Thursday, 19 May 2016

The rise of the Great British Bake Off : A blessing or a curse?

Over the past five series I've seen The Great British Bake Off rise from a quaint chosen few franticly icing away at bakes and kneading the perfect dough, to a full blown frenzy of macarons and biscuit structures. It's come a long way since that first tent gallivanting about the country with a small army of baking enthusiasts.

As the shows naturally grown in popularity so has it's interest online, where once a select few of us would be giggling at our smartphones tweeting about rigid, firm bakes and macaron nipples, there's now thousands of users hurling their opinions about on social media. From their version of that week's star bake, to nit picking at how they could have done it better, it's certainly causing a storm online.

It's this new-found constructive criticism on the perfect bake, to the contestants themselves, that's caused a rucus over the last couple of series. Who'd have thought that the gender of a contestant, or the way that they handle their feedback from Paul and Mary, would cause such a huge reaction online. Everyone appears to have an opinion on how the perfect florentine should be constructed, or how they could have done it better, when in hindsight that person complaining about the week's bakes on twitter may have barely attempted to rustle themselves up a batch of macarons, let alone a sandwich cake.

But it's not just the constructive criticism from newly found master bakers online, the speed with which each bake has to be perfected in the tent can cause many a near fit of panic as we empathize with the bakers. How many of us have sat watching in horror through their hands as the bakers rushed fondant fancies together, or sat reeling in horror at the infamous Charlotte Royale challenge as the bavarois started to seep through, we'd certainly break down trying to create such perfect bakes in such tight time slots as the bakers do week after week in the tent. Often giving some the impression that perfection can be rustled up in a mere few minutes, compared to the several hours that it may actually take you to create those delicious macarons or swiss rolls.

What we need to remember with The Great British Bake Off, is that it's only a TV show, yes, a bakers dozen of keen amateur bakers are put through grinding challenge after challenge each week, that they may have barely seen beforehand, but what we often forget is that key word with each of the bakers, 'amateur'. No one of the bakers involved claims to be an artisan baker, each one bakes at home for the sheer joy of it, whether it's as part of their local WI or for family and friends, they haven't spend years perfecting their craft like many of the professionals that we see on TV, or at our local bakery. Whilst many of the bakers involved later go on to publish their own books, or open cake shops, they've spent time perfecting their craft after the show's finished, not just anyone can throw themselves in the kitchen and come out a master baker.

I guess it's down to the vast growth of the show at the end of the day, as any show grows in popularity it's going to ruffle up a few feathers along the way. Whilst it may be the brunt of raised eyebrows on social media, and the press, it's also helped to create a new wave of keen amateur home bakers, swearing away in the kitchen as they try to perfect that week's challenge, and that's not exactly a bad thing at all.

Post originally published at in 2014.