A few minutes ago, I hugged Joe, and when he came away from our embrace, he was covered in flour. Bread flour, mind you (higher protein factor). I decided that while I’m waiting for my pistachio-flavored crème pâtissière to cool so I can fill the miniature éclairs I just baked, I might as well bang out this blog post.
In short, I’m the midst of a full-on, all-out, whisks-to-the-walls Great British Baking Show obsession.
What’s The Great British Baking Show?
The Great British Bake Off (as it’s known in the UK) is a reality baking competition. A few of the show’s seven seasons — or series, as they’re called across the pond — have been imported to the US (in a rather odd order, might I say):
- Season 1 on Netflix was Series 5 in the UK and aired in 2014
- Season 2 on Netflix was Series 4 in the UK and aired in 2013
- Season 3 on Netflix was Series 6 in the UK and aired in 2015
I told you it was a weird order. And to make it weirder, they changed the name to the Great British Baking Show. Don’t ask me why. Maybe “bake off” is a metric system term?
The show pits 12 amateur bakers against each other over the course of 10 weeks. The bakers go about their normal lives during the week, take the train to the English countryside on the weekend, bake their asses off, then go home. The competition takes place in a big white tent erected on the grounds of a gorgeous English estate (how quintessentially British!).
Each week has a theme — bread, pastries, cakes, etc. — and three challenges:
- Signature: Each baker’s take on that week’s chosen classic baked good
- Technical: Everyone makes the same thing, and the judges do a blind taste test and rank the bakes from worst to best.
- Showstopper: Pretty much what it sounds like—a gorgeous, beautiful, tasty treat. We’re talking four-tiered cakes, cookies presented in boxes made out of cookies, chocolate towers, etc.
The bakers are told what the Signature and Showstoppers challenges will be, so they can practice in the week leading up to the competition. The Technical is always a surprise, though.
Why Is The Great British Baking Show So Amazing?
Um, it would be easier to list the things that aren’t amazing about it, because there’s only one: We’ve only imported three of the seven seasons.
It’s basically the best reality cooking competition out there. They’ve somehow managed to make watching bread rise an INCREDIBLY INTENSE AND EXCITING EVENT.
The hosts, Mel and Sue, hilariously exercise the dry wit and punny repartee the Brits have mastered. The judges, Paul and Mary, are a perfect juxtaposition: a slightly smarmy hotshot who you’re simultaneously attracted to and afraid of, and a sweet, kind grandmotherly type who always has a kind word but also knows her shit so WATCH OUT.
Watching the show, you learn about baking. You learn about chemistry. You learn about the metric system. You learn about timing. You learn about patience. You learn more about soggy bottoms than you ever wanted to know.
And HELLO, it’s about nothing but DESSERT.
On top of all everything else, everyone is SO nice to each other. You watch any other cooking show, and it’s dog eat dog. On GBBO, it’s dog help dog because dog looked up and saw there was only five minutes left and her custard hasn’t set yet so other dog gives her a hand and helps with her piping.
When someone’s eliminated, everyone hugs and cries and the judges are nice about it and maybe it’s all the sugar and fat coursing through their veins making them so jolly but WHO CARES BECAUSE THIS IS HOW EVERYONE SHOULD TREAT EVERYONE ELSE ALL THE TIME!
Long story short, there’s only one thing that could make this show better:
The Great British Baking Show Drinking Game
The rules are very simple: Crack open a beer, pour yourself a glass of wine, shake out a cocktail, and tuck in: In this game, we take sips. There’s no chugging, there are no shots. This is a British show, after all.
When any of the following happens, take a sip:
- Mel and Sue kick off a challenge with the words, “On your marks. Get set. BAKE!” (This guarantees at least three sips per episode. You’re welcome.)
- Mel or Sue makes a pun.
- Anyone else makes a pun. (Because puns deserve all the drinking.)
- Paul samples a bake, pauses, and stares at the baker, causing the baker (and the audience) much unnecessary stress
- Paul tells a baker he’s concerned about a baking decision they’ve made, but he won’t tell them why
- Mel or Sue gives the camera side eye (this often occurs after some world-class punnage)
- Sue gives Paul a hard time
- Mel or Sue announces the amount of remaining time
- Anyone utters a “Bake Off Innuendo” (Caution: These fly about the room more than powdered sugar when a mixer’s suddenly turned on full blast.)
- Someone says “soggy bottom”
- Mary says “scrumptious” or “scrummy”
- Paul says “fantastic”
- A look from Paul makes a baker second-guess him/herself
- Mary says “layers” like “laaaaez”
- Paul pokes a bake to see if it’s underbaked. Extra sip if the impression of his finger stays in the dough (that’s SUPER underbaked).
P.S. Over in the UK, there’s been some drama since the seventh season. The show is moving to a new network, and Mary, Mel, and Sue jumped ship because of it. (By the way, the puns used in the newspaper headlines announcing it were EPIC.) Paul is the only original personality left. I can’t imagine the new group will carry the same flavor and chemistry the original four had, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I just hope there aren’t any soggy bottoms.