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The Great British Bake Off

Tue Aug 20, 8-9pm, BBC2

Series four, episode one
Another autumn, another crop of bakers. In fact, a baker’s dozen, as there are 13 contestants this time round, meaning at any point judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood can eliminate two of them in one week. Gulp. They’re the usual mix of characters trying to ensure their bottoms aren’t soggy, their heads don’t fall off and they don’t fall apart under pressure.

Space satellite designer Rob is precise, carpenter Mark has artistic leanings, Ali brings his Pakistani culture to bear with some gorgeous ingredients, young student Ruby is taking a short walk down memory lane… As the weeks pass, we’ll doubtless come to root for all of them and their different approaches, which is a real joy of this show: no baddies, no meanies, no obnoxious behaviour, and as they begin to crack and their cakes begin to crumble, our hearts go out to them in a warm, fuzzy way that’s exactly what you want to feel as the winter nights draw in.

And yes, the social-history segments still jar when they start but engage as they progress, while Mel and Sue are still as witty and charming as ever. Phew. All’s well that starts well.


Fiona Hewlett
Fiona Hewlett

I remember the feeling when I first out-baked someone. It was dear Granny H, it was Parkin, and it was some 30 years ago, but I still remember, clear as day, that sense of joy from knowing I'd created something she couldn’t better. That feeling must be something akin to what the contestants on BBC2's Great British Bake-Off experience whenever Queen Mary Berry gives them a little smile and a "that'll do pig" Farmer Hoggett style morsel of praise. Thankfully, we are already getting shovel-loads of Mary Moments from this show, along with grated thumbs, salted sponges and more drama than Eastenders. We don't care for back stories, we don't really need Mel & Sue, and even Mr Hollywood, with all his twinkly-eyed screen presence and years of baking experience, must know he's a mere court jester in Queen Mary's presence. Bring it bakers, or it’s off with your heads….

Claire Stroud
Claire Stroud

Well, who knew a cookery competition could be so gritty? Cake Week was supposed to be a gentle introduction for the contestants but forget Nigella-style saucy licking from the bowl, it was all blood, sweat and tears. Literally. Ew, hope none of it got into the mix. Poor Ruby ended up crying over spoilt milk, there were blue plasters all round as fingers were being sliced, diced and shredded, and red faces and beaded brows ensued from mishaps against the clock. Of the three rounds the ‘sandwich cake with a twist’ was very inventive, making an Angel Cake devilishly hard and the showstopper frankly exhausting to watch. At the elimination Toby’s mix-up between sugar and salt unsurprisingly sent him home but only after 4 hours of baking of ONE cake!! I’m looking forward to seeing how personalities develop and indulging in a bit of food porn. As for recipes, thanks but I think I’ll remain an M&S girl.