All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Great British Bake Off



I'm not good at baking.......though if I'd watched The Great British Bake Off at a formative age I reckon I'd be considerably better as the two judges specialise in informing and helping - a welcome change from most 'reality' shows.
It is a wholesome programme - with the possible exception of Brendan oiling his forearms - and one that gives me a great deal of pleasure even if to this day I can't see how you are supposed to get a hot water crust case off a wooden dolly after putting it in the fridge.
I use a big jam jar and fill the case while it is still a little warm. It needs sharp work with the greaseproof and string, but it works for me.

It came as no surprise to learn that the BBC have been selling the programme round the world....it's a winning formula, combining home baking and professional standards in a friendly atmosphere and deserves to do well, but today I read in the papers that the formula has been sold to a French TV chain who plan, of course, to alter it for their home market.

Meddling buggers.

No tent with rain lashing down outside....but an orangerie.
No flatbreads, or wellingtons, or pork pies...but patisserie.
Only patisserie.
Meringues...and, inevitably, macarons.

When groups of friends from the U.K. visited us in France the women could be seen loading up with gold ribboned boxes of things featuring chocolate ganache, fruits and creme patissiere, which the men would inevitably devour before condemning them as fartarse fancies, two mouthfuls of nothing with a whopping price tag.
Patisseries.

So they won't be watching, then.

I don't think I will be either despite the best efforts of a Paris based Irish cookery book writer called Trish Deseine who informs us that French amateurs will probably come in to the show with a better base of skills.
'There is a level of understanding and complexity that you don't have with British home cooking.'
She doesn't mean to be detrimental, you understand,
'but it is because of the relative maturity of the food culture in both countries.'

She also believes that French home cooks are better than their British  equivalents.

While I imagine that she has mastered the culinary arts, it is clear that she has also mastered that art essential to success in France...what Private Eye used to refer to as the ancient art of Arslikhan.

The decision to concentrate on patisserie is, to me, yet another example of the Paris/Provinces split....the antithesis of The Great British Bake Off where traditional baked goods are not despised but
celebrated.

I lived outside Paris...well outside....and ladies in the provinces bought their patisserie from the shop....but made their traditional dishes at home.

A tarte aux pruneaux....like a shortbread with a layer of prune puree in the middle.

A galette paysanne, where a yeast dough enriched with sugar, rum and creme fraiche is rolled and turned like puff pastry, emerging golden from the oven to be eaten with  fruit compote.

A brioche vendeenne, a plaited enriched yeast dough flavoured with rum or orange flower water and light as a feather.

A tourteau fromage, a base of shortcrust pastry filled with  a mixture of fromage blanc and eggs...cooked until the dome is black.

And not just sweet things, either....

A gateau de Paques, veal and ham pie but with a mix of pork, rabbit and pigs liver surrounding the boiled eggs.

A tarte au Maroilles, think quiche, but using the high smelling cheese from Maroilles in the north of  France mixed with beer and creme fraiche.

A flamiche aux poireaux, quiche again but filled with leeks.

And anyone who has eaten potato pie from the Berry region will know how the housewives could make a belly filler into a sheer delight.

Anyone who lives or has a holiday house in France will have their local favourites and wouldn't it be much more interesting to see regional baking specialities being showcased than to assist at the birth of yet another macaron?

I suggest that the best way to counter the claims of Trish Deseine would be for the British contestants to produce a Bombe Alaska in the shape of Joan of Arc.....and flambe it.

On your marks... get set... bake!











Baked alaska joan of arc flambeed.

40 comments:

  1. I fancy the pants off PAUL HOLLYWOOD and support James and John as contestants!
    Brendan is now a pantomime baddie in my books!

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  2. I love cookery programmes but I seem to have missed this one. I think I can find some back episodes on one of the websites I use so will have a look.

    I've just been watching back to back episodes of Masterchef..oldish ones. I love amateurs becoming almost professional in the kitchen...it gives me hope!

