Syabira Yusoff: ‘Bake Off really helped me gain self-confidence’ | The Great British Baking

Before the great british bake out, I never thought of baking a cake in four hours or doing something that elaborate. It’s so amazing how stress and despair pushes you. I would call it a human instinct to survive: no matter what I do, I have to be good for something in the end.

I grew up in malacca city, in the southern part of Malaysia and I am the second of seven children and the first daughter. The thing about being the first child is that you have to do everything. It starts in the morning: I had to do laundry, get ready for school, bike to school, do my homework, cook for dinner, put everything in order, and repeat every day. So I’m used to a very tight schedule, to being busy. When I have nothing to do, I am always rearranging things in my house.

my grandmother lived next doorand taught me to cook. But she would only tell you the ingredient list, not how much to put. So I cooked by estimate. But then she said, “You can throw anything in your pan, but it always has to be in proportion.” So that’s what I learned from her. And now whenever I develop a recipe, even for baking, I follow the ratio, instead of the grams. And when the proportion is correct, then you calculate the quantity.

I have been separated from my parents since I’m 15. They got divorced and it ended very badly. It still affects me now, but it has also shaped me into the person I am today. Whatever happens, yes I will cry, but then I will pick up the pieces because I have to survive anyway. The sadness is real, but I have to move on and make the best of my life. And I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished so far – I got a PhD and then I won Bake Off!

my first week In England, I had to eat egg and watercress sandwiches every day! And I sat on a bench at my university and cried. I missed Malaysian food so much. That’s when I started cooking and started figuring out where to find Asian ingredients in England because I can’t survive on sandwiches.

My lowest point in bake out it was week five [dessert week: where she finished last in the technical challenge to make a lemon meringue pie] when they almost kicked me out. I came home and said to my partner, “Okay, I’m going to take all the comments from the judges, go back to the blank drawing board, and start over.” So I did that, I hardly slept because my mind was thinking how to do it. But it was all worth it.

I work as a scientific researcher and without thinking about it, I put all my research and laboratory skills to use in baking. Because in research, before you start anything, you always investigate each of the components of an experiment: what you need, why they’re there, and why you need them. And you ask: why does it have to be heated to this temperature? Why can’t I use them cold? And the same goes for butter, flour, eggs and everything.

I have a trust issue: I don’t think I’m good enough to be a baker. It’s a conflict within myself, so Bake Off really helped me gain confidence. I just feel more comfortable with my gut and more comfortable baking and not being paranoid about bad comments. I’ll go with that.

My dream – this is wildest dream I’m talking aboutis to publish a cookbook and make more television appearances. Then hopefully, six or seven years from now, I’ll have my own cooking show. That’s hard to understand, but maybe I could be like Nadiya, I don’t know.

My favorite things

nasi lemak [rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, served with peanuts, anchovies and cucumber]. That is the food he ate almost every day when he was in Malaysia. And, when I’m here in England, I have a craving for it once a month, so I usually have to cook it myself or go to Peninsula in Boxpark on Shoreditch High Street, where they make a Malaysian nasi lemak.

To drink
If it’s a cocktail, a zombie. If it’s a sweet drink, it’s a Malaysian-based drink, tarik, which is extracted tea made with very strong tea and a little condensed milk, and you mix it until it’s very bubbly.

Place to eat?
I always go to Wetherspoon’s, because it’s cheap and nice. I love the chicken wings and their nice katsu curry. It’s not actually katsu curry, it tastes more like Malaysian citronella curry. But it’s delicious, so I’m going with it.

dish to make
sambal. It is a Malaysian hot chili sauce made from dried chili that is boiled and then fried with oil. You can add anything to it: eggs, chicken, fish… so that’s my favorite food to cook.

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