There’s been a surge in baking interest in the household over the past few weeks. We’ve had more banana bread floating around the kitchen than my expanding hips can handle and it’s all been lovingly created in-situ.
I can attribute the delicious smells and new ingredients weighing down the cupboards to a particular BBC television series — the best thing to happen to TV in years — The Great British Bake Off.
Even before the programme aired culinary-related questions began to surface, no doubt a product of the ubiquitous advertisements in the weeks leading up to the first episode.
“Where’s the flour?”, himself asked one night.
“We don’t have any flour”
“Where’s the castor sugar?” he appealed.
“Same place as the flour, in the shop.”
We were soon returning from the supermarket with all things ‘bakey’: flour, sugar, butter, vanilla essence, bicarbonate of soda, and other essential ingredients. There’s since been talk of purchasing an electric whisk.
Admittedly, the vast repertoire of baking possibilities has only reached the level of banana bread, due to the fact that our bananas always seem to be on the verge of overripe, almost decomposing, which forces us to use them immediately. But the intentions to branch out beyond banana bread are ever present.
I’ve got my eye on the numerous possibilities that banana bread brings. Using the same mixture, I can explore a plethora of different flavours, such as blueberries, chocolate chips or some other ingredient I can simply throw into the basic cake batter and let the miracle transpire.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Great British Bake Off, it features a number of contestants, hopeful bakers in their real lives, who attempt to out-bake each other under the watchful eyes of a pair of experts who must judge each creation and set daily challenges. There are also two presenters whose main job is to encourage and supervise, but not to get involved in the cooking, simmering, slicing and piping, exciting yet stressful culinary chaos.
All the baking challenges are done under a time limit and the countdown can be as stressful for the viewer as it is for the contestants. The programme is aired weekly, and after every show a ‘Star Baker’ is revealed but one poor soul also gets dropped from the line-up. Each week the number is whittled down until there remains only three bakers left — which will take us delightfully into the arms of winter.
It’s the perfect excuse to try new ideas out in the kitchen and be inspired by the bakers and their bravery under threat of curdled cake mix or crystallised caramel. And let’s face it, with the debacle that is Brexit, the UK could do with a bit of ‘bite’ relief.
Each week of the show is based on a certain type of baking. There’s biscuit week, bread week and cake week among others, with a special ‘showstopper’ at the end of each episode, which gives the bakers the chance to shine as they bring their own creations to life. While I don’t fancy attempting to make my own proper bread, with the unfathomable amount of proving and rolling and kneading, I could certainly have a go at a showstopper of my own. Yes, it would most likely feature variations of banana bread along with normal banana bread, perhaps in the shape of a banana. I’m sure it would be a showstopper alright, and most definitely an intestine stopper — all that fibre. But it’s the trying that counts, and the taste that matters. Bon apetit.
— Christina Curran is freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland.