Briony May stole the nation’s hearts with her fantastic baking skills last year on Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off. Now, the 34-year-old mum, who lives in Bristol with her husband Steve and daughter Nora, three, has teamed up with us to create some unique animal-inspired recipes to bake at home with your little ones.
In between making doggy biscuits and elephant pizzas, she filled us in on her time in the tent...
How did it feel to cook in the Bake Off tent?
It was so hot with last summer’s heatwave! But it’s such an amazing atmosphere – it’s just buzzing all the time. From the minute you step in at seven in the morning, there’s so much going on and so many people who are part of the team. It’s busier than I thought it was going to be, but it’s great. It’s just like you would want it to be.
Do you have a favourite contestant from a previous series?
I always loved Selasi, he was great, and lovely Liam, too. And Nadiya, obviously. I remember when she won, I was so emotional watching it. When I knew I was going to be on, I went back to the first series and watched it all again.
How did you juggle your life with filming Bake Off every weekend?
I’m so blessed – I have such a supportive family. My mum helps out a lot and my husband’s incredible. We put Nora in for an extra day at nursery each week, and my mum would look after her so I could practice. I don’t know how people who work full time manage to do it!
Being a Bake Off contestant is hard work – what kept you going?
I remember my husband saying to me, ‘You know, you’re never going to get to do this again – you have to go and do it properly.’ I’m glad he said that because it meant that I tried really hard every week.
How did you get into baking?
I baked a bit as a kid with my nan, but I really got into it in 2013 when I was off work for nine months. I was ill, but they didn’t know what was wrong – eventually we figured out it was polycystic ovary syndrome. I’m not very good at doing nothing, so the nurse at the school where I worked suggested I start baking. It really relaxed me and kept me happy. My uncle was in hospital at the time, so I’d go to London with shedloads of shortbread for him and the nurses.
And you taught yourself some of the trickier techniques by watching YouTube tutorials…
Yes, I learned everything on YouTube. For Bake Off, I watched videos of these Ukrainian women making korovai (a Ukrainian wedding bread) in their kitchens. I didn’t understand a word they were saying, but just watched what they were doing.
Has Nora always enjoyed helping you out in the kitchen?
Yes, she’s been helping for as long as she’s been able to. We bake a couple of times a week and she loves making cakes and stamping out biscuits. She’s learning about what goes into a cake, into bread, into pastry. She loves it.
Do you have any tips for parents who want to bake with their kids?
First, pre-warn yourself that there’s going to be lots of mess and just embrace it! Also, if you’re making something that needs exact amounts, weigh everything before you get started, so the kids can just tip it in. They don’t have to make something from start to finish either. It doesn’t matter if they’re decorating with shop-bought icing, as long as you’re involving them in one way or another.
Briony's cute, animal-inspired recipes range from bunny apple tarts to elephant pizzas – which is your favourite?...
If you're going to make a pizza, why not give it a dough tusk, as with this simple recipe? Briony says her daughter Nora 'loves elephants, so these pizzas, with pineapple ears, are great to make with her'.
Lion filo crinkles with butternut squash & pine nuts
We've had elephants, so how about lions? We love these lion-inspired filo crinkles. The filo pastry gives the illusion of a mane, while orange of the squash is the perfect shade for a face.
Doggy spiced turmeric biscuits
Turmeric gives these spiced biscuits their warm colour – moreish and easy to assemble, these biscuits are also dairy-free.
Bunny apple crumble tarts
More cute animal-inspired treats! These little crumble tarts have bunny ears and whiskers made from apple. With blueberries, orange, oats, raisins, and maple syrup, these are packed with great ingredients as well as being scrumptious.