Among the joys and comforts and shared experiences of this pandemic time in Canada, one program has risen above the rest. And yes, that is a yeast joke.
As home bakers nursed their sourdough starters, the country’s best amateurs were kneading it out on Season 4 of The Great Canadian Baking Show, a program so wholesome and sweet that for many it became a balm and a reminder of the power and connection in the act of making.
“I think baking has helped everyone get through the pandemic,” says Raufikat Oyawoye-Salami, who was declared the winner during the show’s season finale in early April and will be joining us at our next Craft Club class on Tuesday, May 25.
“Baking takes a lot of effort, it takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of care. So for somebody to bake for you shows that they have put thoughts into this thing,” she says. “It’s like the ultimate gift of love.”
An engineer in her day job, Oyawoye-Salami started baking with her mother growing up in Nigeria, then took it up again while doing her masters degree in Britain in 2018, after buying a cheap hand mixer, pan and bowl at a bargain store.
“I made a lemon cake, and it tasted really nice,” says Oyawoye-Salami, who now lives in Toronto. “So the next day, I baked a coffee cake and it was also really nice, and, I was like, ‘Oh, okay, I could get used to this.’ And I’ve been baking since then, basically.”
In addition to being something to share with friends and family, she says baking has been both an outlet and escape for her at times, including during what she describes as a long, lonely maternity leave in 2019, when her husband was working away from home.
She applied for The Great Canadian Baking Show at the urging of her husband and sisters, and became a fast favourite, not only for her impressive baking skills, but also for her kindness and helpfulness, often pausing her own work to help other bakers out of a jam.
Oyawoye-Salami says the format of the show – including that the grand prize is a baking dish, not a monetary sum – is part of what keeps the competition so friendly, with contestants sharing knowledge and ideas, and genuinely happy for each others’ successes.
“You’re just going there to bake with people that also like to bake,” she says. “You’re not going there to beat anyone else, you’re going there to bake your best and hope that the judges like what you have made … The format of the show encourages that helpfulness and willingness to share with everyone.”
Oyawoye-Salami’s win was announced to the delight of many fans, and even acclaimed by her own competitors on the show. (As finalist Tanner Davies said on the finale, “Honestly it really does feel like the right person won.”)
While Oyawoye-Salami says she never imagined she would take the championship cake plate on the popular program, she says the reaction to her win has been “far better and more positive than I could ever have imagined.”
“The reception has been out of this world,” she says. “The love and the acceptance and the positivity has been more than I could ever have asked for. It’s been amazing.”
For our class, Oyawoye-Salami will be teaching us to make lemon zest, dried cranberry and white chocolate scones, a nod to the biscotti she made for Italian Week, on episode 4.
The class will take place on Tuesday, May 25, with the livestream starting at 7pm ET. Get the supplies and bake along with us, or just come hang out and try it yourself later.
Lemon, white chocolate and cranberry scones
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 255g (2 cups, spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 4g (3/4 tsp) table salt
- 55g (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 100g (2/3 cup) white chocolate chips
- 100g (3/4 cup) dried cranberries
- 55g (1/4 cup) milk, any percentage
- 170g (3/4 cup) + 2 tbsp heavy cream, divided
- Sparkling sugar, to taste (you can buy decorative sugar at your local baking or craft stores or online, or use a substitute or try making your own)
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 400°F (204°C).
In a medium bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with a spatula until fragrant.
Add flour into the sugar, then whisk in baking powder and salt. Add butter and toss to break up the pieces, then smash each one flat between your fingertips. Continue smashing and rubbing until butter disappears into a coarse meal. Add dried cranberries and white chocolate and toss to combine, then stir in milk and 170g of cream to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7-inch round. Cut into six wedges with a chef’s knife and transfer to a parchment-lined half-sheet pan. Brush with reserved 2 tablespoons of cream and sprinkle generously with coarse sparkling sugar. Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes.
Serve with butter, jam or whipped cream.