So as most of the world is hopefully now aware, the best cooking competition ever to have been recorded is The Great British Bake Off. There are many reasons for this, but I’ll highlight my favorites:
- Everyone is really nice. Someone leaves and they all hug them.
- Who doesn’t like the phrase “tatty byes”?
- Also, who doesn’t like it when British people say “self-saucing”?
- I haven’t heard of most of these things (see “self-saucing pudding” — WHAT??) and so now I have all the new things to bake!
- Apparently British people like snappy cookies. What about chewy cookies?
- How cool are those showstopper challenges?
- Anybody else want to just pick up Mary Berry and snuggle her?
- Those baked goods are legit impressive to make.
- I now have new things to whisper to myself while I bake.
- One of my new pipe dreams (alongside becoming a cranberry bogger in Maine because obviously that would be amazing) is to move to England and acquire British citizenship simply to go on The Great British Bake Off, fail miserably, and love every second of it.
When myself and a few of our coworkers realized that this was, in fact, the best cooking competition show of all time, we decided we needed to do something similar at our workplace. So we engaged in The Great [School Name Redacted] Bake Off! It was to be centered on cookies and we had four weeks of cookies: sugar, chocolate, Linzer/butter, and freestyle. This competition has solidified one thing for me.
I am Norm.
Norm was one of the contestants from Seasons 1 (truth be told, the only season I’ve seen — the only season I can find!). He was eventually cut loose because his tasty treats simply weren’t flashy enough. It’s not that they weren’t good — they were! It’s not that they weren’t technical — they were! But they weren’t Chetna with her giant cookie carousel topper. His stuff was solidly English: sturdy, well-done, non-intrusive. It tooled along until they wouldn’t let it tool along anymore, and when he was gone, he gave a quiet shrug of the shoulder. He was an older man who had been in the Navy and who relied mostly on fat in his recipes and simple, tried-and-true flavors.
I am Norm. My cookies are just fine. But just fine doesn’t win competitions (mostly — I did pick up a couple wins here and there, as we had several categories). Just fine gets compliments at parties and general appreciation and a reputation for being a baker. But just fine doesn’t win competitions.
And you know what? I’m just fine with that.
Here are the cookies I did:
Starting with the first week, these are my sugar cookies. They were a little too lemon flavored, but they were sturdy and reasonable. And a pretty blue color!
I very sadly did not take a picture of the second one. And then they were devoured by children before I could do so post-facto. You can find both recipes for these elsewhere on my blog.
Linzer/butter. I used two different recipes on these (which I will post later). The ones made out of the snowflakes produced a nice cookie but the dough was INSANELY difficult to work with. It was vaguely crumbly yet stuck to EVERYTHING. It rolled out poorly and burned easily. I would not make it again. The second recipe (the hearts) were perfect. Light, flaky, delightful. Smush some jam between them and oh my god I was in heaven. That was the week I ate the most of my own cookies. This is the only recipe I literally can’t wait to make again.
The third cookie I did was Mexican Hot Chocolate and also raspberry and also orange chocolate cookies. I sadly did not get a picture of these but I did manage to not bring any back home, haha. Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Flavored Ganache
The last one I did, which I also did not take a picture of, sadly, and was peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies. It turns out that stuffing cookies with peanut butter is much easier than I anticipated. You add powdered sugar until it’s not so sticky and then stick it in the freezer for a bit so it firms up and doesn’t go everywhere when you’re baking it. Having said that, the high altitude made my cookies really flat and they had these big lumps in the middle, haha. They looked a little too special to take pictures of.
Ultimately, however, I am tired of making cookies. I literally can’t wait to make anything else. You will not be seeing cookies from me for a long time.
But you will see me saying “tatty byes” and experimenting with Victoria sponge!