What is it about the baking craze that seems to be sweeping the nation? It seems that more than ever before supermarket shelves are bursting with baking utensils, cookware & books with men & women wearing aprons or smiling in front of piles of home baked scones. With Great British Bake Off (sadly) coming to an end and in the midst of National Baking Week, it’s time to take a look at why we’re in love with baking again.
Some would say that we’ve never actually fallen out of love with baking. I have a personal envy of those people who are always baking bread or seem to be able to conjure a batch of brownies at the drop of a hat. However, for all of the brilliant bakers out there are equal amounts of people whose cakes fail to rise, who struggle when making pastry and have never personally experienced the magical joy of a bringing a beautiful banana cake out of the oven.
Shows such as Great British Bake Off have done much to turn this around. For ten weeks millions of viewers have turned into the show on BBC2 on a Tuesday night, making it almost as popular a soap opera (Last week only EastEnders and Emmerdale pulled in higher viewing figures). It’s a gentle “reality TV” formula that works surprisingly well. There are no celebrities (apart for the King & Queen of Baking - Paul Hollywood & Mary Berry, ably assisted by the playful puns of co-presenters Mel Giedroyc & Sue Perkins). No histrionics, diva strops or plaintive cries of how winning would “mean so much” from the contestants. No shouting / bullying chefs. No clever graphics or animation. Just a focus on baking, where the contestants’ challenges feel somewhere within the realms of us all - if only we had more time.
That’s probably the appeal of baking. It feels like something we could all do we if followed recipes and applied ourselves. We remember baking cakes or simple jam tarts & biscuits with our family when were children. Those of us with children see the kids getting stuck in and covered with flour or chocolate as they fill baking trays with a gooey mix.
Photo by Food Urchin
Ask many bakers what the appeal of baking is and you’ll get many answers. It’s therapeutic, it’s relaxing, it’s satisfying, it’s practical, it’s cheaper than buying ready made baked goods, it’s comforting, it’s magical. There are few other forms of cookery where you can throw in items that look bland and boring by themselves (who can get excited about a bag of flour or sugar?), but once mixed with other goods gets transformed into something at least a thousand times the sum of its parts.
Maybe it’s more sensory than this. It’s not for nothing that the smell of freshly baked bread can help to sell a house. Even the smell of Cornish pasties or cookies at railway stations can make your mouth water and have you craving one, when normally it’s the last thing you had thought of.
Perhaps it’s the touch. The warm and tactile pleasure of getting your hands into a good pastry or bread dough. The happiness of wiping your finger or a spatula around a bowl of cake mix or chocolate icing. Who knows? I’m just happy that shows like Great British Bake Off exist and if that’s going to keep Britain as a nation of bakers, long may it continue.
You’ll find much more than a Baker’s Dozen of pies, cakes & pastries in our baking recipe collection at Great British Chefs.
What is it about baking that you enjoy so much?