Caramel, Crumb, Ginger Crunch, Seed

Slice Week on The Great Kiwi Bake Off

About “An Extra Slice”

So, after last week’s recap of the first episode of The Great Kiwi Bake Off, I finally got around to watching the first episode of “An Extra Slice”, which is a follow-on segment to each week’s GKBO episode. It shows “behind the scenes” footage, which is really just stuff that didn’t make the final cut, as well as commentary and interviews by Chris Parker, and the segment usually runs for 8-10 minutes. I enjoyed it so much, I made sure to watch the second episode of “An Extra Slice” today and, guys…. all I can say is why is this stuff not making it into the actual episodes of GKBO??

This is the stuff I want to see! Sue is playful and not nearly as buttoned-up and…well, boring as she comes across during judging or talking to bakers and Dean has a sense of humor! In a few unrehearsed moments caught on film, I finally got to see the great chemistry I’d heard about between Madeleine and Hayley and see their chemistry with the bakers, AND we get to see more of the bakers’ personalities, too. I think the show itself might be too edited because “An Extra Slice” has proved to me that there is definitely that same feel-good vibe that GBBO has. It’s just being relegated to the cutting room floor. So go, watch it. And ask yourselves why this isn’t being made part of the actual show. Maybe GKBO needs to run for an hour and a half to compensate for all the advertisements and requisite product placement shots? Hmmm…

The Technical Challenge: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Back to the ACTUAL second episode, we got to see how the Great Kiwi Bake Off does Technical Challenges. This week was a jump back to Cake Week as the assigned challenge was pineapple upside down cake and, true to GBBO form, the ingredients were kept under a cloth until the judges had left the room. Since there were no baker introductions this week, there was more time to spend on the baking and it did start to feel a little more like Bake Off, with people helping and encouraging each other.

During the cut away when the judges talk about the challenge, the potential challenges of the particular bake, and what they’re looking for, I felt they were a little flat. There were just a lot of really vague descriptions given: “pretty pattern”, “lovely caramel colour”, “lovely crumb” “nicely balanced”.

I expected one of them to talk about how it’ll be interesting to see how thick the bakers cut the pineapple, or how the bakers will need to contend with the moisture the fruit will release into the cake batter. I really like when the judges give the viewers an idea of the pitfalls they may encounter with a specific bake.

It’s not until the camera is back in the tent that the host’s voiceover explains that the colour of the caramel isn’t just aesthetic but an important aspect of the flavor profile. And it isn’t until judging that Sue explains what she’s looking for with regard to using as much of the fruit as possible. Obviously she couldn’t tell the bakers that, but it’d be nice for us to know that’s a hallmark of a good pineapple upside down cake.

While the judges have their tête-a-tête, Clayton hit the nail on the head with regard to why the technical is such an important challenge. At one point he actually says, “if everyone’s making the same thing, what’s gonna make [you] stand out?” Later, as the cakes are all coming out of the oven, Hannah basically answers him when she comments “They’re all quite different, aren’t they? Considering we all had the same recipe.” That, Clayton, is what will make you stand out. Take your caramel too far or not far enough or get everything exactly right and you will stand out to the judges. You can’t cover up lack of skill with flair and “wow” factor during a Technical – your skills are laid bare and unadorned.

Which is why I was very sad to see Ana’s cake go so badly. She knew she’d burnt it before she even put it in the oven. Why wouldn’t she start again? Was there really not time? Even if she just got a light caramel in the cake tin… it would probably color up a bit more during baking.  I mean, most upside down cake recipes I own* (mostly in American cookbooks) don’t even call for a caramel per se, but rather a butterscotch…

*these recipes also don’t call for ground almonds or walnuts in the batter.

Ah well… on to the signature.

The Signature Challenge: Slices 

First and foremost, I was cheered to see the Great Kiwi Bake Off revert to the term “slices”, after last week’s teaser for this week mentioned “traybakes”.

It wasn’t until I moved to New Zealand that I heard them called slices and the first time it happened, it took me a quick second to cotton on to the fact that we weren’t talking about pizza. Growing up, I would call them a square…or a bar (as in date square or lemon bar)…but I’d never called them a slice before. Now I don’t even think about it.

Caramel, Crumb, Ginger Crunch, Seed

So twelve identical slices, three components in the slice…and an hour and a half on the clock: wait, what? That’s a half hour less than GBBO and GAuBO bakers got for their Signature slice challenge!

Why does this matter? Well, as you can no doubt tell from the results – cooling the slices is incredibly important to the look and feel of the finished product and without the benefit of a blast chiller, like in a professional kitchen, getting slices baked and cooled in that time? Yikes.

Oh and what refrigerators are those?? Because DAMN those freezers are not the right size for baking trays! They barely fit so air couldn’t circulate and actually cool effectively.  I really hate most modern refrigerators because they come with all these “nifty” compartments but it actually really limits what you can use the space for. I think the bakers not only did not have enough time but they also weren’t given the right tools for the job. A simple refrigerator with basic shelves and a freezer with the same is really all you need in these – and indeed most – circumstances (but sure, give them a water dispenser and flashy screen anyway).

Given how the cards were stacked against them, I thought the bakers did pretty well. There were a lot of caramel slice variations which was surprising since when I’ve made it, it usually takes the longest to set of the Kiwi classics and it’s the one that it’s most important it be completely set before slicing or you have a mess. As Kiwi classics go, I think the ginger crunch would have been a safer bet.

The Results:

Well, I got my technical so I can’t be too snarky but I still think it’s a damn shame to eliminate someone after only two challenges. Still, for Ana to go ahead with the caramel anyway when she and everyone knew it was burnt…it was a pretty severe lack in judgment. But we’ve seen burned bakes before, and people have saved themselves in the other two challenges…and, in fact, her slice got raves. In fact, it was in judging her slice that I bumped against Sue’s use of the word “unctuous” to describe her caramel, a word that Sue meant in praise.

I’ve consulted with a variety of people and it turns out that at present, this is a word that people are using to describe food that is decadent, lush, rich, buttery, etc. To me, it means oily or greasy, and is usually used to describe a person who is not to be trusted, so yeah, not at all positive. But thanks to the GKBO, I learned a new popular usage that is making the rounds, so yay! I’m always in favor of things that keep me “current”.

Anyway, so Ana was at the bottom of the technical but the top of the Signature…whereas Clayton was third from the bottom of the technical and while his Signature was declared delightful…it was also declared not a slice, and thus he did not fulfill the brief. Could there be some gender politicking going on? Keep the boys in for as long as possible since there’s only four of them? Honestly, maybe, but Clayton finished low in the technical because he didn’t use enough pineapple, not because there was anything wrong with the cake and similarly, there was nothing wrong with the Louise biscuit, other than that it was not a slice. So even though he was lower in both than Ana, she was probably the right call.

As for the winner? I thought Stacey was well deserving of Star Baker, finishing third in the technical and having a fun, well-executed slice for the time constraints at hand.

Wrap Up:

There are still a lot of product placement shots, but the total run time for this episode was 46 minutes by my count (that’s what TVNZ shows on the episode at any rate) so they totally could have put in all – or at least some – of those little extra bits that went into “An Extra Slice” that gives us such a better feel for the personalities of the bakers, the hosts, and the judges….

And apparently next week, we’re still only doing two challenges – it’s “Desserts Week” with a “rolled up technical” so I’m thinking meringue roulade? Or maybe just sponge? And “a three-tiered showstopper” which looked like meringue so maybe pav is coming?

At any rate, stay tuned for this week’s deep dive into the wonderful world of slices!

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