Paul Hollywood & Prue Leith On The Great American Baking Show And Coronation Plans - Exclusive Interview

Americans love "The Great British Baking Show," so it makes sense that there would be an effort to make a U.S. version of the program. There have been various attempts at making "The Great American Baking Show" featuring a rotating cast of hosts and judges, but the stateside version of "Bake Off" has never featured both of the original show's beloved judges, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.

That's changing with the re-launch of the show this month on The Roku Channel. "American Baking Show" viewers will get to watch Paul and Prue critique a roster of American bakers for the first time. The show promises to keep the spirit of the British version — it's even shot in the U.K. However, judges Ellie Kemper and Zach Cherry bring a sprinkling of U.S. flavor.

We talked to Hollywood and Leith about what to expect from the new show and chatted with them about the other big news in Britain right now: the coronation of King Charles III. Along the way, they shared some helpful baking hints.

What the American bakers brought to the show

I got a chance to watch the first episode of the new show, and you said you expected America to bring unusual flavors. Do you think the bakers met your predictions?

Paul Hollywood: They did. They did bring some — "unusual" is probably not the best word to use. I don't mind classic flavors like chocolate, peanuts, and pecan. I want to taste flavors that should be in a cake, a gateau, or a bake, so for me, it's about ... You want the American bakers to stand by what flavors they expect to come out of their bakes, and we got some amazing flavors. In terms of unusual, it's very tricky to catch me out. I'm 14 series in on doing "Bake Off." For them to do something unusual I thought would be a tall order, but what they did do this year, however, was fantastic. The standard was incredible.

The standard of baking was very high this year?

Prue Leith: Very high. I think that's largely to do with the fact that people have been in lockdown and baked a lot. There's been much more interest in baking in the last few years.

They were able to get their practice reps in, so to speak.

Leith: The bakers have become more interested in it because they've had the time to do it, and they've gone, "Oh, this is what I love, so I'll enter 'Bake Off.'"

The difference between Southern and British apple pie

You've both eaten your way through the deep South, which is sort of the heart of American food culture. Can either of you speak on exciting or novel things you tasted down there, or even disappointing things?

Hollywood: For me, the best thing would be the apple pie — traditional Southern apple pie. My mother does a very good apple pie in the U.K., but the difference in the U.S. is the volume of the apple, the size of the apple, and there are punchy flavors. The use of cinnamon is very good. The apple pie in particular was exceptional.

Is there no cinnamon in British apple pie?

Hollywood: Sometimes, but I don't think my mum put it in; my mum just used a little bit of sugar and apple. I don't remember at all having cinnamon. I'd be happy with cinnamon — I like cinnamon — but I do like that pure flavor of apple as well. We used to pick the apples from the tree in the garden, and my mum used to make an apple pie with it.

Leith: It all depends on what the apples are. It makes a terrific difference what kind of apples you have. In England, those apples are cooking apples — Bramley, which cooks down to a very light and delicious but very strongly flavored apple puree. That doesn't need any cinnamon. Sometimes a bit of clove in there is nice. But the amazing thing about apple pie is that every single nation has an apple pie of some sort — Danish apple cake, or the French have tarte aux pommes.

The unique flavors of America

Did any of your travels through America or knowledge of the food culture influence the challenges you selected for this season?

Hollywood: I have traveled through America from New York to LA, and I have traveled extensively, stopping off at various places, so we picked up the idea of what the style of baking is in the States to be able to choose the challenges that we did. But we didn't want to move it too far from what baking is all about, so whether you're from the U.S., Germany, France, or the U.K., there is a standard of baking they need to know. We've been testing them on everything.

Leith: All of those cultures rely on whisked sponges, on choux pastry, on some sort of flaky pastry, on bread dough — all the Western culture basics. But there's a common origin, which is French, Italian, and German.

I didn't think you would find the "American Baking Show" very different from "British Bake Off," but there was a little bit more sugar than we do, and it was sometimes very indulgent. [There was] a lot of butter and a lot of cream, which I absolutely loved.

Also, it was nice — chiles came up far more in "American Bake Off" than it does in the British version, and it's because Brits are quite new to chiles. It's only been in the last 10 years that they've taken to them with such enthusiasm, whereas you've lived on the Mexican border for centuries. The whole chile thing has been part of your culture.

I noticed in the first episode there was one chile-chocolate bake and the baker didn't think it was very strong — but clearly, it was.

Leith: Chile and chocolate is a long tradition in Mexico. It's not a long tradition in London.

Macaron tips

The first technical in the new show is macarons, and I wondered if you have any tips for avoiding the problems the contestants faced. Some of theirs were soft, and one of them had very flat cookies.

