The popularity of The Great British Bake Off is unquestionable, and has brought baking to the water coolers (or coffee machines) of the nation. Staff in our local nursery not only love watching it, after each episode they re-bake one of the challenges with the kids – surely this will help secure some future baking pros! 

This week’s theme was ‘Free From’ and included a sugarless cake, a gluten-free technical bread challenge and whipping up a dairy free ice-cream roll.

Honey is an obvious substitute for refined sugar and was used by several of the bakers. Nadiya’s Mulberry molasses was an unusual alternative too.

Paul and Alvin used agave syrup as a sweetener. I felt this to be borderline sugar-free – it’s sugar by another name and quite controversial. Agave syrup is made from the Mexican agave plant and is meant to have ‘health benefits’. While real agave nectar indeed retains some healthy elements, processes during mass-production render most of these obsolete.

Interestingly though, many of us will have had a brush with an agave-based product, yet it didn’t come in a cake tin or yoghurt pot, but a shot glass. Can you guess what it was? (answer below)

Next up was Paul Hollywood’s gluten-free technical challenge of making 12 pitta breads. We’ve all dipped pitta into hummus before, but very few of us bother to bake them fresh when it’s so easy to pick them up from the supermarket. Smelly Psyllium husk was used to stabilise the dough, but didn’t make this an easy task.


Paul and Nadiya got the oval shape right and rolled the breads thin enough for the pockets to form during the bake. Mary Berry was so thrilled by contestant Paul’s pockets she exclaimed “There’s room for all sorts of things in there” – she clearly wasn’t just thinking ‘kebab’. Ears will have pricked up in the BBC’s merchandising department and a GBBO ‘Pitta Purse’ or ‘Pitta Bag’ will become this year’s Christmas novelty gift. After all Mary Berry’s fashion taste is known to have sent brightly coloured jackets sales into overdrive!

The 5th episode came to an end with a round of free-from dessert-making: a dairy-free ice cream covered in jam and rolled in a dairy-free sponge. Ugne was the only one who didn’t use coconut for her ice-cream base. She opted for peanut butter and thus earned herself a rare compliment from Paul Hollywood.

The bakers who didn’t fare well had spent no time thinking about the thickness of their sponges. To be able to wrap them round an ice-cream centre they needed to be quite thin and just baked. Yet some were as meaty as six copies of British Baker and ended up well over-baked. Upon rolling them they developed long fissures with ice-cream oozing out in spectacular ways. Matt’s filling had nearly all escaped, Alvin looked really shaky too, if Ugne hadn’t served up her second car crash of the night (leading to her exit) I think it could have easily been his turn.

But we had some real fun stuff too. Paul’s ‘Dessert Island’ creation went down really well with sniggering presenters Mel and Sue - it featured a bikini-clad beauty!

Nadiya did best overall and won the star baker accolade.

It will be messy play in the nursery if they recreate the ice-cream challenge, and unless they want the kids to climb the walls it won’t feature agave syrup either - nor tequila!