Capuchin Franciscan Br. Andrew Corriente prepares a buttercream icing in the kitchen at his friary in Washington. The 31-year-old third-year seminarian was the winner of the fifth season of ABC’s The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition. CNS photo/Andrew Biraj, Catholic Standard

Brother’s heavenly baking is TV’s best

By  Richard Szczepanowski, Catholic News Service
  • January 19, 2020

WASHINGTON -- The oven timer dings, alerting Capuchin Franciscan Br. Andrew Corriente the chocolate layer cake he is baking needs to be checked.

A quick test with a toothpick tells him the cake needs about five more minutes in the oven, more than enough time for him to soften the butter that will become the buttercream icing that will top the confection.

The enticing aromas in the kitchen at Capuchin College in Washington signal that Corriente is busy creating another treat for the men who call the friary home.

Corriente knows his way around a kitchen. In fact, he was crowned this year’s baking champion on ABC’s The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition. The program, which aired during the month of December and concluded Jan. 2, is an adaptation of the wildly popular Great British Bake Off.

Corriente said he wanted to participate in the program “because I love to bake, and I wanted to learn from the others” who were part of the production. “They were very good, incredible cooks,” the brother said of his competition. Several of them have since become good friends of his.

The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition, now in its fifth season, features 10 amateur bakers who compete in a series of challenges in which they must produce outstanding baked goods. Contestants are eliminated one by one until a champion is selected.

Corriente emerged as the victor after he and the other two finalists were charged with making three individual party desserts of their choice. He earned the crown with chocolate cookies with lime cream and blackberry jam, sponge cakes with fresh cream and fruits, and a puff pastry.

Corriente was given the nod to appear on the show last June, but he applied for the program in 2017.

“In 2018, they (producers of the show) called me, but I said no because I was taking my final vows,” he told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. “They called me again this year, and I did it.”

He said he spent the month of July “recipe developing and recipe testing” before travelling to London in August, where the entire season was taped over the course of that month. “Filming sometimes took up to 14 hours a day,” Corriente said. “I had to stay focused so that I could get my prayers in, Mass in and meditation in.”

Although it was very hot in the kitchen where the contestants competed, Corriente chose to wear his distinctive brown Capuchin robes as he baked.

“I love my life so much, and I wanted people to see that,” he said. “My ability to bake is so tied to my way of life. Everything I have is from God, and I wanted people to see how all of that is integrated.”

The friary where Corriente regularly creates his bakery masterpieces is part of the St. Augustine Province of the Order of Friars Minor. The 30 men who live at Capuchin College are either studying nearby at The Catholic University of America, preparing for the priesthood, serving in various ministries throughout the Archdiocese of Washington or are retired.

Corriente is a third-year seminarian. After studying filmmaking in college, the now 31-year-old native of California “had a desk job in the entertainment industry,” working for a talent agent.

“I was searching for other jobs, but never thought about religious life,” he said. “A friend of mine from college became a nun, and when I went to see her profess her vows, I met a Capuchin.” That spurred Corriente to give the order a try. “I met the guys and the rest is history,” he said.

Corriente said he finds time for prayer as he cooks. For example, in preparing meringue — a confection made of whipped egg whites and sugar — he discovered “the best way to time my stirring is by praying the Hail Mary.”

The “guys,” as Corriente calls his fellow Capuchins, sent their favourite baker off to compete in London with “a really nice blessing and prayer.” Corriente’s family — mother Elna, father Rodel and sister Theresa — flew to London to watch the finale.

When he won, Corriente was sworn to secrecy; for more than four months he was not allowed to tell others that he had won.

After he is ordained to the priesthood in two years, Corriente is unsure whether his priestly vocation will permit him much time to pursue his baking avocation.

“God has already zigzagged my life in so many ways that I am open to anywhere He leads me,” he said.

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