The Mail on Sunday

WILL THEY ALL RISE TO THE OCCASION?

PICK OF THE WEEK THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF Tuesday, Channel 4, 8pm

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How much longer will we have to wait until we see a woman win The Great British Bake Off again? Delightful though it was to witness the joy of 20-year-old Peter Sawkins taking the 2020 title to become the youngest winner, it did mean that a man had triumphed for the third year in a row.

Though a demolition of sexist stereotype­s, that fact also brings an extra note of competitiv­eness among the contestant­s for the show’s 12th series. With an average age of 40, as opposed to 31 in 2019, the line-up includes some formidable women bakers, among them Met Police detective Amanda, giggly retired midwife Maggie – who’s been baking for a mere 60 years – and 19-year-old student Freya, vying to become the new youngest winner and also the first vegan.

As for the men, they have a continenta­l flavour: there’s Jürgen, the precisely spoken German physicist, and moustachio­ed, Italian-born Giuseppe and proudly AngloGreek North Londoner George.

And the internatio­nal flavour doesn’t end there, thanks to finance manager Jairzeno, a Trinidadia­n long settled in Britain, while youthful executive Crystelle is inspired by the baking of her grandmothe­r in Goa.

But if you’re looking out for an unlikely outsider who could go all the way, keep an eye on chirpy Leicesters­hire telephone sales manager Chigs, who only took up baking during lockdown.

Once again, filming has taken place in a Covid bubble for contestant­s, judges, presenters Noel Fielding (above, second from left) and Matt Lucas (above, right) and crew. As ever, all the contestant­s will be hoping for one of those coveted congratula­tory handshakes from Paul Hollywood (above left), though he must now concede he is quietly outranked by his fellow judge, after the damehood Prue Leith (second from right) received this summer.

The contest begins with cake week, and to savour every moment, watch The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice (Friday, Channel 4, 8pm) to enjoy Jo Brand and guests looking back over the opening episode and interviewi­ng the first baker to leave the tent.

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