Then you might be interested in our range of non-dairy milks instead. Also described as ‘dairy-free alternatives to milk’, this is an amazing selection of drinks that can be used just like dairy milk, to drink or in baking. We’ve got various dairy-free creams too, including dairy-free squirty cream, which truly is the product of a hotbed of innovation.

Dairy-free milks are made by soaking nuts, seeds or grains in pure water, then blitzing the softened pieces in a blender and straining. They’re easy to make at home, but even easier to buy ready-made, particularly if you’re looking for a variety that’s flavoured, fortified or developed for a particular purpose (such as creating that perfect coffee-shop foam).

Each brings its own particular nutritional benefits, qualities and taste. I love coconut milk for its bright whiteness and creaminess. Others prefer almond milk, with its touch of sweetness; hazelnut milk, for its nuttiness; or oat milk, with its smoothness. We’ve got other options too – rice milk, for instance, or hemp milk. Click here to see them all.

How to choose between them? This blog might help.

Non-dairy milks: which one should I choose?

And, of course, you can cook with them too! Like dairy milk, they’ll add moistness and lightness to your recipes, including that for this delicious cake, which is also, as it happens, gluten-free.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Chocolate apricot and almond cake

Dairy Disasters

Moo-ving on. For the Technical Challenge, the contestants were obliged to catch and milk their own cow, pasteurizing the results, before using it to make their own cheese. Only joking! It was much harder than that.

Paul is not happy.

They were asked to create a special kind of Tudor tart: a Maid of Honour (12 of them), filled with lemon curd and curd cheese and decorated with a Tudor Rose on the top. If you can make these in a Tudor kitchen (I’ve got English Heritage membership, I’ve seen a few of those), then surely you can make it in a tent? Well…

‘Prue and Paul are expecting ten Maids of Honour brimming with sumptuous curds and large enough to satisfy the insatiable appetite of Henry VIII’ snorts Sandi.

Prue and Paul need to manage their expectations more closely. The end results look like someone has thrown up into a pastry case and then thrown the tart (from some distance) onto a plate. Paul first tries to leave the room. And then refuses even to try any of Priya’s.

Dairy Delicacies

But there’s no use crying over spilt milk! Can the showstopper help the cream rise to the top?

For this final round, the judges want A Stunning Display of Milk-based Indian Sweets. What they don’t want, it turns out, is Phil’s play-dough butterflies on a bed of soil round a garden gnome. To help set the scene for the approaching debacle, mournful clarinet music plays whenever Phil appears on screen.


Designed to be vibrant and colourful, these sweets are to be made using ‘an ancient form of condensed milk’ (like the one my grandmother had at the back of her kitchen cupboard). It’s a whole new Bake-Off world of rose, pistachio, lychee and saffron.

David is making kewra water cuboids, ‘served on crisp fennel tuiles’. But that’s of no interest to anyone. David could, at this point, serve Henry VIII’s favourite cow on a crisp fennel tuile and the camera would pan straight past him. He’s the invisible contestant.

Henry (poor sweet Henry) is, meanwhile, making ice-cream in a tent, which ends much as you would expect.

More split milk. More tears.

How now?

So who’s milking it this week? Steph (thanks to David’s invisibility, and her very pretty Indian sweets).

Who turned the milk sour? Phil – leaving the others with a bad case of Survivor’s Guilt. And still no double-firing, which is lucky, as no-one has worked out how the scriptwriters would phrase it.

So Dairy Week is over. Milk has, presumably, now been taken to its limit. But there’s plenty of other weeks (and ingredients) still to come. We’ll carry on watching – milking it for all it’s worth!

Naturally Good Reads v2

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This post was written by Yzanne


  • mamanez says:

    I’m vegan and read the post to the end as despite the ingredients, your comments were highly entertaining. Didn’t think the show stopper was a good challenge for “Bake” Off…….not much baking required. Vegan baking often relies on soured / fermented non dairy milk ingredients, so first challenge was a piece of cake. Will have to try and make the Maids of Honour vegan……I’ll use Grace’s Vegan Pantry Lemon Cerd and try and make my own vegan lemon cheese…..nice deep tarts.

    • Yzanne says:

      Hello – glad we took at least one vegan with us. I agree about the Showstopper – not much baking involved! Good point about the fermenting aspect for vegans. Any chance you can let us know how you get on with your baking? We’d love to feature a follow-up!

      Best wishes,

      Yzanne Mackay
      Writer and Editor
      Naturally Good Food

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