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    1. I like it because the judges give advice, there's no shouting and I learn a lot.
      I rather like the idea of it all taking place in a marquee, too!

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  3. Ahhh, classic you at your very best. I cannae speak for French baking, a tad heavy for masel, but I do know that the French prepare the very best horse steak I have ever tasted. Tuna Niçoise with its black olives and capers is a regular dish at my table.

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    1. Ah, I might have guessed that you'd not feel the urge for a religieuse......

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  4. just came over from John's blog...have to say I've got a tad obsessive about Bake Off and I think I'm quite a normal person...what's happened to me?
    I wake up Tuesday mornings and think "ah, Bake Off all is well with the world!"

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    1. Yes, I'm surprised too how addicted I've become!

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  5. Yeah. Well. Our fish and chips are still better than theirs.

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    1. Indubitally...even when cooked by Hong Kong Chinese.

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  6. I'm not a fan of macarons or patisseries. Give me a Dundee cake any day.

    If the French show does not celebrate local French baking, then it's missing an opportunity. I'd be a lot more interested in watching keen amateurs and learning something new than watching professionals make yet more macarons and fancy sickly fluff.

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    1. It's the usual clever clever stuff, isn't it....look at me getting a clean cut on my marquise.... rather than giving an airing to regional specialities.
      Do they still make mutton pies in Pezenas?

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  7. Yes they do still make those wonderful pies in Pezenas.... I bought some last year and served them to neighbours in Caunes ( all of 60kms from Pezenas).....they had never heard of them. They were also fascinated by the samosas that I'd bought at the supermarket, in Carcassonne.
    I love Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, and agree with you about how the programme is likely to not be quite so good when it moves to France. Our French neighbours all told us that they wouldn't bother to bake the sweet stuff. J.

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    1. No, why would you worry when you can get all that ready made for you!
      I remember thse pies...they were super so I'm glad they haven't died out.

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  8. It sounds from your description that one basic aim of the original programme was to have fun, and it also sounds like this has completely escaped the French programmers.

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    1. Well, it's competitive, but nicely so and, of course fun is too simple a concept for French TV poducers to understand.

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  9. I love the Great British Bake Off! And one of its strength is the great variety of bakes they have to do. As a French person, I find it fascinating, informative and lots of fun, and I could kill for a sweet cinnamon bun after watching the programme, it makes me so hungry!

    I can't see the attraction of just doing patisserie. However yummy it all looks, it's just too samey and boring! I want the breads and the pies and the gooey stuff.

    Like Pueblo Girl says, French programmers do not get 'fun', as shown in the first season of the French Masterchef, it was all no fun and rude nose-up judges scaring the life out of the contestants.

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    1. What I don't get is how much fun I had with French friends....and then once you get to 'from the top down' television all the fun just disappears.It's as if being genuinely light hearted is infra dig in public!

      I saw a couple of programmes of French Masterchef, but I didn't notice which series it was and was put off by the sneering.

      By all means do a bit of patisserie, but I'd love to see more 'all round' baking involved....and no sneering.


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  10. Although the kitchen is recognised as my own personal ‘happy place’ in my household, I’m no Billy Baker either. Too much savoury, not enough sweet in my teeth still. I’m a bit of an addict of telly food programmes, but I haven’t as yet become stuck on the Great British Bake Off, or Paul Hollywood, for no particular reason. Enrolled on one of anglophile Richard Bertinet’s bakery courses a few years back, in Bath, to try and unravel some of the secrets to making good bread and pork pie cases. Can highly recommend both him, his workshops and his excellent couple of bread orientated cook books, although his ‘intro to patisserie’ part of the course had me quaking in my plimsolls. Way too tricky and technical for me I’m afraid. Whoever came up with JustRoll, deserves a Nobel Prize for easy peasy great ideas. I’ll stick to shortcut pastry in a packet and smoky baked potato mash, and happily leave all the artisan sweetie stuff to the maître pâtissier’s.

