Last Thursday night, Paul Hollywood descended on York as part of his first British live tour. It was promoted as an opportunity to ‘get your bake on’, with baking tips from The Great British Bake Off guru himself, as well as a chance to hear more about his personal life. As a confessed Bake Off fan and cake fanatic, I jumped at the opportunity witness the expert at work, though truthfully Mary Berry or ‘bezza’ as she is fondly known to Paul, is my favourite of the duo.
I wasn’t quite expecting the evening of pantomime style entertainment that lay ahead, packed with fantastic recipes baked effortlessly before me and even a chance to hop on stage and lend a hand.
As I took my seat centre stage in the almost full 1,400-seat Barbican, I didn’t think I’d be leaving with a sore stomach from laughing too hard, and a one of a kind ‘Paul Hollywood’s baking club’ apron’ after battling for star baker. From the off, the Yorkshire puns were flying, and the gamely audience consisting largely of an all female crowd were eager to shout out. It seems Paul has created quite a following of females hypnotised by his dry humour and charm.
The insights into Paul’s life were interesting; he told of his strong ties to York, where his father had owned a bakery. (This received a huge coo from the audience.) For all you fellow Great British Bake Off fans, Paul also let us in on a secret – the new series of the successful BBC show is currently being filmed in a new location, with lots of great contestants.
He began with his mum’s speciality, a classic British apple plate pie, admitting that she was a dire cook. His first tip of the evening was to dispel the myth that being unable to make pastry because of warm hands isn’t true, asking the question “ever heard of cold water?” Paul also recommended using your fingers to crimp a pastry lid, as the results are far more professional than when using a fork.
Paul wasn’t afraid to name drop, he regularly linked recipes back to his time as head chef at The Dorchester, along with plenty of merchandise hints: “this recipe is available in the tour programme.” Nudge nudge. In true cookery show fashion, after preparing the dishes he would whip a finished version out from beneath the counter along with with that unforgettable line “here’s one I made earlier.” Paul cruelly took a huge bite of one of his delicious looking pies right in front of us – the man knew how to get the women riled – let us smell the food, see the food, then eat it in front of us.
Each recipe had a little story to go with it, as though marking different stages in his life. The Black Forest Gateaux was next. As Mr. Hollywood heaped the triple spoonfuls of cream onto each layer of the cake, he smugly informed us it was “totally fat free ladies”. If you think the innuendos on GBBO are bad, you wouldn’t have known what had hit you. It seemed far more a ‘carry on baking’ with the double entendres flying about. His first audience helper Miriam was asked if she’d like to pop her cherry…. on top of the cream icing of course.
The evening was like being at a stand-up comedy event with a baking twist and an infusion of personality. Paul was exactly as you’d expect him to be – larger than life. One could even say he’s what it says on the tin, or is that too much of a culinary reference?
Now it was bread time. We saw Paul make a lemon and orange couronne. Another useful tip from the professional: if you ever forget to buy a Christmas door wreath, this is an edible substitute, just make sure to keep the dog at bay. Paul, a bread man through and through emphasised that bread is not the enemy. He preached that for anyone under the impression that they have a wheat allergy – in fact, they most likely don’t. According to Paul, this is down to the bread you’ve been eating, which consists of too high a fat content, resulting in the dough just sitting in your stomach. His solution is to be pickier with the loaves you choose or to go for homemade bread. His second dough spectacle came in the form of a seeded wholemeal loaf: “the trick with bread is a good recipe (his of course) and a set of digital scales, you’ll be laughing you way to the tent” (the GBBO one obviously). A word of warning – watching live baking will result in you drooling profusely at the amazing aromas.
As the event drew to a close, the final excitement of the evening was a chance for four audience members to compete for star baker. In true keen bean style my hand shot up and I was chosen to apron up and step on stage. You know the depressingly hard eight-plait loaf? Well that was the evening’s challenge. In all seriousness I made a fair attempt, the hours of Come Dine with Me being put to good use. However, the audience’s sympathy was with a woman whose loaf resembled an octopus, and consequently she won star baker. My moment in the spotlight and a kiss on the cheek by Paul left me leaving the stage with a warm glow.
Get Your Bake On was a hysterical evening of frivolity, baking and passion. Guaranteed, it was intended for an older audience but who doesn’t love a good old silver fox? Shock revelation of the evening; Paul doesn’t lick the bowl… ever.