Letõs bat­ter them, Mary!

TV Times - - Cover Story - Re­becca Fletcher

Fiendish judge Paul Hol­ly­wood’s lips are sealed on Bake Off’s tough­est test yet

aul Hol­ly­wood is smil­ing. Which is al­ways a worry. We al­most pre­fer it when The Great Bri­tish Bake Off judge is pa­trolling the tent in si­lence, a brood­ing, slightly men­ac­ing pres­ence, whose icy stare is only made bear­able by the qui­etly en­cour­ag­ing seren­ity of Mary Berry by his side.

He’s up to some­thing. And it can’t spell good news for the re­main­ing nine bak­ers who have mirac­u­lously sur­vived cake, bis­cuit and bread week. ‘It’s week four – you don’t ex­pect us to sud­denly start go­ing easy on the bak­ers, do you?’ he winks.

‘It’s time to get them out of their com­fort zones with a new theme and chal­lenges we’ve never done be­fore, so they won’t have had a chance to see it,’ he con­tin­ues.

If you think the bak­ers have had a rough ride so far with those glazed mir­ror cakes, 3D ginger­bread show­stop­pers and ex­quis­ite bread cen­tre­pieces, buckle up for this week’s bat­ter theme.

‘We wanted some­thing tax­ing,’ says Paul. ‘I don’t want to give too much away, but think of some­thing with a thick con­sis­tency which grows in the oven. We’ve made the tech­ni­cal chal­lenge – er, tricky!’

P‘Tricky?’ coun­ters judg­ing part­ner Mary, in­cred­u­lously.

‘It was bloom­ing im­pos­si­ble!’

‘Oh, leave it out, would you!’ grins Paul, clearly en­joy­ing any chal­lenge which will rat­tle the nerves of Candice, Ben­jam­ina,

Tom and the rest of the tent gang.

‘The truth is, the se­ries re­ally gets go­ing for me this week,’ says Paul.

‘When the 12 ar­rive at the be­gin­ning it’s very, very dif­fi­cult for them be­cause they don’t know each other, they don’t know who’s go­ing to be a friend, or who’s go­ing to watch what they’re do­ing. They don’t know how to com­mu­ni­cate, re­ally, but the friend­ships be­tween them are build­ing up now and,

af­ter start­ing ner­vously, they set­tle down and the bak­ing starts to flow.’

Back to the bat­ter, though, and hmmm, we can think of a few things that are made of bat­ter…

‘Oh, can you… well, they’ve got to be good!’ teases Paul. ‘The bak­ers can fill their creations with mousse, roulade – they can do a full English break­fast in them if they like – but it’s got to have amazing flavours and look great.’

‘Yes, we’ve got to want to eat it, it must look good,’ agrees Mary. ‘But I think peo­ple for­get that taste is im­mensely im­por­tant to us. It’s the one thing, one ad­van­tage, up our sleeves – un­like view­ers, we get to taste it!’

Now judg­ing their sev­enth se­ries, the duo must take some se­ri­ous im­press­ing, though – haven’t they pretty much seen and tasted it all by now?

‘No,’ says Mary. ‘Take the driz­zle cake chal­lenge in the first week: they came up with all sorts of driz­zle flavours – yuzu, poppy seed, car­damom – which I’d never have thought of. It was so ex­cit­ing.’ ‘We are hard to im­press but we have a rule of thumb,’ ex­plains Paul. ‘If they go for sim­plic­ity it’s got to be per­fect: ab­so­lutely ex­hi­bi­tion stan­dard. If they go for some­thing com­pli­cated they must make it as im­pres­sive as pos­si­ble. We’ve got some elab­o­rate stuff com­ing up.’

So which bak­ers hold their nerve this week and which get a bat­ter­ing? (Sorry, couldn’t re­sist). The judges are re­main­ing tightlipped, but Paul ad­mits to wind­ing the hope­fuls up when they’re in the midst of con­cen­trat­ing, try­ing to keep a lid on their fraz­zled nerves…

‘i like to re­mind them where they are so i walk in the tent playing the Bake Off theme tune on my phone. It freaks them out,’ he chuck­les. ‘It sud­denly dawns on them again where they are.’

Meanie! Turn­ing 50 in March hasn’t mel­lowed you then, Paul? ‘I’ve al­ways been mel­low!’ he grins.

‘I beg your par­don?’ says Mary, eye­brows raised, clearly dis­agree­ing.

‘I have! I may have been a bit scratchy oc­ca­sion­ally, but I’m more mel­low this year.’

‘He has mel­lowed a lit­tle as the years have gone on – maybe he’s grow­ing up,’ muses Mary.

‘I’m ap­par­ently this big hor­ri­ble per­son, but what view­ers don’t see is that if some­one’s re­ally up­set I’ll have a word with them pri­vately,’ says Paul. ‘When the cam­eras are off I’ll whis­per, “Don’t worry, it’s only a bak­ing show”.’

‘Er – while also giv­ing them a look that puts the fear of God into them!’ in­ter­rupts Mary.

There’s clearly no pulling the wool over the eyes of Bri­tain’s First Lady of Bak­ing. ‘We both wear the trousers in the tent,’ says Mary firmly.

‘Yeah, we both do ac­tu­ally,’ agrees Paul.

Speak­ing of trousers, how are their waist­lines cop­ing? It’s round about the fourth week when they and Mel and Sue groan about pil­ing on ex­tra pounds – an oc­cu­pa­tional hazard work­ing in the tent. Did they diet be­fore film­ing started?

‘No, no, no!’ says Paul. ‘I’ve never been on a diet and never will. I race cars now so I’ve been train­ing and do­ing a lot of weightlift­ing and box­ing, but no di­ets.’

‘We’re op­po­sites,’ says Mary,

81. ‘I do no train­ing, no gym, noth­ing other than I walk, play ten­nis and I do watch what I eat. I still eat all the things I love.’

In­clud­ing cake? ‘Ooh, ab­so­lutely. Cake is very im­por­tant to me, but it’s all about the size of the slice.’

Let’s hope the calories in bat­ter week aren’t too much for the judges’ waist­lines – and that the bak­ers sur­vive what sounds like Bake Off’’s tough­est tech­ni­cal chal­lenge yet.

‘It’s tough, but fun,’ prom­ises Paul. ‘Well, it’s fun for us any­way!’

is Pre­viewed on Pages 66-67

En­ter­tain­ment The Great Bri­tish Bake Off wed­nes­day / bbc1 / 8.00Pm

‘On your marks, get set…’ – Sue and Mel get ready to crum­ble Truth is, the se­ries re­ally gets go­ing this week

paul Ginger­bread man: an­drew is egged on by Mel in week two Will week one star baker Jane keep up her im­pec­ca­ble stan­dard?

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