Forget “Friday Night Lights”: I’m tuning in to the new season of “The Great British Baking Show,” which debuts tonight (September 16) on Netflix.
I’m a sucker for the thrills and spills in the tent. I’m here for Paul Hollywood’s withering criticism, for the inevitable tears, for the camaraderie forged as a dozen amateur bakers duke it out (but, like, politely) for the title of Britain’s best. And all of us bakers have GBBS to thank for making marjolaine mainstream and crumpets cool again. If this debut has you inspired, here are nine brilliant British bakes to try.
America has its apple pie; in Britain, the cake in every home baker’s repertoire is the Victoria sponge, named for Queen Victoria. The tender cake (made with self-rising flour) is split and sandwiched with whipped cream or buttercream and fruit preserves for a not-too-sweet treat that’s excellent with tea.
Packed with dried fruit, sweetened with brown sugar and molasses, and doused with homemade caramel sauce, Sticky Toffee Pudding is an extra-gooey classic British dessert; gild the lily by topping it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or surrounding each portion with a moat of crème anglaise.
I’d like to think that Paul and Prue would approve of our version of Bakewell Tart, which features a buttery shortcrust pastry topped with jam and a layer of delicate, nutty frangipane made from almond flour and extract.
I consider shortbread to be the MVP of British baking. Simple, rich, and completely customizable (Lemon! Chocolate! Espresso!), these five-ingredient cookies capture hearts and minds. (And if you don’t believe me, maybe watch a few episodes of Ted Lasso after tonight’s GBBS premiere.)
Though meat pies date back as far as 1150, they gained popularity in the 1800s as a convenient, satisfying, handheld meal for English mineworkers. They remain popular today for the same reasons. A hot water pastry crust is sturdy enough to contain the meat and vegetables inside without leaking or cracking.
True fans of the GBBS might recall that tuile were a technical challenge way back in Season Two, when the bakers were tasked with making 18 perfect wafer-thin cookies. An offset spatula makes the task of spreading the batter into perfect circles a bit easier, but still, these crisp cookies are no walk in the park; there’s a reason they were a technical challenge!
British high tea looms large in the imagination of some Americans who (like me) spend their afternoons slugging cold coffee and snacking on half-eaten granola bars that kids have left behind. But you can bring a little English culture to your routine with a batch of these scones, made with heavy cream in place of butter to give the teatime treats a cakey crumb.
Are they cookies or crackers? However you classify them, these gently sweet, wheat-y biscuits were developed in the latter part of the 19th century to help Britons increase their fiber intake. They're made with white whole wheat flour; use these round cutters to stamp them out any size you’d like.
OK, so maybe you don’t have time to make a full English breakfast, replete with black pudding, a broiled tomato, and baked beans. But you might have time to whip up a batch of crumpets, which are an especially delicious way to use up your sourdough discard. An English muffin ring set ensures perfectly round crumpets that are sure to please the judges (even if the judges are just your family members).
Cover photo (Bakewell Tart) by Kristin Teig.