Thursday, March 30, 2017 the Great Picky Bake Off! (Part 1)

By Giselle Wedemire

Some TV shows just pull you in and refuse to let you go until they’ve left an indelible mark on your life. They seep into your pores and your brain, and they augment bits of your personality and how you view the world.

For example, The Office changed me into the kind of person who can never not say "That’s what she said" in any situation that could be misconstrued as suggestive, and Mad Men altered the way I look at advertising. Now, I’m always coming up with new and better taglines for everyday products and snarkily yelling, “Thanks, Don!” whenever I come across a really WTF-inducing ad on TV.

The latest show to have a significant effect on me has been the BBC’s gem of a show, The Great British Bake Off. I started watching this on a whim when I found the first season on YouTube while browsing for British shows to watch while I was fighting the Cold From Hell last winter. Since then, Mr. Picky Bitch and I have fallen in love with Bake Off and have burned through every single season and episode to date.

Between the immense support that the show's bakers give one another to the lack of the usual reality cooking show stresses, Bake Off is a masterpiece to behold even if you are an ardent hater of reality TV.

While it's quickly become one of our favourite TV shows, I'm always kind of miffed that no contestants have been vegan bakers, so I decided to have my own informal, vegan version of Bake Off in my own home last fall. I called it the Great Picky Bake Off, and over the course of 10 weekends, I challenged myself to create vegan bakes that would fill each of the usual Bake Off themes/categories.

This post is very picture-heavy (and is definitely a long time coming), so bear with me as I review the deliciousness that went down during the first five weeks of the Great Picky Bake Off.

Week 1: Tray Bakes

I've been trying to perfect vegan brownies since I first became vegan nearly six years ago. My Holy Grail brownie is on the fudgier side, and I was always on the lookout for recipes that might closely replicate the gooey, decadent, walnut-topped brownies they sold at the movie theatre I used to frequent as a kid.

None of the recipes I came across ever lived up to my standards, and so, after many failed attempts over the years, I finally succeeded at creating my own recipe for the ultimate fudgy brownie that perfectly replicates the ones from my childhood. I was so pleased with myself that I made these two weeks in a row and forgot to snap a picture of them both times, so I had to make them a third time (after the Bake Off finished) to snap a pic for this post. The things I do for this blog!

Week 2: Bread

I had been eyeing this recipe for years and had always found a reason to hold off on it and to make something else. Maybe it's because I had never had a good scone before, or maybe it's because I'd much rather be making cookies. 

Whatever the reason was, I now realize I was a fool for not making these sooner. They were aces: not too sweet, not too doughy, and not too difficult to whip up, which is exactly what I needed after getting back from a rough camping trip.

Week 3: Retro bakes

I've been on the lookout for a scrumptious vegan pineapple upside down cake recipe that rivals the one I grew up eating. All the other recipes I had tried in the past left me feeling sad and/or mad because they didn't measure up to what I thought the end result should taste like. 

But this recipe -- from my very favourite dessert book Have Your Cake and Vegan, Too -- hit the nail on the head. It was so perfect that I took it to a farewell tea party we had for my Nana before she flew back to Jamaica last summer. And my Nana -- who is a staunch meat-and-potatoes (and dairy) kind of gal -- kept going back for more.

Week 4: Savoury bakes

This is one challenge that I never managed to get photographed. This is a huge deal when you consider that what I made for savoury bakes week -- vegan Red Lobster biscuits -- have been made two more times in our house since completing the Great Picky Bake Off. 

However, the most important thing to know about my savoury bakes is that these bad boys were dead ringers for the Cheddar Bay biscuits you get a whole basket of while waiting for your meal at Red Lobster. 

I made these one night for dinner to go along with a pot of vegan clam chowder that Mr. Picky Bitch was cooking. They were perfectly flaky, cheesy, and comforting. To say it was one of the best dinners we've ever had would be an understatement.

Week 5: Doughnuts

After attending the VegFest YYC welcome picnic last August, a massive craving for s'mores hit me like a brick wall. But, looking through my pantry and catching sight of my beloved doughnut pan, I really felt like making some doughnuts, so I said 'eff it,' and combined the two.

I used Bake and Destroy's whole wheat chocolate doughnut recipe, dunked them in an improvised vegan marshmallow ganache, and then topped them off with some crumbled graham crackers. The end result was completely drool-worthy and, thanks to the doughnut base, it wasn't too sweet, which was a huge relief.

Clearly, this was a very busy five weeks for me, and there are still five more themed baking weeks to go! Check back next week for part two of my Great Picky Bake Off recap.

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