Week 7 Sweet Dough Recap: The 2018 Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge

August 7, 2018 Sigrid Peterson Leave a Comment

Oh my,  Wisconsin Bakers! We sure do love your sweet, Sweet Buns!


The Tent tackled “sweet dough” during Week 7, which is baker-speak for beloved items like doughnuts, coffee cake and cinnamon rolls, as well as the loaded and elaborate breads that adorn our holiday spreads. But instead of using Grandma’s Christmas fruit loaf as a door stopper – sorry, Gran – this week, “celebration loaves” are the showstopper!

In the spirit of The Great British Baking Show, The Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge asked participants to select just one of the three Sweet Dough challenges. Overcoming yeast, fryers and fruitcake, Sconnie bakers faced off with 24 Sweet Buns (see how Oxford Dictionaries settles the “bun” vs. “roll” vs. “cake” debate), 10 Jam Doughnuts and a partridge in a pear Celebration Bread. 

Before we get started: If you have not watched this episode yet, SPOILER ALERT!

And don’t forget to read to the bottom to find out who our six featured Wisconsin bakers are!


John’s – or rather John’s finger’s – encounter with a food processor last week resulted in an unprecedented NON-elimination. The same remaining seven Brits entered the Signature bake this week; the only difference was the knowledge that a mercenary double-elimination would end the episode. Guess that means more sweet buns for us! Speaking of . . . this round challenged contestants to two dozen Buns. Buns had to start with an enriched, yeasted base dough with contestants using their creativity from there to impress Mary and Paul. “Fussy” about his buns, Paul expected them to be the same size, evenly-baked with a consistent filling. The UK has rich regional variation in this culinary category rooted in geography: Bath Buns, Chelsea Buns, Cornish Saffron Buns, Wiltshire Lardy Cakes. 

The Disaster: Neither Paul nor Mary were exceedingly disappointed in any of the bakes, though some had pointed problems. Sarah Jane’s Cornish Saffron buns were underproofed, dry and lacking flavor – yikes. And John’s Easter Chelsea Buns with wholemeal flour and cider had no baking consistency. “I’m gutted. . . I’m properly gutted, ” John responded to the judges’ disapproval. His dejection coupled with his sore finger and. . . golly . . . we could cry! 

The Highlights:  Danny, confessing she thinks the judges lack confidence in her range and talent, turned out a Bakewell-inspired Chelsea bun with sour cherries and almonds that Mary described as, “sheer heaven to eat.” And Brendan slayed with his “Chelsea Bunskis” containing Polish poppyseed filling flavored with lemon and vanilla. The judges coined the buns “totally original.” 

The Takeaway: A first rate sweet bun has to achieve proper texture (not too dry, not too wet) with filling that binds, an even bake and a bun that holds together. Enriched dough takes longer to proof than normal yeasted dough because the added sugar and fat slows down the yeast’s development.


Kat from Brooklyn, NY reminds us that the trusty ‘ole telephone food hotline still exists! Her Blueberry Lemon Rolls were helped along immeasurably – and measurably – by Morgan from King Arthur Flour. Kat writes: “When in doubt, ask for help! I always turn to King Arthur Flour’s Baking Help Hotline if I have a problem or question. Because New York City is so incredibly humid right now, my dough was looking more like cake batter, but Morgan on the hotline told me to add more flour an 1/8th cup at a time.”

Bourbon + Bacon = a Cinnamon roll to die for. Marie from Sun Prairie added local J. Henry & Sons bourbon to her buns: “As with any baking, the most important thing is to have fun! I always pour (#punster) as much joy and love as possible into any recipe I attempt!” she shares. Hey Marie, our very own Wisconsin Foodie visited J. Henry & Sons this season. Tell us what you think!

Nicole from Wausau combines a love of her Scandinavian heritage and fond memories of her American Girl doll with this week’s St. Lucia buns. She writes: “We have a strong heritage of Scandinavian settlers. (I hope I made my ancestors proud today!) When I was a little girl, my parents gave me the Kirsten doll from Pleasant Company (a Madison-based company) and I was completely mesmerized by her. As you can see, I still have her today! And in her Christmas story, she made her family St. Lucia buns.”

A thief plagues Plymouth, Wisconsin! Or maybe just Lydia’s house. . . for someone bearing a striking resemblance to her Dad snatched her Sunday Morning Rise n’ Shine Buns on the cooling rack. Sticky fingers, indeed, Dad!

A peach of a baker joined us all the way from LaGrange, Georgia this week! Barbara submitted her “No Lard” Lardy Cakes made from sweet dough with oat flour and orange peel. And she did it all with an injured back. We’re so glad you joined us, Barbara, and we’re sending healing thoughts down South.


