The Great Canadian Baking Show personalities dish on their very own bake fails, and rules to roll by
"This big CEO asked to see me and said ‘Chef! Chef, what have you done with that dessert?’"
The Great Canadian Baking Show is back for a third mouth-watering season. Based on the format of the Great British Bake-Off, the show follows ten amateur bakers through a series of competitions and challenges. Each week, one contestant is crowned star baker of the week and one is eliminated. This year, Carolyn Taylor and Aurora Browne of Baroness von Sketch Show will welcome us to the tent as hosts, guiding us through the emotional gauntlet of reality baking. Keeping the gates of glory are judges Bruno Feldeisen, a renowned pastry chef of French extraction, and Kyla Eaglesham Kennaley, a native Ontarian and regular guest on Steven and Chris.
Before the season sets off, we sat down and got to know the judges and hosts, their baking faves and foibles, and their personal relationships to the sugary arts.
Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with baked goods?
Aurora Browne: I have a very close and loving relationship with baked goods. Although, full disclosure, at Baroness von Sketch Carolyn and I asked for no gluten. Once you hit 40 you have gluten and you think "Oh! I'm five months pregnant!" But on this show, I'll eat the baked goods. I'll eat the raw dough.
Carolyn Taylor: A couple of years back before I got Baroness, I was super broke and I was making challah bread and selling them to my friends, so I got up like a baker at four in the morning and baked all day and sold like 10 loaves for $18 a pop.
Bruno Feldeisen: Mine is simple: I have a sweet tooth and I crave sugar. I can be home at 8 pm and then leave and go to Tim Horton to get doughnuts because I have the urge for sweets. It began because I worked in a chocolate shop when I was 15 years old so I fell into a magic potion. Sugar is very addictive and I think that's why I'm still here after so many years.
Kyla Kennaley: My first job was at a Tim Hortons actually baking cakes and doughnut. One of the bakers says she doesn't remember not baking and yeah, that's me. So I think it's innate. On the personal side of it, I love the success of it. I love the structure of it. When you follow all the rules and you do everything, it works! There are basic principles and science behind baking.
If you had to pick one thing, what's your best bake?
Aurora Browne: Pancakes. I make a mean pancake and I came up with the recipe myself. I was trying to get as close to Finnish pancakes as possible and it works gluten free as well.
Carolyn Taylor: I make the best Rice Krispy squares. If you want to know how, use lots of butter. Don't skimp. Use real Rice Krispies, not Rice Kriskies. Use the normal-sized marshmallows. Don't get great big campfire ones and don't use mini ones because the ratio of the powder [coating] on the outside to the inside is not the same. Don't put extra stuff in it, like "Oh, I put peanut butter." No! Normal! Put in fewer Rice Krispies than you'd think you need. Putting in more Rice Krispies than you need is a rookie mistake. It's as bad as using less butter.
Bruno Feldeisen: It depends on the time of the year. In the winter, it's cookies. Because you always get cabin fever so you want to get that unique sweet smell in your house. In summer, I like to make stewed fruits, whatever is in season.
Kyla Kennaley: I love making meringues because it takes you away. They're so beautiful. When you look at a raw egg white, it doesn't look like very much. But the minute you whip it and add sugar, you've created this cloud. You've pulled something from the sky and brought it to the table. So that's my favourite thing.
Can you share a story of a personal bake fail?
Aurora Browne: When I was 10 I tried to make a Yule log. They said I needed eight egg yolks and I put in eight egg whites. It was bad, but they humoured me. I was young and foolish.
Carolyn Taylor: In kindergarten, I made a carrot cake with my mom with a nice cream cheese icing. I was walking with it and I tripped and it fell on the gravel in the street and I cried. I was supposed to be bringing in the treat for the day, so my mom gave me a bag of marshmallows because that's all we had.
