The Great British Bake Off – Week 1
I have never watched an episode of what has come to be one of the nation’s best-loved, most-watched shows until this evening. It’s a shameful thing to admit as a TV journalist; die-hard Bake Off fans please forgive me.
The reason I refused to tune in is because I have found the ‘baking craze’ that has swept the nation in the past five years at best irritating and at worst nauseating. But I have finally succumbed.
First thoughts on watching episode one was how can a sedate, twee baking contest be spun out into an hour of gripping television? And what are Mel and Sue doing overcrowding the show?
Couldn’t they step aside and let Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry take the full glory? Four presenters/judges seems a lot, but then it has got to fill a whole hour…
For the first test, the bakers had to put their own spin on the traditional Victoria sponge. Naively I was expecting to see a few bits of grated lemon zest here and there and maybe a bit of cream cheese icing to spice things up.
How wrong I was.
There was Kimberley’s blood orange cake, Howard’s gluten-free rice flour passion fruit sponge, and even a cake made in the mould of a sandwich that came in a sugared bag (Frances’ inventive clothing design background is serving her well so far).
But the piece de resistance was charity worker Ali’s scrumptious rose and lychee butter cream cake flavoured with pistachio, inspired by the flavours of Pakistani desserts.
The judging went by at lightning speed! Mary thought Glenn’s effort was too big, Paul ‘annoyingly’ really liked Becca’s grapefruit sandwich, Mary loved the texture of Frances’ cake in a bag, Paul declared Howard’s flour-less cake ‘spot on’. It’s over in less the two minutes.
What now? Sue hands in pockets walking through a field in low-rise jeans. So the judging’s over? No crumb by crumb John and Gregg type taste analysis of each cake?
No. To Mel, and a historical interlude. IS THIS BBC FOUR? It’s doubtful anybody has ever said the phrase ‘a lot of leaking pheromones’ on BBC Four, but still.
A quick dissection of the Lancastrian ‘courting cake’ and we’re onto stage two, the skills test.
The bakers are asked to cook one of Mary Berry’s own recipes, an angel cake, which only has egg whites for a raising agent.
Space satellite designer Rob excels at the level of precision needed to ace the task. Philosophy student Ruby struggles through the test again after botching up her crème patissiere in the last round.
But it’s website developer Toby who has the worst luck, adding salt instead of sugar to the mixture which is raw to taste.
Toby, Ruby and Ali are named in the bottom three. Rob, Lucy and Christine are ranked first, second and third.
For the final showstopper challenge, the bakers are asked to make a novelty chocolate cake with two or more types of chocolate. The judges are looking for ‘elaborate decoration’ and the contestants have four hours to bake their creations.
So this is how they fill the hour!
English teacher Glenn, whose larger than life strawberry and cream sandwich was declared ‘too big’ by the judges, goes for a Gaudi-inspired chocolate tower that is the highest of the lot. The judges are quite impressed, but concerned again about size.
Poor Toby is impaired by a knife injury and forgets to put his timer on. You sense this could be the end of the road for him as he sighs (quite cheerfully) into the camera.
Ruby ums and ers again over her ginger and chocolate creation, but the judges are quite impressed this time and she manages a smile of relief.
Ali veers off-course with a childlike creation of white chocolate icing with a raspberry border. Mary tell him: ‘You’re sad about this cake, and so are we’.
It’s Rob who wows again with his raspberry and chocolate ganache, with tempered chocolate bowls he makes from dipping balloons, and hand-rolled white and milk chocolate cigars.
He is named star baker while poor Toby must pack his bags. Still smiling, he tells the camera ‘Dude, does it look like I’m going to stop eating cake?’
The bakers descend on him with a group hug. This is only episode one and I’m not sure how much more of the cosy format I can take. But it’s too late, I fear I may be hooked and (dare I say it) inspired to do a bit of baking myself.Tagged in: Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood
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