We caught up with Benjamina from The Great British Bake Off to chat crazy ingredients, baking disasters and life in that tent!
What has been the best part of being involved in GBBO?
Honestly, it has been meeting the 11 amazing other bakers. You all learn so much from each other because you all have different ways of doing things, different little tips and just different styles of baking. It was really good to be around other people who are just as passionate about baking as I am. It was great to be around those who don’t get bored of baking talk - we could even talk about tins for ages and it was totally acceptable!
Making those really good friends was definitely a highlight of being in the tent. It was so much fun!
What's the most bizarre ingredient you've ever used in your baking?
I once tried to make a matcha Swiss roll and the filling was white chocolate and black sesame. Matcha and black sesame do normally go well together in savoury dishes but not so much sweet dishes. It was a bit weird, I didn’t really like it! I had a good try but I won’t be doing it again! I think I put too much matcha in so it was very strong and very green.
What is your favourite ingredient to cook with?
It changes throughout the year and I have phases of ingredients, but currently I’m really loving brown butter. You get a normal block of unsalted butter and melt it all down until the water cooks out and it turns into this really caramelly, nutty butter. Adding it to anything just automatically elevates it and makes it tastes really fancy. Putting it in normal cakes changes the whole taste. I'm really loving it right now, it’s so good!
What do you put brown butter in?
It works well with anything with hazelnut or caramel in. I even put it in Victoria sponge or chocolate chip cookies.
What has been your biggest baking disaster?
There was one time I tried to make an ombre cake. The picture I was working towards was amazing so I was so excited to make this cake and I thought it would be really beautiful. It was way back when I was still practising my baking. It was meant to be different shades of blue but I must have bought really bad food colouring so it all came out brown!
If you could go anywhere in the world to try a cuisine, what country would you visit?
The first place that popped into my mind was Brazil, especially after the Olympic fever. Brazilian food looks so good and hearty - the beans and all the meat with so many flavours.
Israeli food also looks yummy - the breads, the meats and sharing food all together.
Whose cooking or baking inspires you most?
I follow a lot of bloggers, bakers and cooks on social media. I’m really big on seeing what’s current. Lorraine Pascale is a big inspiration. When I saw her cooking on TV when I was younger I thought, I want to do that. I love everything she makes.
One of my favourite all time bloggers is someone called Linda Lomelino. Her photography is gorgeous and everything she makes is like wow! Following her inspired me to start a blog and have good photos.
What would you say to someone who wants to improve their cooking or baking skills?
If you want to improve your skills, practice is the number one way to go. The first time you make something, 9 times out of 10 it won’t be perfect or the way you want it, so practice, practice and practice.
Find someone who will honestly tell you if it’s not good - you need someone who will be honest and say tweak that. Keep practising and don't give up.
Here at Compassion, we're passionate about helping children escape poverty. Are there any causes, topics, projects or issues close to your heart?
There's a bakery in East London I've taken an interest in. It works alongside disadvantaged women and teaches them how to bake. They make things to sell in a local café. That’s something that's really interesting and cool.
I love projects which help specific communities, like where our church is in Brixton. That is an area where it could be cool to get young people involved in baking.
How baking is helping young people escape poverty