    PS – If you like your chefs all manly and hunky, then take a look at the big Breton himself via this YouTube link. He had all the women on the course in a permanent state of hopeless swoon. No idea why.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caiEXKK_xGY

    PPS – I just can’t believe how easily you just mugged me into Googling the word ‘Arslikhan’. Penny came crashing to earth way too late to save me from groaning my lungs out over here. My nose has turned a magnificently bright shade of brown. Thank you. Not.

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    1. You of all people to be Googling Arslikhan!

      I like a man with good technique and your chap looks the works....

      And I miss Justroll...have to make my own here which means sharp work with the iced water at dawn if the whole thing is not to collapse in a mass of grease.

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  11. I'm another who has missed The Great British Bake-Off and must catch up sometime. What a missed opportunity on the part of the French programme-makers. Speaking personally I can't stand either meringues or macarons, but love a wedge of a good Tarte Tatin. :-)

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    1. The contestants made some gorgeous versions of Tarte Tatin a few episodes ago...I'm not sure if they gave any of the recies though.

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  12. Perhaps we shall be seeing Ms.Trierweiler on it. She has experience of having her finger in more than one pie!

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    1. I wonder if she is reserving herself for Masterchef, demonstrating a pretty kettle of fish!

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  13. Shame to concentrate on patisserie,I wouldn't mind knowing how to make Gateau Breton which really is Devil's food, especially when it has a layer of caramel in the middle.

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  14. I have never watched the program and I am unlikely to watch it in French either! I seldom bake as neither if us are fond of cakes. Because of all the hazel nuts we had this year I roasted some and baked a hazel nut cake today. I tastes fine, but for us just too rich I would not make it again. I will stick to tarte aux pruneaux or similar, and of course cherry clafoutis. While the carpenters were here I made a number of cougette cakes which were not bad but we had help eating them! Take care Diane

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    1. I hsve fits and starts for cake...but the visitors here get through cake in quantity. I have super recipe from Ayak..a sort of cook what you've got cake...and people like it so much it's gone round the place like wildfire.

      I did like clafouti, though!

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  15. Along with my sister in law I'm happily addicted to the programme. Many of the things they've baked have had me drooling!
    Sad about the French version. France's food strength is its regional diversity [in any kind of food]

    I'm with Perpetua on Tarte Tatin. Macaroons leave me stone cold.

    Now what are we all going to do after final is over next Tuesday??

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    1. Trust Paris to ignore the provinces.....and as for macarons!

      Well, the first week will be spent pulling the decision to pieces...but after that...well, Spiral or The Killing had better start soon.


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    2. Perfect! Bring on the dark gloomy policiers for autumn nights :-)

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    3. Yes indeed...but which will it be...the not quite there tops of the French detective or the jersey of the Danish one!

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  16. I still miss the mousses from les patisseries, I must confess. I became quite addicted to them.

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    1. I'd take a fit for something like that perhaps once or twice a year...but I don't have that much of a sweet tooth.

      What never failed to amuse me was an old friend whose wife always bought boxes of the things when they visited...she would scarcely get a look in as he would hardly have finished one before the ritual announcement was made
      'You need six to make a gobful...'
      and the hand would be reaching for the next.

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  17. I have never seen the show and I am not good at baking myself. I really enjoyed this post, though.

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    1. I'm not good either....so Ayak's recipe has been a godsend!

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  18. Down our way it was just duck, duck and canard. Could you put that in a patisserie I wonder? I love GBBO and I'm sorry but not surprised that the French have decided to bastardise it. I mean, what do you expect from the country which gave us Deal or No Deal?

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    1. Well, not a lot really....
      Our lot used to go for andouillette in a big way....
      Andouillette wellington anyone?

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  19. There is a statue of J of A in orleans, but I couldn't light it. Not realistic at all.

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    1. That's France for you...all illusion....

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