INTERVIEW: Tim Samson, NJ Contestant on ABC’s The Great Holiday Baking Show
It doesn’t get much gayer than a big sparkly holiday baking contest. Well, throw in out baker Tim Samson, and it gets a wee bit more queer.
Samson, lovingly referred to as Baker Bear, has made it through several weeks of the grueling competition The Great Holiday Baking Show on ABC, whipping up holiday treats that would make even your mother a little jealous. However, Samson isn’t even a baker by trade: The Wildwood, New Jersey resident works for Morey’s Pier and essentially uses his love for the kitchen as stress relief. We caught up with Baker Bear himself where he spilled the dirt on the show, plus gave us his favorite cookie recipe.
How did you get involved with the show to begin with? There was a search with postings on Facebook and online. I thought, “Hell, why not!” I applied online, had a couple phone interviews, then an on site interview in NYC. They conducted several around the country and the rest is history.
I know you aren’t a trained baker by trade, so how did you learn how to bake? I learned from my mom, grandmother, and aunts. My father’s family immigrated from Czechoslovakia, so I was always around baking. My mom, who was a cafeteria lady, also did wedding cakes and graduation cakes from home so I’d try to help her out, but was usually in the way. Later in life when I moved away from Michigan and started working for Morey’s Piers down the shore, I gradually started to bake again and try to teach myself new techniques from researching online, so it was a combination of family teaching and “Google University.”
What’s the craziest task that you’ve had to do thus far on the show? Probably the one coming up. We have to make pate a choux centerpieces, which is not something that you just normally whip up at home.
So after the show is over, what do you want to do with all of your baking skills you’ve acquired? Honestly, I really enjoy baking, I think because it’s so much different than my 9-to-5 job and it requires so much focus. Maybe somewhere down the road, I might find myself doing it full-time and getting paid for it, but I’m just along for the ride. I thought the show was one of the things that only comes around once in a lifetime, and really it was something that I loved to do. It’s a different format: There’s no pinning contestants against each other. It is a very loving show where it’s all about you and everyone is trying to make sure that everyone else does the best they can…most of the time.
Yeah, how were your fellow contestants to work with? The group was pretty awesome; we all had different approaches to things, different experience levels, and different strengths. We really didn’t want to see anyone go home. It really was sad every time one of us was sent packing, but ultimately it is a competition. However, what makes the show truly special is the lack of a significant prize. We were all there because we love to bake, and we’re not in it for fame or some cash prize, so you really couldn’t get a better group of people together. Bakers by nature are very warm and loving people, at least the ones I’ve ever experienced.
You’re out, but did you ever feel like you needed to hide anything for television? I mean, it’s a show about baking. There’s not much to hide, right? It never really came up. I am who I am, and what you see is what you get. They never wanted us to act a certain way. All they ever asked is that we were ourselves. I think that comes through. Ultimately the show is about what comes out of the oven and less about the people making it. The most important thing is the bake, and I love cake, so I was sold from the first moment. Who knows? Maybe one of these days there will be a Baker Bear Bakery in Philly. You never know!
You can catch Tim on “The Great Holiday Baking Show” Mondays on ABC. Check out Tim’s recipe below.
Baker Bear’s Mom’s Sugar Cookie Recipe
• 268g Granulated sugar (1-1/3 c)
• 76g Unsalted butter (softened) (1/3 c)
• 68g Vegetable shortening (1/3 c)
• 152g Full Fat sour cream (2/3 c)
• 2 egg – large
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 400 g all-purpose flour (3-1/3 c) + Extra for rolling out.
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• ½ tsp. Kosher salt
• 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
• 224 g (2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened)
• 4-6 tbsp. Heavy Cream
• Dash of Kosher salt
• 500-750g powdered sugar
• 1/4 tsp. almond extract
• 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
• Sparkling sugar
• Food coloring paste: Evergreen, Red, Black, Pink, lt. Blue, Brown
1. Cream together butter, sugar, shortening.
2. Mix in sour cream, egg and vanilla.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
4. Mix in flour mixture.
5. Dough may be sticky; wrap and set aside in fridge briefly to cool.
6. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit (204° Celsius)
7. Roll dough out on lightly floured surface about ¼” thick
8. Cut with cutter; using spatula transfer to baking sheet lined with Silpat.
9. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes.
10. Let cool for a few minutes on sheet then transfer to cooling rack.
1. Cream together, in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, butter, milk, and salt until creamy and light
2. Add extracts.
3. Add powdered sugar in stages until you get the desired thickness.
4. You may need to add additional milk.
5. Divide and color with paste based food coloring as desired.
1. Once the cookies are cool, decorate them by first frosting the base layer with a spatula, then piping detail. If desired, use the sparkling sugar as accent.
2. Allow cookie to dry before storing. Icing will crisp on the outside but will not get hard; avoid stacking the cookies until they develop a slight crust.