Bake Off

TV Times - - Cookery Special - Re­becca Fletcher

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

Fae­nia is the go-to girl for ev­ery es­sen­tial Top scoop: Mea­sur­ing spoons

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