Interview: GBBO's Rosie Brandreth-Poynter talks baking, vet life, and the show
We chat to Great British Bake Off's Rosie Brandreth-Poynter about her experiences, creating recipes with Liebherr – and her favourite cheese
Is there anyone who doesn’t love the Great British Bake Off? It’s the loveliest show on television, packed with delightful and super talented bakers that keeps us company every Tuesday evening as the evenings get darker and the weather outside gets colder. It’s the perfect tonic to all the negativity in the world, and we at FoodTribe are religious GBBO fans, worshipping at the altar of baked goods.
We watch it every year without fail, and although every year is a golden GBBO year, we particularly loved 2019. David Atherton was the winner, beating Alice Fevronia and Steph Blackwell in the final. It was also the year of Rosie Brandreth-Poynter.
Rosie is a vet and baker who lives in Somerset. On the show, she made it all the way through to week nine, just missing out on the final week thanks to Patisserie Week. Since the show, she’s been kept busy juggling both careers as a baker and vet – and even combines the two cooking up tasty pet-friendly treats.
Rosie is also very keen on free-from baking. She herself is nut-free, and her sister is gluten and lactose intolerant, but she also develops lots of egg-free and vegan bakes too – she’s working on a series of top 14 most common allergy-free bakes at the moment.
Over the last year, Rosie has been working with Liebherr on some recipes for FoodTribe. We’ve had a delicious nut-free stollen recipe (it’s a great time to highlight this one again), a pink lemonade cheesecake recipe, cookie dough and salted caramel ice cream, and a Pina Colada pavlova. Delish.
Why this new take on a Christmas classic has stollen our hearts
When life gives you lemons, make pink lemonade cheesecake
Rosie took some time out of her very busy work schedule to chat to FoodTribe about her time on the Great British Bake Off, balancing life as a vet and baker, and of course, her favourite cheese.
Hi Rosie! What are you up to at the moment? How is the vet life treating you?
Vet stuff is pretty manic right now with Brexit, and all that malarkey. We are down vets, and the whole world bought puppies during the pandemic, so we have been kept very busy. However, I do have my two weeks off [Rosie works 7 nights on, then 14 off], so I definitely have it better than some.
How was your experience on the Great British Bake Off?
It was so good, it’s the most fun thing ever. And you don’t feel like you’re filming a TV show at all. That’s one of the reasons you say so many ridiculous things on camera, because you completely forget the crew are there. Everyone’s so nice and friendly and chilled, then you watch it back on TV and you’re like, ‘oh dear Lord, I said that’. The whole crew, everybody, it’s the most friendly, lovely thing. You hear things from other people who have been on different shows and it’s not the same, but we all had a lovely time, and came out of it wanting to do it again. Not for the TV show, just to do it again because it was so much fun.
While filming, there were occasional things you’d have to maybe point to again so the cameraperson could capture it properly… then they’d say, ‘no, more casually’, and you’d say, ‘this is as casual as it’s going to get’. They did occasionally ask us to put a bake back in the oven too, which you’d of course have to refuse.
Are you still in touch with any of the other contestants from the show?
Yes, I think our year was a particularly close group which was so lovely. David [Atherton, and 2019 finalist] had one of the foster kittens from my cat last year. That was mega cute. I’m in touch with a lot of them. Priya [O’Shea] especially. We had such a lovely group of bakers. And you get to know bakers from the other years too. It’s so lovely. Like a little community.
What was your favourite, and also your least favourite bake from the show?
My favourite was my biscuit chicken, because it was the most random thing. People asked me why I was making a biscuit chicken, and I had no idea. I thought about my garden with the chickens, and… ‘why not make a biscuit chicken?’.
Least favourite was that bloody awful grilled cake. Who, argh, they were just horrific from every level. Making it, eating it… I despised it. It was awful. I’m sure if it’s done properly, the proper Indonesian ones, that they’re fabulous, but our versions were just foul.
Also, milk week! We didn’t know what we were aiming for, the judges didn’t really know what they were judging for, and we were just boiling milk for two hours. The tent smelled so bad. Our clothes, our hair, we all smelled of boiling milk. Especially the fact that the week before was bread week, and the tent smelled incredible. We went from that, to putrid milk. That was not a good day.
Did you enjoy coming back for the 2020 Christmas Bake Off special, which you won! Congratulations!
That was amazing. Going back with no pressure at all, knowing what to expect, and knowing not to be an idiot and over complicate everything… I toned it down, well kind of, for me… but with no pressure, and it was the last one filmed that year. They’d filmed the celeb ones and all the main ones, so the crew was really relaxed, and it was just so much fun. Especially because we filmed it in peak Covid year. It was like, ‘oh my god there’s people, and I can talk to people, and because we’d been tested and in a temporary bubble, I can hug people’! Doing that in Covid year was pretty epic.
Is there any aspect of baking you still struggle with?
Well, I’m never boiling milk again… but anything I think will be hard, I will just do it. But being vegetarian, if anyone asked me to bake anything with meat in, I would still do exactly what I did in the tent, and… have a total meltdown. I’m not sure they showed it but when we did chicken pies, I made Noel try my chicken. I was worried I was going to kill people, so I asked him to eat it. He declared it cooked… I did not kill Noel, although in hindsight… well, that would have been awful.
You’ve developed a lot of nut-free, and other free-from bakes. What are some of the trickier things to do when you’re creating coeliac-friendly or vegan bakes?
