It’s a phrase that haunts The Great British Bake Off’s devoted fans. Last season’s “Mexican” episode was the nadir of a program that has, in recent years, managed to f*ck up brownies, bagels, peanut butter, s’mores, American pies (not the one you’re thinking of), Japanese pastries, and other international cuisines. Bad enough they replaced Sandi Toksvig with Matt Lucas. What Brits did to Mexican food was the best example of why we worried our beloved show had lost its way. It was a symptom of larger issues with GBBO’s evolved formula, with less focus on baking and more on elaborate ingredients, impossible time constraints, and the difficulty of making ice cream in a sweltering tent.
Executive producer Kieran Smith recently told The Guardian that they’ve taken the well-deserved criticism to heart, and the upcoming season is a return to form. Bread, biscuits - they’re cookies, you weirdos, cookies - and the usual challenges return, along with the new challenge of “party cakes,” which at least sounds like something a home cook would make. They’ve also replaced Matt Lucas with TV presenter Alison Hammond. I have no experience with her work myself, but she’s apparently so charismatic that even resident Pajiban curmudgeon Petr thinks she’s great. That’s a high bar. Most importantly, country challenges are a thing of the past. It’s much better to use international flavors as inspiration than ask home bakers to replicate generations of innovation after a week of practice. We also have our first glimpse of this season’s bakers, who look as charming a batch as always.
It’s been a while since GBBO went a full season without at least one cringe episode, and by Paul’s steely blue gaze, we deserve it. It’s all good news, especially as we finally have dates for GBBO’s return. The UK gets it on Channel 4 in a week, September 26, while we Yanks have to wait until the 29th for its Netflix premiere. I’m just excited for a season free of international insults any more sacrilicious than replacing butter and eggs with vegan alternatives.