'The Great British Bake Off' brought its tent full of ovens back onto our screens last night, for the debut of series four.
While Paul Hollywood has been filling headlines out of the kitchen with his wandering apron, it was very much business as usual for him and fellow judge Mary Berry, as another Baker's Dozen took their chances, and Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc did their best to comfort and encourage with wit and warmth.
Mel and Sue present with their usual wit and warmth
Because, as ever, it was all about the contestants, in between lulling close-up shots of grapefruit coverings, indifferent sheep and fluttering daffodils.
Three main tasks soon separated the chefs from the chaff, even though I'd have happily eaten everything. Glenn's Strawberry and Cream Cheesecake looked to die for, but Mary Berry's eagle eye spotted that the jam had run into the sponge. Becca's Grapefruit Sandwich Cake bemused the judges - "annoying, I like it," said Paul - while Kimberley's Blood Orange Cake "tasted better than it looked". And that was a compliment from Mary Berry.
Ali came unstuck more than once, and was surprised but delighted to get through
Ali from Birmingham, the only male in his family to cook, is my current favourite, after his musing out loud, "Shall I top it with cream?" If in doubt, I say... But he came unstuck, with his attempts to cut his cake into the shape of a lemon. "I've cut off the only part of the cake that's cooked," he wailed. But he's through.
No prizes for guessing who isn't, after Toby managed a baby baker error. Dealing with an already tough challenge of replicating Mary Berry's gravity-defying Angel Food cake, he managed to mix up his salt and his sugar. "Don't taste that, Mary," advised Paul Hollywood, in not very encouraging tones.
Scientist Rob has set the Baker's bar high
Despite Glenn's stunning Gaudi-inspired cake, the decisive moment was the chocolate cake round. Rob triumphed again with a display of chocolate engineering - "He's a scientist," said Sue. "He's a baker," said Paul, as Rob was rightly crowned this week's winner.
But the real show-stopper was Becca's secret squirrel cake. When Paul and Mary stopped admiring the squirrels on top, they cut into the cake, only for another secret squirrel to emerge in the sponge. Bravo. Once again, the baker's bar is very, very high, and once again, I'm hooked.
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