It Was Patisserie Week On 'The Great British Baking Show' And We Learned All About Making Gorgeous Desserts

Kristin Salaky
·14 min read
Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

From Delish

Season 11 of The Great British Bake Off has finally begun and we could not be more excited it's back. Alongside enjoying the banter between the contestants and co-hosts Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding, our favorite part of the show is all of the baking knowledge we are basically learning by osmosis. If, however, you were too busy being soothed by the show, we're gathering the best tips we learn from each episode below.

Whether you're the star baker in your home or can barely make a mug cake, hopefully these lessons help you on your way:

Episode 9: Patisserie Week

Every dough is different.

This can seem obvious, but if you've only ever made cookies before, then bread dough or pizza dough might seem too sticky. This goes for a lot of pastry dough which, yes, should be smooth and slightly sticky. Do your research so you know when to stop adding flour.

Rise time will vary based on many factors.

Not only does every dough have a different rise time, but it can vary pretty much every time based on factors like heat (which the bakers learned in this episode!), ingredients, and more.

Going crazy with presentation doesn't always work.

Sure, putting the creme filling on the side might seem novel, but, like, it's called "creme FILLING" for a reason. No need to mess with perfection in many cases.

ALWAYS get a cookbook with photos.

OK, so they aren't treated to photos in the technical challenge (and so they were all confused on what a cornucopia is...), but you don't have to be in the dark! Yes, some cookbooks are printed without photos, so avoid these if you can, lest you end up unsure on how something should look.

Different sizes mean different bake times.

It might seem smart to pop everything into the oven at once, but if you have differently shaped cookies, pastries, whatever, it can be tough to get everything baked to perfection since they'll all require such different bake times. Space them out!

Presentation isn't everything.

Honestly, if it doesn't look great and still tastes delicious...pass me a spoon.

Episode 8: Dessert Week

Small desserts need big flavor.

When you don't have the benefit of a larger treat and all the layers that come with it, you need to pack in small desserts like, yes, mini cheesecakes, with a lot of strong flavors.

Factor in your cheesecake cool time.

If you've ever made a cheesecake, you know everything about the process is hard. From the bake time (don't bake too long or too little!) to the cool time (cool it quickly enough to set, but not so quickly that it cracks), you'll have to follow the directions to a tee.

Jam jars look cute but come with baking pitfalls.

Making tiny jar desserts is SO cute and trendy, as Hermine learned, making a crust in such a confined space can change the moisture level and make it break down.

Making British steam pudding seems...HORRIBLE.

The bakers all struggled with this pond pudding that had an ENTIRE LEMON inside, and frankly, the lesson I learned is I won't be making one any time soon.

Genoise may not be pronounced how you think it is.

As Hermine pointed out, the bakers frequently mispronounce this one on the show, which I must admit I never even noticed. Learn how to properly pronounce it here.

Decorating jelly requires special tools.

The bakers likened it to surgery because you use syringes and dryers and all sorts of bowls, so if this is a challenge you'd like to try...maybe make an Amazon order first.

Episode 7: '80s Week

Never panic.

Even when it seems like your treat is going to be a disaster, it can still turn itself way around. Hermine thought her quiche was going to be undercooked and, therefore, send her home, but simply increasing the oven temp saved everything and got her some great marks. Trust the process!!

Consider outside factors

It was HOT (well, especially by British standards) in the tent this week. It was upwards of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and with ovens going, it surely made things feel even toastier. While this can mean good things like not having to put dough in proofing drawers, it can also mean melty ice cream cake. Make sure your work station is prepped...even if that means with heat or AC.

Texture is KEY.

Mark made his quiche with custard...and scrambled egg, which is egg and more egg for those playing along at home. While it was certainly unique, if he thought about how it would feel to put scrambled eggs surrounded by custard in your mouth, um...safe to say he would have passed on that idea.

Don't overwhelm things with spice.

Seasoning is KEY but be careful with how much you're using and in what combination. Otherwise all your hard work is ruined!

Adding alcohol can be tricky.

Adding any sort of liquid to ice cream can be tough as Peter learned, but alcohol specifically can alter freezing times. If you're making boozy ice cream...beware!

Simpler is sometimes better.

I've definitely said it in here before, but I will say it again!!! You don't always have to go over the top or try something no one has every done before to succeed on Bake Off (or even in baking for your friends). Keep it simple and tasty and you'll pretty much always wow them. Try and go too complicated and it could be a huge disaster.

