Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Great Keatley Baking Challenge Begins

Like so many others, my husband and I have succumbed to the irresistible siren's call that is otherwise known as The Great British Bake Off (TGBBO)
It all started innocently enough. The kids were all home for their  Christmas break when the eldest asked if I had seen any of "the show". Upon hearing my reply that I hadn even heard of it, she took it in her hands to be sure it was remedied quickly.  I don't know if she realized what she was unleashing. By the time the bakers were working on their first technical challenge, I was hooked. 
What is it that makes TGBBO so appealing? After all, I have been watching American produced cooking contest shows for years. I've always enjoyed watching the process with which a cook or baker goes through in order to present a finished product. Most American shows have talented contestants, educated judges and likeable hosts, so what's the difference? Actually, I think there are a few reasons that make the difference. 1) In TGBBO the winner receives a trophy and flowers, along with the title of Britain's Top Amateur Baker for the year they win. That's it. NO MONEY. You won't see that in any cooking/baking contest in America that I know if except maybe a county or state fair. 2) The bakers are nice to each other. I mean REALLY nice in the truest sense of the word. They even help the other bakers when their product is finished. No sarcasm, no criticism, no sabotage. Just good baking and good sportsmanship. 3) The hosts are also nice, and they're funny without being obnoxious. Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc are award winning writers and comediennes who are able to make the viewers want to know what's going to happen next while keeping the bakers calm and the judges on their toes. 4) Paul Hollywood (yes, that's his real name) and Mary Berry are the judges. They have many years of experience, and yes, they are super nice.  Even when they are giving their critiques, they never purposely make the bakers feel poorly about a bad bake. Their knowledge and expertise of baking is amazing, and yet, as Mary has said, she often learns things from the bakers.
5) Last but not least, there is NO DRAMA compared to the American shows that I've viewed. Of course, there is a bit of tension as the bakers are finishing up each of the challenges. It can be quite riveting to see them struggle to complete something, but there isn't any added nonsense. It's so refreshing to watch a baking contest where the entrants are just there to bake.
That all being said, if you haven't watched an episode of The Great British Baking Show, there are episodes on Netflix as well as YouTube. There have been spin-offs, and I've watched most of them. None of them have the quality of baking TGBBO has, but I can recommend the following: The Great Irish Bake Off and The Great South Bake Off. There is The Great American Bake Off, but I would skip it. We sat through it just to feed my addiction, but it wasn't worth it. Why? Everything right about TGBBO was wrong with the American version. The only good part of it was that Paul Hollywood was one of the judges. I'd rather watch a repeat of TGBBO (or have a root canal) than watch anymore of the American bake off.  
Now that we've watched almost every episode and version, I've decided to give myself a baking challenge. I'm calling it The Great Keatley Baking Challenge (TGKBC).  Brian has a plethora of cookbooks (oh the interesting life being married to someone with OCD). The good part is most of them are really nice cookbooks. The one that caught my eye during the watching frenzy is Mastering the Art and Craft of Baking and Pastry by the Culinary Institute of America.
Now, this is more of a textbook and cookbook combined, but I figured I might be able to use it for my challenge. After skimming through it, I knew it was what I was looking for. Of course, most of the recipes make way more than I would ever be able to make, but that's where Brian comes in. He's going to help me do the math, so I can make smaller batches of all he recipes. We've decided to switch up the recipes each time- sometimes bread, sometimes cake, sometimes other recipes I can't pronounce yet- with the idea and hope to get through the whole book in a couple of years.
I'm starting today with a simple bread dough. It's similar to what I've made before, but I am still going to give it a go.  I'm looking forward to this challenge.  As they say on TGBBO, I'm going to "get ready, get set, bake"!

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