Welcome to The Reheat, an area for Eater writers to discover landmark (and lukewarm) culinary moments of the latest and not-so-recent previous.
I like The Nice British Baking Present (recognized within the U.Ok. as The Nice British Bake Off). Everybody does. Watching it’s a uncommon alternative to detach from the grim contours of actuality and to lose your self within the calming tedium of the massive white tent, an alternate realm of heat, friendship, and baked items.
I might rhapsodize endlessly in regards to the by-and-large impervious virtues of The Nice British Baking Present, however there’s one problem specifically that’s continued to hang-out me (and never in a pleasant, cute, pleasant spirit form of means!) long gone its authentic airing final 12 months: the open hearth pita problem within the ninth season’s finale.
Probably the most comforting points of the collection is how nearly nothing ever adjustments: there are at all times three baking challenges per episode, there are the identical two judges and two hosts (barring the one main alteration that resulted within the present forged), and there’s the enduring massive white tent that’s each backdrop and centerpiece of the whole manufacturing. However in 2018, for the primary time within the present’s historical past, the contestants — and, by extension, the viewers — had been taken out of the tent for a spherical of baking. “Make good use of your warmth supply,” is decide Paul Hollywood’s mysterious recommendation, earlier than the hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig inform the more and more baffled contestants to depart their ovens and work benches and to go outdoors.
The three finalists’ technical problem on that blisteringly sizzling day is to make six pita breads and three accompanying dips — on an open hearth. Left with scant directions, as is typical through the technical problem, the bakers — Rahul Mandal, Kim-Pleasure Hewlett, and Ruby Bhogal — wrestle with the problem of controlling stay flames for the primary time, the bakers rising more and more sweaty and frantic with every uncooperative eggplant or singed pita. Ruby precisely diagnoses the scenario: “This seems like hell.”
The actual problem, other than understanding what to do with an open hearth, is controlling the quantity of warmth — an excessive amount of, and it’ll kill the yeast within the dough, leading to pita bread that doesn’t rise and obtain the signature pocket. It’s not an enormous shock to study that the contestants’ pitas, on prime of being overly charred, don’t actually puff up. Fireplace, finally, is the actual victor of this problem.
To today, the cavernous empty halls of my thoughts palace nonetheless echo with questions on this problem, first of which is: how dare you?? Technical challenges are supposed to check the contestants’ prior baking expertise, advantaging these with extra know-how; on this case, the one means for a contestant to be remotely ready for a problem like this might be in the event that they had been, I don’t know, a survivalist who commonly bakes on open fires? Relatedly, “baking” is a bit beneficiant right here, as half of the problem is graded on separate dips that don’t have anything to do with baking.
Principally, although, I don’t like that this problem is symptomatic of the culinary course the present has been transferring in direction of as a complete: extra deal with aptitude, spectacle, and obscurity; much less on the form of baking that on a regular basis individuals do for the sake of making one thing scrumptious. One Reddit person analyzed the information and located that technical challenges are getting tougher, reducing in familiarity whereas growing in complexity. “Over time I’ve felt much less and fewer just like the challenges could be one thing I might obtain,” the person, u/cremepat, wrote. “I’ve gone from making an attempt recipes to only being glad it’s not me in that tent.” Qualitatively, one simply has to match the season finale showstopper challenges: within the ninth season, it was a complete panorama dessert; within the third, it was an elaborate chiffon cake.
A surprisingly massive a part of my baking information could be straight attributed to watching The Nice British Baking Present. Due to fixed viewing over the previous few years, I’ve absorbed the barest consciousness of phrases and strategies — the windowpane check for dough, what a “crumb” is, the distinction between Genoise and Victorian sponge — I by no means would have realized in any other case. In its greatest moments, the present strikes that good stability between attainable and fantastical, serving leisure whereas additionally upholding the delusion that possibly I, too, will try one among these creations in my kitchen on some vacation weekend. An open hearth problem betrays that stability, transferring the present solidly into the “nearly actually by no means” finish of the spectrum. That, to me, shouldn’t be what the mild magic of The Nice British Baking Present is about.
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