Making winter holiday treats is a cakewalk for a talented Jewish baker on “The Great Holiday Baking Show,” an American version of the BBC One’s wildly successful “The Great British Bake Off” reality television show.
Lauren Katz, a Virginia married mother of three, heads into the finals of the televised culinary competition, which airs in the United States on ABC on December 21. Katz is one of three home bakers to have survived earlier rounds focusing on cookies, cakes and pastry. She was even named “star baker” of the first two episodes, impressing the judges with her consistency and artistic presentation skills.
Katz mentioned in episode one that she is Jewish and does not celebrate Christmas. However, this has not kept her from excelling at whipping up everything from eggnog-filled brandy snaps, to a Christmas tiramisu cake, to a spectacular gingerbread house.
Her gingerbread house was actually a pagoda—the kind you see on the side of Chinese food takeout boxes. Jewish viewers were probably automatically clued in, but Katz spelled out the connection for others.
“Every year on Christmas, my family and a few other families that we know that are Jewish got out to have Chinese food. So, I’m making a Chinese pagoda,” she explained for those unfamiliar with the Jewish way of celebrating Noel.
Even if you didn’t happen to catch Katz saying she was Jewish early in episode one, her MOT-ness was obvious right from the first challenge, when she made rugelach when asked to use a favorite family recipe.
Katz also dropped a Yiddish word here or there, lending a heimish air to the Christmas-y surroundings.
“It feels good to be ‘star baker’ two weeks in a row. I think my whole extended family is going to go crazy when they find out about this. They’re going to be kvelling,” she reflected at the end of episode two.
Unfortunately, the judges weren’t kvelling this past Monday over Katz’s patachou Christmas tree centerpiece. Although her sugar work angel tree topper was just divine, her deflated cream-filled choux buns glued together with caramel sunk to earth.
Perhaps had Katz decided to make a Hanukkah menorah — or maybe a Maccabee — out of pastry it might have gone better. Sometimes you should just stick with what you know.
The final episode of “The Great Holiday Baking Show” will air in the US on ABC next Monday.