The fourth season of “The Great Canadian Baking Show” debuts Sunday night on CBC and CBC Gem, with 10 new contestants, two new judges, and a whole lot of eggs, flour, sugar and vanilla in the tent for Cake Week.
For the show’s Valentine’s Day premiere, we got to know some of the new bakers by asking what dish they make to express love. Their revelations are a peek into childhood memories, cultural roots and beautiful family bonds.
Mahathi Mundluru, Markham, Ont.
“The dish that says love to me is an Indian milk pudding called payasam. Growing up, whenever there was a birthday or some other big occasion, I just remember waking up in the morning and smelling this milky sweet smell from my mom making it in the kitchen downstairs. I’d go down and eat some for breakfast, and in my brain I’d know it was going to be a special day.
“When we stay with my grandparents, in India, it’s always the first thing they make for us.”
Payasam is pretty popular across most of India. It’s made differently in every province. The way we usually make it in our family is with boiled milk, rice, vermicelli, sugar and golden raisins. We serve it in little bowls, topped with nuts ― usually cashews or almonds ― and a little saffron. It looks really pretty.
My parents and I live in Canada, but the rest of our family is in South India, in a province called Andhra Pradesh. Even though I’ve never lived there, when I go to my grandparents’ village it feels like home. We get invited into many people’s homes in the village, and everyone wants to just feed us. Often payasam is one of the dishes they serve.
When we stay with my grandparents, it’s always the first thing they make for us. Every time I have this dessert, I get such a loving feeling.”
Dominike Audet, Québec, Que.
“My mother’s chocolate-chip cookies were the best in the world to me. When I was a kid and we were baking together, she’d tell me to go out of the kitchen so she could add ‘the magic ingredients,’ then I could come back in.
“It can be hard to get a big cookie gift like that without blushing.”
I always asked her to tell me her ‘magic ingredients,’ but she said I will tell you the day you get married. To this day, she hasn’t told me: I was supposed to get married last year, but because of COVID, we had to cancel everything. I think maybe the magic ingredient was her love, though ― I do believe that if you put your love in something, people will taste it.
I like giving chocolate chip cookies as gifts nowadays. Mine are HUGE! I just made a giant red-velvet choc-chip cookie for my best friend, because I love her very much. I made a huge milk chocolate-chip one for my coworker too. I don’t love him ― it was his birthday ― but he was red in the face, when I gave him it. It can be hard to get a big cookie gift like that without blushing.”
Raufikat Oyawoye, Milton, Ont.
“In my family, meat pie is our dish of love. It’s a handheld pie filled with meat and vegetables, and a snack you find everywhere in Nigeria.
“I feel like it’s very important to integrate into the society where we are now, but also to remember where we’re from.”
When we first moved to Canada, in 2017, my daughter was really young and she was missing home, so she used to watch all these Nigerian YouTube videos. One day, she came across one about the pies, and she said, ‘Mommy, can you make these?’
Traditionally, the filling is made with ground beef, stock cubes, and black pepper. I like adding curry powder and chilli flakes for a little extra spice. The outside is a shortcrust pastry. It should be thin ― just thick enough to hold everything together ― but I love pastry, so I always make a special meat pie for myself with a double layer of pastry.
I make recipes from different cultures all the time, but I try to make a lot of Nigerian things as well. I feel like it’s very important to integrate into the society where we are now, but also to remember where we’re from. When I tell my daughter we’re making something from back home, she’ll often say, ‘Oh, I remember Grandma made this for me!’ It’s important to keep that connection.”
Sheldon Lynn, Vancouver
“A thing that’s really dear to me is tang yuan, a Chinese dish of rice balls. It’s a breakfast dish but also always made for festivals and holidays, and something we would eat on the very last day of the Lunar New Year. Tang yuan sounds like tuen yuen in Cantonese, which means ‘togetherness,’ so the dish holds that symbolism.
“When you are celebrating Chinese New Year, the whole family makes them together.”
It’s a kind of dumpling made of ground-down glutinous rice and water, formed into a dough. That dough is either made into balls or wrapped around a filling. A lot of people know glutinous rice from mochi, and it has that kind of chewy texture.
My family is from Sichuan, where they’re typically made sweet (or plain) and filled with black sesame or red bean paste, although I also like them savoury and served with a poached egg, for that warm feeling.
Usually we’d just buy tang yuan frozen, from an Asian grocery store, but when you are celebrating Chinese New Year, the whole family makes them together. Everyone pitches in ― I love that.”
Oyaks Airende, Calgary
“The classic red velvet cake is my food of love. It goes back to when my sisters and their friends made my fifth birthday cake. That was my first time seeing a stand mixer ― my eldest sister had borrowed one.
“You sink your teeth in deeper, and you have this rich burst of champagne.”
Normally on birthdays we had a vanilla cake with blue and yellow royal icing, but that time, when we cut my cake, it was red in the middle, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I haven’t seen anything like this before.’
My eldest sister is 17 years older than me. I call her my second mom. She is always cheering me on, saying, ‘Hey, you can do this, you’re bigger than you think, you can do more than you think.’ We’ve always baked together, and over time I’ve taken the recipes I learned from her and made them my own.
I tweaked the red velvet cake recipe to make my red velvet cake truffles. I dip them in white or dark chocolate and decorate them with gold leaf. You bite into this slightly hard chocolate exterior, then you sink your teeth in deeper and you have this rich burst of champagne going through your palate. Then you bite deeper, and have the softest, moistest, most decadent red velvet cake sponge ever.
For me, these truffles are about appealing to the taste buds and all of the senses. They say ‘I love you’ in the clearest possible way.”
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