The Great British Bake Off: Baked to perfection

Picture: BBC
Picture: BBC

We all have our guilty pleasures in life, whether it is a certain food, cheesy pop song or in my case a ridiculously middle class TV show about baking.

Now I have no interest in baking, in fact believe it or not I don’t like cream, butter or many things dairy so I don’t particularly like a number of baked goods.

However, throw in Mel & Sue as hosts, a plethora of baking puns, a judging duo made up of a brightly dressed OAP and a burly silver Scouser and suddenly you are left with TV gold. 

Of course I am talking about the Great British Bake Off. The BBC 2 programme is deep into its fourth series, and I am unashamedly enjoying it more than ever.

A year ago when my girlfriend told me about the programme, I laughed in her face and rubbished the idea of watching such ridiculous middle class mush.

However, I am a gentleman so I was obligated to give it go and now I find myself planning my Tuesday night round the Bake Off (or GBBO).

This series I have taken it to new heights, by using the Guardian’s online live blog to accompany my viewing (I disgust myself).

So what makes this programme so appealing to me and many others across the UK?

Mel & Sue

Picture: The Guardian
Picture: The Guardian

The Great British Bake Off and presenters Mel & Sue symbolise a perfect marriage.

The presenters make the show significantly more enjoyable and light-hearted while the programme acts as an outlet for their awful (but brilliant) puns, innuendos and mischievousness.

Let me give you a taster of what I am talking about:

 Mel: ‘Welcome to this week’s marquee of action, which will be crowned full of whipping, caramelising, chaffing, tempering and…what’s the other thing?’

Sue: ‘Sorry you lost me at whipping…It’s the Great British Bake Off.’

That is just a sample of the back and forth that opens the show each week. I also love the puns used by both throughout each episode:

Sue: ‘Paul and Mary would like you to make your favourite trifle.’

Mel: ‘It’s all about the layers today bakers; we’re talking sponge, biscuit, fruit, custard whatever you want. But, Mary and Paul would like defined layers; they’re not trifling with you.’

In this series there was also a hilarious instance where poor Howard (who has since been eliminated) had his freshly baked dough squished, as an unsuspecting Sue leant on it with her elbow.

However, you can tell the contestants love the presenters, even if Mel tells them to ‘get a ruddy, grip. get a ruddy, grip’ or Sue proclaims they have only have minutes left to ‘glaze their sweet buns.’

Without the pairing the whole tone and atmosphere of the show would be different and I am unsure whether I would tune in every week if that was the case.

Britishness

Picture: BBC
Picture: BBC

There are a lot of concerns in the world at present.

The global economy is still in dire straits, the Syria crisis is worsening, the US Government is currently in shutdown and extreme poverty continues in many undeveloped nations.

But whilst in the GBBO tent in Somerset, these things diminish to make way for the real problems in life; is it a good bake? Have they ‘proved’ their dough enough? Has the custard and ganache had adequate time to cool? Oh no, their pastry doesn’t have a soggy bottom does it?

It is this ridiculousness and quintessential Britishness that I love; seeing grown men and women cry about their cake being bland or their bottom being soggy (of course I mean the bottom of their pastry).

Ridiculousness

Not only that, but I personally feel the show is chuck full of moments of schadenfreude.

Nothing is more amusing or makes you feel better than seeing another person fail at something they are good at.

Whether that be Howard’s concerns that his Stilton rings look like onion rings, Ruby smashing her mixing bowl, Deborah stealing Howard’s custard (poor Howard) or Toby using salt instead of sugar in Week 1.

All make for extremely pleasurable viewing.

Also, in what other television or cookery show would you see people make a Paul the psychic octopus tribute loaf, or a Dalek biscuit cake?

We also saw Howard make a date and hemp cake, yes hemp as commonly found in cannabis, which Mary Berry described as ‘pungent’ and ‘different.’

For me cannabis cakes and Dr Who biscuits are more entertaining than top class Michelin Star food.

History Lessons

Finally, my inner geek thoroughly loves the mini food history lessons that each portion of GBBO provides.

Throughout the series we have had the history behind foods such as Tottenham Cake, the National Loaf, suet pastry and trifle.

A lot of research has been done to find impressive contributors and historians who shed light on the backgrounds of foods and the important part that they played during that period of British history.

These features are gratifying as they genuinely give you a small look into Britain’s past and traditions.

BBC Worldwide recently announced that it has licensed the format of the show to 13 countries around the world.

Although I just can’t envisage the Bake Off having the same charm in the likes of France, Austria, the Netherlands or Poland, solely for the reasons I have highlighted in this post.

I can’t imagine the words ‘On your mark, get set…BAKE!’ being shouted by anyone apart from two British women with middle class English accents.

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