Have you heard of The Great British Bake Off? If you’re British, of course you have. If you’re American or Canadian, you probably know it by The Great British Baking Show and I can’t for the life of me figure out why they changed the name before airing it in North America.
If you’re unfamiliar, the idea is to get a group of amateur bakers together in a big tent in the south of England. Each week has a different theme, like spice week, bread week, vegan week, pastry week, etc. Bakers have to complete three bakes over the span of Saturday and Sunday: a signature bake, the technical challenge, and a showstopper. Every week, someone is awarded star baker and someone is sent home. They truly film it week by week so the bakers can go home to their families and jobs during the week, as well as practice their bakes for the week ahead. So it’s not like other reality TV where a “week” is actually 3 or 4 days.
I had never heard of it until last summer when Luke announced he wanted to watch it. Since the last series was my first time watching it, I’ve only known it to be presented by Noel and Sandi and judged by Paul and Prue. I was immediately hooked after seeing the first episode. I mean, duh, it’s fantastic and it’s about baking! In my opinion, it’s the most genuinely pure show on television. They’re not there to exploit people and create drama for ratings. I mean, doing chocolate week on the hottest day of the summer is enough drama! They’re just there to find the best amateur baker in the UK and bring the whole country together. It seems like everyone watches the show and some people, like my sister-in-law, even do Bake Off pools where they pick bakers at the beginning of the season and have to bring in baked goods to the office if their baker gets sent home. I’ve heard wonderful stories about the show as well, like if the bakers get upset and start crying, the presenters will go around them and start cursing or naming brands so they can’t use the footage on the show. And it just warms my heart when someone finishes earlier and starts to help their literal competition finish in time! That would NEVER happen on an American reality show.
One day, Luke and I were driving home and I randomly had an idea: we should do a Bake Off themed date night and obviously it should be called The Great British Drake Off. Luke was a bit hesitant at first, but even though I teased him for never having baked (he insisted he had, I just hadn’t seen it), he said it’s too much work to do on a work night. That brings us to a couple of Saturdays ago when The Great British Drake Off was finally ready to commence.
It’s Treacle week at the Drake household and each baker will need to prepare a signature bake with treacle. Other flavours should not overpower the treacle, but instead highlight the richness and depth of its flavour. Bakers may choose to bake anything they wish*.
*This was a mistake. You’ll see why. We should have both had to bake the same type of dessert, probably a cake. Going forward, we’ll definitely fix that.
Luke is a professional construction site manager who has dabbled in baking. He insisted he has baked every type of dessert you can think of and most people say he’s good at anything he does. Luke can eat a whole batch of chocolate chip cookie dough in one sitting, but he’ll probably regret it later. His favourite thing favourite treat to eat is whatever his wife has just baked. He lives in Birmingham with his wife.
Hannah is an amateur baker who dabbles in construction. She has been baking for as long as she can remember. Hannah once had an order-based bakery from her own kitchen called Bananas that specialised in cupcakes, quick breads, and cookies. She once ate an entire banana cream pie on a dare from her cousin, but insists it was mostly pudding anyway. Her favourite thing to bake and eat is chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. She lives in Birmingham with her husband.
Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake from Thyme & Envy
200g plain flour
3.5 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
80g stem ginger, chopped
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125ml full fat milk
85g black treacle
85g golden syrup
85g dark muscavado sugar
85g salted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp syrup from stem ginger jar
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Sift the flour and spices into a bowl. Add the stem ginger and toss to coat (to stop the pieces sinking to the bottom when you bake).
Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the milk in a separate bowl.
Heat the treacle, golden syrup, sugar, salt and butter over a low heat, stirring regularly, until melted.
Add this to the flour and beat vigorously until smooth. Beat in the egg and then whisk in the milk until you have a smooth batter.
Pour into a greased and lined 2lb (900g) loaf tin and bake for 1 hr - covering with foil for the last 30 minutes to prevent over browning.
Remove from the oven and brush with the ginger syrup to glaze.
Leave in the tin for 24hrs for the flavours to develop (optional).
Seriously Soft Molasses Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction
2 and 1/4 cups (280g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) unsulphured or dark molasses
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup (67g) granulated or coarse sugar, for rolling
Whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt together until combined. Set aside.
In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on high speed until creamy and combined, about 2 minutes. Add the molasses and beat until combined. Then add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
On low speed, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be slightly sticky. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour and up to 2-3 days.
Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside.
Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator. If the cookie dough chilled longer than 2 hours, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. The cookies may not spread in the oven if the dough is that cold. Roll cookie dough, 1 Tablespoon each, into balls. Roll each in granulated sugar and arrange 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until edges appear set and tops are cracking.
Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 1 week.
We invited our friends Adam and Esther to come over to judge our bakes. They are professional wedding guests, attending more weddings in 2018 alone than you have in your whole life! In between weddings, they are both teachers. They are proud parents to a beautiful cat named Bueno, who was named after chocolate rather than the Spanish word for “good”, even though the chocolate bar was named after the Spanish word for “good”. They prefer cookies over cakes.
After a short deliberation via text message, Hannah was declared the winner because, while both bakes were delicious and treacle-licious, the judges both prefer cookies over cakes.
Again, going forward we’ll always make the same type of bake instead of using any recipe that incorporates the chosen ingredient.
NEXT ON THE GREAT BRITISH DRAKE OFF
We decided we would do it quarterly since it was a bit of an undertaking. Each quarter, we’ll choose a specific—probably seasonal—ingredient to incorporate into our bakes each time. We probably should have done pumpkin (duh) this time, but we’re rationing our remaining tins while contemplating whether or not to just buy an over-priced set of three off Amazon. (Or at least I am, Luke says no.) Treacle could have been a good January bake, so we need some ideas! I really want to do lavender for our April bake!