Olivia Tracey rounds up the highs and lows of this years Great British Bake Off. At 8 o’clock Wednesday night, my mug of tea was made, my TV set to BBC One and the biscuits (bought, not made, I’m sorry to say) were in their tin next to me because the Bake Off final was […]
Olivia Tracey rounds up the highs and lows of this years Great British Bake Off.
At 8 o’clock Wednesday night, my mug of tea was made, my TV set to BBC One and the biscuits (bought, not made, I’m sorry to say) were in their tin next to me because the Bake Off final was starting. Me and 13 million others, the biggest television audience for any programme this year excluding the World Cup according to Radio Times Online, tuned in to see Nancy crowned the winner at the end of the show. The sheer size of the viewership demonstrates that the show itself has become a winner of a format and while I worried that its move to BBC One would destroy its quirkiness it has positively flourished in this primetime slot.
It is also worth noting that the now notorious ‘Bingate’ incident that provoked a huge amount of controversy and outraged Twitter users to take to the internet to say ‘#BringBackIan’ was never dwelled upon by the programme – any other ‘reality’ show would have shown tears and resentment with the contestant saying how their “journey” had been ruined where Bake Off simple treated it as an unfortunate result of baking-related stress and moved on. Much like the custard-stealing accident of last series, it was treated with that peculiarly British good humour on the show (I was particularly amused to see on Bake Off’s sister show An Extra Slice Iain and Diana turning away from each other in mock disgust) and rather than turning it into a Baked Alaska soap opera, we were allowed to laugh about it instead.
The final itself was as gripping as the best thrillers, with Richard as the record-breaking winner of five-star baker prizes as the favourite to win but suffering in the Viennoiserie Signature Challenge and making tartes aux citrons that were, according to Mary Berry, like “sweet scrambled eggs”. Nancy and Luis faired better on the first challenge and Mary’s fiendish technical challenge with Luis impressing the judges with his apple and walnut chaussons while his pains aux “white chocolate” “didn’t go” for Mary and Nancy’s raspberry croissants and apple kites receiving middling comments. Both did better than Richard in Mary’s fiendish technical (she and Paul smiled evilly in their tent while the bakers stressed over a dozen each of scones, mini Victoria sponges and tartes aux citrons) and I thought Nancy’s tartes wouldn’t have looked out-of-place on a fine display in a French patisserie.
As they moved into the second day Richard – still with the inevitable pencil behind his ear – appeared to have lost his chance to win the prize and it was looking increasingly like a two-horse race between graphic designer Luis and family baker Nancy. Their final showstopper challenge, a spectacular pièce montée cake finished with all kinds of yummy ornaments (I suspect the cameramen are never hungry on the show) and meant to convey something that “means something” to the bakers was clearly no easy task and the terrifying stares of Paul and Mary were giving the Bake Off tent the kind of tension usually reserved for that pause before they announce the winner of The X Factor. Nancy and Richard both chose windmills as the centerpiece for their cakes, with Richard’s ‘Mill on the Hill’ representing his village symbol and Nancy deciding to create “a sort of sinister” burlesque Moulin Rouge. Luis, going against the new windmill fashion, was going to make his ‘Village in Chocolate’ evoking its mining heritage with a chocolate biscuit mining wheel and a choux pastry rope. With so much tension in the room and such intricate bakes it’s no wonder Luis looked up at ask the other two contestants whether “anyone else was in a silent panic”: it clearly wasn’t just him.
As Mel and Sue scoffed off-cuts kindly donated by Richard (they have they best job) the showstopper was coming to a close and it wasn’t long before Paul and Mary were shown the bakers’ masterpieces in cake. All three looked incredible, despite the fact that Richard’s bright colours did not amuse Paul, and while Luis experienced some problems with flavour, overall it would have been extremely difficult to rank the bakes first to last.
To finish the programme, we came to that all-important decision. Paul and Mary, for once, were in total agreement on who deserved the prize. When Nancy was announced as winner, it demonstrates the sheer power of the programme that I was left in happy tears, having to remind myself that’s it’s a TV show about cake. Nancy appeared overwhelmed by her achievement and the other bakers were clearly proud of how far they’d made it through the competition.
Ultimately, what have we learnt from The Great British Bake Off 2014? Firstly, the importance of not throwing your Baked Alaska in the bin. Secondly, beware of Paul Hollywood if he ever says “that’s very brave” before you start to bake and beware of Mary Berry if you ever even consider putting lavender in your meringue. Finally, and most importantly, we learnt that while its critics deride it for being ‘just a show about baking’ Bake Off can now take its place as a stalwart of successful BBC programming. Here’s to another five series.