The brief for this showstopper challenge was a 3D biscuit scene, so I decided to make something reminiscent of my own childhood, The Sledding Hill. Using gingerbread for the base, I covered it with fondant and meringue "snow," then added gingerbread people and nut-shortbread trees.
This delicate, lacy cookie is traditionally made with almonds and orange flavors, reminiscent of Italian baking, but the use of butter and cream is evidence of its French origins. Mary Berry's version uses a variety of dried fruits and nuts and then, after baking, is brushed with a decadent layer of dark chocolate.
Biscuits in the U.K. are what Americans normally call cookies, but what Americans call crackers, Britons would call savory biscuits. The inspiration for my dill-and-onion biscuits came from a bread recipe of my mom's that we called Dilly Bread.
The challenge for this episode of The Great British Bake Off was to make a decorative loaf of any shape or flavor. For my decorative loaf, I decided to make star bread. To twist things up a bit (pun intended), I chose to use two different fillings, raspberry jam and a chocolate almond cream cheese.
While English muffins are fairly simple to make, they do take time. The key to a good flavor and lots of little holes inside is a long, slow rise. Unlike most yeast breads, English muffins are "baked" on the stove, usually on a hot griddle or cast iron frying pan. This makes them nice and toasty on each side, but still slightly squidgy in the middle.
The popularity of grissini spread throughout Italy and even as far away as France, where Napoleon, in the early 1800s, established a stagecoach courier service between Turin and Paris to provide him with a regular supply of what he dubbed “les petits bâtons de Turin” (the small sticks of Turin). For my grissini, I chose a basic recipe, adding my own touch by using a homemade “everything bagel” seasoning mix to flavor the breadsticks.
For my sweet bagels, I went with one of the more complicated recipes I found, but it gives very detailed instructions with lots of photos, so those of us who are novice bagel bakers can tell if we’re doing it right! I did alter the recipe from plain bagels into cranberry orange spice bagels, but I’ll note all the ingredients I added as “optional” so you can vary it to your own tastes.
This technical challenge proved difficult (See what I did there?) for many of the contestants on The Great British Baking Show. But it was the plaiting that had them tied up in knots. Outside of that, it’s a pretty basic dough, and if you understand the pattern, you should be able to create a decent loaf.
I have so much more respect for the bakers in the tent after attempting this challenge! Not only did they have to make two different kinds of flatbreads (one with yeast and one without), they also had to make them both within 2½ hours! I chose to make naan--because that’s always been my favorite whenever we eat at Indian restaurants--and paratha. I went with a basic naan recipe and topped it with roasted garlic and cilantro. My parathas I decided to stuff with the flavors from my favorite vegetarian chili—sweet potatoes, black beans and spices.