(I wrote this on Thursday before I left and I am scheduling this while I am in transit to Hong Kong)
I’ve been catching up on episodes of Anna Olson’s new show “Bake” online and I watched the new episodes today. Wow, I’m talking about this show like it’s Lost. You can probably tell I’m a fan of Food Network.
“Bake” does not disappoint. The concept of “Bake” is that each episode focuses on a technique or a type of dessert, like pie dough or chocolate cake. Anna begins with a recipe that shows the basic techniques and then proceeds to two more recipes each with increasing difficulty or nuance. For example, in today’s “French Meringue” episode, Anna began with making small bird nests meringues, followed by pavlova and finally a hazelnut dacquoise tart.
When I first heard about “Bake,” I thought it sounded slightly gimmicky and formulaic. However, I find Anna is truly a natural instructor. She teaches you in an approachable way, without being patronizing. I usually make simple desserts because I’m afraid of messing up, but Anna makes me feel like I can make (or attempt to make) more complicated desserts, which are in every pastry chef’s arsenal. It has never even crossed my mind to make my own puff pastry. She doesn’t have annoying catch phrases except for the last line, telling watchers to “bake, and enjoy.” There are no gratuitous shots of her eating the the final product.
Food Network, particularly the US version, has come out with lots of reality shows or fast cooking shows. Don’t get me wrong, I actually find 30 Minute Meals recipes very helpful. However, I feel that people like Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade cooking doesn’t add anything to TV. Kwanzaa Cake anyone?
I think Bake finds a happy compromise between introducing basic techniques and then challenging people to try more complicated recipes.
Bake airs new episodes on Thursdays at 8 am, 11am and 7pm on Food Network Canada. Canadians, at least, can watch already aired episodes online.