The Great British Bake Off is coming to Canada! Or at least what we know as the GBBO is coming to Canada as the Great Canadian Baking Show. Fun fact: did you know that the term "bake off" is trademarked by Pillsbury in North America? Hence the name change, but the show will keep the same format as the original series. I have long awaited this moment. Deep breaths.
While I find other cooking and baking shows tend to overdramatize, the original GBBO is great. It combines baking, suspense, and soggy bottoms without being too stilted and with a perfect soundtrack to boot. It is relaxing and intense at the same time. The contestants are so delightful, you end up wanting everyone to win and cheering everyone on. They are all supportive of each other, and sometimes you forget it's a competition. Everyone drinks tea while doughs proof.
The Great Canadian Baking show application
A casting call for the Canadian show went out in February, and my friends and family encouraged me to apply. I didn't have to think twice. It would be a fun process, no matter the end result.
The online application was a surprisingly reflective experience, full of questions I had never really thought through since beginning my baking adventures six years ago. How did you get into baking? What's the hardest thing you've ever baked?
That was an easy one to answer. You know those scenes in movies when someone is trying to defuse a bomb, and they’re deciding which wire to cut while the sweat drips off their face? They hover over the red wire, then the blue wire, and then eventually just close their eyes and cut one and hope for the best? That was me assembling Mary Berry’s hazelnut dacquoise. That was the hardest thing I've ever baked. The fragile meringue. The hazelnut blanching disaster of 2013 that has permanently tainted my relationship with this cake. Memories!
My friend and I also made an audition video, showing producers how to bash butter on your floor: that's dough lamination done right. You'd have a better chance of getting an audition with a video, we figured.
From the time I was invited for an audition to the audition itself, I had a handful of days to practice what I would take as my signature bake: the kouign amann. I baked about seven batches that week, saturating my pastry consumption levels (I didn't think that was possible).
The best part of the audition was baking with 8-10 other extremely talented bakers, under pressure, in an unfamiliar kitchen, and with a mystery recipe. It was satisfying to put my skills to the test with a barebones recipe and see what I could come up with. You know a lot more than you think you do.
I was really pleased with my bake on audition day, but my signature bake had not turned out as planned. When it came to baking the kouign amann for the audition, I was using my parents' kitchen and their convection oven. The pastries were slightly dried out and not as buttery as they had been with my oven. Suddenly, I came face to face with the perfectionism that probably haunts a lot of bakers. From an outsider's perspective, the pastries were great. Delicious. Well-baked. But as a baker, often all you can see are the imperfections.
And while my kouign amann were not as I had hoped, this audition was a refreshing reminder of how far I've come and how much I've learned in the past few years. Sometimes, you do really just have to pull back and think about those small milestones. That's important. Baking is hard and a lot of work, and when that perfectionism starts to creep in, take pause.
And don't get me wrong: I think perfectionism is also a vital component of baking - it helps us improve. You might be disappointed when you've made a croquembouche that has some resemblance to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the choux buns are more horizontal than vertical. Baking this giant cream puff tower was a waste of time. But it wasn't! It tastes amazing. You've learned something, even though you might not realize it quite yet. Baking is all about enjoying the process. It's about taking time to acknowledge your best efforts, your accomplishments, and trying again.