Guest blogger, 2014 Great British Bake Off finalist, Richard Burr reminisces about last year’s final, reveals his favourite baker and shares what he has been up to over the last 12 months. Grab a cup of tea and put your feet up it’s a great read…
“With this year’s Bake Off final fast approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about my time on the show and looking back on the year I’ve had since. It’s been terrific and I still have to pinch myself when I think of everything that’s happened. I’ve written a weekly blog for the past year at www.richardburr.london, which has acted as a bit of a diary for me to keep track of everything I’ve been up to.
From making cakes for gorillas at London Zoo to meeting heroes like David Tennant to writing my own recipe book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, and having it published, it’s been a mad but an entirely positive experience. If anyone is even considering applying for the Great British Bake Off I’d say to jump in feet first – you have nothing to lose and so much potential fun to have.
One of the most special things for me has been meeting the 11 fellow bakers from my series. We are all really close. The first day we met, we set up a Whatsapp group and ever since, we’ve been in touch on a daily basis and meet up as often as possible. I’m catching up with Iain, Chetna and Luis tomorrow in fact! To find out more about what everyone has been up to, on Sunday 4 October on BBC1 is the Bake Off Class of 2014 programme. They took us back to the tent to interview us about the year we’ve each had, which made us all very nostalgic. It felt great to be back at the magnificent Welford Park.
Writing my recipe book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, was a massive high for me. I was pretty green about the process and it was a steep learning curve, but I reckon it turned out pretty good! As a builder, I’m used to spending most winters out in the cold – digging foundations, fixing roofs, unblocking drains, etc. This was the first winter in about 15 years where instead of freezing my fingers off I was shacked-up in my warm kitchen writing, testing and developing my favourite recipes. My book covers many different baking techniques but grades each recipe for difficulty as level 1, 2 or 3. This means there’s something for everyone; from people who have never made a Victoria sponge before to those who are keen to try their hand at entremets. I’m really proud of the book and I worked with a great team at Quadrille to produce it. We shot the book at my house in February and March of this year, which meant that I could use my own oven to prepare all the food featured. It became a real family affair, with both my daughters and loads of my building materials featured in B.I.Y. The styling and photography are really original and complemented my recipes perfectly.
I wondered whether it would feel weird watching a new batch of bakers in the tent this year; all rattling around with my pots and pans, but I’ve loved it. This series has shown that the popularity of the Great British Bake Off is unlikely to wane any time soon, with viewing figures consistently high. I’ve watched the series really closely as I’ve been reviewing it for the Radio Times so I’ve seen every episode at least three times. It makes me feel like I’ve got to know the bakers very well and I’ve been in touch with most of them on Twitter too. Stu and Ian even made it along to my B.I.Y. book launch party. Frances, Kimberley and Ruby – the Bake Off finalists from 2013 – were really generous with their advice to me in the lead up to my final last year and it’s been good to pay that forward to this year’s semi-finalists. I was so nervous in the run up to the final being aired last year as there was such a weight of expectation on my shoulders after winning Star Baker five times. I didn’t want people to feel I’d let them down. Thankfully, even though everything that followed has been quite unpredictable, people have been so warm. No one ever comes up to you and says “I hated you on the Bake Off”. It’s not that sort of a show.
In this series of the Great British Bake Off, I’ve particularly enjoyed the humour of Sandy and Mat, the level headedness of Paul, Ian’s delicate and unusual flavours and pretty much everything Nadiya has made! She’s been my favourite from early on and I really hope to see her in the final. Some of the challenges this year have been extremely difficult. For example, the Religieuse a L’ancienne showstoppers in the quarter finals looked almost as complicated as what we faced in our finals. Quite a few of the technical bakes this year have been things that none of the contestants have heard of. On the positive side, this puts them all on an even keel in making them. However, it’s often meant that for viewers at home, we’re not quite sure how they’re supposed to turn out either, and therefore whether the bakers are getting it wrong! I am very excited about what we’re going to see from the bakers in the final stages and I think they’ve got even more up their sleeves to wow us. If you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have, put your money where your mouth is and apply for the next series. I promise you won’t regret it!”
Richard’s new book, “B-I-Y Bake It Yourself” is available for purchase now and if you would like a sneak peek at one of his delicious recipes, head over to his Blackcurrant Macarons recipe on BakingMad.com by clicking here.