The Great British Bake Off returns to our TV screens next week, with the surprisingly loveable presenting quartet – Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding – heading back into the Berkshire-based tent for a new series.
The Independent has seen the first episode (minus the ending) and been privy to a Q&A with Paul and Prue. Below are the major talking points from the episode, plus a few pointers from the judges on what to expect from the upcoming series.
1. Some very excited, confident and charming bakers
Channel 4 has done a great job casting this year’s series. There are contestants from all backgrounds, ranging from the Yorkshire cheeky-chappy techno DJ Luke, to the self-proclaimed “Bollywood baker” Antony.
Stand-outs in the first episode include Manon, the charming French project manager; Rahal, the London-based research scientist who Skypes his India-based parents every day; Kim-Joy, who decides to add rosemary to a bake after smelling the fragrant herb in her shampoo; and Briony, who makes it very clear she’s from Bristol.
You can find out more about the bakers by flicking through the below gallery.
“They’re just very, very lovely people and very good bakers,” says Prue of the newcomers. “Such a nice bunch of people, a real pleasure.”
2. The judges and presenters are as fun as last season (and a little more relaxed)
Paul judging harshly, Prue being constructive, Sandi offering sarcastic lines, and Noel cracking references to Andy Warhol (and sporting an Elvis-like haircut) – the fab four are on form during the first episode.
With just one series under their belts, Paul says it “feels like we have been working with each other for years” while Prue adds that the success of the Channel 4 version of Bake Off was a “huge relief”.
“When they first hired me, I did not realise what a national treasure Bake Off was,” she says. “I only got nervous when I started reading what the press wrote. But what I like doing most is eating good food. I’ve judged food all my life, so I was never nervous about the job. A little nervous about Paul Hollywood.”
3. Do they ignore Prue’s Twitter disaster?
Last year, Prue accidentally revealed the winner of Bake Off 12 hours before the final episode aired (Sophie Faldo ended up being named champion). Despite doing her best to avoid talking about the incident, the producers have decided to begin the first episode with a lavish joke, all at Prue’s expense.
“The producers didn’t propose that beginning, they just did it,” she says. She later adds: “I don’t think I’m ever going to live down that incident. I’ll know I’m a has-been when people stop raising it.”
4. Technical challenges reined back by Paul
Each episode will follow the same tried and tested formula as last series. Paul admits, though, that they have decided to make the technical challenges slightly less daunting, in the hope more people at home will want to bake along.
“Some of the challenges are very challenging, but with some we just reined it back a bit,” says Paul. “On the technical challenge, we offer a method and recipe. Sometimes we take the method lines away. But this time we have given them a little more information on the difficult ones. It’s finding that right level of complication.”
5. Less innuendo in the first episode
One thing that has changed since Mel and Sue left the series is the amount of innuendo. And the first episode barely features a single soggy bottom.
“Innuendo has been a part of Bake Off for years, but it’s not be all and the end all,” Paul says before Prue intrudes: “No one tries to cook them up. They just happen. Don’t worry, you’ll get some.”
6. Paul’s handshake is a no-show, but it’s coming
The first episode also sees a distinct lack of Paul Hollywood handshakes. But not to worry, there are still going to be a “quite a few” as time goes on.
“There’s something funny about watching Paul give a handshake,” says Prue, “because you can tell he really doesn’t want to. And then he just knows it’s perfect and he has to put his hand there.”
7. Prue being tougher and straighter
During the first episode, Prue promises to be much “tougher” later in the series. And when questioned on this, she doubles down.
“I felt a lot more relaxed and confident this time around. I have been straighter, found it easier to say ‘that’s not a proper bake’,” she says. “Last series I said lots of things that were nice before anything nasty. Paul is always saying ‘Don’t talk around so much, just say it.’”
Paul, though, adds that they are always constructive, just their answers are often edited down to something simple like “it’s a bit dry”.
8. Paul hints at a potential disaster to come – all thanks to the British weather
It’s been a hot summer (a really hot summer) and the bakers have unfortunately suffered because of it.
“There were a couple of challenges – and I can’t say too much about this – where it did come into effect,” says Paul. “It was particularly hot [in the tent] this year. It didn’t affect them to the point where it destroyed them…” The judge does not say much more, but viewers should prepare for a few temperature-related blunders to come.
9. Vegan week and Danish weeks to come
Rumours have swelled that this year will include a vegan week, something Paul has confirmed is happening, along with a Danish week.
“Veganism is something that’s growing, and we wanted that represented on Bake Off this year,” he says. “It was fascinating. There’s also a Danish week. We thought Danish week would be apt with Sandi and went to her for some ideas.”
Asked whether the vegan bakes would be judged any differently, he said: “You can’t say ‘this tastes good for vegan’. It has to taste good period.” And were the bakes any good: “We were surprised. There’s a lot more information [about vegan bakes] in the episode. If you’re worried about changing to vegan, just watch it and you’ll see. It shocked me.”
Bake Off returns 28 August on Channel 4 at 8pm. The series will then air weekly at the same time every Tuesday.
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