As the contestants turn flaky for pastry, we ask the show’s behind-the-scenes heroes to share some secrets with us
aul Hollywood is a happy man. No, really. ‘It’s pastry week, my favourite,’ grins The Great British Bake Off judge, contentedly slapping his stomach. ‘Mary and
I – and Mel and Sue for that matter – go mad for anything savoury and this week’s signature challenge is breakfast pastries, Danish style. Can you imagine?!’
Yes we can, thank you very much, Paul, and less of the taunting please, given that Wednesday nights are excruciating enough for viewers unable to taste the delectable treats that the bakers keep conjuring up.
‘What with all the sweet tests, the tent loves savoury,’ agrees Mary. ‘After the four of us have swooped, the crew doesn’t stand a chance!’
She sets a classic British tart as the technical challenge this week, followed by a bite-size showstopper made of fine pastry that’s notoriously difficult to make and even trickier to bake. So which bakers prove flaky, falling ‘short’ of Paul and Mary’s expectations?
‘You’ll have to watch,’ says Mary. ‘Some are certainly hit by nerves.’
‘You get them to hold their hand out and they’re really shaking,’ adds Paul. ‘I try to go round and talk to them, get to know them more. It calms them down and makes them realise I’m a normal human being.’
‘There’s nothing normal about Paul at all!’ counters Mary with a wink. ‘What’s lovely is seeing the bakers grow in confidence every week. It’s very rewarding for us all.’
PRewarding, because a colossal amount of effort and organisation goes into bringing Bake Off to our screens. A crew of 50 people work behind the scenes to make the show a success – from ‘food runners’ poised at supermarkets, ready to hunt down figs when a contestant squeals they need some, to the stoical washer-uppers, stationed at the sink 16 hours a day.
We tracked down a couple of those backstage heroes to get the low-down on some show secrets, starting with Bake Off executive producer Sarah Thomson-woolley…
when did work begin on this year’s Bake Off ?
We started sifting through the eight-page application forms in January – we’re talking thousands! The production team phones those who sound interesting and chat about their expectations, experience and the kind of things they can make. We whittle it down to 100 and invite them to auditions, where we ask them to bring in a savoury and a sweet dish, which our food experts taste. The lucky ones are invited to another audition and asked to make
something from scratch – we want to make sure they haven’t brought us somebody else’s bake in the first round!
The pressure must be on to keep Bake Off top of the ratings?
You have to forget that pressure. Bake
Off’s gentle. You have to sit back and understand the process of bakes and allow the characters to come through. it can’t hurt having
Tv gold in paul,
Mary, Mel and sue?
There’s such great chemistry between the four of them. And Mel and Sue are invaluable, so funny. If the bakers haven’t had the greatest of bakes, they’re there for them. How do you devise the challenges? We have to test the bakers, but we also want to do bakes where we don’t lose viewers. Mary’s really proud that people watch the show as a family, then go away and bake. would you ever have guest judges?
We don’t need them! We’ve got the best judges on any TV show.
The Great British Bake Off WEDNESDAY / BBC1 / 8.00Pm Sweet and sour: Sue and Mel always try to bring good cheer to the bakers
Challenging duo: Paul and Mary
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