Our latest series runs down the truth behind the popular bakes featured on The Great British Baking Show. This week: Sweet Dough!
Sweet doughs are the dessert variation on Bread Week. With Paul Hollywood staking his reputation as the Bread Master, the show felt having just Bread Week for him wasn't enough. Sweet Dough Week lasted two seasons: this one and the next (which we in the US know as Season 2). After that the show began branching out with "Advance Dough" or "Batter."
The most well known of the Sweet Dough family, these sugar breakfast bakes are also known as "Sweet Rolls" or "Sweet Breads." The U.K. varieties encompass everything from the hot cross buns of the Middle Ages, to the Chelsea bun which came into vogue in the 18th century, to the Scottish cream bun most Americans think of as High Tea fare.
Chelsea buns were the go-to in the Signature bake this week. Inspired by the fruit and cinnamon buns which had been popular breakfast fare for centuries, this forerunner to the modern cinnamon roll sold in groceries everywhere is the one most associated with the U.K., even though their biggest fans during the time period were the members of the German House of Hanover.
Known everywhere else as the Jelly Donut, the Berliner was invented in the area which would become known as Germany in the late 1400s. The first record of the "Gefüllte Krapfen," which was basically a jam sandwich fried in lard, was published in 1485. With slavery in the New World, the availability of sugar in Europe spiked and prices dropped in the 1600s, making the doughnut far more widely available in urban areas.
But it wasn't until the 1750s when a baker from Berlin was hired to become the chief cook for the Prussian army and began frying gobs of dough with jam inside, that the stuffed donut became popularized and associated with what is now the capital city of Berlin. Since then the recipe has slowly morphed into the jelly doughnut, a fried dough ball stuffed with jam, available at your local Krispy Kreme.
In America, we would think of this as a cousin of the King Cake served on Fat Tuesday, but in the U.K. the "celebratory loaf" is a dish served around either the Christmas or Easter holiday. This episode gave us examples of both, with the German Stollen and the springtime Brioche. Ryan made the Cantonese cousin of the dish known as the Cha Siu Bao.
The Stollen was popularized in England under Victoria, who basically invented the modern Christmas by adopting many of her beloved Albert's German traditions. The Brioche is French, dating back as far as 1404, though the butter-flour ratio we think of today stems from the time of excess under Louis XIV. As for the Cha Siu Bao, the sweet version of the steamed bun supposedly has existed for centuries, served in Guangzhou, the city at the eastern end of the Silk Road.
Next Week: Biscuits!