For the Technical, doughnuts were the jam – literally. Bakers had to deliver 10 jam-filled doughnuts consistent in size, jam distribution and color. Deficiency in doughnut-making afflicted all the bakers but for James for whom doughnuts are a “regular thing” in his repertoire. The Brits faced an unfamiliar, wet, sticky dough. “It’s like kneading a ball of chewing gum,” Cathryn declared, “doughnut doom is what’s going through my mind.” And a large syringe suitable for a lab in Frankenstein served as the main tool for filling. 

The Disaster: Stressed and frightened throughout the Technical, Sarah Jane’s doughnuts were. . . raw, if perfect in shape. Yikes – two strikes, SJ! Ryan’s were underproofed, leaving his doughnuts and pride deflated.

The Highlight: James won first place with a consistent color, great texture and “a good bit of jam.” Paul called them, “a pretty good-selling doughnut,” though James felt like his leg-up in experience might have cheated the other bakers. No guilt, James!

The Takeaway: The goal for a divine doughnut is to fry the dough properly and watch the density of your dough. If the “fry is too high” or the dough too dense, you’ll share Sarah Jane’s fate. It’s also critical to work the dough really well, creating crucial air pockets that allow the dough to rise.


Milwaukee’s Alaina got boozy this week with her Buzzin’ Brandy Doughnuts. “I made a beautiful, light and fluffy yeast doughnut and filled it with a homemade Brandy Old Fashioned jam, ” she writes, “the jam consists of everything that’s in the famous cocktail: cherries, orange, sugar, bitters and brandy. The only difference is there is no legal limit on how many doughnuts you can eat and drive.” Please don’t doughnut n’ drive this week, Alaina!

Vicky from Winchester giggled her way through a real jam – of the baking and doughnut variety with her Very Berry Jam Mini Doughnuts. “It was a ridiculous series of trial and error for me; I was laughing and shaking my head.” That’s the spirit we like to see!

We were impressed with the number of bakers jamming their doughnuts with homemade preserves – one of the sweetest things about summer in Wisconsin. Though Team Shlimder “prefers bagels” (well excuse us, Schlimder!), their Cherry Jam Doughnuts looked heavenly, if heavy-set. Check out Jill’s (Hollandale) Wisconsin Wildberry Jam Doughnuts holding every berry but Mary. Bren from Green Bay jammed her father-in-law’s blueberries into her Blissful Bismarks! 

Joshua from DePere made a Paczki – a Polish, filled doughnut – with raspberry and lemon curd. “I made these in honor of our annual Polish Fat Tuesday tradition. My wife wakes early and goes to Pulaski to pick up almost 10 dozen each year from Smurawa’s Country Bakery to celebrate with friends and family.”


The Showstopper this week invited bakers to the holiday dessert table for “celebration bread.” Something like a Christmas fruitcake comes to mind, or the magazine rack at holiday time when covers are adorned with sculpted, golden breads draped in decoration and ornamentation. Our Brits were given wide range to make an “enriched dough loaf” showing originality and offering a “celebratory” feel. Mary directed the contestants: “It must look spectacular and taste divine!” This was a challenge for the long game, as most celebration bread takes 12 hours to proof.

The Disaster: Ryan, John and Sarah Jane all disappointed in this round. The curse of underbaking continued to afflict Sarah Jane as she presented a raw Six-Strand Plaited Chocolate Loaf. John tried to overcorrect his previous two bakes with a showstopping Marzipan Stollen but it was way too dense, “on the stodgy side,” said Mary. Paul described it as, “beginning to weld my mouth together.” While the most original, Ryan’s savory Char Siu Bao – a roast pork loaf traditional to Chinese New Year – came out flat, pale and a little raw inside. 

The Highlight: Danny dazzled by translating the flavorings of a Christmas stollen bread into brioche, and presenting a European Christmas Wreath with cooked sultanas, chopped pistachio and orange curd filling. It was festive and flavorful. “Everything you put in there I can taste!” exclaimed Mary.

The Takeaway: A good celebration bread hinges on flavor. Proofing the dough overnight is typically the key to achieving this and if you choose to forego this step you must add flavor intensity another way.


Our Chicago neighbor, Veronica, stunned us with her CinnaMemorial Union Bread, based on a Polish sweet dough. She owns at least one UW-Madison Memorial Union Terrace chair, and a little serendipity rendered her celebratory loaf a twin! Too pretty to sit on, though, Veronica (gasp, no!).

Another birthday to celebrate -with celebration bread – this week! Lynn’s husband’s birthday motivated her to overcome a fear of yeast with a beautiful Maple Apple Birthday Bread. Lynn writes, “I’ve always been hesitant to try yeast breads from scratch. But by following the recipe, I was able to create a fancy, delicious loaf and it really wasn’t that hard!” High five, Lynn – we’re so proud of you, and Happy Birthday to your human sweetie pie!

