Want to skip right to the videos of me doing this? Head over to my YouTube channel to see me succeed, fail, and sometimes make a fool of myself in the process.
I’ve seen every episode of Great British Bake Off, so the logical next step is to start making some of the recipes, right? Right. If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon that is Bake Off, it’s a show where amateur bakers in the UK compete to be crowned winner each season. They don’t really win much in the way of material prizes other than a cake stand. But they do get the pride of being named the best amateur baker in the UK that year on one of the most popular baking shows in the world, so there’s that. Each episode the bakers have three recipe challenges – the first and third they plan in advance and have time to practice.
What is a technical challenge?
The second part of each episode is called the technical challenge, where bakers don’t know what they will be making beforehand. Here’s what it involves:
- Bakers get a pared down version of the original recipe chosen by the judges. For example, where a regular recipe might have a whole paragraph describing how to make a sponge cake layer, the recipe they get might just say “Make the sponge.” The recipes get harder as the season goes on, and they might not even know how much of each ingredient they’re supposed to use.
- There is a time limit, which is usually quite tricky
- It’s judged blind, so the judges don’t know who made each bake while they’re testing and ranking them* Bakers are each given all of the ingredients and supplies they’ll need for this challenge
How will I attempt the challenges?
I obviously can’t replicate most of these circumstances. To start, I’m in the US and I’m not baking in a tent. Here’s how I’ll be adapting these technical challenges in my own kitchen:
- I’ll be making the 10 technical challeneges from the 2020 season of Bake Off in order. I’ll record myself making each one and post an edited video to my YouTube channel. Every time I make and record a recipe it will be my first attempt at that recipe (promise!).
- I’m going to do my best to get the ingredients and equipment required for each recipe, but sometimes I’ll make substitutions because they used a lot of fancy stuff that is harder to get on this side of the pond. I also might divide some of the recipes or make miniature versions of them because I like tiny baking and I don’t want to waste food.
- Bake Off doesn’t post the pared down version of the technical challenge recipes. I kind of wish they did, but the original recipes are hard enough. I’m saying that after only trying two that were marked “easy” so far. So I’ll be using the technical challenge recipes they post online, like this one.
- I’m not going to give myself a time limit, because this is supposed to be fun and added pressure is not fun. Also, half finished cake is wasteful. That being said, I will time how long each one takes me and compare it to the time the bakers had.
- I’m only competing against myself, so there’s not point in judging this blind. But there will be judges! My husband and my parents will take turns judging each of my bakes, and we’ll re-watch the judging section of the relevant episode beforehand so they know what to look for.
Maybe you’re still wondering why I’m doing this. Three main reasons. First, I want to get better at baking! Since I started baking earlier this year I’ve made lots of breads and cakes. Now I’d like to expand my repetoire and learn to bake other, more complicated things. Rather than take a virtual class or search for all sorts of recipes, I thought I’d just use the technical challenges as a starting point. The recipes cover a wide variety of baked goods at different levels of difficulty.
Second, it’s fun. Baking brings me joy. That’s all.
Third, what else am I gonna do? Most of us are stuck at home right now, so this gives me something to do. I’m also learning how to edit videos which I’ve never done before.
To watch me attempt these challenges, check out my YouTube! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.