Where do you get your ideas for recipes?
Competing in The Great British Bake Off was the best experience I have ever had. If I think back a year, I would never have imagined where I'd be today. I wouldn't ever have considered applying for a TV show, never mind winning it!
I was inspired to start baking mainly because of my mum. I had always baked with her as a child, especially at Christmas when I would help to make mince pies, and my passion grew out of that. I got more serious about baking as I left university and one of the books that I started out with was Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”, an excellent encyclopaedic book bursting with ideas. While I have many other baking books now, it is still the one I refer back to.
I found out about the first audition only a day before it happened, so I didn’t have a huge amount of time to come up with new ideas. I had been playing around with a recipe for Bakewell tart for a while and I thought making something traditional might be a good idea. I also made a mint and chocolate cake, which was similar to the one I ended up doing on the show. The idea for that was based on something I had made from one of my favourite recent baking books "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking". I decided to keep the flavour idea, but went with a mint Italian meringue frosting in the middle and a ganache coating on the outside.
During the filming of the programme I was working full-time, so my evenings - and some very late nights - were spent practicing and coming up with new ideas. This really was a challenge. I should probably apologise to my old boss because I spent a bit too much time at work thinking about new ideas and looking up recipes!
When I had my recipe idea, I tested it in the evening and, if there was something to change, that could result in a very late night. Sometimes there just wasn’t enough time for multiple testing. In the first week I wanted to make a good first impression, so I started with something a little different, a caramel and cinnamon cake. I love salted caramel and wanted to put this in the cake somehow. I had heard of cinnamon and dulce de leche cakes, so my cake was a play on that idea.
'Bread week' was more daunting. I’d actually had a nightmare about Paul criticising what I made, so I decided to play it a bit simpler that week. Adding seeds to a loaf was (in my head at least) the simplest way of adding flavour without making the recipe too complex. All I wanted to do was get through another week so that I could make something I was more comfortable with, and that strategy seemed to work well.
It was challenging getting inspired and coming up with ideas for each show. Sometimes I went for more traditional flavours, such as the curd tart or combinations like chocolate and mint. Other times I tried to be more creative. Whatever the recipe I always approached it in the same way. I thought it best to make something that I love because I think we bake best when we do it with love and passion. Whenever I was stuck for an idea I just thought "what would I want to eat?” and I think that worked well.
Not all of my ideas for the show worked out though. In episode two I made oatmeal and raisin cookies using milk powder and white chocolate to add a creaminess, and glucose to give a chewiness. I took them a step further by adding a dessert wine to soak the raisins, inspired by a trip to France where I had eaten raisins soaked in dessert wine and coated in chocolate. Paul wasn’t a fan. He said the flavour wasn't discernible and the recipe really didn’t need the wine. I guess sometimes it’s best to keep it simple.
I absolutely loved the whole competition process even though there were a few stressful moments! In the future I'll look abroad for ideas, as well as trying to be inspired by the people around me. If the show taught me one thing, it’s that the people around you can have great ideas too.
So over to you... How do you get your ideas for recipes, what inspired you to cook and have you ever had any completely off-the-wall recipes that somehow worked? (And go on, admit to those that didn’t.)
Edd Kimber was the winner of BBC Two series The Great British Bake Off.
Read judge Paul Hollywood’s tips about baking and Mary Berry’s advice on buying utensils for baking.