The Great British Bake Off: Biscuits

“Studies, like men, have their infancy.”

Quintilian

Well, my attempt to keep up with Bake Off has failed just a little, as I completely missed Wednesday’s ice-cream scandal and have, in fact, only watched the first two episodes so far. So I am sorry to disappoint you, Constant Reader, but today I have only Biscuits to share with you.

It’s week two of the apparently civilised baking competition, and Mary Berry and Paul Holland are looking for crunchy biscuits with no soggy bottoms. (Why are cookery shows always loaded with food-related innuendo?) The eleven remaining contestants must: bake thirty-six identical savoury biscuits; whip up some florentines with only basic instructions; and make a freestanding biscuit diorama, or, as I like to call it, “diabetes on a cake stand”. All this makes for some great humour, or at least random incongruity: there is talk of “architecturally sound biscuits” and, I kid you not, “lacy florentines”. Sometimes I think the judges just make criteria up.

About halfway through there’s a break in which Susan Perkins goes off to Brighton or somewhere to find out about “the unsung hero of the British seaside”, the ice cream cone, presumably because there is not enough tension in this episode to sustain a minute of filming, let alone an hour. But I’m not actually interested in the unsung hero of the British seaside, let alone the typhoid-ridden penny licks they used to use instead of them; I want to watch Mary Berry trying to find something nice to say about a biscuit so burnt it could be used as charcoal. “It is slightly overbaked – but it doesn’t put me off the biscuit!” She does, however, give several Bad Looks to Enwezor, who has been so foolish as to use shop-bought fondant. Poor form, Enwezor. Slightly more unfairly, both she and Paul complain about the presentation of one of the dioramas, a rather cartoonish depiction of a monster and a skyscraper; they said it was messy; I think it was quite cool, actually. But then, I am not a Bake Off judge, more’s the pity.

I continue to enjoy this show, not because it’s particularly gripping or competitive (although Icecreamgate has changed that, it seems), but because it’s so soothingly pink and fluffy and irrelevant. It’s a bunch of basically friendly people cooking cake and biscuits and other lovely things. It is an antidote to stress and frustration and, you know, real life. It’s just nice. Nice to turn your brain off for an hour, and look at cake. Mmm. Cake.

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