Zoë François And Winner Annie Paul Talk All Things Silos Baking Competition - Exclusive Interview

There's nothing like watching bakers battle it out on the big screen. Whether you're an avid fan of Food Network or Magnolia Network — or both — you probably know all about "Silos Baking Competition." Joanna Gaines was joined by Andrew Zimmern and Zoë François in Texas to judge six bakers on their dessert recipes. The winner, Annie Paul, took home $25,000, a spot for her treat at Silos Baking Co. and some epic bragging rights. Despite the show being only a one hour competition, fans have been nothing but thrilled with the special.

In an exclusive interview, Mashed spoke to both guest judge Zoë François and winner Annie Paul to get all of the behind-the-scenes details on "Silos Baking Competition." Paul expressed the pressure behind her prized treat, Summer Berry Bars, and even revealed a pitfall of her dessert that the audience didn't get to see. However, François described Paul's sweet treat as nothing short of perfect and continued to name the criteria that she uses when judging baking competitions. Both accredited bakers dove into what's next, which is a question foodies are dying to know. 

Annie and Zoë dish on the winning dessert

First off, congratulations, Annie, on winning the "Silos Baking Competition." That's a really big accomplishment.

Annie Paul: Thank you so much.

How does it feel knowing your dessert is going to be featured at Silos Baking Company?

Paul: It's awesome. It's wild. [I'm] super honored.

I saw that you actually released your recipe for the Summer Berry Bars. Do you have any tips for fans who are looking to make a copycat version?

Paul: I've had a couple people who've made it and tweaked it for if they've got Celiac Disease or something like that. It's pretty moldable. I feel like you can go for it and have fun with it. I've had people change up the berries as well, which has been really cool to see. I feel like it's pretty moldable to play around with, and hopefully, the steps are pretty good to follow.

I feel like it speaks for itself. Zoë, what made Annie's Summer Berry Bars stand out among the rest of the contestants' desserts?

Zoë François: There were a few different things that we were looking for. One, it had to be exciting to eat. It had to taste great. Great food tastes great. It also had to fit into the Silos Baking Bakery, and it had to be servable and [capable of mass production] and she hit on every single element of it. It was absolutely delicious. She had me at the brown butter base of it because I love the richness and nuttiness that brown butter adds to everything. To combine it with the brightness of the fruit and the streusel, and the cardamom — everything worked together so beautifully. It was gorgeous to sit there, and people are definitely going to want to order it.

Annie reveals the hardest part of Silos Baking Competition

Are there any criteria that go through your head when you take a bite out of her dessert, or whichever you're judging?

François: [The first thing I think of is] textures. People think of flavor when they think of a successful baked good, but also, so much of it is the texture. If it's all mushy, and the crust is mushy, and the top is mushy, it's not going to be as delicious as it was, because her base was really crispy and beautifully baked. I know she had a crack in it, which totally stressed her out on the show, but you would never know it eating it. We were terrified that it was going to crumble apart, but it totally held together. She'll talk about the crack in the crust, but once it made it to us, we had no idea that was an issue for her. It held together beautifully. All the flavors and all the textures were there. She thought about everything.

It looked delicious on TV, so you couldn't see the crack from there. Annie, was there ever another dessert you considered baking for the show?

Paul: They had me send in a secondary recipe, and that one was completely different. It was, I call it a country Danish, between a Danish and a donut. Thankfully they didn't want that, because with the Texas heat, that would've been terrible.

François: Now I want that.

Paul: I knew right away with it being summertime and [needing] something easy to grab and go. That was my initial thought with that.

What did you find was the hardest part about the competition?

Paul: The hardest part? Oh man. That's a tough question. I had so much fun. The crack in the crust was not ideal, but actually, the hardest part was waiting for my bar. I had to really make sure it chilled long enough before cutting it, and the agony of waiting and hoping that it was going to hold and be cold enough to cut and portion. I didn't have the opportunity to remake it if there was an issue. I had one shot, so that was a little bit difficult.

Did you ever feel like you were under any time pressure or anything like that?

Paul: Definitely with the cooling. I wanted to wait as long as possible to let it really chill, and then I waited down to the wire and then it was go-time to cut, and do the drizzle, and plate it up. There was definitely some of that.

Zoë describes her new cookbook and gives bread advice

I'm going to switch gears a little bit because Zoë, I know you came out with a cookbook recently, called "Zoë Bakes Cakes," which looks fantastic. I was looking at it online the other day. What is the best advice you can give beginner bakers?

