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Were you rooting for James on last year's GBBO? Well he's come out on top with his new baking book, Briliant Bread. We managed to grab James for ten minutes when he moved away from his his very technical scales...

What was the first thing you learnt to bake?

The very first thing, I think, was an apple pie. I don't think it was very good – I remember handling the pastry like bread dough and stewing the apples (with my gran's help) until they were mush. I think I was about three or four.

What inspired you to give The Great British Bake Off a go?

Ha, inspired! I was forced into it! All my friends and I watched the previous series, and all fancied it, I think. We're all decent bakers. But they thought that I, as a young male island-dwelling bread-maker, had the most USPs.

What were Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood really like behind the scenes?

Impressive, in a word. Mary's not young, by any account, but she hops around the place like someone 50 years her junior. In her baking and her approach to it, she's unpretentious and principled, and I love that. Paul's totally different – a craftsman more than anything else. Or maybe even an artist.

Why does baking bread particularly appeal?

Baking bread is satisfying to the extreme, and it has this strange combination of being both ridiculously easy and very complex, if you want it to be. The science behind bread – the microbiology of the bugs in your sourdough starter or the chemistry of the dough – is what really got me into it. Then, you can use this knowledge to churn out a loaf in a fraction of five minutes' worth of effort, just spaced out through the day.

Which other bakers do you admire?

I've got to respect my fellow GBBO contestants – they all inspired me. Then, I'm a fan of Richard Bertinet and it is thanks to his instructional tomes that I took my first steps into improving my baking. My mate Davie, a baker by trade, pointed me in his direction. Finally, Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco – I've never been, but sorely want to.

What's your favourite teatime treat with a cuppa, and where would it be?

Oh, I think it definitely depends on my mood! Right now, I can't decide between a slice of chocolate stollen or a yum yum. Both good options. Maybe I'd go for both. And it would need to be in Glasgow's Botanic Gardens, with good company.

 

About the author

Sarah Randell
Sarah has written more than 1000 recipes for the magazine as our Food Director

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