Gerhard’s Blog: Stayin’ Alive

A whiff of the 1970s was in the air on last night’s Great British Bake-Off (GBBO) but also at the British Baker’s Baking Industry Awards (BIA) in London.

While the bakers on GBBO had to dip into the culinary archive of that decade, the bakers awarded at BIA were merely asked to swagger to a fabulously pumping disco soundtrack of that same era.

The disco balls were well buffed at BIA and presenter Claudia Winkleman added natural charm and ‘Strictly’ glamour to a slick and fun-filled soirée, but was it the same in the Bake-Off tent?

It was pastry week and first up was a Frangipane tart challenge. Plenty of opportunity to see some soggy bottoms and, sure enough, bakers Ian, Paul and Nadiya did just that, as they failed to blind-bake their pastry cases.

Paul Hollywood didn’t like Tamal’s “chaotic” arrangement of fruit, but succumbed to the Christmas-inspired pear and blackberry topping. I must admit I rather like a natural look given to a tart, It symbolises simplicity and honesty – for me these are the hallmarks of contemporary British baking.

These days Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are household names – even sex symbols in Paul’s case. We pick up bits about their lives as we read papers and online blogs. Somehow, I knew that Paul had a connection to Cyprus and this exactly is where the inspiration for the technical challenge came from. Mary Berry drew a blank as Paul unleashed ‘flaounas’ on the unsuspecting bakers.

The pastry is unusual in that it is like shortcrust, but contains some yeast, while the savoury cheese filling asked for the inclusion of baking powder and mastic – a Greek resin used for flavouring. One side of the pastry needed to be coated in sesame seeds, leading to some confusion as to whether this should be on the inside or outside – here you could spot the inexperience of some of the bakers.

We all much prefer a recipe book with photos; we can instantly see what it should look like and can usually work out a way to get there, without ever reading a single instruction. Not so in the Bake Off tent. This was pastry-making akin to folding an origami bird while being blindfolded and, sure enough, Matt was the only one not to deliver an albatross.

While at BIA, some Studio 54-inspired novelty cakes turned heads, but it was a different story on GBBO. Vol-au-vents – the staple of 1970s catering – had to be made from scratch and filled. Mushroom or prawns would have been in tune with the times, but luckily the bakers did update their fillings, even though the handmade puff pastry was mostly a disaster.

In the end it was ‘Stayin Alive’ For Nadiya but ‘Bad Luck’ for Alvin. Roll on next week, when the bakers go back another century.

www.konditorandcook.com

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