The Ingredient Prue Leith Says American Bakers Use More Than Brits - Exclusive

American fans of "The Great British Bake Off," rejoice: There's a new version of the perennially popular pastry program that showcases the talents of U.S.-based bakers: "The Great American Baking Show." Tasting Table got to speak with Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith in an exclusive interview, and we asked them about the differences between American and British bakers. Both judges were impressed with the Americans' skills, with Hollywood saying, "What they did do this year ... was fantastic. The standard was incredible." In addition to praising the technique of the U.S. bakers, Leith pointed out some stylistic differences that set them apart from their British counterparts.

America is the land of excess, and that extends to our taste in desserts. Leith said, "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." But while we may be distinctive in terms of the sheer quantity of sugar, butter, and cream we cream into our pastries, those aren't special ingredients — they are the basic components of dessert-making, and all cultures use them. Instead, our most unique contribution to the dessert world comes from an ingredient that's native to the Americas: chile peppers.

The U.S. likes sweet and spicy flavors

Despite being separated by thousands of miles, the baking cultures in the U.S. and U.K. aren't all that different from each other. As Prue Leith put it, "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." You won't find chiles in your average British bakery, however.

Chiles might seem like a left-field component in desserts, but they're a classic ingredient in Mexican chocolate. You can even add cayenne to chocolate chip cookies as a unique flavor boost. Leith cited the Mexican connection to explain why chiles showed up so much more in the American bakers' recipes: "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." 

She enjoyed the chile desserts, but it may be a while before this particular combo crosses the pond. "Chile and chocolate is a long tradition in Mexico. It's not a long tradition in London," she said.

You can watch "The Great American Baking Show" now on The Roku Channel.