Thursday, 27 September 2012

On your marks, get set, BAKE!

We're gutted in our household. Ryan has gone out of The Great British Bake Off. As the announcement was made last night we both fell into deep shock, and there was a dawning realization that Tuesday nights will never be the same. You may think I'm being sarcastic, but honestly... I'm not. For any of those who are not familiar with this unlikely hit TV series that has made baking trendier than a bearded cardigan wearer from Hoxton, The Great British Bake Off is Masterchef for the amateur dough maker. Ryan was the hapless photographer who made great flavour combinations but failed every time in the technical challenges. He's been on the edge of extinction before, but has always managed to cling on. This week, sadly, his luck finally ran out. It all started so well. When the judges praised his lardy cakes he nearly cried, but then it all fell apart. His doughnuts sagged, his celebration cake... well... didn't and suddenly and he was history. We'll miss him, in fact it's not too strong to say, we are mourning him.  You see Ryan has this vulnerable cuddly quality that makes you want to take him home, along with his signature key lime pie. (He was star baker that week, deservedly so). Grisel has a strong urge to mother him, and I confess, so do I. He's a kind of clown. I'm not saying he's stupid, because clearly he isn't. He just has that naive, innocent quality that's impossible not to like. He was often praised on the show and his slightly startled expression made him look like he couldn't quite believe it. He's the true star of the show, and now he's gone.

So here's my confession for today. I love The Great British Bake Off and watch it religiously. So what is it about a baking program that makes it such compulsive TV? How have they managed to inject drama into something being put in the oven for an hour and then... well left there? and how in the hell did I get so addicted to it? It's a strange idea for a program. The producers seem to be falling over themselves to sex up the whole concept. It's cut like an episode from 24 hours in A&E and I think they've nicked the music. We see someone scream, "My strudel's got a hemorrhage!" and then there's long and lingering shots of the contestants tying up their aprons and psyching themselves up for the challenge. Is baking in The Olympics? Have I missed something? Even the title suggests a conflict of gladiatorial proportions. There's 'The Rumble in the Jungle', 'The Thriller in Manila' and now 'THE BAKE OFF!!!!' Bruce Willis has to star in the film or I, for one, am not interested. Maybe in this blockbuster a crazed suicide bomber climbs inside one of the proofing ovens and Bruce, now a disillusionment pastry chef with a broken marriage, has to save the world. It's just a thought, but I'm aware I'm going off the plot again. Even though 'The Bake Off' is falling over itself to be hip it's set in a marquee, decked out in Union Jack bunting in the middle of a field. I think it's this weird contradiction that I love so much. It's like Cool Britannia meets Mrs Beaton. There's that and the fact that I can't help roaring with laughter every time a tray of meringues is dropped on the floor, and sniggering everytime the word masterbaker is used. ( I know... I'm twelve.). Fact is, it's made me interested in baking and for that I'm glad, after all who doesn't like eating the stuff.

Ryan in another sticky moment on The Great British Bake Off
So it's farewell Ryan. With tears in our eyes we wave you goodbye. We'll never forget your key lime pie. Keep baking mate... keep the faith.

The Great British Bake Off can be viewed in all it's glory on BBC2, Tuesdays at 8pm. Next week it's the quarter finals and it's biscuits. Sadly Ryan can only now be seen on BBC Iplayer and on his website

Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancĂ© Grisel Tarifa. They hope to open a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools in Peckham in the winter.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. Mike is also busy writing his one man show, Clowns, Coulrophobia and Me for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Go to for more info.

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