The Great Sport Relief Bake-Off (BBC 2, all this week from 8pm) is the programme where Rufus Hound dresses up as Cheryl Cole and swims the channel with a tray of Belgian Buns for charity.
In that case, this must be the charity special version of the wonderful Great British Bake-Off. Over the course of a week, twelve celebrities will be trying to impress the judges with their baking skills and Go That Extra Mile for Sport Relief.
First off though, there’s a shock. Tellysquawks favourite Sue Perkins is nowhere to be seen: Mel Giedroyc is presenting this on her own. Has Sue been locked in a basement somewhere (possibly by our Fritzlish, stalkery editor, @Hilary_W), or is she going to be getting all floury later on in the week? Either way, it’s a shock.
On that bombshell, we met the contestants: Angela Griffin off of Corrie and Waterloo Road, botanist and presenter James Wong from Grow Your Own Drugs, Comedian and actress Sarah Hadland (the- I appreciate this doesn’t narrow it down- annoying one from Miranda) and tiny garden-gnome from Gardener’s World Joe Swift.
They all claim they can’t bake. Cue sceptical chin-stroking as we met the judges.
Paul Hollywood is a man who’s taken the phrase Silver Fox to its most ridiculous conclusion. Where other men put the Grecian 2000 in their hair, Paul has been priming his with Hammerite Chrome. “We’ve put this lot in a hot house” he says, trying to be Gregg Wallace. The paint fumes from his beard are getting to him: there’s not much ventilation in a marquee.
Mary Berry is the doyenne of British baking. It is my fondest wish to be her favourite nephew. Partially because it would mean Nicholas Parsons was my dad, but mainly it’s because she would make me scones and teach me how to roll out pastry properly.
First challenge: a tray bake. Twenty squares of deliciousness to impress the judges.
Angela made white chocolate and peanut butter blondies. A blondie is a brownie made with white chocolate (I’ve learned something tonight). These looked and sounded wonderful, and as she makes them for her kids and they’re obviously a favourite, she polished off her recipe with no fuss.
Joe made “Swifty’s special flapjacks”: Chocolate dipped, with dates and rum and stem ginger, yum. Naming creations after yourself in the third person is a trait that always worries me, but Joe seemed to know what he was doing despite having the gall to argue with Mary about the use of baking parchment.
James also made blondies. As a botanist, he has access to all the plants in the entire world, so added a special Asian vanilla-flavoured grass to his mixture. At least, I hope he did: in my experience most grasses look exactly the same and are often covered in dog wee.
“Why not use a vanilla pod?” asked Paul.
“It tastes like grass,” said Mary, leaving off an unspoken “you idiot”.
Sarah made a Red Velvet Cake, or “Insane Pie” as I christened it. 40ml of red food colouring for 20 people seemed excessive, and when her cake mix exploded out of the mixer her workstation looked like a scene from Dexter.
She then decorated the bake with glitter and raspberries. “Is it edible glitter?” asked Paul. Sarah didn’t know, making me wonder if the Miranda character is actually based on her.
The judges loved Angela and Joe’s bakes, Mel nearly died eating a peppercorn on one of James’ botanical blondies, and they were, quite rightly, deeply suspicious of the Insane Pie.
Next up, the contestants had to make Paul’s wholemeal cheese scones. I’ve got Paul’s book, and have made these: they’re lovely, but very easy to get wrong.
Joe explained how the process of grating cheese worked in minuscule detail. Angela said “I bet there’s something I do wrong” at exactly the moment she did something wrong; James seemed to be terrified that he wasn’t allowed to add borage flowers, fly agaric mushrooms and strychnine to his mix; and Sarah, to my surprise after the first round, made a very good job of hers.
Joe’s scones were judged to be the worst. He’d over-grated the cheese, the fool (and went on to give us another explanation of how the grating process worked). Angela’s weren’t very good, probably because she panicked after realising her mistake, and got the numbers wrong. James’ scones tasted great, but had risen unevenly; but Sarah’s were fantastic: beautifully textured, cheesy and even. It looks like Insane Pie was a one-off.
Mel is a great presenter for this. She gently teases the contestants, but at the same time helps out where she can. She gets the Sport Relief bits in, showing us great charity baking through the age but also does the science of baking bit. If she were a foodstuff she’d be a comforting yet multilayered dish. A lasagne, maybe. Or possibly some kind of trifle.
The final was the Meringue Challenge. Wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounded: they just had to make a meringue dessert of their own design. Anyone expecting a Total Wipeout-type situation where they had to bounce across a lake on giant, home made whipped treats would have been disappointed.
Angela made a gorgeous looking “fall-over pavlova”: strawberry meringue, Irish cream filling, hazelnuts, marvellous – a gorgeous chewy meringue that the judges all loved.
Sarah made Meringue Hart. I don’t know if Miranda will be pleased that her friend thinks she is big and round and full of chocolate, but her meringues were OK and her third attempt at a butterscotch sauce went down reasonably well.
Joe called his “Joe’s unforgettable meringue”, because he’s not at all egocentric. Also a meringue nest disappointingly filled with cream and raspberries and topped with some chocolate garden trellises wasn’t exactly unforgettable.
Unforgettable is the best way to describe James’ creation. Meringue nests flavoured with garlic, salt, chilli and Malaysian spices, and topped with sweet chilli prawns and mango. Imagine a sweet, chewy prawn vol-au-vent made of crazy, served on a stolen banana leaf. The filling was stunning – but just wasn’t right in a meringue. James got a round of applause from everyone, but he was always going to lose.
A judgely huddle ensued, and the winner was….
Good job too – she has a genuine love of baking, obviously adores the show and rang her mum when she won. Aww.
The rest of the week looks like it is going to be good fun. Hopefully Perkins will appear at some point, too.
As this is for charity and whatnot, why not go and donate some money, or have your own bake sale for Sport Relief? If you ask really nicely you can have my “Graeme’s unbelievably brilliant chocolate marble cake” recipe.
The Great Sport Relief Bake-Off is on BBC2 all this week from 8pm.
You can follow Graeme on Twitter, where he goes by the name of @Magicdarts