expat thoughts on the bake off finale


a bake-off post! in case you still aren’t sure what i’m nattering on about, i’ve been baking along this autumn to the show, the great british bake off (series 9) which just had the finale this week. as i know this series will hit the states several months later, i just want to say: i will mention the winner of this series sometime in the post (spoiler alert!), so if that matters to you, go ahead and skip to my bakes (below) or click out. but something has been rattling around in the old craw about this year’s bakers that i just felt like i had to comment on.

i found the finale deeply touching this year, especially all of the scenes with rahul, giving viewers even more background and depth to his story. rahul is one of the three finalists – he moved to britain eight years before to study for a doctorate degree. rahul is sort of the eeyore of this year’s bakers. or maybe more of the piglet. but the point is, he happens to be an extremely endearing and likable person even though he admits the one word to describe him is “depressing”, he can’t at all handle the judgement, and seems to have a low opinion of his own abilities.

in this week’s finale episode, we learn more about his background. we already know that he skypes with his parents back in india every day, but this episode, the contestants get talking about who will be there to support them at the finale garden party that occurs each season. kim joy’s partner is coming, ruby’s large family will be there, and then we meet rahul’s two closest friends– a couple in sheffield. he thinks of them as family, and it is touching to see how they’ve supported him in his expat journey to the united kingdom.

see, rahul is an expat. or immigrant; i’m not exactly sure as i don’t personally know his intentions with how long he plans to remain in the UK (shorter term or indefinitely), but either case, he finds himself in his eighth year in his new country. his friends, the aforementioned sheffield couple, admit that they encouraged him to get into baking as a way to learn about his adopted culture. and now, here he is, one of the top three (if not the best) amateur baker (of traditional western baked goods!) in britain. can you even imagine the kind of talent and intuition that would take? it is incredible.


rahul says, during one challenge to the camera:

“nobody brought me [to the UK]. i came here myself, because i wanted to.”

later, when rahul’s name is called as the the winner, my heart just swelled with pride. the camera pans to his sheffield friends, looking at each other wide-eyed. his family, his parents in india weren’t present at the party, but he had these sweet friends supporting him. from one expat to another, this entire episode was incredibly touching. rahul made a new life in this country halfway around the world and such sweet friends are supporting him, like family, in this huge success. i couldn’t help but relate it to my own experience – having such wonderful people supporting us here in our own choice to move to a new country, no family around. it is friends like this that make everything worth it.

rahul holds the glass cake stand as he poses for the cameras and his hands won’t stop shaking. “i’ve never won anything before.” he calls his mum and tells her the result.

later after the series, we see that his parents in india finally visit rahul in the UK for the first time. he is shown sitting on the couch with them and his glass cake stand trophy; serving them a british cake in the kitchen. i just lost it. it must have meant so much to him to have his parents realize how important this competition was to him, to britain, to all the viewers around the world. it must be hard to have a child move around the world “because they wanted to”. it can be also very difficult for one person, unsponsored, to make it in a new country. and now, rahul is introducing his parents the flavors of britain. it was a beautiful moment.

what an ultimate measure of success! on an expat level, i felt very much for the contestants this year.

now, i can talk about two bakes!


vegan week (week 7) was a breeze for me. i’ve been cooking vegan recipes for almost a decade and feel pretty confident about it… if i had to give one type of food i am good at cooking, it would be “asian” and vegan. i decided to opt for the signature challenge of the savory tart, which gave me a little problem because even though the vegan category doesn’t scare me off, i’ve never blind-baked a tart before and i couldn’t think of anything heat resistant enough to put in it to keep the shell from caving in a bit, which of course, it did.

in the end, i made a roasted red pepper and walnut tart with a coconut oil-based sage spelt crust. the filling was quite delicious and great for a tart – i think the crust, however, i would choose to make with whole-wheat flour in the future instead of the spelt flour. still, it was full of autumnal flavor. roasted red pepper is almost always a win!


danish week (week 8) was exciting for me, and i was happy to bake my first ever loaf of danish rye, which came out quite nicely. i had to bake it much longer than directed to get the dense middle to finally cook, but i really enjoyed snacking on it throughout the week. it also made me appreciate all the rye bread that we have around here, whether i like it or not. i still prefer the more fluffier american-style bread but now i feel like i can finally eat rye without grimacing inside.

for my two smorrebrod (open-faced sandwiches) that were required in this signature challenge, i made a salmon and medium-boiled egg and spring onion on delicious homemade remoulade, and a “beet tartine” with giant capers (not shown). as the loaf wasn’t very tall, the slices are thin (but good).


the last challenge which i will be tackling this weekend: the world of french patisserie for the semi-final challenge. i can’t recall having made french patisserie before, so i’m looking forward at finally trying my hand at it.

have you been watching the show this season? what did you think? curious if any fellow expats had similar feels as i did.

(photo source 1 & 2)