The Great British Bake Off

Cupcakes

To be British is to love The Great British Bake Off. It’s become an institution, and is apparently responsible for a surge in baking in the UK. But how on earth does a TV show about an amateur baking competition have such widespread appeal?

Photo Credit: Wiebke (CC). Alterations made.

I arrived in the UK the year it first aired. I probably heard of it in passing, but a show based on a group of amateur bakers competing held zero appeal.

But as the show became outrageously popular the hype finally got me, and I decided to check it out. I’m truly glad I did, because it’s one of the best TV shows.

Why It Works

A show about baking shouldn’t be so compelling. But the jaunty music, the hilarious hosts, the clever drama-heightening editing—it all combines to produce such a pleasant, light atmosphere.

And I absolutely love the judges; when they speak, I listen (and nod wisely as if I’m an expert chef, too). Mary Berry is gold, like a wholesome grandma figure from a fairy tale.

Sugaring the Education Pill

Part of the reason it works so well is the educational aspect. The show is interspersed with segments delving into the history of various foods, and the analysis of the baking in the competition is also fascinating.

I now know the difference between mechanical and chemical leavening, flaky, short-crust, and puff pastry, and what “rough puff” is (same thing as flaky). The bizarre part is that I even care in the first place—the show managed to make this stuff interesting.

No wonder interest in baking is on the rise in the UK.

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