The Stylist Cake Off returned this week at the Stylist office for an epic battle of the buns, but did the competitors bite off more than they could ‘choux’?
Following the crowning of deputy production editor, Amy Adams, as the office’s new-found ‘biscuit queen’, the stakes were high for this week’s bread competition. With the brief to create a loaf "of any kind", the Stylist team set off on Monday evening, prepped and ‘bready’ to mix, knead and push their doughy hands to the limit.
When Tuesday morning came, the smell of freshly baked bread wafted down the corridors, transporting us from our desk full of paperwork to memories of quaint patisseries in the fifth arrondisement of Paris, sipping on café au lait while reading Caroline de Maigret’s How To Be French. Sadly, when it came to tasting the breads, we were brought back down to reality with a bump.
To judge our breads this week was Cyril Blevanus, manager of Paul patisserie in London who was ready to put his expert baking knowledge and French tastebuds to the test.
From courgette and cheese, stilton and walnut, Greek pittas to garlic focaccias, the team delighted and surprised Cyril with their inventive recipes, with comments ranging from "magnifique" to “more cakey than bread”.
Crust, design, colour and fermentation were among the criteria needed to impress Cyril who pointed out that golden-coloured crusts were achieved by adding water before baking and too many ingredients create compact bread that lack bounce. The most important skill to the expert baker was the balance of temperature and timing, which only a handful of bakers seemed to master.
After a thorough process of tasting, prodding and smelling the loaves (what a hard job!), it was shopping editor Lucy Reber who impressed and was crowned the champion of the breads with her delectable soda bread with dried chilli and feta cheese. It’s also important to point out that Lucy has been in the top three since the beginning of the competition...the words ‘dark horse’ were on everyone’s mind.
Meanwhile, a debate ensued as to “What is bread?” when Cyril weighed up whether deputy editor Susan Riley’s cheese and courgette bread or designer Chloe Sharp’s pitta bread failed to meet the criteria. In the end, Chloe came in last place, despite a delicious soft pitta bread that went down a storm when we all got our hands on it, as did the extra dollop of humus she kindly provided on the side.
So, while the rest of the Stylist Cake Off competitors dust off their aprons, rest their tired hands and twitch in terror at the thought of yet another week of baking (how does Mary Berry do it?) here is your third challenge: baked cheesecakes. You can go chocolate chip cookie dough, classic strawberry, pumpkin and walnut or a good old-fashioned yet classic New York-style bake with this one— the choice is yours.
You know what they say, when the going get puff, the puff gets doughing. Now bake!*
*Don’t worry we’ll stop with the baking puns, after all, we have nothing to prove.
Remember to keep posting your weekly bakes to the Stylist Cake Off Instagram account tagging @stylistcakeoff and using the hashtag #stylistcakeoff.