Gina and I have recently become obsessed with the television show on BBC 2 called The Great British Bake Off (TGBBO). In the past couple of weeks, we have watched seasons two through four online. If you haven't seen it before, it is an amateur baking competition where the contestants have to complete three bakes every weekend; there is a different theme for each week - cakes, pastry, etc. The two judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, have great chemistry and give good feedback to each of the bakers (Paul is the Simon Cowell-esque figure of the show).
We have found ourselves recently commenting on whether things are over- or under-prooved (the Brits use "proove" instead of "proof"), as well as on the quality of the crumb structure and whether or not the crust has a "soggy-bottom" from too much water being added to the filling. Needless to say, I think we will both become better bakers by osmosis from watching so much of the show. They did an American version of the show this year, which also had Paul Hollywood as one of the judges, but apparently it didn't do well here in the States and won't be around for a second season, which is a shame since Gina and I were both hoping to apply for a spot! However, it is very popular in the UK and we are anxiously waiting to watch the fifth season next year.
While I love the concept and the show, Gina and I find some of the flavor combinations that the Brits use to be unappealing. They love to use rosewater and passion fruit at every conceivable opportunity., but we can forgive the British, who are not generally known for the quality of their food. Season 3 was our favorite; we rooted for fellow medical student James, who also happens to look a bit like me (same glasses, at least). He has a book on bread baking out now called Brilliant Bread, which I am hoping to receive for Christmas (hint, hint, Gina).
[Gina says she rooted for James not because he was a medical student, but because he wore amazing sweaters.]
Last week, Gina and I were fortunate enough to attend a King Arthur Flour Bakes Across America seminar near St. Louis on yeast breads. We went with a big group that included Gina's mom, two of Gina's sisters, as well as a family friend. The King Arthur Flour bakers gave out lots of free KAF swag, including (of course) flour and cookbooks. They also partner with Dansko shoes and gave out a free pair of Danskos at the show. None of us won the shoes, which was disappointing to the group because 3 out of the 6 of us wore Danskos at the demo without knowing ahead of time that they were a sponsor.