…*hangs head*

So…I’ve been toying with different titles for this post. Until 5 minutes ago I was torn between

A) Shot down in a blaze of filo.

and

B) That awkward moment when your jaunty nautical display is making a mockery of you & your attempted-pastry crap-pile.

Upon re-living the fiasco on TV tonight, I went with “…*hangs head*” because it really sums up my feelings at the moment. I always knew pastry week would be my Everest but I could have made things easier for myself. I just don’t know how to do things normally, there’s always a new idea, there’s always a voice in my head telling me to do something different. The times when this approach has worked for me actually far outweigh the catastrophes but television is unkind in it’s nature and now I feel like a bit of an idiot. It turns out no amount of preparation can give me time management skills!

My nerves and terrible time-management got to me in a big way and far from my low-stakes home baking I let the pressure of the situation send me into a panic. Usually when I feel things starting to go wrong with a bake I take my time, google possible solutions, put it to one side and revisit it after a cup of tea or just bin it but none of those are an option in the Bake Off tent! The second I started to get flustered the cameras moved in en mass, which gave me shakey hands and made me even less productive. Once Anna starts visiting your station more frequently, you know you’re in trouble (as much as I loved our little chats). 40 minutes from the end of the challenge I knew my Bake Off journey was over and by the time Anna said stop baking I was mentally preparing to get my coat. Having to go through the formalities of judging and elimination was painful but unfortunately there isn’t a back door.
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Given the immense talent of the 10 bakers ahead of me, I don’t think there was anything I could have done to stay anyway. Ranging from lovely to intimidating, their pastries all looked and tasted fantastic. I just wish I could have stayed at Camp Bake Off a bit longer. Getting to know these brilliant people, who also happen to be tremendous at baking, has been such an amazing experience. The idea of competing with them was daunting from the beginning and completely went against the atmosphere in Tinnakilly while filming. I have made some truly wonderful friends.

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Part of me feels like I should be more disappointed with myself and the poor pastry performance but I’m so lucky to have been one of the 12 and though I was knocked out early, I remain very proud. I never would have considered applying to do it 5 years ago, it’s a miracle I got as far as I did and I have to say that the whole process gave me so much confidence. I wouldn’t change it for the world! Far from disappointed I am absolutely chuffed with myself (so much so, I made myself this badge!)

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That said, I was really looking forward to biscuit week (among others)! I’ll post the recipe & pictures of what I was planning to make for each episode anyway.

Never one to waste a recipe!

Episode One –The Random Menace (That’ll be the Battenburg)

The Signature Challenge

The morning we began filming felt surreal to say the least. The nerves that prevented me from eating breakfast, the tentative first steps in the tent and trying to adjust to the presence of the cameras were absurd and terrifying to me from the very start. After the introduction, a warm welcome and some top-drawer baking puns from Anna we began baking, something that’s near muscle-memory for all of us. My nerves were going crazy and I totally forgot how to read (my own recipe, which I had written and practically knew off by heart!) or speak. The friendly cameramen asked us questions as we went along and my ability to form sentences went out the window.

I was in a fluster the entire way through the bake, I never relaxed into it. By the time Anna told us there were 15 minutes left I was about 10 minutes behind. With two minute to go I was hurriedly throwing praline at the sides of my cake. With 30 seconds to go I realised I didn’t have enough praline for the back. It wasn’t until after time was called that I remembered that I’d left my chocolate spokes in the fridge. Having the judges approach my station is up there with the scariest things I’ve experienced (I’ve led a charmed life, what can I say?!) and my stomach sank before they’d even tasted it. My friends commented on how sad I looked during the judging but I’ve honestly never felt so defeated in my life! We were all ready for critiquing but it just seemed so relentless as they made their way around the tent. My feedback was fair, they really know what they’re talking about and I have since introduced a lime flavour to my vanilla sponge to lift the taste and taken 5 minutes off the bake time to reduce the drying effect. It didn’t look nearly as good as I wanted it to. Here’s one of its previous incarnations.

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That bottle of Frangelico was burning a hole in my proverbial pocket so I’ve turned my attentions towards consuming it in more exciting ways (my favourite is below):

http://www.frangelico.com/int/en/recipes/delightful-experiences/nutty-irishwoman/

The Technical Challenge

In we wandered, 12 new friends, walking in formation into a beautiful tent on a gorgeous sunny day. The atmosphere did not befit the beauty of the day –the fear of the impending technical was getting to us and the uncertainty of what lay ahead was so daunting we had silence at breakfast for the first time. We had, of course, been brain-storming and debating the potential cake challenges but to no avail. The involuntary gasps that escaped from the 12 of us when we heard the word battenburg were so funny that it was closely followed by laughter. I think the biggest relief was that we all at least knew what it SHOULD look like!

I can’t remember much of the bake, it’s a total blur and watching it back did nothing to jog my memory! It’s always easier to make something you like and I’m really not a fan of battenburg, I can’t stand almond paste. Paul’s flavours were a really nice touch though, I really enjoy using lemon and rose in sponges so that helped a bit.

To get placed second was absolutely amazing! I was (and I do believe this is my first time ever using the word, so you know I mean it) flabbergasted!

All in all, episode one was such a rollercoaster, each bake is like a rollercoaster in itself really. Roll on episode two!

 

I’M ON THE BAKE OFF!!!!!!

It’s such a huge relief to finally be able to tell everyone (& type it in capitals)

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I hear the beginning is as good a place as any (thanks Julie). I filled out the online application for Bake Off way back in January when all of my New Year’s resolutions were still fresh in my head and I naively thought I’d follow all of them through and become a better person before the year was out. I obviously wanted to get to the next stage but hadn’t considered it would happen. When someone from the programme phoned me a week later I felt completely blind-sided. As the weeks went on I slowly began to realise that I might actually make it into the tent! I wanted to meet Anna, I wanted to bake things and I wanted to be a part of the Bake Off world (every time I hear that music I just want to step into the TV). What I hadn’t really put much thought into was the actual being on TV part.

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After weeks of preparing, studying, excitement and terror, I met my 11 new best buds in the beautiful setting of Tinakilly House. These amazing bakers, along with the production people, crew and hotel staff made such a lovely atmosphere I felt at home straight away. I could have stayed at Camp Bake Off indefinitely……if it wasn’t for the insane nerves I was suffering from about the actual baking element!

My Bake Off buddies and I have grown incredibly close over the last few weeks, having shared the greatest and most bizarre times. I have almost too much to say about the whole experience, a little time has passed since we wrapped the series and I’m still overwhelmed by the Bake Off journey so I’ll be drip-feeding my gushing tales of love & baking here over the next few weeks.

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Above is a photo from the launch in the lovely Cliff Town house, Stephen’s Green (the dress was a pile of fabric until 6pm the night before so I’m lucky I wasn’t in my pyjamas).

Me & my fellow brats: Dave, Shane & Hazel.

#cupcrew4ever

xxx