Box Watch: With 2 down and 11 to go, who’s rising to the top in The Great British Bake Off?

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  • Everyone’s favourite TV cookery show continues this week and we’ve sorted the good bakes from the soggy bottoms in our review of the runners and riders

    When it comes to telly, you can’t get Greater – or more British – than The Great British Bake Off (Tuesday 2nd September, 8pm, BBC2).

    Two episodes into series 4 and already it’s got us by the short and curlies. They’ve done Cake and they’ve done Bread. Two of the original 13 contestants have departed: bewildered web programmer Toby after substituting salt for sugar in his Angel Food Cake (‘Don’t eat that, Mary!’); and chirpy gardener Lucy, whose grassini (bread sticks to you) and roasted tomato bread substituted simplicity for show-offery, which will never do.

    ‘You’ve had four hours,’ frowned grizzled, blue-eyed scouser Paul Hollywood. ‘And made a cob with tomatoes on top.’ He wasn’t wrong.

    Eleven remain and it’s this far in that we realise why the heck we couldn’t let this thing go last series.

    Remember 2012’s winner John, who baked like an angel with one hand while studying for a law degree with the other; giggly vicar’s wife Sarah-Jane from Sussex, whose face never lied; bespeckled tank-top sporting James from Shetland (my personal favourite); and, of course, legendary let’s-measure-that-again Brendan? Halcyon days indeed…

    But do we dare hope for such TV gold in series 4? Looking strong for the boys is Rob the boffin. Rob designs space satellites – in Stevenage, the Cape Canaveral of North Hertfordshire.

    Who’d have thought he could also turn his hand to Pecan and Apple cake, Raspberry Chocolate sandwich and destroy all opposition in the Angel Food Cake technical challenge? ‘That guy’s not a scientist!’ says Paul. ‘He’s a baker!’ – Star Baker in fact.

    Rob’s themed bread (something to do with a psychic octopus and football – ‘Rise, Cephalopod. Rise!’) overshot the runway, as it were… but we suspect there are delights aplenty still to come from Rob, who is looking not unlike the New Brendan.

    While charity worker Ali may have disappointed with his Chocolate, Raspberry and Passion Fruit Engagement cake, he fought back valiantly with impressive Italian Grassini and Sweet and Sour Yin and Yang bread and may be one of those early hit-and-miss types who turn wondrously good by the end.

    Council worker Howard is having a good run, too. Paul likes Howard because he knows about Flavours and likes To Do Things Differently.

    Not any old sponge mix for Howard’s Passion Fruit and Coconut cake. Gracious no. It’s rice flour and xanthan gum, thank you very much. So fabulous are the results that Paul says he’s done that thing with boxes and ticking them all.

    Next thing you know he’ll be giving 110% – or creating Paul from icing in grizzly-bear form on top of a Black Forest Revisited cake…
    Wait a minute…

    Of the ladies, it’s Frances who’s rising to the challenge. She designs children’s clothes so is Creative (not forgetting Whimsical).

    Her literal interpretation of a sandwich cake (it looks like a sandwich, see) was a joy to behold and ‘exceptional’ said Paul, who, if nothing else, knows an exceptional sandwich when he sees one.Psychologist Kimberley won Star Baker for her English Muffins and gets better with every bake.

    Youngest of all the contestants at 20, Ruby started with a mortifying girlie wobble – The Great Crème Patissiere Curdling Calamity of 2013.

    UK-wide, women muttered ‘don’t, don’t. For pity’s sake, don’t cry.’ But Ruby cried, damn it.

    However forgiveness was as swift as her follow-up snappy-happy grassini and glorious White Chocolate and Orange Peacock bread. She’s got a Face For Telly, this one. Definitely one to watch.

    Episodes 1 and 2 are still available on BBC iPlayer; tune in on Tuesday for 3: Desserts, including 24 show-stopping petits fours. Does life get any better?

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