Episode 6: Japanese Week

Before we begin, it's important to note that people have raised critiques and concerns about this week's challenges, questioning why the bakers were not tasked with creating some more authentic and delicious Japanese sweets (some of which are chronicled in this excellent Twitter thread!). Keeping that in mind, here are some tidbits we learned.

When making a filled treat, get the right filling-to-dough ratio.

The bakers made steamed buns as part of their first challenge (which many have pointed out are originally a Chinese dish). That being said, if we're speaking of making steamed buns or other filled foods, it's important to get the ratio of dough to fillings correctly. Too much and they'll become soggy, too little and you don't get all the delicious flavors you were hoping for.

Bigger isn't always better.

Baker Marc's steamed buns got him a bit of trouble this week because even thought they tasted delicious they were far too large. Even though we love the idea of a massive steamed buns, keeping your treats on the smaller side allows you more control...and gives you the excuse to simply eat another.

Don't let your toppings overwhelm your bake.

When the bakers made Matcha Mille Crepe Cakes (which, again, people questioned because crepes' origins are in France, not Japan), they were tasked with making a crescent of toppings on top. Some people didn't seem to know what that meant and absolutely overwhelmed their cakes with toppings. With something this delicate, you want the actual cake to shine—not just the toppings—so keep it light.

Think about the big picture before you even get started.

Many bakers made their crepes too thick so they ran out of batter and caused their cakes to be the wrong texture. Think about all the different aspects of your cake (should the final cake be sturdy or fluffy? should the icing be creamy or thinner?) and how they'll all work together. Ideally you'll know this before you even get started.

Presentation is important, but not everything.

Some bakers (like the one who got sent home, no spoilers!) made amazing looking cakes, but they didn't taste great, while others made some that were kind of a mess, but tasted amazing. In the end, taste wins out, so be sure to focus on that.

Episode 5: Pastry Week

Baking and cooking aren't always mutually exclusive.

When cooking up fillings for things like pasties, you have to be good at both! When you can master both, well, time to go on GBBO, I guess!

When rolling pastry dough, keep it on the thinner side.

You don't want it so thin that your fillings spill through, but most bakers struggled by keeping it too thick. Practice getting that perfect consistency for a perfect treat.

Don't overwork your dough.

Whether it's bread or eclairs, you don't want to overwork any dough or it'll ruin the texture of your bake by making it too tough.

Always put holes in the bottom of your tart or pie dough.

This will help the steam escape and prevent any bumps in the dough.

Mind your fillings.

Dry fillings like rice and potatoes can make a dry pastry dough even worse. Consider the texture when picking your pastry recipe AND your fillings.

Starting over is sometimes all you can do.

Of course you won't always be on a time crunch like the bakers are in the show, so it's a little worse when they abandoned their treats. Nevertheless, if you can give yourself a clean slate, it might be better to scrap what you have rather than trying to save a bake that has just simply gone wrong.

Sometimes this simplest things are the toughest.

Just like the brownie challenge last week, the eclair challenge seemed easy enough, but was a tough go of it for most of the bakers. Always stay on your toes, even if you've made something a thousand times.

Episode 4: Chocolate Week

Don’t overcook your brownies

The key is a gooey center and a crackly, crispy top, which you'll totally ruin if you leave them in the oven too long.

Don’t overdo it with brownie icings and fillings.

Brownies are sweet on their own so don't overload them with other sweet toppings and fillings. Laura learned this the hard way with her Italian meringue and caramel-topped brownies.

Sometimes the basics are the toughest things to do.

The bakers all had a tough time with brownies. This is a reminder that you're never too experienced to continue to master the basics.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Be precise when making chocolate babka.

You can’t make it too long or it'll come out of the tin. It also must be crisp on outside and soft on inside. Very tough, but very delicious....so it's worth it.

Follow your instincts when it comes to baking.

Linda had never even seen a babka before but she totally rocked the challenge, a good reminder that you if you trust your instincts and follow your recipe and you can make pretty much anything.

Timing is everything.

When thinking about making a certain bake, factor in time to cool and decorate. The bakers may be short on time in the tent, but you don't have to be in real life.

Consider the outside factors.

The bakers struggled as the heat from the tent melted their white chocolate, so make sure you do your best to make the conditions in your own kitchen favorable to whatever you're making.

