GBBO week one - Kimberley comments

Watching The Great British Bake Off? Who isn’t! The new batch of bakers were pulling out all the stops in the first week with pipettes, skateboards and Japanese pop culture. 2013 finalist, Kimberley Wilson gives us an insider’s view of the highs and lows of the first week’s kitchen antics…

Great British Bake Off

Kimberley Wilson

The Great British Bake Off returned to our screens last night and the puns were as prevalent as the buns. Being able to make a decent sponge is the foundation of being a good baker, so it made sense that the new batch of contestants were asked to prove their worth with cake…

 

 

The signature challenge

Swiss rollsWhat a first challenge! The Swiss roll is just the right balance of familiarity and technical ability. Too long in the oven and it will crack when it’s rolled, not long enough and it will fall apart when filled. Then there are the flavours and proportions of filling to get right. A tough ask when the nerves kick-in and the pressure of being in ‘that tent’ for the first time descends.

Top tip
The trick for rolling a Swiss Roll is to do it while it is still hot and allow it to cool completely before unrolling and filling. I am firmly in the ‘pre-roll’ camp.
 

Mary, Paul and MelStandout techniques
Iain was attempting a technique that I hadn’t seen before, of scoring the inside of his sponge to prevent it from cracking when rolled. Sadly he had a few problems rolling, though it looked like it might have been more to do with having over-baked his sponge.

What would Kimberley do…
If I was doing this challenge I think I might have gone for a tried and tested crowd-pleaser - a combination of chocolate, caramel and nuts. A chocolate sponge, with a caramel cream and roast almond praline, for example.

 

Technical challenge

For the first technical challenge of the year the bakers were asked to make Mary Berry’s own recipe for cherry cake - a deceptively simple task.

Mary BerryAs with all of her challenges, Mary was looking out for neat decoration. She likes a cake to look as though the presentation has been thought about. The primary task with a fruit cake is to get an even distribution throughout. Achieving this requires being able to balance the density of the fruit with the batter, as well as remembering little tricks like dusting the fruit in flour to give the batter something to adhere to. Also, the cakes were being baked in a savarin, so required less time in the oven as they cooked from the middle outwards, as well as from the outside in.

On top of that, a savarin can’t be lined so the bakers would have to ensure that it was properly greased in order to be able to turn the cake out. And that’s all before we’ve even started talking about the consistency of the icing and not burning your nuts.

Top tip
The instruction to ‘prepare the cherries’ gives you an idea of how sparse on detail these technical challenges are. You have to rely on your baking experience and instinct. But, as with any exam, you should always take a few minutes to read through the full recipe first. That way you can at least prioritise the tasks – for example if one component needs to cool before it can be used you’ll want to crack on with that first.

 

Showstopper

Nancy showstopperThe Showstopper Challenge was to make 36 cake miniatures based on a Victoria sponge. This is a classic test of consistency. The judges want to know whether the bakers are skilled enough to produce uniformity across the entire batch of 36. Sometimes it’s hard to do that with one cake.

Standout techniques

Nancy’s bespoke, handmade cake guillotine is the kind of precision engineering and commitment that the judges are looking for.
 
What would Kimberley do…
I think I would have opted for a coconut sponge, with a coconut milk buttercream and filled with something a little surprising like a raspberry and basil jam. I’d be tempted to use some textures of raspberry too, so perhaps sprinkle with raspberry powder, or adorn each one with a gold-plated fresh raspberry.
 
 

Kimberley’s Star Bakers…

RichardFrom the off Nancy looked as though she was particularly good at handling the pressure. She had a slight problem in the first challenge with the caramel for her hazelnuts, which crystallised (it is likely that she was stirring it too much) but coolly decided to whizz it into praline and coat her Swiss Roll instead. An expert rescue.

Richard’s Signature Bake intrigued me the most this week, while Martha and Luis put together some of the most interesting flavours, and both managed to keep their cool.

 

*Spoiler alert* The result…

I maintain that it is unfair to send anyone home during the first week of the competition. There’s just so much to contend with - the new environment, the cameras, all the crew and your own nerves. That said, I think the right decisions were made. Nancy kept her cool and triumphed with precision and consistency while Claire, sadly, was unable to lift her performance in the Showstopper.

I’m looking forward to seeing more from Luis and Martha too – both impressive in this first, nerve-filled week!

 

Kimberely Wilson was a finalist on the 2013 series of The Great British Bake Off and will be with us every week to reflect on the happenings in this year's kitchen.

Did you tune into the first episode of Great British Bake Off? We'd love to hear who you're rooting for...

Comments, questions and tips

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Stueycb
7th Aug, 2014
I think you have a typo Kimberely Wilson was a finalist on the 2013 series of The Great British Bake Off and will _ with us every week. Be's are on the decline
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