François: There's a couple of things that immediately come to mind. One is bake with a scale as opposed to measuring cups, because when you weigh the ingredients, you're going to have consistency, and it's always going to come out the same. When you're using measuring cups, sometimes you'll have more, sometimes you'll have less, and aren't as consistent. Using a scale is awesome. 

The other thing that I always recommend is read through the recipe all the way through once, and that way, you're not surprised by the timing of something, you know that you have all of your ingredients, they're all the right temperature, and you're familiar with the recipe before you're halfway through and you realize that you don't have one of the ingredients. Reading through the recipe and using a scale are my two go-to's.

Paul: That's such good advice.

That is really great advice, and you know what? I don't do either of those, so now I'm going to use it.

François: Well, now maybe you will.

I'll attribute it to you next time my brownies come out.

François: Okay. Sounds good.

I saw that bread and loaves were included in your cookbook. I was wondering, out of my own curiosity, do you have any special tips for making homemade bread...? I would love to know your secret tricks.

François: I have a series of books called "The Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." Those are all dedicated to bread. What we tried to do and what we set out to do is take all of the intimidation out of baking bread. Basically, all you do is dump all of the ingredients into a big container, and stir it up with a spoon. You don't even need a mixer, you don't need to knead it, you just stir it up. Then, you let it rise, because you have to let the yeast rise, and then you can take a piece out, form it, let it rise and bake it. You can put the rest of that batch in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

As you want bread, you take a piece out and bake it. It's really easy. People get intimidated by the yeast. The only thing that will kill yeast is really hot water. As long as you're using warm or even cooler water, you're safe. The yeast is going to work, and I say, go for it. Bread is one of the most satisfying, fun, enjoyable things, and nothing makes — I say this even though I bake a lot of cakes — nothing makes your house smell as good as bread.

Oh, I agree.

François: You have to try it. It's so good.

Paul: I feel like it's so therapeutic too. Making bread, there's something about that, and the smell, and the butter when it's warm out of the oven.

François: Exactly.

Annie and Zoë name their favorite desserts

This question is for both of you. What is your current go-to dessert and why?

Paul: It's summertime. I feel like angel food cake is the go-to, with strawberries or whatever berries are in season. It's light. That's my summer go-to.

François: I love angel food cake. I feel like it's one of those unsung heroes, [mainly because] not that many people bake it. It's one of those retro desserts.

Paul: Yes.

François: It's magical. I love it. I am writing, right now, a cookbook, "Zoë Bakes Cookies." I am surrounded. If you could see the counter, I'm surrounded by cookies right now, and I'm working on the Christmas chapter, which is so crazy. It's hilarious. Right now, my whole world is cookies. I adore cookies, and actually, cookies were my first baking experience. I started a cookie company in college many years ago, and this is going back to my beginnings and I love it.

When can fans expect that cookbook to come out?

François: It should be out next spring, so sometime in 2023.

Annie and Zoë can't live without this baking ingredient

If you guys had to pick one baking ingredient that you had to use for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

François: It's so hard, because Annie was having such a hard time deciding on her one dessert, and because things are seasonal, most bakers are too fickle that way — whatever mood we're in, whatever season it is.

Paul: [My choice] would probably be vanilla. If I didn't have pure vanilla extract, vanilla bean, it would be –

François: Always. It's a brilliant answer. I put vanilla in absolutely everything. It's probably one of the staples. That, and I don't know that I could go on living without chocolate, too.

I guess there's chocolate chip cookies in your cookbook then?

François: Absolutely. A whole chapter.

Oh yay! I cannot wait. I know we touched upon your new cookbook that's going to come out, but are there any other projects that fans can expect from either of you in the future?

François: I'm starting to shoot my third season of "Zoë Bakes" in two weeks, and I am so excited about this season. We have some great bakers, and farmers, and people around the Minneapolis community who are doing extraordinary work, and I get to go and bake with them, and then teach people how to bake what they've inspired me to do.

What about you, Annie? Do you have anything coming up that you could tell us about?

Paul: I don't. I'm expecting my second child in September.

Oh, congratulations!

François: Congratulations! That's huge.

Paul: Thank you. My mind's in baby mode right now.

"Silos Baking Competition" is available to stream on discovery+. Head to Zoë and Annie's Instagram pages to keep up with their current projects.

This interview has been edited for clarity.