the Great British Baking Show

Paul Hollywood, anchor and chief judge of GBBO, with current co-judge Prue Leith, and two of the ephemeral hosts, Noel and Sandi. Plus, colors!

Seriously? Yes! I’m grateful for good TV shows, and GBBO is one of the best, at least for someone who loves creativity, food, and especially cake. I used to watch some of the popular dramas and crime dramas, and eschew reality competition shows. But as I began to question why I watched certain shows, in which tension, suspense, violence, and betrayal were the main plot drivers, I couldn’t find any good answer except ‘habit,’ and I let them go. It was healthy to get rid of DISH, and only stream a couple of services. On Netflix and Prime I can pick and preview, and make more informed and healthier choices for entertainment.

Why did I abbreviate it GBBO and not GBBS? I don’t know! Why is it called Great British Bake Off in Britain and GBB Show in the US? I can’t stop wondering! Whatever you call it, though, it’s a delightful and educational program. What’s not to love about a dozen amateurs in a big tent with silly hosts, discerning judges, and three baking challenges each episode, showing up in my living room at the push of a button? Not a show passes that I don’t want to learn to bake at least one of the delectables featured, and usually way more than one. Breadsticks, for example. Flatbreads. Puddings. Crispy biscuits. Showstopper gingerbread structures. Tartes tatins. Bakewell tarts. The Battenberg Cake.

A cake dressed up like a present with a surprise inside, on one of the Holiday episodes.

Like some other reality shows that I’m grateful for (Dancing with the Stars, and RuPaul’s Drag Race), the emphasis is on talent and personal growth, not on cutthroat competition and sneaky alliances. The judges are generally kind and encouraging, supporting contestants in their endeavors, and there’s lots of wry humor. It’s been on since 2010, though I’ve yet to figure out how to view the first two seasons, and there are extras like the Holiday Collection, which I’m making my way through now. I save these shows for when I’m doing physical therapy (for which I’m also grateful! Thanks, Kristian and Brian!) and they provide incentive to get down on the floor and exercise for half an hour or more a day.

Surprise! It’s a penguin, with two non-existent Antarctic Christmas trees, in case that wasn’t obvious.
Not the most skillful wrapping, Paul said, “like you painted the stars with your fingers,” but another surprise inside. The bow, by the way, got extra commendation for the “sugar work.”
Christmas baubles inside.
This present cake got high marks for appearance…
…but its inside was judged ‘stodgy, almost like a pudding,’ which is this weird thing the Brits love where a bunch of goo is cooked in a mold and deemed delicious.

I’ve learned a lot about baking from watching GBBO, including how to listen to the hiss of a cake to determine if it’s done, and what ‘stodgy’ means in the context of baking rather than personality 🙂 It inspires me to expand my baking efforts, and frees me to toss failures into ‘the bin,’ though I actually haven’t failed at any bake yet so catastrophically that I’ve had to throw it away. My last effort at an apricot cake, which was spectacular in the summer when I had fresh apricots, was a bit bland this week without them on the top, so I whipped up a chocolate glaze in about five minutes and doused the cake, which improved it significantly.

Last summer’s apricot cake…
…and this week’s effort. Thanks to GBBO, I know why the recipe called for 3 teaspoons of baking powder, which was perfect when there were fresh apricot pieces on top of the raw batter, but more than necessary without that added weight. Nevertheless, the cake was a better bake, though some might contend that the overall appearance is less enticing than the original after I doused it in chocolate glaze.

So I’m grateful for the Great British Baking Show, for its lessons, colors, humor, inspiration, diversity, and overall generous tone, in an entertainment world that otherwise overwhelmingly fuels anxiety, violence, prejudice, and distress. Yeah, I’ve gained some Covid pounds from watching it, but … oh well! Next challenge for me, piping icing!

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