The Great British Bake Off is back

Great British Bake Off is back

Or #Haveyougotasoggybottom?

Great British Bake Off is back on TV and – according to other people who have written about Bake Off this week (proper people who get paid for their opinions) – it is the tonic to raise our spirits amidst a dark year as we head into a darker winter.

But, unlike them, I’m not sure I’m convinced.

The Great British Bake Off is back
Matt Lucas, Prue Leith, Paul Hollywood and Noel Fielding having a whale of a time – It’s worth saying all Bake Off imagery was taken following production guidelines so you don’t write in and say ‘But what about social distancing’ – (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off is back
They look like they had a lot more fun than the rest of us did in the early summer (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
(L-R) Hermine, Sura, Rowan, Marc, Laura, Linda, Mak, Dave, Loriea, Lottie, Mark and Peter . . . when the Great British Bake Off bakers assemble it’s like The Avengers but they are in search of the perfect scone rather than the infinity stones (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)

I’ve watched a couple of episodes over the years (back when I was a person who got paid to present facts rather than get paid for opinions) and wasn’t convinced then but am going to try again this year because, like the proper people say, we do need a tonic to raise our spirits.

So . . . I was ready to enjoy the episode at 8pm on Thursday night with millions of others across the UK (well, I would have been if I hadn’t been out running so ended up watching it two hours later).

There are definitely some positives to Bake Off being back on our screens:

I like the way it is a viewing event suitable for all the family and has become a national institution.

There’s no binge watching because the whole series hasn’t been released for streaming. Instead people will all get to watch at the same time (or almost the same time) and develop their thoughts on their favourite bakers at the same time (so far I cannot remember any of them).

The Great British Bake Off
Loriea’s selection of flavour’s appealed to Matt Lucas’s eating age (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off is back
All of the contestants supposedly have a promo picture of them sifting flour and I was going to do a part of this piece where they are all sifting but someone hasn’t saved all the files properly in the Channel 4 press system so not all of them are visible. Anyhoo, here is Linda (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
Here’s contestant Marc doing a cracking job cracking some eggs (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
It’s always traditional on cooking shows for the host and judges to ask the contestants what they are planning to make so there doesn’t need to be as much fill-in from the voiceover person. Here they are asking Dave about his battenburg plan (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)

And surely even the anti-maskers of this world believe in Bake Off – after all cakes will rise and they will fall. There can be doubt about that.

But the first episode has left me with more questions than answers:

When they made the pineapple upside down cakes they were told to put cream and a cherry on top. Why?

Why did they have to put cream on when in the previous scene when Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood are talking about what they are looking for in the task they are eating one with custard?

Who scripts the annoying pointless voiceover parts?

At some point during the show (I believe when they are making Battenburg cake) there’s a voiceover from Noel Fielding where he says: “The sooner the sponges begin baking, the sooner they can be cooled.” I’m not joking. That’s what he says. Give him the BAFTA for stating the obvious now and cancel all the other categories.

He would have been better off singing a Mighty Boosh song (please at some point they have to make an eel pie. He’d be in his element then).

This song is a familiar memory from The Mighty Boosh
The Great British Bake Off
Here’s Rowan sifting some flour, just in case you didn’t believe me about the sifting shots (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
Not all of the promo shots involve sifting. Here’s Hermine just chilling out (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
Apparently the makers of Great British Bake Off had to hunt around to find flour as the show was filmed during lockdown. Here’s Peter with a jar of the good stuff (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
Something happened during the first episode which made Sura quite upset (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
It looks like Matt Lucas is succeeding in making Noel Fielding laugh just as much as Matt’s predecessor Sandi Toksvig did (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)

My main question for the handful of episodes I’ve seen over the years has always been about the showstopper task.

Why do they film Paul Hollywood announcing this as if it is coming as a big surprise to them?

Occasionally you’ll even get a few pieces to camera where the contestants are taken outside the tent and have to talk about how tricky it is and how unprepared they are. Then other contestants inside the tent will talk about how they have practiced it at home a million times.

If they all practice it at home then why do we have to endure the fake surprise when the task is announced?

My other complaint about Great British Bake Off is the way they film it to make it look like baking is really difficult.

Yes, it’s difficult to be brilliant at but what these past few months have taught mostly everyone (if Instagram is to be believed – and you should never believe anything you see on Instagram unless you chanced upon Fiskal Policy through Instagram) is that it’s okay to try to bake.

It doesn’t matter if the bottom is a bit soggy or the cake didn’t rise like morning glory, as long as you enjoyed making it and liked eating it then that’s okay.

You’ll get better – baking really is something where it’s the taking part that counts (but probably read the recipe more carefully next time yeah)

The Great British Bake Off
Mak created a pistachio-based marzipan for his battenburg cake (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
Laura gets to grips with the task of greasing her tins to make 12 individual upside down pineapple cakes (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
It’s almost as if Mark has been caught off-guard and been told to smile when he wasn’t aware a camera was there, but still manages to look super happy (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
Lottie is a pantomime producer from West Sussex. ‘Oh no she isn’t, oh yes she is!’ (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)

It’s the same with Masterchef and other similar shows where they say “fish is difficult to get right” and we now have people who go out to the pub on a Sunday to have a roast dinner because they don’t realise it’s simple to make at home.

Adapting the words of my ex-stalker slightly (from the night I told her I wouldn’t go out with her): Can’t you at least try?

Watch Bake Off and be inspired by their creations and then try and find some flour before the stockpiling makes it impossible (the people who bought six months supply of toilet paper back in March have seemingly run out again leading to bare shelves so it’s surely only a matter of time before flour and eggs suffer the same fate) then enjoy it.

Enjoy yourself more than I enjoyed the first episode but I’ll persevere if you promise to bake something and persevere even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected.

In that way Bake Off is a lot like life and that’s where its appeal truly lies.

The Great British Bake Off
Do they really like it, do they really like it? Are they lovin’ it, lovin’ it, lovin’ it? Are they lovin’ it like this? (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
Prue Leith looks concerned about what Paul Hollywood has just put in his mouth (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
The Great British Bake Off
Posing with cupcakes, as if to suggest in a future episode the contestant may be asked to make 12 cupcakes of equal size and shape (Picture by Mark Bourdillon and courtesy of Channel 4)
Do you think all the contestants sit and drink Pennyroyal tea?

Everything has changed over the past few months and, just as people have had to adapt to the world in which we are living, so has Bake Off.

Instead of being able to go home and see their loved ones and practice some of the tasks, then practice their fake surprise face for when the task is announced on camera, this time they are all staying in the same hotel separated from the rest of the world in a kind of Covid-19 bubble.

It’s a bit like The Apprentice but without over confident people in suits shouting at mobile phones.

If anyone from Channel 4 has read this far – I’d definitely watch a Big Brother style spin-off show where we get to see what they get up to when they aren’t beating eggs and whipping cream.

We could discover who is flakier than puff pastry and who looks sweet but leaves a sour taste in the mouth. So many questions could be answered once and for all.

Until then, we’ll just have to imagine whether tempers flare up faster than it takes to heat an oven or whether when the cameras are off they sit nicely together sipping Pennyroyal tea.

Stay safe for another week!