Episode 3: Bread Week

Soda bread starts rising almost immediately.

Get this in the oven quickly. If you're making this for the first time, be sure to read the directions carefully so that you don't lose your rise.

Be careful when opening up your ingredients.

Marc got heavy cream everywhere in a very funny moment, but if you have to clean up your own kitchen, be careful!!

Soda bread is soft and cakey so flavors have to complement it.

Think about the type of bread you're making when considering any fillings or glazes.

Additional fat can mess with the bake time.

Baking is a science, and adding fat (cheese, meats, etc.) can make your bread go undercooked in spots.

Too much kneading makes loaves too dense.

Tread carefully.

Sharing is caring.

Spoiler here: In a very sweet moment, Linda showed honey she had gotten from Mak before he left the show and it made her soda bread and butter all the more special.

The second proof is all about texture.

Making things like bagels and cinnamon rolls that require multiple proofs, the second one will give you that smooth texture, so pay close attention.

Bread is VERY temperamental.

Even the slightest drop in temperature, cut slightly too deep, or topping slightly too heavy can mess up an otherwise lovely bread...which is exactly what makes Bread Week so thrilling!

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Episode 2: Biscuit Week

Cookies are called biscuits in The U.K.

I know, I know! But I always forget!

Some cookies are all about the snap.

While some of us remain partial to soft and gooey cookies, some cookies, like Florentines, are all about the snap and crispiness. Make sure you look up how they're typically served before pulling them out of the oven too quickly or too early.

Mind your fillings.

If you're planning on using super-sweet fillings make sure your base or coatings aren't super sweet as well. So if you're planning on chopping up sweet fruits, make sure you use something a bit more bitter or savory, such as dark chocolate.

A food processor may be your secret weapon.

When chopping up nuts or dried fruits, you do want them fairly small to get a good flavor and texture, Linda pointed out. If you don't wanna be chopping forever, break out the food processor or even get a smaller one specifically for tasks like these.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Macaroons are tougher than you think!

These cookies look tiny and cute, but as the judges pointed out (and the contestants learned!) this unassuming biscuit is tricky to get quite right.

Check the temperature of your butter.

This should be one of the first things you prep, either making sure your butter remains ice-cold or that it's perfectly room temp. This can make or break your cookies/cakes/whatever, so pay attention!

Keep it simple!!

Contestant Rowan learned this when the judges slammed him trying to make his bakes way too elaborate. Make sure you don't overwhelm yourself with little details so much that you can't finish...even if you're not on a baking show.

Episode 1: Cake Week

Listen to your cake when you pull it out of the oven.

Contestant Peter shared a trick he learned from baker John Whaite from series three of the show, who at the time said his mom taught him to listen to a cake when you pull it out of the oven to see if it's cooked. If it's still wet, you'll hear boiling, but if it's done, it'll sound "gentle."

The tin makes all the difference.

Sura said she baked with a new pan for the first time and her batter overflowed. If you're baking for something important, try not to use a new tin before giving it a whirl.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Use a ruler for super precise cake layers.

Get one just for the kitchen!

You need to get cake coverings and fillings rolled out just right.

Too thin, it'll crack, too thick, it won't taste very pleasant. They said this about marzipan, but it rings true for lots of things, such as fondant.

If the middle of your cake is raw, try to put it in the microwave.

Rowan tried this and it seemed to have worked for the most part? To be safe, if you have the time, pop it in the oven with some foil on top.

Use caramel carefully.

If you're making something like a pineapple upside down cake and you use too little, your cake won't get nice and crispy, but if you use too much, it'll get soggy and sink to the bottom.

When swatting flies, make sure no cakes are in the way.

Sura learned this the hard way when she knocked fellow baker Dave's cakes off his plate. Though she obviously felt bad, some of the cakes were able to be saved, and all's well that ends well.

Photo credit: The Great British Baking Show - Twitter
Photo credit: The Great British Baking Show - Twitter

Trying to make a cake that's shaped like something else can be daunting.

Prue noted how hard it is to make a cake that, say, looks like a person, because if it looks perfect but uses a ton of icing to make it happen, it might taste terrible.

Using mint is a bit risky.

Dave used mint alongside strawberry and cocoa in his bake, and the judges knocked him for it tasting like toothpaste. Be careful!

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