I have to admit I became hooked on the PBS show, The Great British Baking Show. From the first show I watched last year (digressing here: it may have been aired in previous years, but if so, I never saw it), I couldn’t wait to see what gastronomic delights the contestants would create each week. This year’s season was no different, and I was equally enthralled, equally hooked.
Although I took several years of home economics classes, which were taught by Mrs. Busch, and learned a thing or two about baking, I never learned anything like the “bakes” created by these contestants. Create is the operative word, too, as some of these baked goods are truly works of art. Based on various kinds of specialty pastries, they were often made of innovative combinations of ingredients and then presented in artistic, distinctive designs.
All were made by the amateur bakers from all over the United Kingdom. From teens to engineers to stay-at-home moms, and everyone in between, there was a mixture of men and women who were involved in the competition. I could always imagine Red Room’s Mary W, who blogged about her cooking and baking exploits for her family and friends, as one of the contestants.
The format was divided each week into three parts: the signature bake, the technical challenge, and the showstopper of the particular pastries that the bakers had to prepare. The signature bake, which fit into the prescribed category of pastry, was the choice of each contestant; the technical challenge was a recipe from one of the two judges, Mary and Paul, in which minimal directions were given; and the showstopper challenge was a presentation piece that fit within the parameters set by the judges. All these challenges were timed, which required efficient time management by each contestant.
Despite this being a reality show with a contestant leaving every week, the contestants were always willing to help each other and were supportive as well. They celebrated each others’ triumphs, particularly the person who was being named the week’s Star Baker, and commiserated over less successful products. They were humble when praised, simply saying “thank you” to the judges, and accepting if criticized even as it was obvious they were sometimes internally devastated by the remarks of the judges.
Now, I have seen advertisements that the show is coming to the United States; it will be a short four-week season with one of the judges, Mary Berry, from the original show. I am looking forward to seeing it. I just hope that the contestants are as civilized, polite, humble, and innovative as the British contestants.