Bread Week is the week where everyone feels the pressure from Paul, aka The King Of Bread. But it seemed that, much like it was last year, Bread Week was rather dividing in terms of how confident the bakers felt. I remember the feeling of panic when I was on the show when conversations revealed that some bakers made bread multiple times a week, while others *ahem, me* had to learn REALLY fast how to get to grips with it. I spent the week before Bread Week on a field trip in Snowdonia hiking up a mountain with 30 teenagers when I really should have been kneading away at home, so let’s just say I watched a lot of YouTube videos when nobody was watching…
The thing with Bake Off is, they’re after something different and the judges want to see you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. So even if you are an experienced bread-baker, you still needed to venture to somewhat unknown territory.
In the end it was Marc E that nabbed the title of Star Baker, and it was such a deserved win – I really did want to have a taste of everything he made, and that heart-warming hug from his daughters was such a lovely way to round off another episode.
It was sad to see Rowan go; his unfailing optimism brought so much character to the tent. Although, given that he has struggled to finish bakes within the time limit for the whole competition, it wasn’t that much of a shock exit.
Proving gives you a chance to get to know each other
The lengths of the challenges really struck me this week. There was no proving time required in the soda bread Signature Challenge, and the Showstopper was below the four-hour mark. I spent most of bread week’s five-hour Showstopper Challenge sat on the floor drinking tea or chatting to the other bakers while my bread was rising. It was only our third week together, so it was actually a really valuable time to get to know each other. I suppose this year’s bakers were living in a big bubble so had already forged those friendships.
Thinking about it, I had so long to wait for my Signature bread to prove with little else to do that I kept one eye on the judges and had to find ways to make myself look busy in case they ever popped up! That was the only – I repeat, only – time that ever happened… the rest of my time in the tent was a messy, panicked blur!
Somewhere over the rainbow (bagels)
Rainbow bagels? I’m not so sure about this Technical Challenge… just think of the E numbers! And did you see their hands?!
Food colouring-stained hands really is a permanent feature of any Bake Off contestant. I certainly didn’t have enough time to worry about being careful, and it’s surprisingly hard to get off. I’m a fan of coloured cakes, yes, but I’m not sure this bright bake appealed to me. Technically however, it was a great challenge to separate the bakers out by their bagel baking skills. As always in Bread Week however, Paul was looking for perfection. Wrinkly, overproved bagels were not going to win him over, no matter how colourful.
The judges’ ‘Royal Tour’
The ‘Royal Tour’ is when the judges and one presenter go around to each bench and ask the bakers what they are making. Don’t ask me why they call it that, although, Prue is a queen, so…
It’s a mixture of terrifying and inconvenient, especially if you’re short of time and trying to multitask. Or worse, if it coincides with a part of your bake that you’re sort of winging or wishing that nobody sees (although, yes there are cameras everywhere, but the bakers can hope).
It’s even worse when Paul challenges you on something and you try to give the answer he wants to hear, regardless of what the answer actually is! It’s always a relief when they like the sound of your flavours. You get to learn their tastes as the weeks go on, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choose some of my ideas based on that.
Enriched dough vs non-enriched dough
Hermine looked like she was on to a winner, but her enriched dough let her down in the end. An enriched dough just means that it has extra additions such as fats and sugars. But that causing it longer to prove, which when you’re strapped for time is not ideal.
My favourite bake of the week
This week, my favourite bake had to be Hermine’s handshake-worthy salmon and chive soda bread, because I’ve never heard of anything like it and it sounds like it would be delicious.
The bake that could have been better
I think it has to be Rowan's sandy soda bread - it's always hard when you can't taste what they're judging but just imagining the texture of that wasn't great.
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