Paul Hollywood gets a-salt-ed in episode one…

Thirteen people are brought to a tent in the middle of a manor house garden to stare at ovens, cry over spilt cake mix and avoid soggy bottoms – yes, it’s that time of year again folks. The new series of The Great British Bake Off has arrived.

Presenters Sue and Mel were as lovable as ever, looking genuinely sad when they had to boot out this week’s unlucky soul, and providing solidarity to the unusual number of people who almost lopped off their thumb. It was perhaps for health and safety reasons, then, that Toby, who cut both his thumbs and a pinky, was this week’s jettisoned hopeful. The mad-scientist-lookalike baked a spiced and iced carrot cake for his sandwich cake signature bake, which Mary Berry called ‘packed’, but, for my money, looked like it had a bit too much going on. He didn’t fare much better during the angel food cake challenge, ingeniously using salt instead of sugar – perhaps he was trying to channel last year’s winner John Whaite, who put salt in his rum baba.

The showstopper challenge tasked contestants to make the most beautifully decorated chocolate cake they could muster. Frances pulled it out the bag, with a homage to the Bake Off’s infamous squirrel and his nuts, producing a beautiful cake that not only boasted lovingly decorated squirrel biscuits, but a hidden squirrel motif inside, too. It was a crime she didn’t get star baker, but Robert did put in an undeniably good showing.

At this stage in the competition, Toby barely had hands left to use, but this didn’t really inspire much sympathy from the Lord of the Loaf; his two-tiered chocolate cake was over-cooked, and, as Paul pointed out, this particular error wasn’t down to a lack of usable digits, but rather a lack of good timing. It was questionable as to whether Ali or Ruby might go as well, but they held on for another week. And who knows, they might be ones to watch – the underdogs have come back from the brink before, so it could certainly happen again.

Next week: duels with breadsticks.

Dominic Stroud

Dom is an ex-Fed Up & Drunker who has now been released into the wild.

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