Gluten-free raspberry and lemon Swiss roll

Great British Bake Off, 2014, Week One - Bite-Sized Bakes

by Urvashi Roe 7 August 2014

The Great British Bake Off has finally returned to our screens! Here former contestant, Urvashi, gives us the low down on the contestants and their creations for the first episode of the new series.

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Urvashi finds food, baking, cooking and eating a therapeutic relief from every day work and family life.

Urvashi finds food, baking, cooking and eating a therapeutic relief from every day work and family life. She is a freelance writer and stylist for various publications including Good Things Magazine, and The Foodie Bugle. She was also a former contestant on BBC2's Great British Bake Off. She shares vegetarian and allotment inspired recipes on her Botanical Kitchen and Gujarati Girl blogs.

The fifth series of GBBO. We've become too lazy to say ‘The Great British Bake Off’. It's now so ubiquitous that GBBO dropped into any conversation will lead to tangents galore. Everyone is an expert on every aspect of baking. I passed a group of builders today near work who were sharing biscuit baking advice, on the platform at the station a group of teens were engrossed in conversation about oven temperatures, in my local supermarket butter and flour was sold out. GBBO is EVERYWHERE!

And there are a few firsts this year ....

1. It's on BBC1. In case you missed this, the series has moved to prime time slot on BBC1. I really enjoyed this interchange between BBC1 and BBC2 on twitter and BBC’s change of name to @BBCBun for the duration of the programme. Clever marketing people.

2. We have the youngest ever contestant - the lovely Martha who is already the favourite with my girls.

3. We have the oldest contestant - 69 year old Diana, a WI judge from Shropshire.

Aside from those firsts the programme has the same ingredients that make it such a (BAFTA) winner:

1 tent - I actually think it looked a lot bigger than the one I was in

1 plush looking field - it's got a little plusher this year don't you think?

12 KitchenAids - what would we do without them?

12 ovens - what else would you pray to?

2 laughing ladies - none of us could have survived the experience without the cuddles, comfort and laughter of Mel and Sue

2 superb judges - Household names in Hollywood and Bury, Paul and Mary are an unbeatable team.

Reams of bunting - have you noticed how every shop is now selling bunting?

Introducing 12 new bakers

The programme works hard to bring together a real cross section of the UK into that tent. The interview process takes a whole year and thousands will have been turned away. The line-up this year includes a student, a builder, a mum, an upholsterer and an engineer. This episode worked very hard to introduce us to them all but it was a bit of a whirlwind. They all got some good airtime but it was difficult to get to know them all in this episode. Martha and Norman are a clear media favourites. Chetna seems quietly confident. Richard could be the charming dark horse. Who knows!

A Signature Swiss Roll

It all starts with cake week. A fair set of challenges kicking off with a Signature Swiss Roll. As if it weren't hard enough to get a tight swirl and a light sponge, these bakers were tasked with taking their flavours and designs to the next level. Paul's advice was to choose the filling carefully and ensure it would not be too wet to make the sponge soggy. Mary wanted to see that tight swirl.

There were some beautiful creations. Chetna's cardamom, pistachio and coffee creation stood out for me with stunning chocolate flowers. I remember making chocolate flowers in my first week for my Sakura Cupcakes and forgetting them in the fridge! Luis' Spanish inspired orange and aniseed roll with stunningly simple orange segments on the top was also beautifully presented and impressed Paul with flavours.

The creatives were Richard with pretty and pink floral swirls on the outer side of his roll and Nancy who had a layer of crunchy nuts on the outside. I loved that idea.

It was all looking great until the rolling. There was a lot of rolling, rolling, rolling. Poor Iain's technique received the Mary Berry stare. We don't want the Mary Berry stare. Oh no. That's not a good stare.

Such a shame because his apricot and basil flavour combo sounded amazing and was totally overlooked. Flavours that won the round were Martha's Tiramisu and Norman's Black Forest creations.

Mini Victoria sponges
Mini raspberry cakes

Put a cherry on the top of that technical challenge

It's really hard to judge the difficulty of the technical challenge because we don't see the set of instructions the bakers are given on TV. Just remember that on set, ingredients are listed but with no quantities. A method is given but it's more of a set of bullet points than instructions with no temperatures or timings in some cases. So there are three routes you can take:

1. Desperately remember the last time you made a cherry cake in a bundt tin,

2. Use all your baking geekiness to work it all out in a scientific manner

3. Wing it!

I was disappointed that nobody was winging it. I did rather love James Morton's laissez faire style in series 3. These guys all seemed to know what they were doing and we learned lots of tips:

DO cut the cherries up so they are evenly distributed through the cake - failure to do so will result in them all being at one end.

DO toss the cherries in flour so they don't fall to the bottom of the pan in the baking process

DON'T over toast almonds or else they taste bitter

DO score and fold a strip of the sponge first to help get the swirl

DO roll the sponge when it is warm to avoid cracks

DON'T make the icing too runny because you want a nice melt and not a drizzle

DON'T forget to read the whole recipe through (and reserve some cherries for the topping)

But where did all the cherries go?

Did Mel and Sue scoff them? More likely it was the cameramen but almost half the bakers had a "non-existent distribution of cherries". Now I never thought I would hear that on BBC1. Top of the league was Nancy closely followed by Martha and Chetna.

The Great British Mini Cake

This last bake was a lovely creative opportunity in my view. So many possibilities but many chose a classic sponge or lemon drizzle. My hat went off to Enwezor and his mini Battenburgs. Those fiddly little beauties would have done Dot Cotton proud!

We had some tiers (no not tears yet) from Iain, Chetna and Kate though - slightly outside the remit of 'bite sized bake' but beautiful nonetheless.

We were introduced to some new techniques:

'Guillotining' from Nancy to ensure a perfect cut of her beautifully baked sponges to make an exquisite Jaffa cake interpretation. I wonder how many stores will be stocking these soon?

'Ganaching' - this is the process of coating one's cake in chocolate ganache as demonstrated by Diana.

Pipetting - the use of a pipette to introduce drizzle on to one's lemon slice as shown by Luis.

The winner was clearly Nancy with a 'tick, tick, tick' from Paul on her Orange and Chocolate Cakes which were indeed so perfect they really could have gone on sale at Fortnum’s. But the classic coffee and walnut from the man with the pencil behind his ear, Richard, was also a flavour hit.

In the danger zone

In the danger zone going into this last challenge were Claire, Jordan and Iain. (We were secretly hoping not Iain as we love his beard. There need to be more beards on the telly!). It was hard to tell by the end who would go but it was clearly going to be one of these three as the cameras had focused and zoomed in on their disasters:

Claire with her exploding/imploding chocolate cakes though she made a great rescue attempt baking up another layer of cake to place these on.

Jordan with his unset honeycomb but again he thought quickly and create a praline topping instead.

Iain with his multi coloured, under and over baked lemon sponges that were too tall for Paul.

It was to be Claire to be the first to leave and this is what makes this programme so sad. She may have just been having an off day or she may always be someone crying over cake. We shall never know as she won't get a chance to show us the other 18 recipes she'd no doubt created. Good luck Claire.

Next week is biscuit week and the trailer already shows some ingenious baking. Can’t wait!