Paul Hollywood Handshake for Tanya

Great American Baking Show, Episode 2 – Bread Week

A recap of Bread Week on The Great American Baking Show!


This post contains Episode 2 spoilers so if you have not watched it, stop reading now and come back after you finish watching it!***


I want to start this post with a THANK YOU. This special thank you goes out to Spice Adams and Emma Bunton. I wasn’t sure what to expect from either one of our hosts when we started the show. I mean, a former NFL player and a Spice Girl?? Would they just show up, film their skits and then leave?

I found out very quickly what these two bring to the show. First, if you remember, Cake Week did not go well for me – at least, not the first two bakes. My nerves were getting to me and it showed. By the Technical during Cake Week, Emma was making sure that I got an extra hug or word of encouragement after my rough start. In the Showstopper, Spice challenged Paul to a push-up contest by my station before the judges interviewed me. He said he “wanted to make me feel at home and in my element” because of my military background.

Of course, instead of doing push-ups, Paul waited for Spice to get into a push-up position and then started to sit on Spices’ back. We all received a good laugh from it and it loosened me up enough that I was more relaxed during the interview as well as the bake.

Emma took special care every day, both when she arrived on set as well as before she left for the day, to say hello and goodbye to each one us. She would shuffle through the tent in her slippers (Sherry did the same!), wrapped in a blanket or robe a lot of the time and talk with us. The hugs were constant and genuine.

Spice and Emma both have a soft spot for people who are upset or struggling. They provided endless support, encouragement, and levity to the stressful days in the tent. I was on the receiving end of their huge hearts many times!

Thank you both for being you!

Bread Week

Whew! Bread week is over and I made it through!

If I’m honest, this is the week that scared me the most. I was surprised that Bread Week was set for Episode 2 and I did not look forward to these challenges!

Don’t get me wrong – I love making bread! I love eating bread even more than I love making it. But making bread for Paul Hollywood? Terrifying. And sculpting with bread for Paul Hollywood? That’s a recipe for disaster.

I don’t know if it will make the final edit, but I think I said something in the tent, like “At my house, I make the bread, I bake the bread and then we eat the bread. I don’t sculpt with bread.”

And I don’t think that I will ever make a bread sculpture again. Plaiting bread is fine, rolling it with a filling is great. But making a scene with it is not my forte!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The sculpture was the showstopper. First, we had to make breadsticks.

Signature Challenge – Breadsticks

This was not a challenge that I was confident in, but I felt certain that I could at least put out some semblance of a breadstick. I love soft, fluffy, hot buttered breadsticks but I decided that with the time allowed and the people who were judging, the smart thing to do was to make crispy, grissini style breadsticks. These are my least favorite type, but they are Paul’s favorite and I was hoping they were Sherry’s too.

I pulled from my roots, growing up in Southern California, and added spices and fresh cilantro. I worked hard on the balance of heat and sweet with a little smokiness, finishing with the fresh cooling flavor of the cilantro. The design was a struggle because I wasn’t sure how you could really make a breadstick pretty!

THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW – “Cake and Bread Week” – On your marks, get set, bake! Cake and bread are on the menu when 10 aspiring bakers from around the country step into the famous white tent to tackle the challenges of cake and bread in the two-hour season premiere of “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” THURSDAY, DEC. 12 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Mark Bourdillon) TANYA

After the challenges in Episode 1, I was extremely careful about my timing in this challenge. I cut the proof short to allow extra time for baking and, as one batch was shaped, I got them in the oven right away, instead of baking them all together. That way, if some of them burned, I would have another tray to present.

A longer, slower, and lower bake is needed for grissini to dry them out and give them the signature snap. I also had to be careful not to scorch the cilantro. The attention to detail and timing seemed to pay off since I got a HOLLYWOOD HANDSHAKE AND A SHERRY YARD HIGH-FIVE!!

The Hollywood Handshake!

Sherry said she would put my breadsticks in her restaurant and Paul said they were perfect, both in flavor and design.  I think he said they were very professional looking but I was in a daze so I can’t be sure!

I vaguely remember Paul’s hand as he extended it toward me for the handshake. But I don’t remember actually shaking his hand. Is that weird? Well, if it isn’t, me collapsing on the bench afterward is. I’m sure they will leave that in the final edit and it’s a bit embarrassing. But the stress and tension that had built up were released with that handshake and I found a little bit of confidence at that moment.

And I left Sherry hanging. I was so overwhelmed with a handshake from Paul in Bread week, that I didn’t even see Sherry ready to give me a high-five. Luckily, I peeled myself off the bench long enough to respond to her with an enthusiastic high-five. Then I sat there with stars in my eyes for the rest of the day.

I’m not kidding. I felt like I could do anything after that! Running a marathon, swimming the Atlantic, flying to the moon? Bring it on!

The Technical – A Cob

The technical was a simple cob. At least we all thought that it was pretty simple. But simple bakes can often be the ones that trip up the most people.

Overthinking is one of the hardest things to combat in the tent. During a technical, it’s easy to forget the most basic skill. That may seem dramatic but with very little information to go on, you begin to question every little step. Without a chance to practice, you have no concept of timing and what stage you should be at and when.

Add to that the fact that we have to figure out what to do while constantly talking to the camera but not to each other, and you have a bunch of frazzled bakers in the tent.

We honestly helped each other every chance we got during signature and showstopper bakes. If something went wrong, we could share technical knowledge to help each other out. That may not be the smartest move if you want to win, but we all helped each other anyway.

During Technical challenges though, we could encourage each other but were not allowed to talk about anything technical. No help on how or when to incorporate something, timing, temperatures, or methods.

