Anyone who watches the Great British Baking Show can tell you that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are just glorified teachers. Throughout the whole episode they explain to the viewers at home what exactly they are looking for in each bake and usually how to achieve it.
The competitors also tell the cameras what they are doing and why, creating an educational feel to what could easily be just an other competition reality show. As if you needed more reasons to watch the Great-est show on TV.
1. How to make meringue
Before watching the Great British Baking Show, I thought meringue was just a type of cookie. Oh, how young and naive I was. Meringue comes in French, Swiss and Italian variations, each with its own process and purpose. All three variations appear at some point in the first season, and the bakers discuss the different techniques.
2. How to temper chocolate
Though I couldn’t say that I would be able to temper chocolate myself yet, the Great British Baking Show introduced me to the general process. The main idea of tempering chocolate is to heat and cool the chocolate multiple times to specific temperatures so that, when it cools, you should have hard shiny chocolate decorations. Although this technique is infamously difficult, the contestants make it look easy.
3. How long to proof bread dough
Paul Hollywood’s specialty is bread, so he goes into extra-judgy-judge mode for the bread episode. From his critiques, I’ve learned that over-proofed dough will rise a lot, but fall flat when it cools because the air pockets are too big to maintain. From watching any Great British Baking Show episode involving yeast, you can learn this and so much more.
4. Results of different oven temperatures
Often in the technical challenges, Paul and Mary like to leave out key details like what temperature to set the oven. The judging inevitably reveals the consequences of the different routes that the bakers take. Lower temperatures produce fluffier bakes, but have the potential to be undercooked, whereas higher temperatures cook the bake well, but may dry it out.
5. How to tell if dough has been kneaded enough
Again, Paul Hollywood has an opinion on anything bread-related, but this lesson comes more from the bakers. Season 2’s Kimberley introduced her “window pane” technique, where she stretches her kneaded dough and holds it to the light. If the gluten is formed properly, it should have a translucent quality.
6. How to avoid a soggy bottom
The contestants all have very different strategies for avoiding the dreaded “soggy bottom” – when the bottom of a pastry is dense or, well, soggy. Sometimes they pre-cook their fillings so they can control how much moisture goes in, or they bake the crust before putting in the filling. Everyone knows that Mary Berry is always going to look for the soggy bottom.
7. How to make puff pastry
In case you were concerned that your puffed pastry wasn’t buttery enough, don’t be. The entire process of making the puff pastry dough consists of folding and rolling butter into the dough. The distribution of butter and the number of times the dough is folded and rolled are actually what makes the pastry puff up and be flaky.
The picture above is what I attempted to replicate after I watched my first Great British Baking Show pastry episode. It was incredibly delicious and only took all day.
8. The names of fancy desserts you’ve never had but now desperately want
Hazelnut Dacquoise. Schichttorte. Povitica. Whether or not you know how to pronounce their names, the delicacies that the Great British Baking Show exhibits look undeniably divine. Why would you settle for cream puffs when you now know that Choux Buns Religieuse exist?
9. That the Great British Baking Show is the best show on TV.
Is Sue subtly flipping us off with a baguette? Probably. Is Paul surprised? Not at all.