I was late getting on board watching the "Great British Baking Show." Even so, my newfound devotion is sincere. Since January, the show has been a source of comfort when the rest of the world is full of so much madness and meanness.
With so much troubling news, my head and heart ache for the beauty, humor, deliciousness and civility the BBC-produced series offers. Perhaps I am burying my head in the sand to some degree, but sometimes, a distraction is the healthiest option.
Much to my delight, the show has been around for nearly a decade — so I have episodes galore to savor and enjoy.
From fruit cakes to tea cakes to cookies and English puddings, the show has ignited a baking gene I didn’t even know I had. Piper, our 17-year-old daughter, and I have baked braided loaves on four occasions in two weeks.
We even had a Sunday afternoon bake-off with friends — adults vs. children, with legitimate judging — and a season more of bake-offs planned. Each of our competitors put a theme in the hat, and we’ve set our upcoming episodes accordingly — croissants, crackers, macaroons, pie, pavlova and pastries.
None of us realized beforehand that croissants are at best a two-day process. The truth is that we’re cool with that. We may even plan a bake-off retreat for the croissant challenge.
The breads we’ve baked have all worked, thus far (granted, they’re less complicated than croissants). To date, our baking challenges have produced rather stunning results. Certainly, there are tricks of the trade one learns with experience, but the bottom line with baking specifically, and cooking in general, comes down to being able to read, follow instructions and manage multiple projects simultaneously. In theory, with a good recipe and focused minds, we can prepare whatever we want. The renewed faith in recipes and following the process has been one of the best things about watching the show and trying my own hand at baking again.
When I was first out of college, I often baked complicated breads and canned the fruit that I picked. Basically, I didn’t know any better.
Watching this show has re-ignited some of the culinary pluckiness more familiar to a younger version of myself. Piper and I have learned so many new things. For example, I knew I liked macaroons but couldn’t quite identify what that flavor or texture was. A little research found that almond flour was the mystery ingredient. And last week, we carefully followed an Australian pavlova recipe that taught us a surprising lesson in the magic of meringue.
As we attempt our baking challenges with friends, one of the most beautiful parts is the time required. You can’t rush good baking. While the bread is rising, we can’t wander far. So, we just relax together. We watch a movie, play Rummikub, put together a puzzle or decorate postcards. In a world that is often go-go, baking has brought our focus inward — and that has been good for us, quite lovely really.
Which takes me back to why I love the "Great British Baking Show so much." It too, is lovely. The most stressful moments of the show are when the pastry doesn’t puff or when someone goes home, but the contestants are nice to each other and so tender about the departures that I’m encouraged about the possibilities of the world. In the end, they create these beautiful edible, complex dishes that they enjoy together.
All in all, the show has been a good reminder of the beauty in doing the same at home.