Paul Hollywood loves bread.
That may be obvious to fans of Netflix’s The Great British Baking Show judge, known for his scathing criticism of baked goods, spiky silver hair and the patented “Hollywood handshake” of approval for lucky contestants. But even when the cameras aren’t rolling, Hollywood really Yes, really likes to talk about bread.
Fresh off filming the new season of ‘Baking’, or ‘Bakeoff’ as it’s known in the UK, the judge and accomplished pastry chef was ready to share all about baking – bread in particular – while speaking from his home in Kent in the south east Englands from video call . Hollywood raves about sourdough, his favorite bread, and how “it took me a long time” to get the recipe right for his new cookbook, Bake: My Best Ever Recipes for the Classics. He says he traveled across the US to learn from famous bakeries like Tartine in San Francisco and Sullivan’s in New York, where he was rather skeptical about their famous no-knead bread, but then was “amazed by how good it was “. He talks about his preferred, idyllic life of eating baguettes for breakfast every day in Paris.
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Bread features prominently in Hollywood’s first cookbook in five years, Bake (out now, Bloomsbury, 302 pages), because it is a distillation of his favorite and most important recipes. But there are also pies, cakes, desserts and other goodies in the book as he attempts to perfect classic recipes, a project he began on hiatus while filming “Bake” in a pandemic-induced bubble .
“We stayed together in this very nice hotel for seven weeks. (Co-judge) Prue (Leith) who wrote her book, (co-host) Matt (Lucas) wrote scripts for something and I think same with (co-host) Noel Fielding,” says Hollywood. “I had those whole time after the tent when I went back to my room I was like, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to do another book, right? It’s been five years, time is too lazy.'”
So how does Hollywood tinker with such timeless recipes as blueberry muffins, sandwich bread or beef empanadas?
“The salt content is reduced, the sugar content is reduced,” he says. “I ended up rewriting many of the original recipes and just tweaking and improving them.”
Hollywood is confident that home bakers will be able to tackle his recipes, even if they seem too difficult or complicated on the surface. The recipes are “simple because each step is simple. It’s just that when you put it all together, you look at it and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s quite a lot.'”
In 12 seasons of Baking so far (only 10 have been released in the US), Hollywood has judged dozens of bakers’ creations by amateur pastry chefs from across the UK, and the nominees are “a great standard of bakers.” Although the judge, who has long since become a bigger face on the show, was more excited to talk about filming the comedy skit that traditionally opens a new season of the show.
“We just did the opening (the skit) last week, which is hilarious. I can’t tell you too much about it, but (we’re) very funny.”
Hollywood may be a famous face on the show (he says he’s “shocked” at how many times he’s been recognized in the US), but he doesn’t think he needs to be a part of it forever.
“I’d like to see Bakeoff continue if I’m okay. I want it to go on forever,” he says. “A new iteration in the future when I’m too old and crumbling and someone goes and takes my place. I think it deserves to stay.”
He’s really passionate about getting people to bake, whether it’s through the show or his book.
“I want the book to be covered in flour and dough and butter and glue all the pages together. I want it to be a well-used, well-worn book,” he says. “I want people to write notes in the key notes on the side and just say I’m going to change that. I think I want them to master the recipes first and then change it up and make it one of their family favorites.”
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