The Great British Bake-Off (Series 7 BBC1 2016) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review

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Series 7!  Doesn’t time fly.  I’ve watched every single episode.  It began back in 2010 tucked away on BBC2, where it felt like as long as you could turn out a Victoria Sandwich you were laughing.  Six series on and after a veritable mountain of croquembouche, pork pies, those things that resembled nuns that were so hard to make and those floating island thingies- all “bakes” that remain firmly in the memory, it’s back.

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In fact it was back last week- we are already one episode in.  If you missed that you would have missed them making Jaffa Cakes which would not be on the top of too many baking lists I would imagine- fiddly to make, dead easy to buy.  (By the way, I’m concerned now that my Jaffa Cake anecdote may just be an urban myth.  I’ve always been led to  believe that the jelly in a jaffa cake was actually apricot and it is that which gives it the deliciously tangy citrus taste rather than orange, which when combined with chocolate, as far as I am concerned transforms into the food of the devil.  (A Terry’s Chocolate Orange – not if my life depended on it!)  Yet, in the series opener they were making orange jelly, but then, mind you, some of them were making their Jaffa Cakes upside down!

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The Bake-Off Team

Onto episode 2- Biscuit week and Sue Perkins was unavoidably absent leaving Mel in the tent with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.  Sue was in the mid-way educational bit, looking at the history of biscuit dunking, a very important aspect of British history.  I like the bits in the middle, there wasn’t one last week and I thought they might have been abandoned, that after 7 series there wasn’t a biscuit or cake left that we do not know the history of so I was relived to see Sue and food expert Anastasia Edwards wiggling langues du chat into wine and digestives into tea.

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In case you’ve been living in a tent for the last 6 years there are three challenges taking place each week in the bake-off marquee.  A signature dish upon a theme, a blind baked technical challenge and the ostentatious showstopper round which shows what the amateur bakers can really do and to sort out those who play it too safe from those whose confidence leads to recklessness.  Paul and Mary are there to award “Star Baker” and weed out the contestants one at a time and Mel and Sue do the double entendres (to the consternation of the Daily Mail who take a very dim view of discussing cream horns on a family show!)

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cream horns – ooh er missus!

This week, being biscuit week there were 24 identical iced biscuits to make, a technical challenge of Viennese Whirls and some autobiographical gingerbread work.  This showstopper provided us with the most thrills of the series so far.  Despite Paul Hollywood saying that Xmas gingerbread if made properly, should still be standing in February we saw much snapping of walls, statues, turrets and a glorious moment of complete collapse.  Herein lies the hypocritical joy of “Bake Off”.  We get to know and to really like the contestants and will them on to perform patisserie wonders but we enjoy it if something goes wrong.  (Who can forget the melted Baked Alaska ending up in the bin incident in Series 5?) So as the gingerbread started to fall we ooh’d and ah’d with delight but couldn’t help but feel sorry for those whose cookies crumbled.

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Two weeks in.  Have you spotted the winner yet?  It’s usually the middle of the pack participant who starts to shine only after the early favourites have had some culinary cropper or overstretched themselves with fondant icing.  Whatever happens, it is great to have it back as a mid-week treat although my waist-line is not so happy.  As we all know, baked goods are an essential accompaniment to watching the programme to try and watch it without is just too difficult.  There’s added pleasure in watching them plough through the recipe for a Swedish Prinsesstarta Cake whilst chomping on a shop-bought Garibaldi.

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The Great British Bake Off is shown on BBC 1 on Wednesdays at 8pm.  Catch-up episodes should be available on the BBC I Player.