My recent baking inspiration has come from one of my favorite TV shows, The Great British Baking Show. It has since changed its name to The Great British Bake Off when it moved to a new network and changed the hosts and judges. It was there that I discovered Mary Berry, the Queen of British Baking, (AKA the Martha Stewart-ish of the UK) and became fascinated with all things European baking.
One of the first Mary Berry books I got was her Baking Bible because it was a comprehensive classics list that I was enthused to get a closer look at. I have tried recreating a few of the greats so far such as gingerbread men, mokatines, and French madeleines. I did have to adapt to using European cookbooks because they use the metric system and have different words for certain ingredients like brown sugar is muscovado sugar and baking soda is bicarbonate of soda. It seems as if a lot of the European baking recipes are less sweet and often include dried fruits and raisins. If you don’t want to convert the metric measurements, I suggest getting an electric food scale. They are easy to use, reduces the amount of measuring cups and spoons needed, and helps get the most accurate measurement. The food scale has come in handy for things other than metric measurements and frequently saves me time whether for measuring, or trying to guess how much something weighs.
I have ran into an ingredient supply issue because most of the sugar used in these recipes is caster sugar, also called superfine sugar. The sugar grains are in between the size of granulated and powdered sugar. Caster sugar is used in delicate baked goods as the smaller grains dissolve easier. I found a very small bag of caster sugar in a specialty store but it isn’t an economical choice when baking a lot. To substitute, try putting granulated sugar in a food processor to grind it up smaller, but be cautious of going too far and making powdered sugar. It’s not perfect as I have had inconsistency problems when trying the food processor method where you end up with a mixture of fine grains and the usual granulated size, making it impossible to correctly measure one type of sugar.
They recently finished up Season 10 of The Great British Bake Off and it is always such an inspiration to make me want to get into the kitchen to try my hand at some of these classic European recipes. The bakers have great personalities that make you laugh and cry along with them while the bakes themselves are often things we don’t hear of in the United States but have a rich base in the world’s historic culinary culture.
There is an American spin-off that they do during the holidays but it is more based around American baking traditions and trends. I would love to see more of a crossover between the two, where American contestants try more recipes similar to the British version. I like the technical challenges best because they are generally recipes that most bakers don’t recognize or haven’t even heard of before, keeping a fresh, level-playing field.
While I would obviously love to be a GBBO contestant, I do not meet the main requirement – being British. (Serious bummer.) In the meantime, I will continue practicing my skills so when they allow that crossover, I will be ready to apply and shine! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the most recent season of The Great British Bake Off and any tips for international baking below.
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