6 Minute Read | By Gino De Blasio
Stage 10 and we’re in Emilia Romagna today, a centre of epicurean delight, so much so that we’ve decided to focus on their version of an English crumpet… Tigelle. If you’re thinking, “where is Stage 9?” well, we did something different. Visit our Facebook page to see me (Gino) and a chap called Byron do a live Chianti wine taste.
The day after a rest day, two after a TT stage, expect to see the mountain leaders come out in full force. This Giro is bringing out some unprecedented results; maybe you should do a Leicester and place a bet on the most random outsider!
The Great British Bakeoff has become somewhat more than a TV programme. In Charlotte Higgins’ post of October 2015, her analysis in the opening paragraph pretty much summed up the journey the programme has taken. “Over the last five years, in fact, Bake Off has so thoroughly entangled itself with the consciousness of the nation that it has become easy to forget how very, very strange it is that 10 million Britons switch on their TV sets each Wednesday evening to watch a baking contest filmed in a tent in the countryside.”
The premise is simple; take a bunch of contestants, stick them in a tent in a field that is next to some manor house (Welford Park, Berkshire) and each week give them a specific thing to bake. Take two comedians, a Scouse (someone from Liverpool) baker and England’s version of Julia Childs to present and judge, you have the ingredients for what appears to be a simple cooking show.
“Simple cooking show,” my ar*e! Basically, we go from a loaf of bread to a bloody croquembouche! Or in the words of John Oliver, when perfectly narrating the weak ideological debate of IS to France after the Paris attacks. “They (the French) will bring Jean Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, gauloises cigarettes, camou, camembert, madeleines, macarons, Marcel Proust and the fu**ing croquembouche! THE CROQUEMBOUCHE! You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self abnegation to a pastry fight my friend! You are fu**ed! THAT is a French freedom tower!”
The croquembouche is a big deal, from the patisserie chefs to the satirists of this world. From dough disasters (doughsasters?), slicing bits of your finger off, and even to something called BINGATE, where a non-set Baked Alaska made bearded Iain, CHUCK THE DISH IN THE BIN. (1) It sends the mere human into a fit, pang of panic and red faced anger and near life ending melt down. With 10 million viewers and Twitter at their fingertips, it’s no surprise how it’s become popular.
Its appeal over the years has made it grow into a global phenomena. Netflix (2) USA promoted the show to massive applause and delight of the American public. The love for the show prompted some seriously brilliant twitter responses;
Nothing about the series is simple. It is intrinsically British and that’s what makes it so welcomed into so many homes. The show has managed to display the best of British culture, in a language that people can understand; baked goods.
Take one of the last batch of contestants. Iain (a different one, Iain is a popular name after all) a 40 something travel photographer who gleamed with delight after he announced that he was using “his homemade instrument to make perfect 9cm long lady fingers.” Sexual innuendo aside, who does that?! If you’re best kitchen invention was sellotaping your remote control to a wooden spoon (3) so you lost neither, then I applaud you and welcome you into the Eatosi/Giro Food Club.
he announced that he was using “his homemade instrument to make perfect 9cm long lady fingers.”
This is the halcyon days of the hipster (4), where baking can be anti-stress yet cool, superfluous and still cathartic. If a contestant turned up on a fixie, it would make sense, somehow. The TV producers realised that for the show to have the wow factor, it needed to move away from simple bakes and have “showstoppers.”
Showstoppers are precisely as they sound, they stop a show, in its tracks! It’s a part of the programme where each contestant gets to whip out the best of their skills and make something that will not only make them face more stress than a gazelle on a hunt, but induce tears, have a tantrum and then persevere before any succumbing slap down from the judges.
Paul King probably knows the feeling.
In episode 7, Paul baked what can only be described as intricate as the Milan Duomo and as grandiose as a spicy chicken wing contest on Man Vs Food! (5)
“Cecil the Lion” as named by the Twitterati was composed of six, yes SIX different bread types, all designed to bake, rise, sink and stand, on command for the judges to be astonished. From salted varieties to yeast concocted creations it left star judge, Paul Hollywood exclaim “I wouldn’t have attempted anything like that!” This, coming from a man whose simple stare is akin to watching your soul being smashed like a Mexican pinata birthday bash.
And therein lies the juxtaposed problem with the Bake Off, the simple bake wouldn’t get you past the queue to the tent at auditions.
In fact, as impressive as it was, it still didn’t earn Paul King star baker for the week. The judging committee had obviously taken notes from how to choose a winner from FIFA. And therein lies the juxtaposed problem with the Bake Off, the simple bake wouldn’t get you past the queue to the tent at auditions. It is therefore with a heavy heart that I need remind you to never prepare Sestola’s contribution to cuisine, the tigella.
Famed by National Geographic as “The Best Italian Bread You’ve Never Heard Of” it is to the traditions of Emilia Romagna as a Victoria Sponge is to the Women’s Institute.
As April Fulton described in the National Geographic piece, “think of them as the love children of an English muffin and a pancake. Tigelle are shaped like disks, slightly browned crisp on the outside, and soft and steamy on the inside, ready for the spread of your choice. Or, you can just wolf them down, plain and yeasty and hot.”
The cooking discs that shape the dough are called tigelle (tih-GEL-ay) and that is where the name of this rustic, peasant food from the hills of Modena takes it name. Originally made from clay, these cooking discs, originally in clay, would spend the day under burning embers and when stacked together would cook the mixture rather quickly.
Fortunately, since those days we’ve discovered electricity, and companies have been kind enough to invent Tigelle plates after successfully concocting electric waffle irons.
How do you eat a tigella? Traditionally cut in half and spread with lardo, rosemary, garlic and parmesan. For a beginners guide to this very basic dish, try this Global Cookbook variation here. However, if you wanted to take your tigelle experience up a notch, in Bologna, you can indulge in Crescentine which are traditionally served with cold meats and cheese. This recipe from Nigella Lawson is a good starting point to get your fix on this simple flat bread. Travel just a few kilometres south of Bologna to Modena and you get the variation of Tigelle known as Gnocco Fritto. Manu’s Menu is a great place to get your fix on this Emiliana delicacy.
So why won’t a Tigella win Bake Off? It’s just not fancy enough. Sorry Sestola, you thought you had a champion in the baking, but that would just not fly with the Brits.
1. BINGATE caused some major controversy. Basically Iain had put his ice cream in a freezer and another contestant, Mary, took it out and left it on a work surface. Mary protests her innocence to this day, but she had the look of a serial saboteur if you ask me!
2. Netflix is an online video streaming service that also has original programming to it. We advise that every series be watched in binge sessions, especially if you’re a student or just serially lazy. Go on… Stick on 1 episode of House Of Cards!
3. We’d like to thank Jennifer Lawrence for this idea. Ragu days just aren’t the same unless I stick my remote control to my wooden spoon; much to the dismay of family members and my dad who claims that I’m “not normal.”
4. Yes, we have a love hate relationship with hipsters. We even wrote stage 4 all about them!
5. Man Vs Food is the singular reason why America is seen from a distance of having an unhealthy obsession with portion size and the singular reason why the author wants to move to the states for a year; 30lb burger is his everest!
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