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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.



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.




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














  1. I am loving these behind the scenes accounts of the show, Sally. You’re really bringing it to life – a blogging technical challenge winner to be sure! (And I’m betting you either won the entire thing at the end, or at least made it to the finals. You’re just too damn cheerful to have gotten unceremoniously booted back on that BOAC flight home before that.)


      • Psst….I – and everyone else who’s watched at least one season – knows that. I was using hyperbole and ridiculous imagery to get my point across in some broad slapstick way. Damn the facts, style is more important when it comes to serious things like blogging!

        And I still think you won 🙂


      • Well that’s weird. I wrote out a comment, hit “Reply”, and…nothing. As in, nothing showed up on my screen where my comment should have been. Was it teleported to another dimension? Deemed unfit to print by Bill Gates, the NSA, and the BBC? I had no idea. All I know is that two minutes of refreshing later, the comment was still wandering around the heavenly spheres somewhere, lost for all time. So I typed another comment. And this time when I hit “Reply” it actually replied.

        Now, of course, BOTH comments show up. Equally brilliant comments to be sure. But still, only one really needs to be there. So please erase one of them from your memory. Thank you.


  2. Oh, Sally! My heart sank when I saw you making those deep slashes in the cob dough. The rest of the show was such fun. The camaraderie among the bakers is obvious to the audience, I think.


  3. That cob! If I had known how deep to slash, mine would have been almost perfect. But my instinct went with yours! Too deep! My heart hurt at the loss of Carlos. I kept turning around to say something to Helen or Carlos during Episode 3 and they weren’t there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reading your behind-the-scenes commentary is such a great companion to actually watching the show! And it’s also interesting to hear what bits they cut out (for time, probably). You are making my month with your appearance and these blog posts. I’m on the edge of my seat!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Enjoying your perspective of the inner workings of the episodes, almost as much as the show itself! Your reflections are entertaining (as if I need to tell you) and full of introspective second guessing! I do the very same thing after each cookdate or client dinner party. Too many “If onlys….”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Great American Baking Show Holiday Edition | Travels with a Culinary Artist

  7. I’m so enjoying watching you and I can only imagine how you felt with that cob… heart sank and I’m not even involved LOL. I’m anxious to see you in the next episodes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yes, watching it was a bit stressful, and when they showed my final slashing was bad enough – they did not have my sound bite on, I was explaining why I decided to do it that way… maybe it would have been a bit less horrific with my explanation in the background, but… at least I can tell it here in the blog… “hi, guys and girls, I am not THAT stupid” just a little 😉


  8. It’s such fun watching you, Sally and I love the behind-the-scenes commentary here! And if it’s worth anything…I probably would have slashed the loaf that deeply, too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, unfortunately they did not allowed us to bring the recipes for technicals and so far have not shared them with us. I remember there was a lot or parsley, green onions, and basil. I was curious to make it again, but did not find a similar recipe in any of my books from Paul Hollywood or the net


  9. Hi! I just now am watching this episode (yes, I am slow on the draw, lol) and I am in love with the idea of your breadsticks. I immediately started seeking the recipe before finishing the episode – have you shared it at all? I do not seem to be able to find it here on your (fab!) blog

    Liked by 1 person

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