Sorry for the delay in posting, everyone, but I promise I had a good reason– I was attending casting interviews/tasting sessions for the latest season of The Great American Baking Show!
I submitted an online application near the end of May, not really expecting to get any response, but a few days later I got a call from a producer saying that they’d loved my application (and accompanying personal video) and wanted to ask me more questions! The following interview was basically me talking about my baking background, what my experience was in certain types of baking, and then a 12-question quiz on some baking techniques to make sure I knew my stuff. Turns out I did, because after sending in more photos of my bakes (most of which have been featured on this blog!) I got invited to New York to bring some treats for a tasting!
I had to bring two sweet bakes of my own choice, plus a loaf of bread from their “recipe”– and I put that in quotes because I was given a list of ingredients and amounts, and told to use them to make bread. My first technical challenge!
I decided to make my red bean cream puffs with craquelin for my first bake, since those have kind of become my signature lately and they’re delicious and unusual, not to mention relatively easy to make. However, the joke was on me, because I let the puffs cool on the foil-lined baking sheet, and once they were cool they were firmly stuck to the foil! I couldn’t remove them without ripping giant holes in the bottoms, but luckily I managed to re-heat them in a warm oven until they loosened enough for me to peel them off. Whew!
For my second bake, I wanted to do something more impressive that showed my range, so I decided on a fancy layer cake. After some internal debate I avoided chocolate (too easy) and went with a raspberry-rose-pink-peppercorn flavor combination (recipe coming up), which turned out beautiful (I love the stripes!) but which I worry was a bit too trendy given that the person two time slots in front of me brought a raspberry-rose tart. Oh well… The judges did compliment my decoration and my balanced flavors, and the fact that I didn’t overdo it on the rosewater (I chose to take that as an indication that perhaps the last guy did), but my cooked-flour frosting between the layers had split just a little in the heat, so that was a point against me.
Finally, the loaf of bread– I made three different versions, and honestly the third dough was probably the best but given my time and oven constraints I ended up waiting too long to bake it, and it over-proofed, resulting in a flat loaf. The loaf I brought was beautiful to look at but too tight in the crumb, which was not what they were looking for. They said they’d deliberately picked the recipe in question because it was tricky, so maybe I wasn’t the only one who screwed it up…
Overall I think it would’ve been easier to make everything if I’d been in my own kitchen, with plenty of time to get everything prepped without having to worry about transporting stuff. However, at least I had the second-best option of being able to bake in a friend’s kitchen that was pretty close to the ultimate location– it was about a 20-minute drive, tops, so even the heat and potholes in the road didn’t do too much damage to my cake!
After the tasting portion came the interview, which was less an actual interview with discussion and more a series of questions about what I had and had not tried baking before. I checked most of the boxes, but I think that my inexperience and/or dislike of a few key (or at least the judges said they were key) recipes may have turned them off. Can I help it if I don’t like the mouthfeel of Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream? No. It tastes like sweet butter– bleh. And honestly, if that’s enough to put me out of the running, fine.
Here’s the aftermath of my baking extravaganza– left were most of the batch of cream puffs, three extra batches of cake layers (I chose the one that had the best texture and flavor after I tried four different recipes), and two extra loaves of bread (same, though I had to guess which was best from the outside). And, of course, the remainder of the cake and the loaf of bread after they’d been sliced into! Let’s just say my friend’s coworkers were very happy with her once she brought it all in to work the next day…
While I didn’t make it through to the next round (kind of miffed that no one ever so much as followed up with me to officially reject me– they just stopped communicating), I’m kind of relieved that I won’t have to go through the stress of another round of casting. It was a fun experience, and now I can get back to baking what I feel like baking, when I feel like baking it!