This year, Bake Off has seen some of the most impressive creations to date. From advanced dough to daring layer cakes, we've drooled over the conveyor belt of beautiful bakes. 2014 finalist, Luis Troyano tells us what it's really like in the tent, plus he shares his top tips for budding bakers...
What was your best moment in Bake Off – which bake were you happiest with?
Baking and exploring bread in all its different forms is a real passion of mine. When Paul Hollywood shook my hand after he had tasted my 'opposites attract' bread rolls I was completely blown away. It was the ultimate compliment from a real authority on the subject.
What do you think was your biggest disaster?
Without a doubt the self saucing puddings. I kind of knew they weren't my strongest recipe, but sometimes you just can't crack it. On the bright side, I was pretty chuffed with the foil hats I made for the pears while they were in the oven!
What were the cooking conditions of Bake Off like compared to your kitchen?
Adapting from baking in the comfort of your own kitchen to the tent is probably the hardest aspect of the Bake Off. You literally have to hit the ground running on the very first morning you arrive. The biggest worry we had was using ovens we weren't used to. It did get easier as the weeks went on. The home economists and production teams were amazing and did everything in their power to make me comfortable. Nothing was ever too much trouble and they made sure everything we needed was always on hand. You hear about being part of the Bake Off family and it really is like that.
Have you baked much since you stopped filming?
I've baked more! The Bake Off really has added more fuel to the passion I have for baking. It has certainly taught me to bake quicker and I have learnt an unbelievable amount. Pre-Bake Off I used to bake maybe three or four times a week. Now I bake virtually every day. I'll even get up at 5am some days and nip down to the kitchen to whip up a bake before the day gets going. I find myself daydreaming about trying a new way of manipulating some dough or a flavour combo I haven't tried before. I love it.
Aside from your own delicious creations, who did you feel was pulling out all the stops on Bake Off?
That's a tricky question as everyone pulled out all the stops all the time. My fellow bakers all had different strengths in both baking disciplines and flavours. That's the beauty of the Bake Off. Some memorable bakes were Enwezor's savoury rye biscuits, Richard's 3D pirate biscuit scene, Nancy's doughnuts and of course Chetna's chutneys. I don't think I'll ever get over a southerner winning pie week (I still love Kate though).
What would be your top tips for amateur bakers?
For someone starting out baking, definitely keep it simple. Learn to do the basics and then don't be scared of trying out new flavour combinations. Pick a recipe you really like and change one flavour for another and see what happens. Try different types of baking too. You wouldn't believe how much pleasure can be gained from baking your first ever loaf from just flour, water, salt and yeast, it really is amazing. Oh, and never ever open your oven door until you are in the last third of the total baking time.
Who did you enjoy feeding most, Mary, Paul, Sue or Mel?
Sue and Mel without a doubt. I loved the way they would move around the tent looking for offcuts they could scoff. You could see the joy on their faces when they found something they liked. You had to keep an eye on your ingredients though as they would eat those too if you weren't careful. I'd like to say feeding Paul and Mary was enjoyable, but it really wasn't. The wait whilst they tasted a bake before giving feedback seemed to last an eternity sometimes.
How much practice did you manage to get in before each week on Bake Off?
At best you would get one or maybe two practices on each bake in-between filming episodes. Life and work carried on as normal whilst filming. I would rush home and try and get a practice in after work. Not easy when some of the showstoppers were five-hour long tasks. There were some really late nights. Looking back now I don't know how we did it. It was really enjoyable though.
I think it would have to be bread week - week 3. We really did have such a laugh. The boys were all pecking at each other about who was the best bread baker. The girls were telling the boys we were rubbish. The ciabatta technical was the funniest of all. You could feel the tension in the tent on who was going to stop proving first in a game of patience and we were all winding each other up. The early weeks in the tent were fantastic as the bakers really were a team. As the weeks rolled on there was a real feeling of loss and emptiness as bakers went home. I certainly came away from the Bake Off with 11 brand-new, very close friends.
What's next for Luis?
The Bake Off broke the everyday routine of life. It was quite a prolific experience and it has introduced me to so many new friends and acquaintances I would never have met otherwise. A whole new world has opened up that I want to explore and I'm going to continue thinking up new recipes, do some teaching and writing and basically talk about baking to anyone who's willing to listen!
Want to indulge your Bake Off habit a little more? Find out what 2013 finalist Kimberley Wilson thought of the contestants, the bakes and the judges decision: Kimberley's comments
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