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Follow the trials and tribulations of passionate amateur bakers whose goal is to be named the U.K.’s best. Each week, the bakers tackle a different skill, the difficulty of which increases as the competition unfolds. Mary Berry, a leading cookbook writer, and Paul Hollywood, a top artisan baker, serve as judges. Together with hosts and comic foils Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, Berry and Hollywood search for the country’s best amateur baker by testing the competitors’ skills on cakes, breads, pastries and desserts, crowning a winner after 10 weeks of competition.
Follow 12 amateur bakers as they enter the competition tent for their first hurdle: cake. The Signature Bake requires a Swiss roll, a seemingly simple task fraught with risks. For the Technical Bake, bakers must duplicate Mary Berry’s classic cherry cake, to Berry’s exacting standard. In the Showstopper Bake, the competitors tackle classic British cakes — in perfect miniature — 36 of them.
One week down and 11 amateur bakers remain. Let the biscuit baking begin. The Signature challenge is to create biscuits that go well with a cheese course. For the Technical, the bakers must follow Mary’s basic instructions for her Florentines recipe. In the Showstopper, bakers are tasked with creating three-dimensional “biscuit scenes.” Who will leave the competition tent?
It’s week three and the remaining 10 bakers get ready to brave bread. For the Signature, they must bake 12 perfect rye bread rolls, shaped as they prefer. The Technical calls for ciabatta loaves, using judge Paul’s recipe. For the Showstopper, the bakers have to make a filled centerpiece loaf with as much impact on a table as on the judges. Who will rise to the occasion?
The competition stiffens like whipped peaks. For the Signature, bakers must create so-called “saucy puds” — delicate cakes hiding a gooey filling or saucy surprise at the bottom. In the Technical, bakers take on Mary’s tiramisu. In the Showstopper, they have to beat the odds and the heat to make the perfect baked Alaska. Meltdowns ensue.
Pies & Tarts
Almost half-way through the baking competition, the remaining bakers face pies and tarts. Custard tarts are their Signature challenge, followed by mini pear pies — one of the more unusual Technical challenges in the competition tent. Finally, contestants battle their biggest bake yet: three-tiered pies. The Showstopper allows them only four hours to create a towering collection of pies.
And then there were six. The remaining bakers now face three European cakes. For the Signature, bakers are asked to make yeast-leavened cakes. Their work’s cut out for them in the most demanding Technical challenge yet: they have two hours to make the 24-step Swedish Princess torte. And finally, for the Showstopper, they must create a contemporary version of the Hungarian Dobos torte.
Week seven in the tent sees the bakers tested on all kinds of weird, wonderful pastries. They’re assigned Signature savory parcels, ranging from pasties to samosas. The Technical challenge throws them into uncharted territory with a pastry none has heard of … the round and crusty kouign amann. Paul tests the bakers’ patience in a challenge to create this multi-layered, buttery pastry. Finally, Showstopper éclairs will give five lucky bakers a spot in the quarter-finals.
It’s the quarter-finals of the competition and only five bakers remain. Mary and Paul up the ante to see which bakers will rise to the challenge. The competitors must make enriched sweet fruit loaves for their Signature, followed by a Technical challenge that stretches them to the limit. Finally, the bakers must make 36 showstopping doughnuts, demonstrating skills and ideas that take baking to a new level.
It’s semi-finals time and the tension is palpable as the bakers take on patisseries. First, they’re challenged with Signature baklava. Next is a most demanding Technical task — making the tricky German schichttorte, cooked in stages under a grill to create 20 layers. The Showstopper raises the bar even higher: the final four work non-stop to create two elegant entremets.
Just three challenges lie between the three finalists and the trophy. And what a trio of challenges they are: mastery of a classic pastry technique that normally takes a day — in just three hours; a Technical test that requires mastering the basics — with no recipe; and a Showstopper that demands delivery of perfect sponge, caramel, choux pastry and petit four in the bakers’ final five hours in the tent.