Hollywood: It comes down to timing. You've got to get it rested to be able to create the feet. The longer you leave it to rest, the more of a shine on the dough you can get as well, so it's got to be rested — preferably in a fridge to help create that lovely gloss and the feet. As long as you do that, you'll be absolutely fine.

Leith: For non-bakers, that's the tip that's worth emphasizing because if you don't understand the little lip out the edge — we call them feet — and the way the cookie rises a little bit off the feet, you wouldn't think the reason that would happen was because of it sitting still before it's baked. It's counterintuitive. Resting also gives you a skin on it, which means the dough is very lovely and shiny and gives the macaron an almost glazed look. It's not something you'd think of if you weren't a baker.

American vs. British hosts

One of the hosts of the "American Baking Show," Ellie Kemper, is probably most famous over here for "The Office." Have either of you seen the American or British "Office"?

Leith: I haven't seen the American "Office," but I do know Ellie is known for it. She was great as the host.

Hollywood: She was great; she was a great host. Zach [Cherry] I've seen doing "Severance" and a couple of other things. I've seen Ellie do "The Office" in the States, and I thought she did a great job with it because obviously, it started over in the U.K. Both of them did an amazing job in front of the camera with our American bakers.

The American and British versions of "The Office" have different senses of humor and sensibilities from each other. Have you noticed a difference in the hosting style of Zach and Ellie versus the British hosts?

Hollywood: No, not really, because the humor on "Baking Show" is always going to be very similar because it's not rocket science. They're hosting a baking show rather than doing a very complex, sarcastic comedy series like "The Office." I didn't notice much of a difference. I think our national senses of humor are very similar. Irony is something that is often different in American humor compared to the British one. Sarcasm is in British humor as well, but they're very similar.

Leith: The presenting style is fascinating. I agree about the humor and I agree about the atmosphere, but both Zach and Ellie project more. They're most excited and forceful, and Americans are excited and forceful.

Hollywood: The British also can be a bit more subdued.

Leith: A bit more wry ... Zach and Ellie have both done really well, and I'm sure the audiences will love them.

Paul and Prue's coronation plans

The coronation is coming up. Are either of you planning to do a Coronation Big Lunch?

Leith: I am, but I'm only getting back the day before in the evening. I've got 25 people coming to lunch, so I'm afraid it will be the first time in my life I've gone off to the supermarket and bought a whole lot of sausage rolls.

Hollywood: I'm probably going to spend it down in the village where I live on the green, a little get-together, a little party. I'll probably join the rest of the people in the village.

Prue, you'll be serving sausage rolls. Anything else that must be on the menu?

Leith: Funnily enough, I'm going to make brownies with a recipe I pinched from one of the British presenters, Alison Hammond, who is our new presenter on the "British Bake Off." She was one of our celebrity bakers years ago. She made the best brownies I've ever eaten, so I borrowed her recipe. The reason it works is because it has Daim bars in it. I'm going to make that, which shouldn't take long, so I shall aim to do that the night before. My husband is going to have to get all the bunting and outdoor furniture out and put the awnings out and make the barbecue work.

Coronation dishes and summer desserts

That will be quite a quick turnaround for you. What do you think of prawn pineapple tacos being included in the list of suggested coronation dishes?

Hollywood: Absolutely revolting. Prawn pineapple tacos? What the ... ? No. Out of bounds.

Leith: The chef at Buckingham Palace has made a recipe for a quiche, which is absolutely delicious. It has broad beans — what do you call them? Fava beans? — and spinach and tarragon, in a classic quiche custard kind of thing.

I've tasted it; it is delicious. There's been a great deal of complaints from people saying, "Quiche is not British." Every single supermarket sells quiche and every child goes to school and eats quiche, so it has become British. Britain has always borrowed other people's food, so I don't have a problem with that.

We're getting close to summer now, and I was wondering: What are your favorite warm-weather desserts?

Hollywood: The favorite dessert to have over the summer is a good trifle. I don't think you can beat a good trifle — the classic one with strawberries is good. Crème patisserie, cream, ladyfingers ... It's a beautiful thing. A nice trifle is difficult to beat.

Leith: I agree. An English trifle is absolutely brilliant.

Hollywood: Or a pavlova.

Leith: I was actually going to say, "Or a pavlova."

We'll have to try to make those catch on in America. We don't do much trifle.

Leith: I'm rather keen on New York-style cheesecake — properly made with a very soft, just-set cheese middle, cream cheese custard, is delicious.

"The Great American Baking Show" premieres May 5 on The Roku Channel.

This interview has been edited for clarity.