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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 13 January 2014
Judges Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell take their search to the South West of England, where three Devon based bakeries enter the baking arena. A former navy chef hopes his rum babas will help him sail to victory, a self taught artisan baker showcases fennel and spinach bread and, a cake specialist battles with her puff pastry. But the chips are down when all must create fudge frosted choux eclairs good enough to win a place in Friday’s regional final.
Tuesday 14 January 2014
Three bakeries from Somerset and Dorset are keen to prove that they’ve got what it takes to be crowned Britain’s Best. Two artisan bakers hope their garlic sourdough will hit the spot, while using goat’s cheese proves a new challenge for a traditional baker. And a mother and daughter cake making duo take it to the wire, creating caramelised upside down apple tarts under the watchful eyes of the judges.
Wednesday 15 January 2014
It’s the turn of three bakeries from Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire to come under the scrutiny of judges Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell. A French patissiere grapples with a British classic, the sausage roll; two cheeky baking brothers hope to charm with their lardy cake; and an artisan mother and son duo attempt their first genoise sponge.
Thursday 16 January 2014
Three bakeries from Hampshire and Wiltshire go head to head. A husband and wife team unleash their Danish pastries; a former Michelin starred chef hopes his chorizo tart will impress and a passionate Italian declares his newfound love for the gooseberry. But to win a place in the regional final they will need to make savoury palmiers to wow the judges.
Friday 17 January 2014
The pressure is on as this week’s four winners face off in the South West England regional final. All must make their mark with a sumptuous afternoon tea; temperatures rise in the kitchen, as the bakeries must create a two tiered coffee and walnut cake with a coffee butter cream icing against the clock. But for three of them it will be the end of the line.