I ended up 6th in the bread technical and was a bit confused at first. The only negative feedback that I got was that the slashes were too deep. The limited instructions said ‘deep slashes’ so that’s what I did, along with most of the other bakers. If I had used a lighter hand, I would’ve had a perfect loaf. The judges said that it was well proved, well-baked, the herbs were chopped perfectly to allow the oils to infuse the bread, great crust. It was just those darn slashes!

I still placed 6th out of nine. I guess that’s better than last or next to last like the first episode!

The Showstopper – Bread Sculpture

On to the Showstopper. I love the idea of this challenge because I get to design a centerpiece. I love creative challenges. I just wish that I didn’t have to execute it in the tent and with a yeasted dough.

It didn’t go too badly, although I did restart one of my doughs because of a very loose and wet consistency. It was not the same as in practice and I wasn’t sure that I could make it work. So, I started over, messed up my timing, and ended up with an underproved bread.

The biggest problem was that I held back on the water when I started over to get a consistency that I thought I could work with. This ended up being my downfall because the biggest critique was that it needed more hydration! UGH!!

My Picture Perfect Partridge Bread Sculpture during Bread Week. (ABC/Mark Bourdillon) THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW on ABC.

My sculpture did not turn out the way it looked in my head. But knowing that I was working with yeast and that it has a mind of its own, I was ready for a certain amount of variation.

I was not totally prepared for the hydration issue, the scalding hot water coming from the tap (which will kill the yeast), the timing that was off after having to restart one of the two doughs and then the massive oven spring.

Also, my bird’s head fell off. We were allowed dowels and toothpicks but I made perfect birds at home with no toothpicks! But I laughed it off and moved on.

Sherry’s advice at the end of bread week to me was to follow my instincts. My recipe was good and I should’ve carried on with what I had done in practice because it worked.

This advice carries over to so many areas of my life, not just bread sculptures. I followed my gut, which got me into the tent. I should’ve followed it during the challenge instead of second-guessing myself!

Another lesson learned. This is turning out to be a very educational experience in so many ways!

Thank goodness that we are all quick studies because another lesson that we had to learn quickly was how to handle the pressure of the tent. It is still a bit of a mystery to me how the simplest thing can go so wrong in that beautiful white tent. Something that you have practiced and perfected at home just doesn’t work there. And during a Technical, it is highly likely that you will forget your own name as well as how to make toast and boil water.

It’s all a blur!

But that is part of the lesson and the pressure is probably one thing that drove us to apply. Strange but true. It is intense. It is stressful. It is HARD. And we all handled it very differently. But we did it together, which is the only way that any of us survived.

It was so interesting to watch the dynamic between the bakers. Each of us handled things a little differently. Some of us needed a hug and a word of encouragement after a disappointing bake or judging. Some of us needed to just be alone for a few minutes to cry, yell, or to pick ourselves up and go back to the tent to do it all again. Some of us needed to know the exact how and why of each detail mentioned during judging in order to understand how to improve next time.

We quickly learned each other’s needs and did our best to help each other. There was always someone with a smile, a hug, an encouraging word or a sarcastic bit of fun to lift your spirits. And it wasn’t just the bakers. The crew was incredibly supportive. You probably wouldn’t think that the cameraman or sound person would be very involved, but they were all so wonderful! The producers that follow our every move, the culinary team that caters to our every need and whim, the camera and sound operators, the floor manager and our very dear Care-Bears who are there for us day and night – these are the people I wish you could know! I will cherish every memory of each of them more than they will ever know!

At the end of Bread Week, we had to say goodbye to Carlos. It was so sad to lose him. Carlos provided so much fun during stressful times, always had a word of encouragement for everyone around him and has SO MUCH technical knowledge!! I’ll never forget how Carlos would analyze each bakers’ personality type during our breaks and amaze people with his accuracy. He said he had a hard time analyzing me since I was so quiet. But by the end of Episode 2, he had me mostly figured out.

Carlos even got Paul to laugh. Now THAT is a major accomplishment! I hope that Carlos knows how much his smile, wit, and encouragement means to me and all the other bakers. We truly cherish him and will miss him dearly in the tent!

You can keep up with Carlos on his blog at

THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW – “Cake and Bread Week” – On your marks, get set, bake! Cake and bread are on the menu when 10 aspiring bakers from around the country step into the famous white tent to tackle the challenges of cake and bread in the two-hour season premiere of “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” THURSDAY, DEC. 12 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Mark Bourdillon) CARLOS

You can read a recap of Episode 1, Cake Week HERE!


  1. Tanya
    Do you happen to recall which herbs were used in the Cob challenge?
    I tend to use dried herbs, but noticed these were fresh. I think I noticed some parsley, basil perhaps,…. Any other pointers on which herbs were used?

    • Hi Mick! In the tent, the recipe called for parsley and coriander (cilantro to Americans). They were fresh and a lot more than I would normally use! I don’t remember the measurements but it tasted great!

      Thanks and happy baking!

  2. Again, thanks for this! It is hard to see how helpful Spice and Emma are from the shows. They definitely seem nice but they make them do such silly things. So happy to know you have support from so many while in that tent! All I have to say is HANDSHAKE!!!! Well done lady!!

  3. Tanya, I get genuinely mad when I see criticism of Spice and Baby Spice – so your write-up is more than welcome!

    loved it all – you covered many points I did not, and I was nodding my head all the way as I read through….

    • Unfortunately when people are in the public eye, a lot of the public feel like they have a right to criticize. I say, just be nice! We are all doing the best we can! And no one will ever understand how awesome Emma and Spice are from just watching the small amount of footage that makes it on to the show!

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