10 Reasons to Binge Watch The Great British Baking Show

The Great British Baking Show has had 7 perfect seasons. Sadly, the presenters have now parted ways and the show will not be quite the same again. However, you can still catch up with previous episodes on PBS or Netflix.  If you’ve never watched The Great British Baking Show, here are just some of the reasons why it’s so special, and not like any other cooking show out there.

1. You learn so much about baking.

Some cooking shows feel like over-produced, emotional roller coasters, where it’s less about the cooking, and more about the drama. This show is different. You can’t help but learn so much along the way. One of the key tips from the show is to blind bake your pastry, if you want to avoid the dreaded “soggy bottom”.

Photo by Meredith

2. People are nice.

Competition can bring out the worst in people. For some reason when people gather in this wondrous white tent, they all just get on.  As soon as a cake starts falling apart, a fellow contestant will offer their hands to help hold it together. When someone needs room in the tiny freezer, they will come running to their fellow contestants aid to make room for their creation. This show gives you faith in humanity. It’s a competition, but there is always time for hugs, tears, and comforting cups of tea.

3. The real showstoppers are when the cakes fall apart.

When a cake has been lovingly made by one of the contestants, and it slowly starts to topple over or when the chocolate mousse gently seeps from the bottom, it’s hard not to get emotional. The camera usually pans from the top of the cake, to the sodden mess that now lies on the plate, to the contestants dejected face. I don’t know how they do it, but every time, I feel like I am that contestant, and I feel for them.

4. The baking is such a high standard.

Where else would you find elaborately decorated Jaconde Sponge cake, Tennis Cake, Spanish Windetorte, and a Religieuse a l’ancienne (tower of choux pastry nuns)! The contestants are asked to make these intricate bakes with the sparsest instructions for the technical challenge. Many times, they’ve never even heard of these desserts. The souffle was one such technical challenge, and a recipe that you can definitely master at home.

Chef John's Chocolate Souffle

Photo by Chef John

5. Mel and Sue

The hosts of the show, Mel and Sue, always manage to lighten the mood in the tent. Cream horns,  lady’s fingers, and dough balls are all just the right fodder for Mel and Sue’s risque one-liners. Here’s a direct quote from Sue — “The following signature challenge has been assessed by the Double Entendre Police and I’m delighted to inform you that Paul and Mary would love you to make cream horns. And there’s nothing fun to say about that whatsoever.”

6. Paul Hollywood’s steely glare.

His blue eyes are like piercing lasers. When one of the contestants mentions how long he cooks his soda bread for, there is a long pause as Paul stares him down. He manages to unnerve and unsettle even the most unflappable contestants.  His silence during the stare-off just makes it worse.  On the other hand, when you do manage to please the palate of Mr. Hollywood, you get one of his famous handshakes, and that’s a rare and beautiful thing.

7. Mary Berry’s style is always on point.

Mary always has a jaunty scarf, a sassy jacket, or just the right accessory to make her the queen of style. In fact Mary Berry even caused a fashion frenzy on the high street.  Not many 82-year old women can claim that. In 2012 she wore a floral printed bomber jacket from high-street retailer Zara, which sold out almost immediately after the show. Mary always wears vivid colors, and just the right shade of lipstick.

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Photo credit PBS

8. The oven-watching.

Grown adults on their knees or sitting on the floor staring into an oven is a common sight on the show. You would think it would be boring to see people literally stare at ovens, but it’s fascinating to see people get so engrossed in what they’re baking. If they’re not nervously peering through the glass oven door, they’re anxiously sipping a cup of tea. Most shows would edit out these moments, but for me these are the exact moments that make this show human.

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Photo credit PBS

9. It’s delightfully British.

It’s delightfully British, from the Union Jack flags that adorn the tent, to the persistent summer rain outside. It *always* seems to be raining.

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Photo credit PBS

10. The dreaded “soggy bottom”.

Mary is incredibly polite when she criticizes the contestants, which makes it so much worse. Disappointing Mary must feel like upsetting your grandmother. In Mary’s eyes, the worst crime against baking is a “soggy bottom” on a pastry crust. She looks visibly hurt when she discovers some crumbly, damp, pastry lurking beneath the pie filling. Please just bake the crust blind, and don’t make Mary sad.

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