Obviously anything bready is tricky when it’s gluten-free, and everything-free is also hard. This is what I’ve been trying to do with top 14 allergy-free bakes. I had an epic fail last week actually… I’ve got a recipe for nut-free macarons, and thought, ‘oh, I’ll make them vegan and gluten-free as well’. And they were foul. There was orange goo all over my oven. The clean-up operation took four days. It was not good. So that is something I cannot do. Work in progress.
It is a challenge. Freya’s done so well this year with all her vegan bakes. And she’s only 19! She’s amazingly good.
What would you say to someone who wanted to get into baking more? Do you have any top tips?
Start simple, and make something you like. So many people say, ‘oh I need to make this, or this’, but make something you want to eat. Then you’ll enjoy it. It was the same when practising for the show. When it was making things I liked, it was great. Practising custard tarts… I couldn’t bring myself to try them. I despise custard, I despise pastry… I just can’t. So find something you like, and start simple.
I’ve seen comments from a few past contestants saying they struggle to watch the show because of the trolling they faced while on it. I know you spoke out about the awful bullying you received? I can’t quite get my head around people’s mentality. Bake Off is the most lovely show on TV filled with the most lovely people...
That is the darker side of it really. While the show does everything they can to prepare you, you don't realise the scale and the magnitude and how much it affects you. It affected me a lot more than I wanted to believe it could. I do still watch it, but as soon as someone says something, or there’s something someone might take offence to, or there’s a slightly controversial elimination, immediately the first thing that comes into your head is, ‘oh they’re going to suffer so badly. I hope they don’t go on Twitter or social media’. That side of it is pretty horrible.
I do still watch the show. I refuse to let these people ruin things. When I was going through it, I didn’t want to go and film my episode of Extra Slice, but you think, ‘no, they’re not ruining it’. I thought the pandemic might have made people nicer, but I think it’s had the opposite effect...
How much do you manage to bake these days while managing your super busy career as a vet?
I’ve got a good split in my life. One week of vet work, then two weeks off when I do my baking. I do small amounts of baking during my work weeks, but it’s usually pretty simple things. I do regret it if I sign up to make a complex cake during a work week. I do have plenty of time for it though. And not doing it around a regular day job means I don’t have to bake at night. It turns out daylight really helps! I’m finding it a lot easier to enjoy it.
What kitchen gadgets could you not live without?
Literally everything. I am the laziest baker in the world. If I have to mix something with my hands, I’m so stroppy. My KitchenAid stand mixer is the main thing. Mainly because I am epically lazy. Food processor, all of it. Then handheld gadgets... we may have sort of stolen from the tent. You just don’t realise how much easier life is with a really good zester, or those kinds of things. We all left with semi-allowed party bags from the tent...
You’ve worked with Liebherr to create some awesome recipes. How do you go about developing a new recipe?
Working with Liebherr, of course the recipes have been focused around chilling or freezing time, which is nice to have as a base. Then it’s onto seasonality, then picking an element and developing things from there. Often it’s an odd idea that pops into your head at a random time. Or I carry notebooks and scribble down ideas. I do have a phone, I could write it on there, but inside, I’m a 95 year old who has to write everything in a notebook.
What technology do you think is really useful to have in a fridge/freezer?
The anti frost devices, which probably have a much better name [NoFrost technology], are a game changer. Not having to de-ice your freezer any more is just incredible. And the temperature regulation system Liebherr has… I also couldn’t believe the difference in longevity in a higher quality fridge. The amount of food waste it cuts down. I don’t know how they do it. Also, the fancy pants thing they have that keeps things fresher for longer is amazing [BioFresh]. My technology knowledge is absolutely minimal, as you can probably tell.
Rosie's pink lemonade cheesecake made for Liebherr and FoodTribe
What’s your favourite quick and easy meal?
The one I eat way too much is fajitas, but without the wraps. It’s so easy. Vegetables, cheese, guacamole, all the essentials… I probably make it two-three times in a work week. You can kid yourself with it as well. Despite the mountain of cheese, it’s mostly just vegetables.
What’s your ultimate comfort food?
Bread. I don’t eat a lot of bread, but fresh bread and butter. A proper baguette. Really high quality salty butter… baguette still warm.
Which other chefs/bakers do you enjoy/admire?
I follow a lot of people… can you call it a hobby? Juliet Sear is my favourite baker to follow. She posts the most beautiful cakes. Her cake decorating book was one of the first I ever bought. She’s one of my baking heroes.
Have you read any good cookbooks recently?
So many. That’s another lovely thing with the bakers. When someone gets a book published, they send copies out to a lot of the other bakers. I’ve had a few recently… David’s [Atherton], Kim-Joy’s [Hewlett], Helena’s [Garcia], they’re all lovely books. I’ve got shelves and shelves of baking books. They used to be arranged in some sort of sensible system, and now they’re a rainbow because it makes me happy. They’re all brightly coloured and I think that’s a perfect cataloguing system.
Is there any other way to arrange a book shelf?
What’s your favourite drink?
On a night out, a mojito would be my go-to, but I survive on coffee. But really good coffee. I’m such a coffee snob. If I can’t get my ground coffee I get very upset. It’s not even expensive, it’s just the one I like. And my Nespresso machine is my friend on night shifts.
And as I always have to ask at the end of a FoodTribe interview, thanks to James May… what’s your favourite cheese?
I’ve had this conversation with lots of people in various group chats. It’s become quite a heated debate… I mean, what if you could only eat one cheese forever? I think a brie or a camembert… a nice soft cheese, would be my favourite. But the strong mature cheddars are good as well. I will be the person at food shows who’s like, ‘ooh cheese samples!’.