Written by Emma Freud


The Great British Brownie Off

In which Emma Freud appalls her lifelong idol, burns stuff and shares her recipe for “the most disgusting-looking traybake GBBO has ever broadcast”.

For the last 24 years I’ve been working for Comic Relief as a director of Red Nose Day and a Trustee. My boyfriend Richard (Curtis) co-founded the organisation in 1985 and I’ve literally slept my way to the top. But this year, for two days, my role moved from behind the camera to right in front of it when I took part in Sport Relief Does The Great British Bake Off. One programme, four competitors, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and quarter of a million pounds earned for Comic Relief projects. Irresistible: especially the Mary Berry part. I love her with all my heart: always have, always will.

I would be lying if I said the experience went without incident. At one point I was so excited to be in the same room (tent) as Mary Berry that I licked her. She didn’t like it. Worse was to come. I burned a large hole in the Bake Off tent while trying to hide a blackened saucepan, revealed my competitive inner-Freud to nine million viewers by withholding helpful information from other contestants, and gave Mary Berry some candied bacon which made her choke and nearly killed her.

The thing about Mary, or Bezza as I now call her TO HER FACE (she secretly likes it), is that in my view she occupies a unique territory. She is old fashioned yet modern, dignified yet twinkly, stern yet compassionate, kind and also tough. She is the ultimate feminist: unashamed about her passion for the homely and able to discuss all that is possible in the kitchen while retaining the dignity of a brilliantly trained top CEO. As she walked into the tent to meet us, her humble bakers, on that cold but bright morning (it is ever sunny in Berryworld), she possessed the stature of the royalist of majesties, and the eyelashes of the toppest of models. I would have done anything to please her.
Sadly, my own personal TV journey involved producing the most disgusting-looking traybake the show has ever broadcast, and this is the recipe I wanted to share with you, my favourite reader.
In the words of Paul Hollywood (off camera): “They tasted good but they looked like shit”. I made them 11 times before we started filming (I reeeeeeeeally wanted to win), so here is the most overworked yet still strangely challenging recipe of all time. Enjoy. I did. Even though Mary Berry didn’t.


FIRST… Candy your bacon. Take 8 rashers of very thin streaky bacon and bathe it in a mixture of one cup maple syrup and one cup Jack Daniels (or any bourbon) for about 10 minutes. Then roll in a mixture of half a cup of soft brown sugar with two teaspoons of cinnamon. Place on a wire rack above a baking tray and roast for 15 minutes (not – as I did on Bake Off – 30 minutes: it burned). Let it cool and then chop finely or blitz quickly so the bacon is in crumbs.

THEN… Put a cup of dried cherries in a small pan with a cup of bourbon. Bring to the boil then switch off and let the cherries cool in the bourbon.

NOW… Make a batch of brownie mixture – either from a packet, or from your favourite recipe. Add the bacon crumbs, add the strained cherries (keep the bourbon when you strain the cherries), and cook the brownie mix as per normal.

FINALLY… Let the brownies cool in the tin. Once cool, spread with a ganache made like this: bring a cup of double cream almost to the boil and then whisk in a packet of dark chocolate and a few spoonfuls of the bourbon that the cherries were soaked in. Let it cool and then spread thinly onto the brownies. Cut into bacon sized rectangles.

EVENTUALLY… If you can be arsed, make a white chocolate ganache. Bring half a cup of double cream almost to the boil and then whisk in half a packet of white chocolate plus a bit more bourbon. Using a spoon, dribble this on top of the dark chocolate ganache so it looks like very unconvincing bacon.

EAT… (And please don’t blame me).


  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Emma Freud

Occasional broadcaster, journalist, director of Red Nose Day, script editor, associate film producer, mother and trainee mother******. Bit tired.