We hear a little birdie chirping! No? Perhaps it’s just Betty’s Birdie Brioche celebrating springtime and the Robin, which happens to be Wisconsin’s State Bird. “When the British contestant was discussing her brioche, she said they often look like drunken sailors, but I see in them birds and chicks,” Betty writes.

It might be August, but bakers gave us a blast of winter with Christmas breads. Madelyn from Plymouth delighted her Great Uncle Kent with a  Christmas Stollen – a traditional German fruitcake – from his mother’s recipe.

“Lardy cake sounds awful!” Joni from Manitowoc really knows how to sell her anniversary celebration loaf (Happy Anniversary, Joni!). We joke. Her savory/lardy cake with venison andouille sausage and  smoked Wisconsin mozzarella cheese was a major hit. “I placed the loaves on a cutting board made by our son, atop a hand-crocheted tablecloth we received as a wedding gift from Gramma 32 years ago today!” Joni writes.


Star Baker: Danny received her very first – and well-deserved – designation as Star Baker! Her Bakewell Buns blew away Mary and Paul. “She is quite scientific in what she does,” said Mary, “she gets her flavor together.” Get it, girrrl! 

Kicked Out of the Tent: This week’s double-elimination sent Sarah Jane and Ryan packing. Suffering three bad bakes, a tearful Sarah Jane lamented saying goodbye, “I love baking in that tent; I love the kitchen; I love the staff.” Ryan joked that the judges wouldn’t miss his messy workstation, but “I will carry on baking,” he declared. 


Joy from Green Bay, WI
Joy brought us Yuletide greetings in August with her gorgeous, star-shaped celebration bread. Her literal twist of the enriched dough adds an ornate beauty to her Wisconsin twist of using hand-picked strawberries from a farm in Suamico, WI, along with the addition of a “W” insignia for the Wisconsin Badgers.

Kara from Oregon, WI
We like BIG buns and we cannot lie! Kara gave us such a chuckle with the story of her Gigantic Chelsea Bunskis. She writes, “Something went wrong and these things were massive! The dough would’ve escaped during the rise if it wasn’t for the plastic wrap over the bowl!” We couldn’t help but imagine The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the film Ghostbusters (1984) taking the form of a giant sweet bun!

Maddie & Mitchell from Madison
Maddie and Mitchell used this week’s sweet bun bake to revisit family history. They used their great grandmother’s handwritten recipe for traditional Czech Kolaches. “The recipe was clearly meant just for her reference; it did not include details such as yield – we ended up with 46 – how to shape them or proof time, baking temperature or baking time. . . this meant we had our own technical challenge,” they write. We loved getting a glimpse of Great Grandma’s elegant script – such a lost art – on paper.

Becky from Chase, WI 
Becky’s sweet loaf did double celebration duty, honoring a double birthday in a “Yeasted Saffron Double-Dough with Plum Bits” birthday ‘cake.’ She adapted the recipe of a traditional Cornish Saffron Cake much like our Great British Baking Show contestants adapted recipes to reflect UK regionalism on this week’s episode. Particularly touching is Becky’s fondness for memories of visits from her grandmother when she would bake bread and cinnamon rolls with Becky’s mother.

Katie from Phillips, WI
Our hearts shutter at hearing about even the tiniest of baking injuries. Perhaps Katie took on some of John’s misfortune when she burned herself this week. A tip from Katie: “Don’t try to catch the bread as it’s sliding off a hot cookie sheet. . . I burned my arm.” We’re so sorry that happened, Katie, but we totally understand your reflexive instinct to save your Cranberry Nut Twist celebratory loaf – the slice is a magnificent bake of beauty!

Michaleen from Portage
Michaleen must instinctively know we much prefer a 4-Jam Doughnut to a 3-alarm fire. At the very least we think all subjects to the latter deserve the former as comfort food. Michaleen implores us, “don’t be afraid to fry!” This was her first foray into deep frying and we’re so glad she and her doughnuts took the oily plunge. All that jam and sugary goodness jumps off her tray!

Speaking of buns. . . ours have grown stiff from sitting while writing this recap! We move on to Biscuits in Week 8.  Hold the gravy, Americans. On your marks, get set. . . bake!
 If you need inspiration, you can watch the upcoming episode of The Great British Baking Show online now.

1 thought on “Week 7 Sweet Dough Recap: The 2018 Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge”

  • Anna M. Peterson says:

    I am truly impressed with the talents of many bakers and almost could taste the deliciousness! And I also loved the writing. Great job!!!

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