Bake Off star Paul Hollywood on his new book on classic baking | Wender Mind Kids

Bake Off star Paul Hollywood on his new book on classic baking

Paul Hollywood has been a baker for 30 years but life went ‘crazy’ with the success of the Great British Bake Off (Image: Haarala Hamilton)

Paul Hollywood’s home in Kent is his sanctuary. Life was ‘mad’ with the success of The Great British Bake Off, for which he was a master judge during his 12 years on television. And as the show’s scope has expanded globally, the baking trend has grown, and its fame has risen alongside it.

A professional baker for more than 30 years and known for his no-nonsense approach to contestants and their creations, Hollywood’s life has changed in unimaginable ways since the show began.

No wonder he cares so much about his Kent idyll with the magnificent garden, which he proudly shows me during our zoom interview. “This is home,” he says as his camera tracks over lush greenery, flower beds and a fabulous outdoor fireplace.

From his early years living above his parents’ bakery to the stunning home he loves today, he has “judged, tested and tasted literally thousands of cakes, cookies, pastries and puddings and probably as many himself.” baked”.

His latest book, Bake, his first in five years, brings those experiences together in a wonderful celebration of the bakery.

He describes the recipes as “classics” because, especially during lockdown, he’s been tweaking, tweaking and updating classic recipes — from bread to baked Alaska, cherry pie to ciabatta, macarons to meringues — to create stunning results that can be achieved by just about anyone can become their own home.

“I call Bake the lockdown book,” he tells me, “because 2020 has given me time to sit down and look at recipes and update things to check schedules and quantities. A lot of the classic recipes are too salty or have too much sugar and we’re all eating less of it now, so it was good to revisit things and look at things in a way that works for everyone today.”

A not-so-silver-haired pre-bake-off Paul who presented the Food Network show The History of Bread in 2000

A not-so-silver-haired pre-bake off Paul who presented Food Network show The History of Bread in 2000 (Image: REX)

During the first lockdown, he spent two days filming Bake Off and then got two days off in a hotel room, “so I had a lot of time to just sit down and work on it by myself”.

This kind of “time out” is a rarity for him. “You never quite get used to the success we’ve had and I’m never happier than sitting at home in my bathrobe and cooking.”

These latest recipes are for home cooks as Paul uses them in his own home where he is clearly happiest. “I’m a loner,” he smiles. “Since Bake Off started, I’ve become a bit of a recluse. I just love the quiet and peace of home.”

He admits he makes a lot of pizza and we chat about that outdoor oven. “A lot of people have bought pizza ovens but you can get one for around £70 at a hardware store – it doesn’t have to be seven grand of equipment. Many people are now also building their own brick-built pizza ovens.

Paul's latest book Bake features classic recipes that he's tweaked, tweaked and updated during lockdown

Paul’s latest book Bake features classic recipes that he’s tweaked, tweaked and updated during lockdown (Image: Bloomsbury)

“If you don’t have an outdoor oven, you can always make homemade pizza. You can kill the batter in a frying pan to keep it from rising, heat your oven as high as you can, and flash in there to get the same effect.

Paul has an Outback grill, a Cypriot foukou rotisserie, a Big Green Egg grill and two pizza ovens – one home and one commercial – all lined up side by side. We don’t all need that much equipment, but if you want homemade pizza, the best place to start is “buy my new book,” he quips. “But seriously, a good recipe is always a good start.

“And heat in the oven is crucial… It’s important to me to get that message across. They only have to be in the oven for a minute, a minute and ten seconds at most.”

He has worked with top chefs in Naples and around the world, but Paul’s original inspirations came straight from home.

Baking, he believes, “is in our DNA. I was born and raised in bakeries and lived over one as a baby. I was always missed and they found me downstairs robbing one of the flour covered cream cakes.

My mother would say, “Where have you been?” And I would say, “Nowhere,” but they would know because I would have been in the flour sacks and poked holes in them.”

The original cast of The Great British Bake Off, from left, Mel Giedroyc, Paul Hollywood, Sue Perkins and Mary Berry at the 2013 British Academy Television Awards

The original cast of The Great British Bake Off, from left, Mel Giedroyc, Paul Hollywood, Sue Perkins and Mary Berry at the British Academy Television Awards 2013 (Image: REX)

The recipes in the book and those he uses most often at home are often inspired by his father, mother and grandmother. “It takes me an hour to make my gravy for a good fried chicken, and I love meringues. They’re simple but my grandma was brilliant at them and I love them.”

He adds: “Sometimes all I have is cream. Cream and meringue is a thing of beauty. And you can’t beat a good cake, can you?’

Is he appalled when people use store-bought crust? ‘No. I like to make my own, but I buy filo pastry because it’s a hassle to make. But I make coarse puff pastry and puff pastry. And it’s so easy.” His new book has recipes for both.

Bake is very approachable at first, but Paul advises those lacking in confidence to leave breads alone for now. “Look at the times, and when you’re cooking with youngsters, don’t choose something that takes ages.

“Go with brownies or scones because they’re a quick fix. Do something that will happen quickly, and when you’ve mastered that, move on to things that will take longer. Build the time rather than the complexity of a recipe.’

He acknowledges that “in baking, science is the reaction of yeast and warm water, the temperature you bake at, the acidic and the alkaline, but once you’ve mastered a recipe, make it your own.”

Paul says the most important tool for a baker is his hands, followed closely by

Paul says a baker’s most important tool is his hands, followed closely by “some good scales” (Image: REX)

“I would suggest maybe 200 grams of curd, but if you want to add more, do it. Just get the basics and then you can play around. You have to walk before you can run.” A love of baking will follow quickly, he assures me. “Xbox, PlayStation or Baking? Kids will go to the baking every time.’

And you don’t need a ton of expensive professional equipment either. He only recommends two things above all: a good digital scale and your own two hands.

“You’ll see me stuck inside myself in Bake Off because your hands are the best tools you have. Your hands have a history and they know how something should feel. Using your hands gives you a better view of what’s going on.” A clean oven is also a must, he adds.

And when you’re ready to bake bread, Paul is armed with tips and recipes. Sourdough has been the lockdown challenge for many across the country and he made a lot himself.

“I always baked my bread myself. I bake a loaf that I use on toast every morning. I use very little fat – maybe a little olive oil – and no sugar at all, so I know it’s healthier.

Paul with the current Bake-Off gang, from left: Matt Lucas, Prue Leith and Noel Fielding

Paul with the current Bake Off gang, from left, Matt Lucas, Prue Leith and Noel Fielding (Image: Channel Four)

“And I make sourdough once a week, banana bread less now as I’ve been making a lot over the past year. I also cook a lot of focaccias as I make a lot of risotto and often take it with me when I go to someone’s house. I’ll play around with it, play with the elasticity. I’m definitely a perfectionist when it comes to bread.”

One of his favorite recipes in Bake is sourdough as it took me a while to get it right. It can be tricky but I’ve given the recipe to a few people and they’ve all made good breads so it’s a good starter sourdough for those who want one.

There’s no doubt Paul is under pressure to publish his first book in five years, but he’s clearly very proud of it, seeing it as a classic recipe book in a saturated market of food trends, quick fixes and one-pan wonders.

“I’m not someone who writes a book every year. I don’t have the time, but I really took my time to perfect the recipes and I gave it a lot of thought before I started writing it. It means a lot to me, this book…five years is a long time not to write anything.’

BAKE by Paul Hollywood, published by Bloomsbury (£26 RRP, bound)

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