Sunday, October 20, 2013


I know I watch a lot of TV. Well aware of some of my faults at least. Probably too much, but as I pay my TV licence, I feel that I should at least make the effort to be involved in something I've contributed to. It doesn't help that the weather is getting colder, the nights are drawing in, and it's becoming the time of year when all you want to do is snuggle in with a nice hot piece of pudding. It'salso currently hammering it down with rain. Thank goodness I was at home and watching the TV, and not out shopping (also saving my bank balance- double plus!) but my washing is still dry as I brought it in before the heavens opened. This is a particularly British trait, to be discussing the weather, but whilst I'm on the subject of Great British traditions such the weather, the Monarchy and the ability to believe that most things are solved with tea, I've got another one to talk about today, albeit a relatively new one.

I've been watching GBBO again- Great British Bake Off. For the uninitiated, its the best thing since sliced bread. Although I don't know what you do on a Tuesday night which is more entertaining! Actually, don't answer that. I'm not sure I want to know. GBBO is BBC2 prime time. In fact I don't know how it isn't BBC1 prime time. It's genius and for the following reasons:

1)Its primarily about cake. Who doesn't like cake? Foolish people only, clearly.

2)Its secondarily about bread. Who doesn't like bread? Lots of people don't eat bread, or can't eat bread, but I've not met one person who I can categorically say, that they don't like bread.

3)Its occasionally about pies/tarts/biscuits/ pastry (pick which ever floats your palette's boat most) and who doesn't like (delete as appropriate) pies/tarts/biscuits/ pastry?

See? We are winning and I'm only on reason number 3! The next reasons are less emphatic but by no means less important.

Mel and Sue's comedy genius, including their perfectly timed 'ready, steady, bake!'

Mary Berry's wonderful jacket wardrobe, which is now being raided from every Oxfam across the land, and being modelled by a couple of my more fashionista friends,

Innuendo bingo which includes repeated soggy bottoms, which never gets old, lovely bun jokes, and the best yet- Sue's slightly inappropriate nun-eating jokes (week 7)

The way Mel and Sue call it a love dungeon when Mary and Paul are sent out during the technical challenge

Showstoppers- button stacks, edible daleks (this series only) shedloads of chocolate, and biscuits by the clock tower/ waterfall and I'm not even mentioning the tarts, or petit fours yet.

Paul 'the fox' Hollywood. End of story.

The other reason is its very lovely. It's a very lovely programme. Its nice to know that not all TV scheduling is about ratings, or sex. It's not violent or aggressive or depicting some of the more negative aspects of the world we live in. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be educated about these things, but it's nice to get some respite, even if only for an hour on a Tuesday evening. It's full of normal people, wearing normal clothes, not leggy, toned plasticised versions of the 'perfect' idea of normal. They aren't even introduced in their normal-ness, and then given a make over. They just are real normal people, and its definitely part of the show's appeal.

I love the idea that these very normal people, enter into what is effectively an overblown village baking competition, and actually end up spending up to 10 weeks becoming a big-bake-making conveyor belt. From the looks of things, it's a bit like Strictly only without the professionals doing the choreography! Each week those that survive get the told what the next bake is, and then they spend all week practicing ready for the big showdown at the weekend, with yet more mixing. The technical challenge isn't something you can prepare for, but the showstoppers, and the signature bake, are definitely practice worthy. I wonder how fat the families and friends of the contestants get?

I also love the way it makes me think that I could do it too. In fact, I don't need to be particularly good, some days even twice crowned Star Bakers Ruby and Christine have days when their cakes stick to their tins. As a result, it has inspired a brief foray into baking. Its my own fault, its what happens when you save up several episodes to watch in one go. I got the scales out, raided the ingredients cupboard, and scoured the baking book to see what I could make with the ingredients I had. I ended up making lemon cupcakes and some honey and cinnamon muffins. Progress! We shout. Not really, I mutter. The lemon sponge was pretty good, but the icing took the biscuit. Hahahaha!

The honey and cinnamon muffins tasted alright, they were just a bit solid. They were also the reason I stopped foraying into baking. I discovered thatI'm really bad at following recipes, if I think I can save on the washing up. This particular recipe wanted me to use three different bowls! It wanted me to sieve in one bowl, and whisk in another, and mix in third!!! As I don't actually have three mixing bowls in the shared house, it was a bit of a non starter. However, I don't need three bowls, clearly I could manage in just one. So I did and my cakes were solid. Solid as a rock.

I should have listened. Why would anyone write a recipe and add some additional steps for no reason? Urgh. Part of the problem is, I have to do my own washing up, and I suspect there are a small army of minions who descend on the tent, particularly after Ruby's been working with tempering chocolate, and clear it all up, and do all the washing up. That or they just bulldoze the existing tent, and rebuild it each weekend. I just can't do that to this kitchen. I also can't afford a cleaner to wash up around me. Or a Kenwood ChefMixer .sigh

Anyway, that was after episode 4. Its now week 9 and the final is on Tuesday.I haven't baked since, I've just continued to watch and observe, oh and chuckle to myself over Mel and Sue being naughty in French. Half the time they don't even have to try. The puns and innuendo are right there just waiting. Even in this week's episode they shut a girl in the fridge. Not a real person obviously, but a Charlotte Royale, who needs a good few hours to cool down. Its terribly amusing.

The innuendo is becoming a problem. Apparently it is becoming the only reason that it's a good show. The landlord's newspaper of choice had a significant spread dedicated to its failure to be a good TV show, and how it relied almost entirely on its innuendo for any entertainment value. Wrong. Evidence provided above, your lordships. The writer is clearly one of those people who doesn't appreciate a good sponge cake, and doesn't know what they are missing out on!

Admittedly, I probably paid more attention to the baking as a result. I can tell you the correct way to prove banna brith, Well, correct to Paul Hollywood's standards, I thought Becca's looked pretty good to me.

She however, is not going to be in the final. Sad times, I thought she was pretty good. I also really liked Christine. I find Ruby entirely annoying, but having read some newspaper articles, about how bitchy people can be about Ruby only progressing because she's attractive, I'm warming to her. I would probably be as depreciative about my own cooking as she is. I still don't want her to win, but she's not that bad, and she does pull some amazing faces during Paul and Mary's judgements. Also, I don't think its fair, that everyone seems to be convinced that she and Paul Hollywood are having an affair. I don't think so, its not the most flirty opportunity, with Mary Berry's watchful eye on the proceedings. Plus she might be pretty, but she's normal. Like the rest of us, which means that he's as likely to have an affair with Ruby as he is with you or I. Not that I think I'd be complaining, well unless Thor turns up, then Paul is out on his ear.

Sorry, drifted off thinking about Chris Hemsworth and his hammeranyway, I've deliberately finished and posted this before the final. I wouldn't want to spoil things anymore than I like to get off my soap box about things.

Ultimately GBBO is a few happy people in a tent in Somerset (series 4, Series 1 was near my old stomping ground in Sandwich, Kent!) seeing who can make the best buns. I for one, shall be very excited for the series finale this week. I don't even care who wins this year. In this lifetime of everyone being on Atkins, the 5:2, or going carb free, and desperately being terribly worried about being fit, it's nice to get a bit of temperance. As long as its Series 5 move to BBC 1 doesn't change it's format. BBC1 directors, its more than fine as it is. It's a worry to us cult fans, that you will change it. Well that and that Mel, Sue and the cleaning team won't be back next series, due to massive heart attacks caused by their ever expanding waistlines from eating up all the leftovers. Wouldn't be a show without them.
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