So, while we were on holiday the first episode of the Great British Bake Off happened.
You can catch it on iPlayer here.
The lovely Antonia, whose house we were staying in, does not have a t.v. so I had to wait for iPlayer to release it on catch up, and 24 hours after transmission we were all huddled round my lap top in eager anticipation.
It was quite entertaining. If you had spied us from the window, had you been peeking in, it would probably have reminded you of everyone crowded round a small television set waiting to watch the Queen’s coronation.
We were that excited.
Half way through watching it, the laptop ground to a halt and flashed up the message:
‘Insufficient bandwidth to continue watching this programme.’
We had to reboot iPlayer four more times to get to the end of the programme.
It was tense. Really tense. My jaw actually clenched. If necessary I would actually have broken into the neighbour’s house and commandeered their telly had all else failed.
Now, I did make notes, but it was late and I was tired and I have put them somewhere very safe, which means I will never find them again. Or at least, not until 2016, which is neither use nor ornament.
What follows is a montage of guess work, intuitive flashes, hot flushes and flights of imagination.
All errors are my own work.
The first episode is always a tough one, because there are so many people it’s hard to keep track of them all. This year there were thirteen contestants to start. Here are my thoughts on the ones I remember.
Toby – Goodness me, I love Toby. Toby of the shambolic hair. Toby of the totally unable to do anything without severing a major body part. Toby who put salt in his angel food cake instead of sugar. Toby, Toby, Toby….I think I love you.
Glenn – Will Glenn be the next maverick baker in the style of James last year? Everything Glenn tried to make under his own steam was magnificently large or tall. He is a teacher in real life, but I think he’s a frustrated architect. I look forward to the week he makes an entire underground bunker plus Tracey Island palm tree out of spun sugar.
Lucy – Lucy has travelled, she is big on cardamon pods. She is shaping up to be a kind of middle class hippy. I expect she has been glamping. She may have a yurt. Either that or she is a rock nymph who will be found with a syringe full of icing sugar in the shrubbery on week four. I can’t quite decide yet.
Howard – Howard is my Brendan replacement so far. Nobody can really replace Brendan in my heart. We know this. But Howard will have to do. He did a retro black forest gateau and made an ageing polar bear called Paul. He also looks a bit like John Hegley. If he sings songs to croutons about Luton I will die of joy unconfined.
Becca – Becca is a military wife. She has been trained, possibly by Gareth Malone. She will not take any shit. She can hit top C and eyeball it out with the Hollywoodinator. I am agog to see which one of them will win in an arm wrestling situation.
Ali – Ali is a panic stricken faun, darting through the baking woods worrying about why it’s all going wrong now when it went so brilliantly at home. He is going to ricochet between genius and disaster, with a nod to both. I predict much waily waily.
Ruby – Ruby has smouldering eyes and a come hither look. She is a foetus. She has already broken down in tears, and has spent a considerable amount of time sulking amongst the icing sugars. Hmmmm…
Rob – Rob is Mr. Slide Rule. He is technically perfect in every way. He probably has a quantum physics method for sifting baking powder. There will be Stephen Hawkingesque diagrams of frightening intensity. Everything he has made has been a triumph. I want to see what he looks like when it all goes wrong.
Mean, I know.
There are other contestants, but these are the ones that spring to mind as I type. The others will undoubtedly come into their own as the weeks progress.
This week the subject of the bake off was cake.
Aaahhh…Caaaaaaake, as we say in this house.
Firstly Paul and Mary had the fiendish plan of getting the contestants to make a simple, ‘classic’ sponge, but with a twist. This would, according to Paul, show all their faults in glaring technicolour as there is nowhere to hide in a sponge – unless you hollow out the middle and fill it with a panic room and some cyanide pills – which might have been a good option for some of the contestants, frankly.
Paul has lost none of his gimlet eyed approach, and ruthless will to find fault with every last detail. Every time someone surprised him in a good way he seemed visibly deflated. He is turning into Miss Trunchbull from Matilda with every week that goes by. Someone should make him a vaulting horse out of cake. That will sort out the men from the boys.
Howard showed his hand early, preferring to work with extraordinary ingredients. Rather than sticking with bog standard flour, Howard went for a mix of rice flour and xantham gum, which I thought was the stuff that sticks envelopes down, but which, much to Paul and Mary’s (and everyone else’s) amazement, made a cracking cake. Next week he will make macaroons out of horse feathers and plaster of Paris.
The technical challenge this week was one of Mary’s ‘oh? This old thing?’ recipes, which was Angel’s food cake made with some complex icing or other. The trick with Angel food cake is not to grease the sides of the tin, and to let it cool upside down so that gravity can make it all plump and fluffy like the buttocks of Gabriel himself.
Many of the bakers did not know this, and rather than the buttocks of Gabriel, some efforts looked rather like the scrotum of Satan.
The show stopper challenge was to make the most epic chocolate cake in the universe. Again, this goes to prove my theory that La Hollywood is turning into the Trunchbull. He uses all the left over chocolate cake to feed to the losing entrant in the manner of Bruce Bogtrotter.
That would be Toby then.
Toby, my favourite straight out the gate, and already straight out the gate.
I actually groaned when they gave Toby the boot. He was so excellent. It didn’t matter that his sponge was a disaster, or that he put salt into his Angel food cake. Nor did it matter that he severed both of his thumbs off in the manner of Struwellpeter so that he couldn’t make his chocolate cake. He was just the business.
I am sad.
And yet I am also overjoyed. This was the best opening episode of Bake Off yet in my opinion. There were so many blue plasters I expect the St. John’s Ambulance were working back to back shifts that weekend. There were lewd squirrel allusions. There were more pictures of sheep, sulking because they didn’t have giant squirrel cojones and everyone knows they’re only in the show so the director general of the BBC doesn’t get letters from ‘outraged of Surbiton’ and we all want the squirrels back.