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Great British Bake Off – inspiration for Victorian Week

Great British Bake Off – inspiration for Victorian Week

by Great British Chefs 11 September 2015

The next episode of the Great British Bake Off draws on recipes from the nineteenth century in the first ever Victorian Week. We look to the past for inspiration.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

The Great British Bake Off is going back in time for yet another ‘first’. This week is called Victorian Week as the contestants pay homage to arguably the greatest period for baking in British history. Through innovation and industrialization, the Victorians changed the way we cooked and ate in this country. It was during the nineteenth century that baking powder, commercial gelatin and afternoon tea were invented so we have a lot to thank them for!

The signature challenge this week is for that old British classic, a game pie. Popular throughout history, this dish became a favourite in Victorian times as kitchenware became more sophisticated and tins and ceramic moulds could be used to ‘raise’ the pies rather than the crude, virtually inedible pastry that had been used since medieval times. Traditionally, the pies contained a mixture of different game including rabbit, venison, pigeon, pheasant, partridge, quail and woodcock or indeed, anything that could be hunted or trapped in the British countryside. The contestants will presumably be trying to impress the judges with their flavour combinations and elaborate pastry decorations. For similarly impressive pies, take a look at Galton Blackiston’s old-fashioned raised game pie or Adam Gray’s English quail and truffle pie.

We are now used to technical challenges that involve bakes that most of us have never heard of before – flaounes, Spanische Windtort, arlettes – and this week’s TC is no exception; it involves making a fruit cake that is covered in marzipan and fondant icing in order to make it look like a tennis court. Apparently the recipe comes from one of Mary’s old cookbooks and was popular in the late 19th century. Fruit cake, marzipan, a landscape created out of fondant icing? To us, it sounds like a summer version of a Christmas cake! Anyone for tennis?

 
 

Creating a show-stopping Charlotte Russe is bound to make some of the bakers come unstuck. This popular Victorian pudding is a splendid centrepiece – a rich bavarois (a set pastry cream) surrounded by sponge fingers and topped with jelly. In terms of flavours and additions, as per usual with the show-stopper, anything goes but the difficulty we envisage some of the contestants having is getting the bavarois to set sufficiently to be able to hold the jelly – rumour has it that not everyone manages to get their Charlotte to stay standing. We say stick with that other Victorian favourite, trifle – a similar combination of sponge, jelly and custard but no danger of collapse! Try Alan Williams’s Clementine and gingerbread trifle or Marcus Wareing’s Lord Mayor’s trifle which is straight from a nineteenth century cookbook. In fact, many of Marcus’s recipes from his restaurant, The Gilbert Scott, are from this era of history, such as Manchester tart or Mrs Beeton’s snow eggs. With his help, you can create your own homage to the Victorian era.

 
 

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