The Great British Bake Off Has Its First Vegan Week
The Great British Bake Off is one of those programs that suits all ages, but this kind of mass-appeal is by no means simple to achieve. To establish it, the show relies heavily on the comforting, and familiar traditionalism of British baking in a typical village fete scene, combined with friendly and entertaining competition; and of course, a sprinkling of innuendo and good old British smuttiness. However, when you look at the baking side of things, you’d be wrong to assume that it is solely reliant on conventional approaches to traditional recipes. In fact, it is quite the opposite, with bakers opting for unusual flavours, anywhere from bubblegum and matcha to goldenberries and yuzu. The baking contestants are always ready to surprise the judges with a fresh take on some of the classics.
That said, it would be unfair to say that it’s only the bakers who are up for a change of pace… Bake Off is also no stranger to experimentation. The show doesn’t just stick to the same themed weeks, although they maintain some staples such as ‘bread week’ in every series, they also keep things fresh by challenging bakers with unpredictable themes like ‘Spice week’ and ‘Victorian week’. This year, however, marks the first in the show’s history that they have had a vegan week.
Image source: The Guardian
Things Are Changing
There are around 2,500 eggs and over 500 blocks of butter used in an average series of the Bake Off. One may think from these statistics – and watching an average episode – that these ingredients and reliance on animal products for the bakes would be so integral to the show, that the idea for vegan week would be laughed at and dismissed. But Paul Hollywood, one of the show’s judges, defended the theme by pointing out veganism’s growing popularity: “We wanted something different and something to represent what was happening in this country”. The fact the show’s producers and judges made this observation is really encouraging as it highlights the changing attitude to veganism and how it is becoming more mainstream. This, in turn, shows it is more widely understood and catered for.
It’s also really good to hear that both judges of the show, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, agreed that they had learned a lot from the vegan-themed week. Hollywood described it as fascinating and how the bakes had surprised him. Before the episode aired, the judges pointed out that they would be not making any allowances for the ingredient replacements and alterations in vegan week. And Paul made his high expectations very clear: “it’s got to taste good, period.”
So, after the ‘vegan week’ episode aired on TV last week, what were our thoughts? For a start, we felt it was good that the episode was put somewhere around the middle of the series, meaning the bakers executing the challenges were more accustomed and experienced in the tent. Having whittled the bakers down, those left in the tent were, arguably, more likely able to do the vegan challenges justice. However, by placing the vegan theme at this point of the series meant there will still enough bakers left in the show to demonstrate a variety of vegan examples. On the whole, we felt that the bakers had a good, open-minded attitude to the baking challenges, and didn’t blame the lack of animal products on any shortcomings or failed bakes.
We were also really pleased by Prue Leith’s choice of technical challenge, opting for a vegan meringue made using aquafaba – the desserts which the bakers produced looked stunning, decadent, and delicious. And very much the same as making the alternative dairy and egg-laden version. This kind of thing will open a lot of people’s eyes to what you can do with plant-based baking. Paul Hollywood has previously explained how he hopes that the show will inspire people to bake. This in itself is a positive thing. But since dedicating an entire episode to vegan baking, thus demonstrating you can bake delicious show-stoppers without a heavy reliance on dairy, eggs or meat, it is encouraging to think of how this has inspired amateur bakers across the country to give it a try too.
What were your thoughts on vegan week? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to follow our blog for the latest news, advice, reviews and more!