Somewhere west of Madeira

You’ll know where to find me on Wednesday evenings in the weeks to come, says British Baker Blogger Gerhard Jenne. Yes, the Great British Bake Off is back, with a set of new bakers and 30 challenges to find this year’s champion.

You can be the best baker in the world, but this being TV you have to have the right personality and televisual appeal too. These contestants certainly have the right ingredients for this to be an entertaining season.

The first challenge was to bake a Madeira cake. I’ve got to admit I have not baked a traditional one since 1984. I remember the year well since it was the one and only time I baked one. The classic recipe was sourced from Mrs Mckee’s Royal Cook Book. My colleagues and I thought if it’s good enough for the Queen, then it will serve us well too. But far from it, the texture was dry and the addition of mixed peel didn’t set us on fire either, instead it put me off for life!

It was great then to see inspired combinations such as the addition of gin, caraway seeds, lime, ginger or figs, not all in one cake of course. In HD the textures of many of those baked looked rather good, I felt inspired to have a go again myself.  On the name alone Ian’s “Somewhere West of Madeira” was my winner, but clever marketing didn’t help him, his Madeira showed all manner of cracks and sunk without a trace. Flora’s Blood Orange cake struck me as the best in this round - watch out for her.

Walnut

Onwards it went to the technical challenge and Mary Berry’s Walnut cake. The marshmallowy frosting cooked over a bain-marie looked a sickly sweet recipe, caramelizing the walnuts seemed most testing though. Ugne, the body-building bakeress beat the other battling bakers, even though Paul Hollywood had misgivings about her uneven icing.

The showstopper challenge was a Black Forest recipe, still tarnished with the whiff of the 70’s, rarely appearing on a cake list, including my own. Heston tried to reinvent a few years back, but no one tried his time and resource consuming recipe. Instead beetroot sponge, macaron base or chocolate trees were used to win the judges over.

It needs to be a light, melt in your mouth affair and I sided with Paul who used chocolate Genoese as a sponge. I would also expect a light cream filling (double cream is too heavy – you could see that in prison governor Paul’s efforts). It needs to have cherries (a sour variety if possible) and the all-important aroma Kirschwasser, not sweet cherry liquor as the voice over said but a clear spirit.

I liked Alvin’s approach, he kept the filling quite traditional but focused on a modern finish of chocolate shards on the outside. Dorret’s had a meltdown when her chocolate mousse did not set and thus provided the killer ‘OMG!’ moment of the first round. After all the deliberations it was musician and baker Stu who had to hang up his hat.

  • It’s not easy to be selected as one of the 12 bakers on GBBO. John, a Konditor & Cook customer and Twitter follower, is a dedicated home baker, itching to be judged by Paul & Mary as well as millions of viewers. His partner already tried and came amongst the last 80 out of a staggering 20000 applications. We wish him luck for the next time!

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