It was ready, set, dough last night as The Great British Bake Off focussed on bread making in week two. The contestants had make flat breads, a six strand plaited loaf and the show stopper challenge of two dozen bagels. Discover who would "rise" to the occasion and who would fall flat.
Blog post for Great British Chefs by Mecca Ibrahim
The Great British Bake Off returned to BBC2 last night and millions gathered around TV sets and took to Twitter to comment on the amateur bakers at work. Last week it was all about cake and this week's challenges would sort out the "wheat from the chaff" as the focus was on bread. As judge Paul Hollywood said "Understand bread and you understand baking".
First up was flat breads
An interesting challenge. As Mel said “you can bake then on the oven floor, on the wall or the griddle”. Flatbreads have been around for centuries with almost all cultures having their own speciality. Paul said "Flatbreads shouldn't have an envelope inside them, traditionally it's quite a sponge dough all the way through it and not too thick”.
The bakers got to work kneading and contestant Brendan explained "Bread is a very satisfying thing to make there's this lovely tactile feel about it as you're when you're kneading and proving the dough". Flatbreads don't need to prove as long as regular bread and they don't need to rise as much. So the main challenge is to produce a flatbread that is soft and easy to tear and something that doesn't snap like a cracker. Each contestant worked to produce some tasty variations. James made tomato, garlic & Parmesan flat breads and Tatty scones.
Victoria felt like an "imposter" as she didn't normally bake bread, but loves Indian food so hoped her Lemon Naan bread and Garlic, cardoman and black parsnip chapatis. John also went down an Asian route with Coriander and Chilli Rotis and Garlic & Pomegranate Pitas topped with potato.
Many flatbreads are characterised by their flavours & inspired by Bombay Mix, Stuart made Bombay Bread and Chorizo & Spring Onion Naan bread. Cathryn also made Naan bread, a spiced mango version and a chilli, lime & coriander soft tortilla.
Manisha's Indian & Italian Flatbreads were a big hit with both judges. Mary said "they look inviting with this nice colour" and Paul loved the garlic in them. The judges were more divided with Danny's flatbreads, Paul proclaimed them "fantastic" and adored the lime, whereas Mary felt they were a bit "overbaked" but nonetheless enjoyed their texture.
Both judges were pleasantly surprised by Cathryn's spicy Mango Naans. "Get in there" said Paul and Mary said "Ooh Hello - that's great and pretty unusual. It could have been the other way round but they work".
Sarah-Janes beer oatcakes proved particularly popular with Paul. Mary said "It's very adult and they're very strong with the beer. Is that going down in one Paul?" she laughed as he polished off the beer they were served with.
The second technical challenge - The Rapunzel Challenge
Next the contestants have to prepare a recipe from Paul or Mary’s repertoire. Paul had chosen a particularly complicated one. The challenge was to bake an 8 strand plaited loaf in two hours. Paul was looking for golden texture, uniformity in the plaits and well baked insides.
"What I'm looking for is a nice equal plait running down the length of the loaf" said Paul. "A good baker should at least be able to do one plait. Yes, we've thrown them into the deep end but we are trying to find the best amateur baker in this country".
The bread requires a longer kneading process due to the strong white flour and the plaiting. Sarah Jane was comfortable when making cakes but a complete novice at bread making. She said that she couldn't even plait her daughter's hair!
There were many furrowed brows over the method and remarks of the loaves looking like octopus with eight tentacles as the bread was made. To get an even plait each strand had to be exactly the same length before plaiting began. A number looked out of their depth following the "8 under 7, and 7 over 1" instructions we sounded more at home for a knitting pattern rather than a recipe.
As it's normally a case of Mary announcing "soggy bottoms" on Great British Bake Off, there appeared to be a number of "stuck bottoms" with the loaves. Mary & Paul were looking for a rich colour on top, a good "crumb structure" and an even bake.
The array of plaited loaves varied tremendously. Paul's harsher comments included "this plait had lost its way pretty much from the start" - "it's gone awry" - "to say it's a disaster would be a humiliation to disaster" - "very dense inside, bordering on raw".
However others fared much better being "near perfect", "this is a very good looking bread". After all of the tasting, John's loaf was voted the best.
The final challenge – bagels
Onto the show stopper challenge. The contestants had to bake two dozen bagels. These little baked goods had never been baked on the show before and the bakers were challenged to make twelve savoury and twelve sweet. All the bakers start off with a basic dough containing a strong wheat flour. By adding different flavours the bakers would have to adjust their recipes to avoid any reaction with the bagels being poached before they are baked.
James bravely went for a sour dough. Brendan added a special twist to his bagels with two different types of bagel dough - chocolate and vanilla.
John had a "spin & squeeze" technique for his and also a "double hander" to achieve an even consistency all the way around.
The bagels all have to be poached in water before they are baked, which gives them their dense chewy texture. Over-boiling will result in the crust being too thick and too chewy.
The crucial waiting then took place as the bagels were baked. Each contestant hoping that the hole wouldn't close so they didn't end up looking like bread rolls.
Getting the right shape was a tough call. Paul felt that Peter's bagels looked more like bread rolls. Stuart's were pronounced over proved. Brendan's chocolate twists also ended up being more like rings.
Paul felt that Ryan's was more like a flatbread than a bagel "You've managed to create a new kind of bread here. It's a flagel" he said.
There was much praise for James's chocolate, orange and mint bagels. "You have awful lot of orange coming through here" said Mary. James waited patiently for her verdict "But I like it and the mint is now coming through".
However Paul was much more impressed by James's sour dough bagels. "These sour dough bagels are extremely difficult to do".
The second to leave
The Star Baker was John who looked genuinely shocked. Equally shocked was Peter who unfortunately had to leave. He said he was "gutted", but his challenge in the next few months is to become a better bread baker!
Next week the bakers are on more familiar ground as they face tarts!
You can find a whole selection of baked treats from our award winning chefs in our baking recipe collection. Catch up on week one's summary over on our Great British Bake Off blog.
How would you have fared with bread making? Have you ever made any of the breads in the show? Would you like to try now? Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.