In Tuesday’s night’s episode of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4, Laura was named Star Baker and Linda was the fifth baker to leave the tent.
In week five of The Great British Bake Off our Bakers faced Pastry week as Judges Prue and Paul set three tricky challenges to test the remaining bakers pastry skills. The Bakers had to put their stamp on a Cornish classic pasty in the signature, survive an eclair retro technical set by Prue and finally produce a showstopper that featured a classic tart hidden within a cage made entirely from pastry.
Some bakes fell apart, crumbled or exploded, and at the end of the fifth episode Matt announced that Laura was the Star Baker and Noel had the rotten job of telling Linda that she would be leaving the tent.
On hearing the result, Linda said: ‘Pastry week was supposed to be my week! I can’t really be sad, as I have been like a child at Disneyland really. It’s been amazing, one of the highlights of my life, I am so proud of myself, yeah I am.’
Prue said: ‘She is a really good baker, but she had a terrible week.’
Here Linda talks about her experience: ‘I was top of the Technical for two weeks for Bread and Chocolate, but unfortunately Pastry week was my downfall. It was strange because the day before my pasties in practice came out perfect and the pastry was so lovely. When I got into the tent I decided to make them differently and I don’t know why I changed the shape. All of a sudden I heard someone in the background saying that they had to be a certain size, and I knew I had gone wrong.
‘I have made choux pastry before without even thinking about it, but this time my nerve went. The further you go in the competition the pressure becomes more intense. So I made them three times over and it still kept going wrong, it was really awful and I felt it was spiralling badly out of control! It was the first time in the tent that I started to doubt myself, ordinarily this is something I make quite easily.
‘Caged tart – who would want to make a caged tart? I think on the day I had a bit of a panic, and I got my sizes messed up a bit. I used the wrong tin on the day and it was all last minute. I hadn’t covered the brief properly so my changes backfired on me.
‘Looking back, I thought I would be going home the first week, for me I had stars in my eyes to be actually in the tent, every moment was a wow moment for me. I love baking and I love being in the kitchen, and it’s a creative place for me, so to actually be in the Bake Off tent was hard for me to believe, what a place to be.
‘I love my baking but I didn’t think I was good enough, I thought the other bakers were better than me, so I was pleased to have survived to halfway through. It was a dream come true for me.
‘The worst moment overall for me would have to be the technical challenges and the timings, I took too long sometimes. Pressure of the tent I guess? I was disappointed my timing sometimes got the better of me.
‘The best moment was walking into the tent for the first time it was quite magical, I was like a child in Santa’s grotto, eyes everywhere. I would often walk around looking at all the lovely items on set and thinking; I would love a kitchen like this and could picture myself sitting at the table sharing cake with my friends and neighbours over a cup of tea. I had to pinch myself so many times!
‘And when you got a positive comment from the judges it felt so good, it was amazing. I wanted to impress both Prue and Paul, but I edge towards Prue. I have been reading her memoirs, and I found her so open and honest and that’s really good, she doesn’t hide things and that’s healthy and helps other people.
‘Having the madness of Noel and Matt in the tent really appealed to my sense of humour, I can be a bit zany too, I connected with both of them.
‘The relationships that developed between the bakers was very special to me and I hope those friendships will continue and we stay in touch. GBBO has changed my life in many ways, and it has awakened my interest in the science of baking and the desire to understand and experiment more with flavours and techniques.
‘I am not sure what is next for me in the baking world, but I feel like I am a simmering pot at the moment and excited that this could be the start of a new chapter in my life. I have such a passion for growing my own produce and having outside space to connect with nature. It’s where I really feel at peace and I’m as passionate about self help and the power of our own minds. I would love to get involved in a community allotment/farm project and I`m hoping my exposure in the tent will give me the opportunity to approach some local investors.
‘I love going fishing, it’s my happy place – being outside – we live right on the beach and we try and go about 3 or 4 times a week. We get mackerel, greylip mullet and dover sole from our beach. We always take the rods, have a barbecue, depending on what we catch. We have a lovely life and Richie my partner is so chilled and laid back, we are very happy.
‘Back at work I have the privilege of developing services for our retired customers and I’m looking forward to sharing my experience in the tent with them, for so many reasons. I know you slow down as you get older but that shouldn’t put you off from taking on new projects. You have to make good choices and take any opportunity - so step out of your comfort zone and go for it, you can only try your best. And that’s what I feel I did in Bake Off, without a doubt. I didn’t ever feel it was a competition it was more about taking part, meeting new people, facing new challenges and at my age feeling great that I could do it.
‘I am quite a positive personality, even though we all sometimes have our low moments, but I am a half glass full person. I hope that bakers of a similar age to me will apply for the next series, and have the confidence to do it. I didn’t go in it for fame or to change my life, it was more about achievement and enjoyment for me, definitely yeah.
‘I am really looking forward to going on an An Extra Slice, I can’t wait to see the montage at the end when they show your best bits. And I so love it that people are enjoying the series and it makes them laugh, we need that at the moment. To have been part of a unique series for GBBO has been one of the best experiences of my life. ‘
Linda will join Jo Brand and Tom Allen on The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice on Friday 23 October, Channel 4 at 8.00 pm.
Linda, 61, East Sussex
Retirement Living Team Leader
Linda discovered her passion for baking during her frequent childhood visits to her aunt’s dairy farm, just down the road from her own home. She’d help to milk the cows, then carry a bucket of milk into the kitchen, where her aunt taught her to bake cakes topped with rich, creamy icing. To this day Linda buys homegrown produce from another aunt’s fruit farm and uses it in her baking. Her strengths are in the classics and in home-comfort cooking, like her signature sausage rolls. A lover of the countryside and of being outdoors in general, Linda will frequently head with her partner to their local beach, to fish for mackerel and mullet. And she loves to spend time in her garden – cultivating its produce and for its positive effects on her well-being.
Pictures: Duncan Webb at C4. DWebb@channel4.co.uk
A Love Production for Channel 4.