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For those who are not familiar with GABS, Bread is Paul Hollywood’s “thing.” Everybody who’s been on the show over the years is afraid of baking bread for him, for obvious reasons. I am not too worried about bread in general, but bread sculpture is a whole different story. I don’t like it, in fact anything with the term sculpture makes me go into hyperventilation. When I got the assignment for Bread and the showstopper was a sculpture based on the Twelve Days of Christmas I considered buying a one-way ticket to Mongolia. And some ultra-heavy coats. But before that happened in the tent, we had a signature bake and a technical. Let’s talk about those.
HOT’N CRUNCHY BREADSTICKS
We were supposed to present 12 breadsticks, all uniform in size, with a certain minimal length and we could make them crunchy or soft, it would be up to our personal taste. I opted for crunchy and went with a three-stranded braid, made with three different flavored doughs. Which requires me to share a very important statement with you.
The assignment was to last for 1 hour and 45 minutes. That obviously includes proofing time and baking. What possessed me to go for 12 three-stranded braided bread sticks? Honestly I don’t know. Of course, I practiced at home, I did it twice. I felt that time wise it was a bit tight, but doable. What I did not take in consideration was the Theory of Tent Relativity (TTR), in which time shrinks at different rates depending on the Daring Factor (DF) of your bake.
I am tweaking this post after having watched the episode, so I know they did not show one particular moment in which Paul and Sherry visited my flour covered station a second time to see how things were going, and those penetrating blue eyes stared into mine and asked “do you think you have enough time to finish them?” The look on his face left little room for doubt. He thought I was doomed. He then grabbed Sherry’s arm and told her they should leave me alone to work. And that’s when I realized I had no idea of how much time was left, but I knew the finish line was a lot closer than I hoped for. With a shiver up my spine, I tried to keep calm and braid on.
Did I say keep calm? Yeah, right. I braided like the Energizer Bunny would with a brand new battery and a full can of Red Bull. I baked those breadsticks at a higher temperature and took them out of the oven with less than 30 seconds to spare. I was shaking inside and really upset at myself for designing a bake with such high probability of failure. Live and learn.
Now if you watch the show, you know that the REAL touchdown was scored by Tanya who got “the handshake.” Actually, our group is doing pretty good! Handshake on the very first episode to Sarita, and again on Bread. Tanya’s breadsticks were gorgeous, elegantly twisted, with a sprinkle of cilantro all over, and deliciously hot. Yes, we get to taste each other’s bake once it’s all said and done. Rather… done and judged!
In the future I will share a modified version of this recipe in which I dealt with the problem of excessive moisture in the Kalamata olives. Stay tuned, these breadsticks are a bit labor intensive, but I now made them five times and everybody loves them.
Reading the recipe, I remember feeling so good about it, I felt I was going to surf through like a pro (famous last words). It is a simple, straightforward bread, just using what seemed like a huge, almost excessive amount of herbs (it was not, it tasted amazing!). I had no issues with mixing the dough, it proofed nicely, it shaped nicely. Then, in the final last step, slashing the surface in the criss-cross pattern, Sally had a bad, very bad intuition about it. I slashed it in a way that was probably perfect, but then I went back and essentially murdered it. Why did I do that? Because I thought that cob would indicate a flattish shape, pretty much like cobblestones that covered the streets of London in the 1700’s. Brilliant. I thought I was nailing it, when instead I was adding a nice nail to my own coffin. Even when I placed my poor specimen of Cob behind my picture, I was feeling good about it. But when Paul came in and described the perfect Cob as a plump round loaf, I felt a strange coldness inside my soul. Like a Game of Thrones “Winter is Coming” sensation. So the last in technical was not surprising. But not very easy to take either.
Not everything was bad about the technical, though. How often do you see a 4ft 11 +1/2 inch female beat a former football player in arm wrestling? There you go.
Free entertainment for the viewers, thanks to a very sneaky camera I had no idea was in play. What? You think Mr. Spice let me win? Seriously? Nah… I cannot possibly take another blow to my ego.
GOLDEN ORNAMENTS CHRISTMAS TREE
I was not looking forward to that challenge at all. Coming last in technical the afternoon before made me very anxious, I knew I had to do a good job, because a bad bread sculpture would easily destroy any good performance brought by my breadsticks. Every person who gets last in technical is immediately at risk of being eliminated, so I went into the tent with a very heavy weight on my shoulders.
At home, I practiced the sculpture three times, which meant over 13 hours devoted just to one assignment of the show. The rings went from full braids to twists, back to double braids, the way to shape them and proof them was also a bit tricky. I wanted them to look as proportional as possible to the tree.
The tree posed problems to bake perfectly. That component I made in fact five times at home, trying to get a good balance of taste and proper texture for it to stand up. Not easy, and don’t think I got there at showtime. And the ring bases in the show could have a lot more fruit, but at least it allowed me to pass safely through another episode.
Sherry liked that the sculpture had movement, as the rings kind of bounced a bit as I walked to the stand. That bit did not make it in the final edition of the show, but it will stay in my mind as a gentle pat in the back.
And with that we come to the person being eliminated second.
My very dear Carlos, fellow South-American, kind, warm-hearted and oh-so-witty! Carlos brightened up our time in the tent and the very long hours off-filming hanging together in what could be called “the green room.” He always came up with ways to pass the time. For instance the first time we were sitting in those stools waiting for the technical judgment in CAKE, we were sitting there for a long time. Staring at our photos standing in front of us over the bench. So Carlos starts making up captions for the photos, trying to decide what each person looked like. It was hilarious and he hit all very very well. Here is mine: Hollistic Alternative Medicine Therapist! Me, of all people! But I gotta admit, he hit it perfectly. Here are the others so you can pay attention next time the show is on…. Helen is running for Office…. Dana is running for City Council… Tanya hosts a Farm to Table Blog…. Marissa is ASB President…. Alex depicts the best Linkedln profile picture… Brother Andrew is a Missionary to indigenous unreached peoples, and Carlos (according to Marissa) is a contributor to High Times Magazine…
So, as you can see, we found plenty of ways to keep ourselves entertained, and Carlos was a huge part of it. He started his food blog recently, where he mixes recipes with pretty deep thoughts about himself and the world. A unique guy that I am so glad I had the chance to meet. I always tell him he could be a fantastic writer for stand-up comedian acts. We, and almost all bakers in the group have kept in touch pretty much daily since we left London, and there is not a day that goes by without Carlos making me laugh with a remark about something, from stuff that happened in the tent to things we are exchanging about our current bakes. I feel lucky to be part of this small community of baker-addicts. Yeah, that’s what we are…. Carlos, it was very sad to see you leave the tent… You are my favorite male Peruvian baker on this season! (wink, wink)
ONE YEAR AGO: Apple and Sobacha Caramel Dome Cake
TWO YEARS AGO: Cocktail Spiced Nuts
THREE YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen
FOUR YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central
FIVE YEARS AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg
SIX YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange
SEVEN YEARS AGO: Homemade Calziones
EIGHT YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts
NINE YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker
TEN YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye