So, I used to be one of those people who, when someone recommended a British TV show (e.g., Downton Abbey, Sherlock, The Crown, etc.), would almost apologetically respond, “Ya, so I’m just not that into British stuff.”
It was my get-out-of-jail-free card when I really just had no desire to watch John Lithgow play Winston Churchill.
Enter The Great British Baking Show. Or, as actual British people know it, The Great British Bake-Off.
The GBBS is Britain’s VERY famous annual baking competition to find the best amateur baker in all of Britain. I started watching this a few weeks ago after the Texas season of Top Chef left the most disgusting taste in my mouth and it was like LIGHT CLOUDS OF SOFT MERINGUE.
If you’re accustomed to American competition reality shows (whether of the food variety or not), the GBBS is a most refreshing change of pace. It’s light! It’s fun! It’s cheery! All the contestants are SO honored and pleased to be there and grow to be great friends and also just happen to be AMAZING bakers and there is no actual prize money, just the title and the experience a glass cake stand????
Each week is themed (e.g., “cake week,” “biscuits week,” “bread week” [<< universally feared], “patisserie week,” etc.) and has a signature challenge (shorter bake where you can put your spin on a classic), technical challenge (complete surprise where they have no idea what they’re baking and a very basic recipe), and SHOWSTOPPER CHALLENGE (what it sounds like; they do crazy shit here). The challenges get harder and harder both as the season progresses and also as the series does. Like one week they tell the bakers to just “make a shortbread cookie” and a few weeks later they’re like “make a mirror cake with at least 3 tiers and 2 different flavors and 4 different types of sugar work in FOUR HOURS.” WTF???
The stuff these AMATEUR bakers come up with is incredible. The first time they told them to make baklava and I saw them all start to make phyllo pastry FROM SCRATCH I thought I was having a moment. But then they made them do it like three other times in separate seasons!! These people ARE. NOT. JOKING.
The hosts for much of the series were Mel and Sue, a wonderful comedy duo who make ALL the baking puns. They are delightful and when the going gets rough (as it sometimes does; not everything is sunshine–literally, it rains constantly in the UK in the summertime–out in Welford Park or Harptree Court or Scone Palace and OMG don’t you just love the names of British places??), they always calmly remind the baker, “Hey, it’s just [insert baking term here; e.g., cake, bread, pavlova, sugar sculpture, babka, rough puff, etc.].”
The judges are Mary Berry (yes, her real name!) and Paul Hollywood (yes, also his real name!). Paul is like…. enh, whatever, he’s kind of a jerk and every time he pokes someone’s bread I just want to punch him. Mary Berry is a flawless queen.
ANYWAY I love them all (even Paul, begrudgingly) and was quite disappointed to learn that when the show moved from BBC to Channel Four a few years ago, Mary and Mel and Sue left. But you know what? I ENDED UP LOVING THEIR REPLACEMENTS. That’s how amazing this show is. Prue, who replaced Mary, is ALSO A QUEEN.
(I honestly can’t remember the names of the replacement hosts…. I think Sandy and Noel? Anyway they are cool and make baking puns so it’s all good.)
Ok ok I need to wrap this up but please?? Watch this? It is honestly so lovely and beautiful and to see these people bake these incredible cakes and cookies and breads and all manner of things just because… they love it, because they love the challenge and the reward and the doing it? It’s honestly inspiring and it warms my heart.
P.S. I’m thinking of watching The Crown because maybe I’m not “not that into British stuff.”
P.P.S. DEETS ON WATCHING: FIVE of the most recent series are on Netflix in the US. I think you can buy earlier seasons on Amazon.
P.P.P.S. GIFS FOR YOU:
We love Mel and Sue.
Paul really is evil.
TINY BEAN ANDREW I LOVED HIM
Prue can really WORK a pair of glasses and always rocks a statement necklace. We love her, too!
Loved Candice from the second she said she wanted Mary to be her nan. Also respect a woman who wears heels, a dress, and a strong lip color to bake.
We do not like Ruby but she had good facial expressions and her overwhelmed-ness was very relatable.
GO WATCH, PLS.