The Great British Baking Show
Our Sweet Addiction
Some people like to do it. Some people like to watch. Count Handsome Hubby and me in the second category. We’re watchers. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about something kinky. Well, maybe it’s a little kinky, but we’re not alone. We’re just two of the millions of fans of The Great British Baking Show.
It’s one of Britain’s most popular programs; nearly 11 million people watched the first episode of the new season this Fall. And now, airing on Netflix, the show is taking a pandemic sheltering-in-place America by storm.
Yes, like millions of viewers, young and old, HH and I are addicted to the GBBS. Why?
HH and I are not bakers. Even after watching the most delectable of confections created, we’re not inspired in the least to dip our hands in flour and yeast, although admittedly we are seriously tempted to raid the nearest bakery and gobble every bread, bun, and pastry in sight!
The Great British Baking Show Rules
Why have we gone “barmy” over a baking show, sitting at the edge of our seats with a passion normally reserved for our beloved Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry?
Side note: In truth, we’re not true sports fans. Just Warriors-Curry fans. It’s just another inexplicable fact of late-life us.
Again, it’s not that we’re inspired to bake. We’re the least culinary twosome you’ll ever meet. Yet, we sit there show after show, cheering on the contestants as they “proof” their dough (leave it to rise), bake their “sponges” (cakes), and apply their mirror glazes, hoping along with them that those glazes will shine like the brightest stars in the galaxy.
How did this happen? Half the time we cannot understand what the bakers are saying! I mean, why don’t they speak right proper English! Oh, they are! Sorry!
But the “English” they speak is quite foreign to the American ear. The contestants come from all over Great Britain. Their accents run from Cockney to Cornish to Welsh to a host of other regional varieties. It is a confounding delight!
And the words they use! Well, they’re just the best. A delight to the ear or as some long-ago Borscht Belt comedian declared, “They have a word for everything.”
A Great British Baking Show Vocab Primer
If judge Prue Leith declares a dessert “stodgy,” she’s saying it’s unpleasantly heavy. In response, a crushed baker is likely to reply, s/he’s feeling “gutted.”
On the other hand, if judge Paul Hollywood says a dessert is “scrummy,” a baker is thrilled to know his/her concoction is delicious.
“Sponges” are cakes; “biscuits” are cookies; “scones” are biscuits (but they are pronounced “skonns); “sultanas” are raisins; “cling film” is plastic wrap; “custard” is pudding; “proving” is proofing; and “plaiting” is braiding (but it is pronounced “PLATT-ing).
And in life under “The Tent” — where each episode’s three baking challenges take place — the bakers dream of getting that rare handshake of approval from hyper-critical judge Hollywood, being designated as that week’s “Star Baker,” and most important of all, not being eliminated and making it to the next round of competition.
The Show is Positively Un-American!
It is the most un-American competition you’ve ever seen. Bakers aren’t cut-throat! There’s no snark or backstabbing.
Witness a tray of cookies, I mean biscuits start to slide off a tray and three bakers rush to the rescue! See a gingerbread structure collapse and the room erupts in gasps. Sympathetic, icing-smeared pats on the back are sure to follow.
There’s no annoying product placement. No ever-increasing, astronomical obscene amounts of money prize. The winner “simply” gets the pride of accomplishment of knowing s/he’s the best amateur baker in England and oh, yes, also, an engraved cake stand.
There’s no talk of politics. Oh, correction! Once there was a Boris Johnson skit. Mostly though it’s non-stop silly puns and jokes about “flabby buns” and “soggy bottoms” (of the pastry kind, if you please)!
Oh, there’s a fashion angle, too. Eighty-year-old judge Prue is a fashionista. She wears bright lipstick colors, equally bright eyeglass frames and clothes, and bold Calderesque necklaces that I hunger for as much as I do for the desserts that the bakers whip up!
And About Those Desserts
Oh, those desserts. While the bakers obsess over under-proofing dough and overcooking their confections, HH and I simply lust for the “bakes” produced during Cake Week, Biscuit Week, Bread Week, Chocolate Week, Pastry Week, and Patisserie Week.
Creations like crème et apricot baba au rhum, honey tequila mango, and passion fruit savarins, chocolate-tiered celebration cakes, Danish cornucopias, chocolate Florentines, Sussex pond puddings, domed tartlets, gâteaux St-Honoré, and jelly art cakes.
What Keeps Us Tuning in
But in the end, what’s so addictive about the program are the bakers themselves. They’re not professional bakers. They’re stay-at-home moms and dads, engineers, teachers, architects, and tradesmen. They don’t harbor designs to become professional bakers or break-out social media stars.
They come with one simple goal: to achieve greatness by baking the tastiest, most creative cakes, cookies, and breads imaginable and to be recognized for doing so as the winner of a venerated TV competition.
Each weekly episode leading up to the finale ends with the designated “Star Baker” calling home to share the happy news with loved ones. There are tears, screaming, and pride. I confess — sometimes I tear up too. It is lovely. Pure joy. No pretense. No affectation.
Pre-pandemic or even thinking back to my youth, I didn’t need — or appreciate — such simple pleasures. Now I crave them — even more than cake and cookies.
And that’s why Handsome Hubby and I love The Great British Baking Show.
So, if you want to get our hearts racing these days, all you need do is utter the six magic words,
“On your mark. Get set. Bake!”
💉 💉 💉
Well, that or “Your vaccination is scheduled. It won’t hurt a bit.”
EndNote: If you’re an ambitious sort, here’s the link to the recipes bakers had to make during past “Technical Challenges” on the GBBS. If you’re successful, post-pandemic, HH and I are available for dinner and dessert ANY TIME! Yes, we’re that barmy, bonkers, and daft for scrummy desserts!
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