Challah maker ready for Bake Off pressure


Stacey Hart, who is taking part in this year’s Great British Bake Off, is used to baking under pressure.

At home in Radlett, Hertfordshire, she cooks with “three children tugging at my apron and demanding attention while I bake”.

But the former teacher acknowledged: “It’s a totally different kettle of fish in the tent because you also have cameras in your face and people talking to you. It’s hard to concentrate.”

She was encouraged to apply for the show by friends. “I really fancied a challenge and wanted to do something for myself having given up my career to become a mum 10 years ago,” she said.

“I’m definitely known as a prolific baker. I always take round a bake or two whenever I go to friends’ houses. Am I any good? You’ll have to ask them! I have had many messages today from my friends wishing me good luck and they are very excited for me.”

Her love of cooking comes from childhood experiences of Shabbat at her grandparents.

“I loved going to my Grandma Phyllis and Grandpa Max for Friday night dinner and sometimes I would be lucky enough to be there for the dessert preparation. My father loved her bread-and-butter pudding and she taught me how to make it for him.”

She believes in cake as a comfort food: “Eleven years ago someone close to me was going through a very tough time and I used to bake cakes and biscuits for her. It was then that I realised baking can put a smile on peoples’ faces and so I did it more and more. I like making people happy.”

While the nation waits to see the changes that Channel Four have made to the programme since poaching it from the BBC, Mrs Hart is sure that viewers will approve. Only baker Paul Hollywood remains from the BBC version, joined by Prue Leith, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding. The format and style has hardly changed.

“I felt calm walking in the tent for the first time,” said Mrs Hart, who is married to husband James. “I felt like it was meant to be. However, as soon as the first challenge started and Paul’s critical eye was upon me it became incredibly intense and stressful and didn’t let up.

“‘Auntie’ Sandi is hysterical and Noel is really down-to-earth. Prue and Paul are there to judge us but they are also supportive and friendly, too.”

Mrs Hart loves baking Jewish specialities — “bagels, rye bread, honey cake and cinnamon balls” — and hopefully will get a chance to offer some to the judges to sample, although some Jewish viewers may harbour doubts about Hollywood’s expertise, ever since he claimed challah was traditionally served at Pesach.

She bakes a Shabbat challah every week which, she revealed, has a special ingredient: “I have a sourdough starter. I add this to my challah. It makes all the difference,” she said.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive