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TV Review: The Great British Bake Off

August 21, 2012


It’s a bit of a surprise to me just how excited I am to discover on my return from France that a new – third – series of The Great British Bake Off has just begun. ‘Surprise’ because, as I’ve said before, baking is not one of my strong points in the kitchen. I used to turn out rock cakes (sometimes a bit more rock than cake) for my kids when they were little, and I’m a dab hand at Torta Caprese (after many years of practice), but that’s more of a dessert; I bake Delia’s Whisky Dundee Cake at Christmas time … with varying degrees of success. But you won’t ever experience a meltingly light Victoria sponge in The Single Gourmet Traveller’s home. And, to be honest, I’m not much of a cake eater either. A nice carrot cake will please me occasionally, a lemon polenta cake, but I’m not one for cupcakes – too sweet. I almost never eat biscuits. And as for bread … well, that’s an occasional experiment. Note, ‘experiment’ and not ‘skill’. So, I ask myself, what is the appeal of The Great British Bake Off?

Initially I was intrigued that the show was presented by Sue Perkins and Mel Geidroyc. It seemed an unlikely combination: two of the funniest women on TV and … well … cakes!  Yes, Sue Perkins has been doing a few foodie things of late, most notably with Giles Coren … but then he’s funny too and so their programmes don’t fit into the usual ‘food’ and ‘cooking’ categories.

Then there’s the appeal of Mary Berry. Gosh if you had to bake a cake for some professional cook to judge (nightmare scenario!), wouldn’t you just love it to be Mary? Always honest but in the nicest possible way. Who could be scared of Mary?

Paul Hollywood, on the other hand, is, I have to say, slightly scary. Scary with a smile and occasional joke, maybe. But definitely scary. I don’t think I want to test out my focaccia on him. But I do learn a lot from him by watching the programme. And he’s always fair and his criticism constructive.

And finally, the contestants. All that baking! How do they find the time to practise so much cake and bread and biscuit baking, not to mention croissants and brioche and tonight … bagels! Who on earth makes bagels? But there they are, these amateur bakers, taking on incredible challenges in the kitchen. This is the Olympics of the baking world. Don’t you just feel for them when the bread dough doesn’t rise, when the tart’s pastry breaks as it’s lifted from the oven, and the biscuits have so much crunch you hope they have an emergency dentist on standby.

What’s amazing is how these diverse elements – sharply witty, feminist comediennes/presenters in Sue and Mel; everyone’s favourite aunt, Mary; the teacher you’re both scared of but respect in Paul; and all those brave baking souls who could be you. Yes, anyone can go into their kitchen and at least try to bake. And haven’t we all glowed with pleasure at a risen cake? Slumped in dejection at a flat bread that wasn’t supposed to be A Flat Bread? The Great British Bake Off encompasses a whole world of dreams, and relationships, and learning, and trying, and it all comes together much as a family. Slight irritations, a few tears, but lots of joy when things go well and everyone supporting each other.

Well, I don’t think it’s going to send me to the kitchen to bake a cake, but I’m definitely going to be glued to my sofa next Tuesday at 8.00 for the next episode of The Great British Bake Off. Isn’t it just one of the best things on TV?

  1. But, the real star of the show is Linda Collister – she does the work. She’s a dear friend and someone I totally respect for her kitchen experiences-ex La Varenne, ex Le Cordon Bleu and ex Clarence House. Need any more!! She’ll chastise me for writing all this too. Modesty is her middle name (and her surname’s not Blaise). Ciao

  2. Linda’s also a near local to you. You maybe know each other anyway. Gareth

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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