Bruno Feldeisen: It was a chocolate mousse cake for a VIP dinner. The dinner took so long, so the cake was too soft and I told my staff to put it back in the freezer for a few minutes. I got distracted and when it was time to serve, I think it was hard like a rock. I was thinking that I would lose my job because that guy was so important. After dinner, this big CEO in New York City asked to see me and said "Chef! Chef, what have you done with that dessert?" And I was so nervous I couldn't say a word. And he said "Chef, that was the best chocolate ice cream cake I ever had." It was a failure, but turned into a success.
Kyla Kennaley: Mousse is my nemesis. I love it. I love to eat it. But I can screw it up like there's no tomorrow. We did a Valentine's episode with Steven and Chris and they said, "Could you do a mousse"? And I said "yes" because I didn't want to tell them it wasn't my best skill. But everything that could go wrong did: the chocolate was too cold; then it was burnt; then the eggs didn't fold right. I'm sure they edited it into something beautiful, but it was embarrassing and it took longer than any segment we had done.
What's one good personal baking — or general cooking — tip you can share with our readers?
Aurora Browne: Eggs at room temperature. Taking your eggs out of the fridge makes a huge difference. You will get so much more loft and evenness in your cake batter when your eggs are at room temperature.
Carolyn Taylor: You'd think everybody knows this but mix your wets together and your dries together. But I've met people who don't know! What are you doing? Get your wet mixture and slowly add your flour.
Bruno Feldeisen: Planning. In baking, you have to plan. Set the time. Baking and rushing is not a good idea.
Kyla Kennaley: Tasting. In cooking, you carry a spoon around with you and you taste everything as you go. In baking, we just have our ingredients out and we go. And we've seen it here, I know I've done it at home, where you reach for something and now you're doubling up on your baking soda and you didn't use baking powder. Taste first. That's something we forget.
Bagel or croissant?
Aurora Browne: Croissant.
Carolyn Taylor: Montreal bagel, otherwise it's a croissant and it has to be a good croissant otherwise I don't want it.
Bruno Feldeisen: Montreal bagel. It's such a unique bake. I discovered it only two years ago and was blown away by how tasty and good it is. There are so many bad croissants out there.
(Bruno Feldeisen and Carolyn Taylor were interviewed separately and therefore unaware of each other's answers.)
Kyla Kennaley: Croissant.
Cake or pie?
Aurora Browne: Pie.
Carolyn Taylor: Cake.
Bruno Feldeisen: Cake in winter, pie in summer.
Kyla Kennaley: Pie.
Favourite kind of pie?
Aurora Browne: Pumpkin.
Carolyn Taylor: Butterscotch.
Kyla Kennaley: All. Tart pies. I love savoury pies.
Bruno Feldeisen: Tart pies — I agree — with seasonal fruits. Let the fruit speak for itself. My aunt used to make jam and she'd say you make the sugar and the berries and you let them cry.
What is your preferred style of birthday cake?
Aurora Browne: Multi-layered with somehow lemon being involved.
Carolyn Taylor: My sister made me a butterscotch pie for my birthday and I love that. And I love a baked Alaska too. Baked Alaska.
Bruno Feldeisen: It is trendy, but naked cake.
Kyla Kennaley: Something nut-based like a hazelnut dacquoise.
What time of day do you most crave something sweet and what is your go-to food to satisfy the craving?
Aurora Browne: 10 at night, toast with peanut butter and honey.
Carolyn Taylor: 1 in the afternoon, brownie with walnuts.
Bruno Feldeisen: As soon as I wake up. I have a tendency to over-sweeten my coffee. Twice a week I have milk chocolates with hazelnut inside by Lindt.
Kyla Kennaley: Dark chocolate after dinner.
If you could only eat sweet or savoury for the rest of your life which one would it be?
Aurora Browne: Savoury.
Carolyn Taylor: Savoury.
Bruno Feldeisen: Vanilla ice cream.
Kyla Kennaley: Savoury.
Season 3 of The Great Canadian Baking Show premieres September 18 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC, and CBC Gem.
Clifton Mark writes about philosophy, psychology, politics, and other life-related topics. Find him @Clifton_Mark on Twitter.