That’s right, it’s that time of year again: The Great British Bake Off is back on our tellies at 8 pm this evening, and I doubt I could be more excited.
Strangely, despite a long-running obsession with baking, I only really got into this programme last year and it quickly became almost a way of life – by the time I came back to uni I was watching it at a friend’s house weekly and attempting each of the technical challenges (I didn’t actually get through that many in reality, but it was fun while it lasted!). So I was distraught yesterday when an advert for the show came on the TV and my boyfriend said he wouldn’t watch it with me. I don’t watch that much telly and haven’t had a license since I started uni because my minimal needs are well met by iPlayer and the like. After starting a search for someone to watch the show with me, I got a text telling me that he had been joking and that I was very welcome to come and watch at his house, but he might not watch it with me. So much egg on my face.
This fixation with a programme has fed yet another bad habit of mine: books. Specifically cookbooks. I now own over fifty and when I try to get rid of the ones I know I will never cook from I just can’t do it. The hope is that some day I will have a house with room for my collection. A girl can dream. But yes. Last year through a combination of book tokens and sheer luck, I managed to get the accompanying books for series 1 and 3 of the Bake Off for about £15 (for both books, they were on some sort of multi-offer). They have provided much inspiration throughout the year I have owned them – the original book contains a multitude of traditional recipes and some more contemporary ideas that have so far worked beautifully every time (if you ever have a chance, try the jam tarts, or the ginger nuts… Or anything, to be honest!), whilst last year’s offering builds recipes up step-by-step to more complicated designs. I have made toffee choux buns (combining the recipe and advice given in this book for the pastry with an online recipe for toffee sauce to recreate a treat that I used to have on holiday in Scarborough with my family), and also an amazing traybake that took time and effort but was 100% worth it for a friend’s birthday dinner.
Whilst I have managed to curb my cookbook buying habit somewhat, I do have exceptions. And when I found this year’s Bake Off Book, The Great British Bake Off Everyday, in Tesco for £9.99 my resolution to stop adding strain to our kitchen’s cookbook shelf was broken and I had to lug the 320 page hardback across London and back to Cardiff. With a cello, because I like a challenge. I have not had a chance to bake from this book yet, due to lack of friends *sobs*, but I definitely will in time – it says that technical challenges are included and I’m hoping to give them a good shot this year (if just to give my boyfriend and his housemates reason to let me steal their telly each week…). Without having tried a recipe I already have that unfaltering feeling of love for my newest acquisition; it has colour coded sections and a picture of Mary and Paul on the front, what’s not to love?
Although I am duly excited, I have not been the hive of baking activity that friends might expect. But then there is nobody here. Over the course of finishing my dissertation last term I fell into some not-so-good eating habits and have struggled to get out of them and stop gaining weight, so baking at the minute isn’t the wisest choice when I know that I will be left with at least half of what I create sitting in my kitchen, calling me and begging to be eaten. This is another game in which there are, of course, exceptions. I am also fanatic about the Hummingbird Bakery. No, I have never actually been to one of their shops, but it is an odd life ambition of mine to go at some point. My fanaticism is with the cookbooks; I bought their first book and try as I might I could not get any of the recipes to work very well, but it was just so pretty! Oddly, this led to me buying their second book, Cake Days, and voila, I could make these cakes! Understanding gradually came, and these books are the collection that have truly made me bake. Consequently, I am now trying to tick off every recipe in all three of the Hummingbird books (Home Sweet Home is divine: Peanut butter chocolate cookies have made my life). Back to my point. Now that I can make The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook work, I have been using it. And when you are told that you are welcome to use the apples on your side of the wall at the end of the garden, if you are me, your first thought is of your long-standing ambition to make a proper apple pie. Which is what I did on Sunday.
Although a good portion of the aforementioned pie has now been eaten, it is going to be used as my celebration for the beginning of this year’s Bake Off. And after that, we shall see where the (chocolate) chips fall.