Great British Bake Off – episode 1 review

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It’s back! Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue, and all those bakers … battling out in the first week of challenges, in their marquee, possibly surrounded by well-endowed squirrels …

If you have been on Twitter today then you’ll see that the Bake Off is trending at the moment: of course not everyone will be singing its praises, but it does seem to be a very popular show. That was also signified by its move to BBC1 from BBC2 this year (the baton was rather charmingly passed across through this Twitter exchange).

The first episode (viewed by 7 million of us according to early viewing figures) gave us the chance to see a smartened-up Paul (he didn’t wear a jacket last year, did he?); Mary being lovely; Mel and Sue doing their usual tag-team of bake-related jokes and innuendos; and the show’s oldest and youngest contestants. The combination was a pleasure to watch – as comforting as a cake straight from the oven … although where was the usual segment which explains the history of a particular dish? What did the BBC1 team do with that then? Apparently it’s back next week, in time for biscuits – phew.

Cakes were the topic of the show: the first challenge was to make a signature Swiss roll, and we had some interesting varieties from the contestants, including chocolate orange, aniseed, and tirumisu. Most of the bakers embellished their bakes with some pretty decorating: good for the challenge, albeit more effort than the average home baker would put in.

Then came the technical challenge: to make a deceptively simple cherry cake. One of the best things about these challenges is that the keen baker is able to pick up some great tips: did you know that to stop the cherries sinking, you should quarter them, wash them, and dredge them in flour? Now you do! Enthusiastic Jordan’s fruit apparently evaporated during the cooking process, earning him last place, but overall there weren’t any complete disasters from the bakers.

The final challenge of the baker’s first weekend was to make traditional British cakes in miniature – 36 of them, all identical! There was a particularly ingenious solution from Nancy to ensure her Victoria sponges were each equally halved: the use of a guillotine, made by her hubby. Other beautiful creations included miniature battenburg cakes and a few leaning towers which didn’t win top marks from Paul and Mary, and Claire was the first out of the marquee’s door for week 1, while the lovely Nancy won star baker.

Overall it was a great reintroduction to the world of the Bake Off, and it’s probably a safe assumption that the ‘Bake Off Effect’ will mean that glace cherries are hard to find on supermarket shelves this weekend. If you want to try and make Mary Berry’s cherry cake yourself, the recipe is available from the BBC Food website.

And if you can’t wait for next week’s episode, then watch the spin-off show Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice, on BBC2 on Friday night.

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