We Recommend: The Great British Bake Off
SOGGY BOTTOMS ARE BACK.
Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. But like half the country, I’ve spent eight weeks of summer for the past two years staring at a TV screen with my fingernails making marks in my cheeks as I watch Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry gingerly lifting a quiche and declaring that it’s fallen foul to this most heinous of baking crimes.
The Great British Bake Off snuck very quietly onto BBC Two in 2010, but it was instantly compelling. For those who don’t know, it’s a baking competition — twelve people are gathered in a tent and given various baking tasks, and the worst one gets knocked out each week. I don’t watch reality TV unless forced, but I couldn’t tear myself away. It’s just so exciting, watching people trying to make cakes that are slightly better than the cakes of other, nearby people.
It’s so tense when a cake falls apart as it’s tipped out of the tin, or when the biscuits have burnt on the bottom, or when Paul tears open what looks like a beautifully baked loaf and it’s raw inside. It’s so joyful when Mary smiles and says “This is a really good bake”, or when someone manages to make something so breathtakingly beautiful that you want to dive right into the screen. That happens quite frequently, by the way — this is food porn of the highest order.
Between the shots of the bakers you get Paul Hollywood, the silver fox who knows everything there is to know about baking professionally, and Mary Berry, who everyone in the UK wants as their grandmother and who knows everything there is to know about home baking, explaining what’s going on. By the end, you’re clued-up enough about baking to be confident muttering “Oooo, that’s going to be very under-proved if she’s not careful” to your mum whilst munching on your homemade custard creams.
Mel and Sue — usually quite annoying but utterly perfect here — alternate between joking with the contestants and meeting with experts who can tell you the history of the baked good in the spotlight that week. The mix of baking, competition and information works so well — you get a really informative, entertaining show.
If you don’t believe me that The Great British Bake Off is excellent, just hop onto Twitter and Facebook when it's on. My timeline is flooded with people of all ages, backgrounds, races and classes discussing the contestants, which cakes they want to eat, how lovely Mary Berry is and asking if anyone else saw that squirrel with the enormous testicles (Honestly — Google it). I interviewed a finalist from last year for a cooking website and I was genuinely starstruck — and the hits from that interview were the best we'd ever had.
Watch it, just once. You’ll love it. And if you need more persuading, check out my review from last year or our spoiler-free preview of the first episode.
The first episode of The Great British Bake Off is on BBC Two at 8pm tonight.