Undercooked And Barely Acquainted – It’s Bye-Bye To ‘Bake-Off’

Turn off the ovens, pack away the utensils and dismantle the marquee. The final series of “The Great British Bake Off” is coming to an end. Truth be told, I had persuaded myself that GBBO just wasn’t for me. Having never even watched a single episode, I was convinced that it was, frankly, just a fancy show for fancy people.

abouttopOh Mary Berry, quite contrary, I am sorry for slagging your show.

It’s better late than never and this series has taken me by the arm and shown me the oven. The similarity of its format to the classic Channel 4 series “Scrapheap Challenge” was the hook – timed tasks, vague instructions and a pair of irreverent presenters, all ensuring tension, excitement and laughs for those at home.

After several fervent weeks of watching I have now concluded that Paul Hollywood may have many microphones living within his mouth. Teeth made of steel. How else can you account for the mighty munch, the terrifying crunch, each time he takes a bite from an overdone jam tartlet?

The next time you’re watching “Bake Off” (on catch-up, I fear) close your eyes and listen to him speak. This Bread Visionary purrs with a sugary richness to his vowels… unless he has his mouth full.

“Mmmm, it’s ver’ goo’!” Manners, Paul.

about-series-sevenIndeed, when he carefully explained to Candice that “It’s a nice look when you paint the inside of your bag and pipe it” I spat out my praline treat with disgust and could take no more.

A hint of Berry may be the more suitable option to cure the mid-week blues on any occasion. Again, the first thing that hooked me on Bez was her voice. It’s elegant, eloquent and suitably poppy. Please God, let her go on for a long time yet.

Growing up as a giddy nine-year old, I was reared on a daily dose of “Light Lunch” with Mel and Sue during the summer holidays. Having flown Sue’s flag for years, I have slowly moved on and developed a crush on Mel, the blonde one. (Let’s not go all Ant and Dec on this, please). She has a way of gliding around the kitchen as a keeper of secrets, giver of advice and whisperer of soothing commiserations that certainly turns on the light in my oven.

There’ve been loads of memorable moments that have tickled the taste-buds. We remember with anxiety Biscuit Week’s showstopper that proved a proof too far for poor Louise. Who knew that a collapsed gingerbread house could cause such heart-break? Or, lest we forget Selasi’s flowerful piping skills in Botanical Week.

I will also continue to hold a torch for Val, the old dear, as she touched my heart. Unfortunately her handling of her pastry wasn’t as gentle and she left us in a sea of smiles and good will.

about-mary-and-paul-judgesFor me, though, it’s all about atmosphere. Those rare, wonderful episodes where outside the heavens have opened and the viewer is treated to a few, fleeting seconds of the delicate tip-top, pitter-patter of rain falling on the tightly stretched canvas of the tent.

The Bakers go about their business, safe and content in their warm cocoon. It’s a sound evocative of so many rainy Saturdays, when the television was turned off and there was only a foggy pane of glass between you and miles of drizzled, wild wilderness.

Looking ahead to the finalists, we must remember that Paul is not the only Holywood in town. Step forward Co. Down’s blushing Andrew Smyth – a man that’s proven he can grab hold of a whisk and whip it into a frenzy. He has worn his heart on his sleeve from the start and always wears an earnest, anxious expression that would make your granny cry.

Personally, all of his melodrama has been a tad irritating. Is it wrong for me to say that? Still, his victorious mousse collection in Dessert Week finally got the elusive Star Baker monkey off his back.

Candice’s varying shades of lipstick each week certainly catch the eye, but it’s what she does with her hands that excites me the most. Gingerbread Pubs, Four Seasons Cakes and Marzipan Peacocks offer proof that she’s a baking visionary that has got to grips with the technical and creative aspects of most tasks superbly.

about-mary-and-paul-old-1Eyes focused, lips pursed, face delicately concentrated. The consensus when it comes to Candice? Good bake!

Jane Beedle is a mysterious proposition and I imagine her youth to have been wild and misspent, as this converse-toting and Harry Nilsson-loving culinary queen has smiled through gritted teeth all the way to the final. She’s been as consistent as a well-baked brioche throughout this series. Jane deserves her place in the final and could well win it.

We can all relate to or at least understand the goings on within the tent. Although it’s doubtful my culinary skills have improved much. Still, I do make a mean rice crispy bun. I can damned well demolish a Pavlova from Quinn’s Corner on the Ballygawley line. And I’ll suck a cup of tea up through the inside of a Timeout bar like nobody else.

The presentation of each contestant’s creations rightly serves as the highlight of each episode – this is a cookery programme after all – but the show is about much more than shallow aesthetic.

paul_n-555x370GBBO has had a cohesive and cleansing effect on a nation of couch potatoes. It’s represented an escape and a relieving alternative to news or, to be blunt, from the other shite that has polluted our systems for far too long.

To stare absently at that sugary chocolate mix as it dangles cunningly from Selasi’s spatula has been cathartic. Reality TV has long felt indulgent and ‘bad’ for you. Yet when it’s ‘Bake Off’ that’s doing it, it kind of feels okay – like something safe, something that’s allowed and something altogether lovely, warm and fuzzy.

But we’re done here. That’s the end of soggy bottoms, saucy puns and sure-fire diabetes. Now I’ll be chewing my own bake off, out on my arse and at a loose end.

Like a good snap on a shortbread biscuit, the show’s end has been abrupt. The news that GBBO is making its way to Channel 4 is still as raw as a poorly baked loaf, and a lot of people are struggling to readjust to the idea of life without Mary, Mel and Sue.

We will remember them.

Yet, a single Hollywood light still shines, taking us off on a new journey of doughy delight. For me, it’s better to have baked and lost, than never to have…well, you know how it goes. I may have been late to this party, but at least I managed to bag a few hors d’oeuvres before the table was cleared.

Thank God for Catch-Up T.V.

The final of “The Great British Bake Off” airs on Wednesday October 26th at 8pm, BBC One