I have a confession. In the past month I’ve become hooked on The Great British Baking Show. I know, I know, there’s a ton of cooking shows out there, as a friend pointed out to me when I disclosed my new obsession. But in truth, other than a brief obsession with “Chopped” about five years ago, I have not been interested.
How did this happen?
When dinnertime rolls around, I have my laptop at the ready, and generally watch favorite ‘lite’ stuff while I’m prepping and cooking. I have the dubious habit of re-watching favorites. This has a twofold advantage: I already know I like it and can’t be disappointed, and I know how the story goes…so I can slide back when I miss stuff as I'm chopping and dicing. Over the past year I have re-watched the entire Sopranos seasons, Frasier (up until the time Netflix pulled it before I even got to Season 5; it ran for 11, I think), and the West Wing.
I flirted briefly with new programs, the names of which I can’t even remember. But hands down, my favorite re-watch is the Republic of Doyle. For anyone who appreciates the Canadian humor, specifically Newfoundland, PLUS watching the cutest guy ever, who drives his fast car, gets punched in the head a lot and is seemingly able to leap over cars and fences with the ease of a gazelle, you need to check out Jake Doyle on the Republic of Doyle. An added bonus: he looks darn good in his jeans, and occasionally takes off his shirt so we can see his muscles…swoon.
Back to the British Baking Show. It has insinuated itself into my waking thoughts. I can recite the five types of pastry dough: short crust, puff, choux, flaky, and filo. I watch in fascination as the bakers knead, slap, push and shove their dough, twisting, braiding, coaxing their bread into shapes, brandishing their pastry bags with grace and mastery, and constructing tiny forms and realistic shapes out of marzipan, often with shaking hands. I watch them sweat, drop eggs on the floor, dump whole piles of dough in the garbage and start over. I am in awe of the way they frequently help each other, commiserate when things go wrong for one of their comrades; shocked to see the judges hugging and kissing departing bakers, as the elimination process weeds them out. It’s all so…civil and heartwarming. And there are the showstoppers! Brilliantly creative concepts created under high pressure and determination. Whew. Awesome.
This morning I was sufficiently inspired to make bread. Instead of driving into Bread Alone in Woodstock, where I would be sorely tempted (and give in) to not just buy bread, but also scones and sticky buns, I dragged my old Bread book out and settled on an Oatmeal Bread.
The last time I made it, my note on the recipe told me, was 1977. Hilarious. Six hours later, my kitchen properly dusted with flour, my hands shriveled from washing greasy bowls and glass loaf pans, my anxiety level was properly ramped up, and I had to get out the vacuum to suck up the oatmeal flakes that littered the floor. I had produced two loaves of beautiful, high breads (and they taste darn good too.)
I could have driven into Woodstock and been home in twenty minutes. But the house smells good and I feel a certain comradeship with those determined British bakers.
Maybe next – Puff Pastry! Charlotte Russe! Ciabatta! Victorian Cake! Cake roll! Sticky buns!