No matter what you call it, something about The Great British Baking Show or The Great British Bake Off enthralls us Americans. We can’t seem to get enough of the supportive contestants, punny hosts, or even the posh and powerful judges. A special feature of the show is its ability to soothe the viewer—no wonder so many people turned on binge-watch mode during the start of the pandemic. Our love has only grown, to the point where we want to have our own GBBO at home. Here at CSCA, we’re happy to oblige. Our kitchen is your kitchen. And in our kitchen, we have British Baking!! I joined Chef Marie Perfetti for the “British Baking – Classic” class and had a wholesome and fun baking experience, not unlike the show itself.
Chef Marie graduated from CSCA in 2005 with a diploma in Culinary Arts and high honors. She’s run her own catering business and taught baking steadily since 2006. She’s got a way for putting students at ease in the kitchen—speaking calmly and giving them space to interpret recipes on their own time and in their own way. When mistakes inevitably happen, Chef Marie is there to reassure and help them learn a better way. She is also a fan of GBBO, which certainly helps… especially when it comes to the lingo.
We started off the class by going over a few translations in our recipe packet. Their English and our English aren’t always aligned. We say “all-purpose flour,” and they say “plain flour”. What they call “double cream,” we call “heavy cream” or “whipping cream.” And what we call “confectioners” or “powdered sugar,” they call “icing sugar.” There’s a helpful key in the back of the packet to keep you from forgetting what bicarbonate of soda or glucose syrup is.
Chef Marie took steps to assure the success of each student by going over every recipe and applying some helpful tips and tricks before we started baking. Below are some of the takeaways for each recipe…
Make sure to cut up the red glace cherries before baking with them, because “these whole cherries have syrup on the inside, and if you bake with those, the syrup will release and it creates more moisture inside the cake, prolonging the baking.”
Don’t forget to prep your pan. Chef Marie said to “spray the bottom, spray the sides, and put a piece of parchment paper on the bottom as part of your mise en place. You went to all this trouble to put the cake together, so you want to make sure you get it out of the pan.”
Recipes are written in many different ways.” This particular one has “instructions that say to put everything in the mixer, but you’re better off beating your butter first to get it softened, adding your sugar, and then adding your flour. If you dump everything in and put it on high, you’re going to run the risk of wearing all the flour. Use the mixer on low to medium speed.”
“This can be made in a cake pan or two cake pans for two layers that cook quicker. You can also do this in a half-sheet pan. This way is quickest. You can get a round cutter, cut out some circles, put buttercream in the middle, and make small Victoria sponges, then decorate with strawberries or raspberries or something .”
Sticky Toffee Pudding
This one is really nice around the holidays and a ginger fan. The instructions say to use an 8”x8” square pan, but what I find is nice to make individual ones.” [using small disposable tins]
“Check to make sure your dates do not have pits in them!” Especially since you’re putting them in the food processor.
Pistachio, Cardamom, and Lemon Drizzle Cake
You can substitute canola oil for sunflower oil. What your looking for is an oil that does not have any flavor”
“After you zest the lemon save it to use the juice from it later on in the recipe.”
“You don’t have to add currants. This might be nice with cranberries or ginger too. But if you do use currants, make sure you cook them at a low temperature so they don’t burn. If they are cooking too quickly, we can just put them on a sheet pan and pop them in the oven.”
Lemon Madeira Cake with Candied Peel
The thing about a madeira cake is that it’s got a lump or a hump on it. When you’re doing a birthday cake, you usually don’t want the lump on top and cut it off, but for this you do.”
Chocolate Swiss Roll
Many people try this and sometimes they’re able to get a nice roll and sometimes it cracks because there’s no flour in the cake. There’s not a lot of structure, so you have to be really careful.”
“We’ve left it in the pan, let it cool then rolled it. We’ve done it where you heavily dust a towel with confectionary sugar, flip it over, then roll it into shape with the towel. The problem is when you unroll it sometimes sticks and it often will begin to break. And sometimes we’ve managed to make little pieces of chocolate cake with cream on it. It’s chocolate cake, it can’t be bad no matter what it looks like.”
“When we roll it, we’ll roll it from the long side. When you do it the short way there’s too much traffic going on. This way is a little easier.”
“With this basic scone recipe, the idea is to be gentle when shaping them.” You do not need a rolling pin.
“So who wants to do what?”
And just like that, we were off. Options selected and recipes at the ready, we began to bake. What was chaos at first turned into precision as each student got to know their recipes and gathered their ingredients. There were many adventurous students who tried the Chocolate Swiss Roll, unfortunately, only one prevailed. “Did the person who did it get a handshake?” asked someone earlier. They didn’t, but they sure did get bragging rights.
Chef Marie was there to help the students every step of the way and in the end, reassuring them about what to do when things don’t go as planned. She said, “What do they do with everything that doesn’t work out? They make trifle. There are always options.”
Luckily, only a few students needed to expand their creative minds and ended up making some really beautiful chocolate cakes instead of rolls. As for the rest of the crew, they churned out some excellent Scones, Sticky Toffee Puddings, Lemon Madeira Cakes with Candied Peel, and Pistachio, Cardamom, and Lemon Drizzle Cakes. No takers for the Victoria Sandwich or Cherry Cake, but they did sample each other’s work, taking home treats for their loved ones, who will undoubtedly want them to try another recipe or two from the packet. Until then, they’ll have to settle in and watch an episode or two of GBBO to satisfy their sweet tooth.
We have a variety of British Baking classes: British Baking – Classic, British Baking – Biscuits and Tray Bakes, British Baking – Breads, and British Baking – Advanced Cakes. Take a look at our Recreational Class Calendar for the next date—we don’t want you to miss out on all the fun! Until then…ready… set… bake!