The Great British Bake Off hosted it’s first vegan week in the programme’s history last night, but how did the bakers fare when faced with the task of removing animal products from their bakes?
Last night’s episode of The Great British Bake Off was a first in the show’s history as the bakers were challenged to create a range of sweet and savoury bakes for Vegan Week.
The bakers were challenged to throw out the eggs, meat, honey and dairy and to seek alternatives to create a mouth-watering range of pies, pavlovas and celebration cakes.
The first challenge, the Signature Bake, challenged the contestants to whip up two different flavours of savoury tartlets, with no soggy bottoms, please!
Whilst one baker, Jon, after making it clear that vegan baking was well out of his comfort zone when he asked “can we have Kebab Week soon?”, opted for a falafel filled tart as falafel is a popular dish for vegans, many of the bakers took the opportunity to showcase a range of ingredients that might have seemed surprising to non-vegan viewers.
One thing many people who are curious about switching to a vegan diet believe they will miss the most is cheese, but a number of bakers opted to included dairy-free cheeses in their pies. Bristol-based baker Briony created a mouth-watering caramelised onion tart with a vegan goat’s cheese alternative which was the perfect mix of creamy cheesy flavour and sweet onion, whilst Jon opted for a cream cheese filling in his cheese and tomato tarts.
Nutritional yeast is loved by many vegans for its rich, cheesy flavour, so we were pleased to see one baker, Ruby, showcasing how to use the ingredient in her bake to create a cheese sauce. Upon tasting the ‘nooch’, judge Pru Leith exclaimed that it tasted like parmesan, although sadly the flavour did not come through in the tart once baked.
Kim-Joy decided to use tofu to create a vegan marscapone in her tofu quiche, flavouring the tart with black salt to give it an eggy flavour – a trick many vegans use when making scrambled tofu. The tarts proved to be a hit, with Kim-Joy receiving the highly-coveted ‘Hollywood Handshake’ from judge Paul Hollywood.
One baker who truly showcased how delicious vegan baking can be was Rahul who created a selection of Indian-inspired tarts, causing Pru Leith to exclaim his chickpea and onion-based tart was ‘poetry’, praising his pastry for its incredibly buttery flavour – despite it containing no butter.
In the Technical Challenge, where bakers are tasked with creating a traditional bake without the help of a full list of measurements and instructions, the bakers were introduced to an ingredient that will be familiar with many vegans, but which would have come as a surprise to the shows non-vegan audience – aquafaba.
In this round, the bakers were challenged to create a spectacular tropical pavlova with two layers of meringue made from the juice of a can of chickpeas to replace the egg-whites and topped with a selection of tropical fruits.
This is a challenge in which bakers typically become unstuck, but we were pleased to see that there were no disasters as this is a great way to show the show’s audience that vegan baking isn’t as difficult as you’d imagine, and you can still achieve delicious results with unfamiliar and unusual ingredients.
When discussing which bakers had impressed the judges ahead of the final round, Paul Hollywood admitted he had not been looking forward to vegan week (even scoffing when asked by host Noel Fielding if he’d released a vegan cookbook himself), but was forced to concede that the challenges had shown “It is possible to create some very tasty food.”
The judges didn’t go easy on the bakers just because it was vegan week, and in the final round the bakers were set the task of creating a showstopping two-tier celebration cake.
Baker Jon created a cleverly named ‘Only Fools Eat Horses’ cake, whilst Briony conjured up a beautiful and impressive mocha cake smothered in chocolate buttercream and decorated with buttercream roses.
Sadly two bakers (Rahul and Ruby) saw their cakes collapse, although both claims were declared to be delicious by the judges. But it was star-baker Kim-Joy who wowed the judges with her whimsical cake decorated with iced-bakers in the shape of woodland creatures.
Ditch the dairy
Whilst some viewers have voiced their disappointment at the shows decision to host an all-vegan week, the bakers certainly took the challenge in their stride, with contestant Manon revealing on Twitter that she’d be ditching animal products for the whole month of October, stating: “Some people stop alcohol for October, I just went vegan for the month.
“So I am excited for you to see all the delicious stuff you can do without any animal products! #veganweek #gbbo #ditchthedairy.”
We were pleased to see that despite a few light jabs being thrown at vegans and vegan food, with the usual comments about ‘it tastes great for a vegan bake’ being regularly trotted out, the programme served to highlight how good vegan food can be, and ultimately how easy it really is to create vegan versions of baked goods. Let us know what you thought of the show below.
Catch up with The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4 at www.channel4.com/programmes/the-great-british-bake-off