The sea­son for sweets: ‘Hol­i­day Bak­ing Cham­pi­onship’ re­turns to Food Net­work

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - CHANNELS - BY AN­DREW WAR­REN

Thanks­giv­ing is pretty much the un­of­fi­cial kick­off to the hol­i­day sea­son, but Food Net­work’s been quick out of the gate this year with both re­turn­ing fa­vorites and new sur­prises al­ready un­der­way a few weeks be­fore Turkey Day. This year’s “Hol­i­day Bak­ing Cham­pi­onship,” al­ways an au­di­ence fa­vorite, got un­der­way last week and is cur­rently air­ing Mon­day evenings.

For­mer NFL quar­ter­back Jesse Palmer re­turns to host this year’s com­pe­ti­tion, which brings nine of the coun­try’s best hol­i­day bak­ers to­gether to vie for a $25,000 prize. That’s a lot of dough, es­pe­cially at this time of year, but earn­ing it won’t be easy with a se­ries of in­sid­i­ously tricky bak­ing chal­lenges stand­ing be­tween the con­tes­tants and the prize.

This week’s episode, air­ing Mon­day, Nov. 12, gets the con­tes­tants into the Thanks­giv­ing spirit a few weeks early. In the pre-heat chal­lenge, the eight re­main­ing bak­ers are di­vided into teams to make their fa­vorite va­ri­eties of Thanks­giv­ing pie. The Thanks­giv­ing theme con­tin­ues in the main heat chal­lenge, in which the bak­ers are given a va­ri­ety of sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents and tasked with mak­ing beau­ti­ful stuffed cakes.

As in years past, bak­ing ex­perts Duff Gold­man (“Ace of Cakes”), Nancy Fuller (“Farm­house Rules”) and Lor­raine Pas­cale (“Worst Bak­ers in Amer­ica”) serve as judges, keep­ing a watch­ful eye on the con­tes­tants’ ev­ery move and sam­pling all of their sweet and sa­vory cre­ations be­fore de­cid­ing at the end of each episode which one of them has to hang up his or her apron for good.

It’s a bru­tally tough com­pe­ti­tion, but it’s also filled with hol­i­day cheer. Over the course of the next sev­eral weeks, the bak­ers will be chal­lenged to come up with sea­sonal desserts that make cran­ber­ries the star, make sweet treats that com­bat the post-turkey din­ner sleepi­ness by in­cor­po­ratat­ing cof­fee, build cream puff dis­plays in­spired by hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions and even make beau­ti­ful hand­painted eggnog cakes that taste as good as they look.

It’s the most won­der­ful time of the year, es­pe­cially for lovers of baked goods.

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Host Jesse Palmer with some of the “Hol­i­day Bak­ing Cham­pi­onship” con­tes­tants

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