In a flurry of eggs, flour, tears and tantrums, The Great British Bake Off recently wrapped up its 4th series, having stolen the nation’s heart – and Tuesday evenings – over the past weeks. Favourite to win until the final hurdle was this year’s underdog, 21-year-old student Ruby Tandoh, whose detailed culinary creations, which included a delightful edible garden shed and adjoining allotment, seemed to come as a constant surprise to the baker herself. With a self-confessed penchant for ‘winging it,’ and a baking style she describes as "erratic, messy and excited", Tandoh ended the competition as runner-up to Frances Quinn.
Despite describing the bake-off as an "incredibly difficult few months", Tandoh stressed that it was undoubtedly "an overwhelmingly positive experience", one that she was helped through using the ideology of her cookery idol Nigel Slater: "His approach to food has had a massive influence on my style of baking. It is about cooking to eat - not for show or in some vainglorious pursuit of culinary perfection. It's about taking the time to understand each ingredient that goes into a dish, treating it with care and consideration. It's not a dinner party culture or a Michelin starred vanity project. It's for the love of food."
Admirers of Ruby’s inventive recipes from the off, AnOther asked the baker to share one of her favourite recipes – a sumptuous bay and blackcurrant crème brûlée – in honour of British Pudding Day on Saturday, before she takes some much needed time off to indulge in her studies, watch multiple Netflix series and perfect her all important baking skills.
284ml double cream
3 medium egg yolks
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 fresh bay leaves
50g granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 150C. Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar until beginning to lighten in colour. Stir in the cream. Divide the blackcurrants between two ramekins – there should just be a few scattered at the bottom of each one. Pour the custard mix into each ramekin, then stand a bay leaf in each (it doesn’t have to be fully submerged – if you leave it propped against the walls of the dish, it will be easier to pull out later). Put the two dishes into a loaf tin or oven dish deep enough to accommodate cold water reaching 2/3 of the way up the ramekins. Cook until barely wobbling in the centre – approx 35-40mins. Gently pull out the bay leaf (this shouldn’t be difficult), then leave the custards to cool to room temperature, then chill. Sprinkle the granulated sugar generously over each custard, then blowtorch or grill until beginning to caramelise – keep an eye on them! Let cool again. Take a spoon in one hand, feel the weight of it, focus all your energies on it as you bring it down onto the surface of the crème brulee with a crack. It is a feeling to be relished. Enjoy.
More of Ruby's recipes are available on her blog Ruby and the Kitchen.
Text by Rhiannon Wastell