No Soggy Bottoms Here
It’s no secret that I adore the Great British Bake Off (or Great British Baking Show, depending on where you’re watching it).
Multiple seasons are now available on Netflix and I absolutely cannot recommend them strongly enough if you are even remotely interested in baking. Despite being a reality show and a contest, it is overwhelmingly British. Everyone is oh-so-polite and there’s none of the underhanded snarky drama that so infests American reality TV.
It’s The Best. Period.
Moving past my general fangirling, I’d like to talk about two different “spinoffs” I’ve been having fun playing with mentally.
The Show’s Format
The format of the show is simple.
Start with a baker’s dozen contestants. Each show eliminates one (or two, or none, at the discretion of the judges) person based on their performance during that weekend. The show culminates with the three top-performing bakers facing off in the final episode, where the Champion is awarded an engraved glass cake stand.
Each weekend consists of three bakes.
The Signature Challenge
The first is called a “Signature Challenge”. The contestants are told ahead of time exactly what they are to produce and what the criteria is.
An example would be to make a swiss roll to be judged on both appearance and taste. Critical components are a sponge (cake, for the uninitiated), jam filling, and frosting).
The contestants create THEIR version of this bake. So one person might do a raspberry and white chocolate swiss roll with decorative dots baked into the sponge, while another might go chai spiced with milk chocolate decorative shards.
(As a side note, it’s great fun to pause the show and share what flavors and elements you might use if you were one of the bakers.)
The Technical Challenge
Here, the bakers are surprised with a slimmed-down recipe for something they’re unlikely to have baked before.
The recipe is partially incomplete, leaving out the sorts of things that the judges expect the bakers to be able to guess or intuit based on experience and personal judgement.
For example, the entire list of ingredients may be provided, as well as a baking temperature, but the length of time the item should be in the oven is often omitted.
In the show, this is where much of the hilarious (and sometimes tear-jerking) mistakes are made.
The Showstopper Challenge
The final bake is the Showstopper Challenge. Like the Signature Challenge, the bakers know ahead of time what they’ll be expected to bake and the sorts of things that are expected (a black forest cake without chocolate or cherries is no sort of black forest cake, after all.)
Beyond that, it is much the same as the Signature Challenge, but on a much grander scale. Here, the visual appeal is even more pronounced. The judges want to be WOWed by what they’re offered — and the challenge is often far more complex as well.
The Other Elements That Make It Work
The show is much more than just the base format. The tone of guidance and honest feedback permeates the entire show.
Two comedic hosts assist the judges — since they’re impartial, they can chat with each baker, help them plate bakes, offer time checks, and do an awful lot of comforting and hugging when things just don’t go quite to plan.
That’s not even mentioning the music, gorgeous food cinematography, and wonderful bake diagram art, of course, but I’m already rambling in this silly blog post and I haven’t even gotten to the fun part!
Okay, now that we’ve gone through all that, let’s have some fun with the random spinoffs I’ve been entertaining!
The Great Worldwide Writing Competition
Naturally, the first spinoff is about writing.
Can you imagine a Writing Competition with a similar setup?
It wouldn’t work for novels, but for flash and short fiction? MAYBE.
Two Judges from different writing backgrounds — get as much crossover work as possible. Romance, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Short Fiction, Script Writing, YA, Picture Books … the whole shebazzle.
The Signature Challenge
First, our writers are asked to write a piece of flash fiction. This week, they’re asked to produce a young adult piece that incorporates humor and horror and includes three keywords: shiver, flower, and peanut. The stories must be no more than 1500 words long.
The writing begins strongly, because each author came prepared with a concept ahead of time. Halfway through, one author begins crying because he just doesn’t know how to make a peanut funny. Two other authors help each other by suggesting character archetypes.
The judges are tough but fair. The crying writer is told that the use of “peanut” was exemplary, but that they could have worked more on foreshadowing to really add punch to the twist.
The Technical Challenge
Here, they’re asked to critique a submitted fantasy short story.
One author is admonished for the sheer volume of their edits, and told that they weren’t supposed to rewrite the piece. Another author is horrified to realize they mistakenly corrected all of the author’s italics to double quotes without realizing they were intended to be mental communication.
The Showstopper Challenge
Instead of dictating a genre, each author is allowed to choose their own. They are, however, provided with two different character archetypes and a theme that they must adhere to. Short stories are evaluated on length (no more than 6,000 words), grammar, characterization, and overall enjoyment.
One author’s second-person POV piece is critiqued as a brave effort, but ultimately it did not serve the story and caused the overall enjoyment to be lessened. Another author turned one of the provided archetypes into an unreliable narrator, much to the delight of the judges.
At the end of the weekend, the judges award Star Writer to the author whose overall performance throughout all three pieces was most impressive.
The Second Spinoff
This one is more hilariously crazy, but Steven liked the idea and made me promise to blog about it.
What if … your favorite TV show had a single episode of their own version of the Bake Off?
Our example show was The Mighty Boosh.
Howard and Vince as judges (Howard pretends to have vast technical knowledge of everything and is known for measuring the crumb structure of a bake). Vince refuses to swallow any food because he can’t afford the calories, but praises the most wild and unreasonable decoration with fervor.
Bob Fossil is one of the contestants. He constantly rages and cries and tries to undermine the other bakers.
Naboo starts out strong but bakes so much marijuana into his bakes that he can’t function by the time the third bake happens.
Tony Harrison can’t reach anything and complains nonstop.
Saboo, Old Gregg, The Hitcher, Bollo are also contestants.
The Moon and Dennis are the hosts. Everyone hates The Moon.
Why Stop There?
This is a ton of fun to do with almost every show. Steven Universe? Steven and Connie as judges, and all the gems baking crazy things? Yes please. I’d watch that.
Bones? Castle? SHERLOCK?
It’s really all a win-win situation here.
If you have a good fandom that you could see being hella fun in this format, I’d love to hear about it! The more details, the better!