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The search for the best independent bakery in the land returns with six weeks of tough competition, as 60 bakeries selected from all over Britain make their bid to take the ultimate accolade.
Each day brings an array of mouth-watering recipes, regional specialities and delicious treats as the bakeries showcase their true passion for what they do. From artisan bakers, to cupcake specialists, to pie makers; from family businesses to community enterprises; from youngsters just starting out in their baking careers, to bakers in their 80’s, every baker is putting themselves on the line to be scrutinised by judges Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell.
Between them the judges have over 35 years of baking experience: renowned cake maker Mich Turner has received an MBE for services to the catering industry, while award winning chef and artisan baker Peter Sidwell is one of the country’s leading bread experts. Together they’re looking for bakeries with passion and creative flair, willing to push themselves and their breads, bakes and cakes to new and exciting heights.
With the country divided into five different regions, the judges will set up a new regional judging HQ each week, to put bakeries through their paces in a series of tough culinary challenges. Each weekday, from Monday to Thursday, three bakeries from the region will go head to head. The bakeries must bring a selection of their wares for the judges to taste, before battling it out side by side in the HQ kitchen. After tasting, the judges will select the bakery that will be going through to Friday’s Regional Final.
In the first challenge, the bakeries set up a Baker’s Table at the judging HQ, creating a display of the best their bakery has to offer. Each bakery must nominate their Speciality Bake – the item that they believe makes their bakery special - for the first tasting. As well as delicious food, the judges will be looking for the product that really tells the story of that bakery, and truly represents their region.
The second challenge, the Wild Card Bake, is designed to test the bakeries’ creativity. All the bakeries have been tasked with creating an original bake incorporating an ingredient and a method chosen by the judges, and must now present the outcome. Whether it’s chilli and puff pastry, rosemary and bread dough, or lavender and shortbread, the judges are searching for inspiration and innovative flair – with some extraordinary results!
The final challenge sees the bakeries go head to head in the kitchen to make a bake of the judges’ choice – the Bakers’ Dozen. They have just two hours to a make precise 13 of the same bake, under the watchful eyes of judges Mich and Peter. All must follow the same recipe, but the bakeries have brought their own ingredients and can add their own creative flourishes. With the clock ticking the pressure mounts; there’s nowhere to hide as the bakeries must present all 13 of the final bakes for the judges to taste – and quality and consistency are key.
Friday’s Regional Final sees the week’s four winners facing two tough tasks, working side by side and against the clock in the HQ kitchen. All must make an afternoon tea, with at least five sweet and savoury items, to wow the judges. And the afternoon is rounded off with the Judge’s Choice Cake, where the four very different bakeries are handed the same ingredients and tasked with making the same technically demanding cake. Only one of them is going to go through to the last week in the series, National Finals Week.
National Finals Week kicks off with two days of tense high stakes challenges, as the final five bakeries slug it out for a place in the Grand Final. From baking Chelsea Buns for the Chelsea Pensioners, to creating one hundred sweet and savoury items for Henley Festival goers, only three can hit a high enough bar to make it through.
The last three bakeries now face a nail-biting marathon three day final, where every aspect of their skill as bakers is put to the test. From baking for profit at London’s Old Spitalfields Market, to creating an iconic bake to put their region on the map, to making a wedding cake for one special couple, every bakery is pushed to the very limit of their ingenuity and stamina – and only one can emerge victorious, to take the crown of Britain’s Best!
Monday 6 January 2014:
This week cake connoisseur Mich Turner and bread expert Peter Sidwell begin their search in the North East, pitting three Yorkshire bakeries against each other at judging HQ. A contemporary Yorkshire baker goes head to head with a 40’s vintage style cake maker and a Ukrainian bread specialist. All need to come up with an original bake using polenta, and produce rhubarb and custard muffins good enough to see them through to a place in Friday’s regional final.
Tuesday 7 January 2014:
Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell’s hunt for Britain’s Best hits Northumberland and Co Durham. A Consett based builder recently turned baker enters the fray, battling against artisan bakers from Darlington and a father and son team serving Geordie classics. The pressure mounts as all must roll up a technically challenging lemon roulade with homemade lemon curd.
Wednesday 8 January 2014:
It’s the turn of three bakeries from Derbyshire and Staffordshire to come under the scrutiny of judges Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell. A pair of traditional pudding makers come up against a self-taught husband and wife pie making pair, and two self-sufficient Greek inspired bakers. All are vying for a place in Friday’s regional final, by creating a perfect version of a British classic, the Bakewell Tart – but can they get them baked on time?
Thursday 9 January 2014:
Three Scottish bakeries enter the baking arena: a community bread bakery with a lot of heart is pitted against artisan bread makers from Edinburgh and a Perthshire based Israeli baker who mills his own flour at a 400 year old watermill. The bakeries are tasked with creating an original bake combining chilli and puff pastry, and all must make brandy snaps with enough snap to please judges Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell.
Friday 10 January 2014:
This week’s winners go head to head in the Scotland and North East England regional final. Temperatures rise as the four bakeries do battle in the kitchen, with Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell scrutinising their every move. All must create an afternoon tea to wow the judges, and create a complicated layered hazelnut meringue gateau with hazelnut praline. But burnt praline and broken meringue mean that for three of them the competition ends here.