Get your glaze right and you’re a champion, present a part-baked batch and all that kneading was for nothing. Bread Week in the Bake Off tent means that everyone, Mary included, defers to Paul. This week the contestants were out to impress Mr Hollywood with their rye rolls, ciabatta and celebration bakes…
Because you are working with a living product (the yeast) there are many more factors to take in to account when making bread. Essentially, you need to ensure the yeast is comfortable and well-catered for, like a slightly cantankerous relative coming to stay for the weekend. The temperature of the ingredients and of the room are very important. Though a long, cool rise is desirable when baking at home, under the time constraints of the competition the bakers have to keep everything around blood temperature, which is the optimum temperature for yeast. Too hot and you kill the yeast off completely.
In addition you have to consider the flavour, kneading, bulk fermentation, shaping, proving and baking – all crucial for a great loaf. It’s a serious challenge, which makes it all the more satisfying when you get a good result.
Always check that your yeast is in date before you use it. In-store bakeries in supermarkets will often give you small amounts of fresh yeast for free.
The Signature Challenge
This signature challenge called for 12 rye rolls, which tested the bakers’ experience working with more unusual types of flours and whether they were familiar with their properties. Rye flour is used extensively in European baking and has a beautiful, deep and nutty flavour, but less and lower quality gluten than wheat flour, resulting in a denser crumb. Because of this, it is rarely used on its own and most of the bakers seemed to be combining it with wheat flour.
A lot of the bakers chose to complement the nuttiness of the rye with nuts as an ingredient. Martha, Diana, Chetna, Nancy and Iain all added walnuts or pine nuts to the mix. Norman’s choice of sultana and caraway was traditional and was indeed criticised for being too simple. Kate’s orange and cardamom rolls sounded as though they would go down well with a cup of tea.
What would Kimberley do…
Given this challenge I think I would flavour my krantz cake-style rolls with marzipan, lingonberries and orange zest and top them with toasted almonds.
The Technical Challenge
It was only a matter of time before we saw ciabatta as a technical challenge. The last two years have featured focaccia and English muffins, both ‘wet’ doughs and ciabatta is about as wet as you get. The task here is to trust the recipe and not to be tempted to add any more flour to make the dough more workable. The bakers also had to be careful not to knock too much air out when shaping. To be honest, there’s isn’t much shaping involved, more a kind of manoeuvring on to the baking tray and letting the yeast do its thing.
Paul warned the bakers to be patient, and Kate’s restraint under pressure paid off when she came first in the technical challenge.
For the best flavour, it’s best to prove bread dough slowly. If you have the time, cover the bowl in cling film and prove in the fridge overnight.
It’s only when challenges like this arise that you realise there just aren’t enough stuffed loaves in the world. A loaf of bread stuffed with delicious ingredients is a thing of joy. The two additional skills needed to triumph in this challenge are choosing ingredients that won’t alter the proportions or chemistry of the dough (for example, cinnamon can restrict the action of yeast) and to create a loaf that looks beautiful.
Nancy was pulled up on the latter when her Full English Stromboli was judged as too plain, though importantly, delicious. Kate’s twisted olive, coriander and prosciutto bread looked impressive and tasted great but sadly her technique meant that the centre of her loaf was not fully cooked. Had it worked, Jordan’s berry cheesecake loaf had the potential to be utterly delicious. Unfortunately, the juice released from his fruit filling overwhelmed the dough and left him with a soggy mess.
What would Kimberley do…
Given the chance I think I would experiment with a non-European filling. A Japanese Curry Bread perhaps, and I’d try to incorporate other Japanese flavours into the dough like green tea and roasted sesame seeds.
*Spoiler alert* The result…
I loved the sound of Kate’s loaf. And based on how appealing her other bakes were over the weekend she was my Star Baker. I like to think that her showstopper loaf wasn’t so much raw but still warm and with five more minutes cooling she would be sitting high on the kitchen stool of victory. That aside, it was fair compensation for having missed out last week that Luis was crowned this week’s Star Baker. And he did get a handshake for his rolls after all.
We said goodbye to ‘Captain Chaos’, which, after coming last in the Technical Challenge and his Showstopper disaster, was hard to disagree with.
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.
Are you watching The Great British Bake Off? Let us know who you’re rooting for and what you would have made in bread week…