Happy Saturday, everyone!
So, as most of you know, I am a big Ina Garten fan. I know she tends to be a little idealistic as to what a home cook can accomplish without access to a butcher/farmer’s market/herb garden/cheese shop/fishmonger right around the corner, but I don’t care. As a rather picky eater, I also don’t care what she makes. It’s really about the Barefoot Contessa experience. Ina is so warm and calm as she cooks that it’s a comforting to enter her world. I’m serious. Even when I had the stomach flu, I gravitated towards her show on The Food Network. And let’s be honest, there’s a lot of Ina in the world. I could likely be set for several years. But here’s the really good news: I don’t have to be.
Because I’ve discovered The Great British Baking Show.*
And it’s the best thing ever.
The Great British Baking Show (for us Americans…in Britain it’s called The Great British Bake Off) is a food reality television show in the UK. I call it a reality television show, but these Brits across the pond do reality TV a little differently:
- The contestants tape the show on the weekends and have some idea what types of challenges will happen the following week so they can practice.
- Each challenge is timed, it’s true, but there is always AMPLE time to complete each baking task. I remember for one particular challenge, they were given five and a half HOURS to complete it. Seriously. Can you imagine Chopped or Master Chef under those circumstances?!
- The contestants are allowed to bring ingredients from home – spices, homemade jams, produce…you name it!
You know what I love about these three distinctive aspect of the show? It ensures that everyone has every opportunity to do their best work. Bakers might have an off day or something might not go as planned, but if a single element goes wrong, they often have the time to do it over. Instead of rushing all over the place and throwing food on a plate at the last possible second, there are contestants drinking tea as their bread rises, joking with their fellow bakers and the hosts, and generally enjoying themselves a great deal.
Plus, the accents. Are you kidding me with this?
Those reasons are more than enough for me to love it but there are more.
- The judges are named Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. I could not make this stuff up if I tried.
- The contestants bake all sorts of interesting things. Sure, they call cookies “biscuits” and tend to praise crisp cookies over chewy ones. But aside from that, they bake international items. One episode, they were tasked with making a German cake. Not German chocolate cake, a cake I am familiar with, but a sort of crepe-looking cake. It was made by creating a sponge cake batter and cooking really thin layers (to different darknesses) under the oven broiler in a spring-form pan. The final result had a chocolate ganache poured over the top and the effect was quite stunning. And the process itself was fascinating to watch!
- The first episode does give a little backstory on each contestant, but not in the over-dramatized ways that American produced shows do now-a-days. The bakers don’t have to have survived a car crash or come back from the dead to make you want to root for them. The season I watched had several women that had been baking for their families their whole lives and a builder that was a brilliant baker, too. These bakers were inspiring to watch and it was educational, too. In fact, my recent scone victory I dedicate to The Great British Baking Show.
Now all I need is for Netflix to put the other seasons up already.
*My friend Jessica gave me a heads up on this show well before it magically appeared on Netflix. Shout out!