In a season premiere that began with a truly absurd sequence featuring the judges and hosts dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz (1939) (including Paul Hollywood aptly costumed as the heartless Tin Man), and ended with the characteristic wholesome group hug given to the contestant going home, five bakers emerged from the rest of the batch as possible winners of the popular competition series The Great British Baking Show.
The show, which is entering its tenth season this fall, has decided for the first time to release its episodes as they are aired on Netflix’s American platform, preventing binge-watching, but allowing for viewers to make predictions and anxiously await results in the week between each new episode.
With only the first episode out, and the second soon to be released, we have only began to get a taste of this year’s bakers. Still, the three bakes they have completed can be used to predict whether they will stay in the tent, or return to their home kitchens.
As the judges have said for the past several seasons, the bar went up this year (begging once again the question of when the show will no longer be able to produce more spectacular challenges), and all of the contestants achieved bakes that would leave most home chefs flour-covered and flabbergasted. In the first episode, five bakers seemed to rise to the top as the most able to meet those challenges. Michelle, Steph, Michael, David, and Henry set themselves apart, and seem to be the most likely to persevere until the quarterfinals. Of those, Henry, a 20-year-old university student, made the best case for being the winner of the season.
The first challenge called for a fruitcake with a “significant amount of fruit” and prompted debates about just how much fruit was too much. Henry produced a wood street with a flavor the judges loved. Though he had a small problem with decoration, dropping an impossibly fragile house made of royal icing, the cake itself was highly applauded, proving he possessed a strong grasp on the basics, unlike several other competitors.
The technical challenge, angel cake slices, produced 78 cakes of varying toughness and disarray, but Henry’s slices were “excellent in every way” according to judge Prue Leith, earning him first place in the challenge.
The showstopper challenge called for the birthday cake the contestants dreamt of as a child, and while some contestants dreams turned to nightmares, Henry was out of the woods with his chocolate magical forest. Unlike the first challenge, this time the judges loved his design, but thought his flavor could be better. Though the cake was too sweet, with this bake Henry proved he could nail both flavor and decor, and both of his errors were small, and easily avoided in the future. This solid skill set, as well as his technical knowledge, puts Henry in the running for the finals, and makes him the most likely contestant to be crowned in nine weeks.
However, Henry was not the only one who baked cakes to perfection. Michelle, this week’s star baker, wowed the judges with her “faultless” toadstool carrot cake. Though her first bake was texturally challenged (too tough), it was praised for its flavor, and she did decently in the technical. Her early success and infectious personality will likely carry her far into the competition.
David, whose initial focus on health baking with his squash fruit cake worried the judges, actually did quite well in both the first and third bake. His childhood dream of a large chocolate and orange flavored snake was especially impressive, and though he had a poor showing in the technical, he established himself as a strong contender.
Micheal too suffered in the technical, and also in the first challenge, where he cut his fingers a total of three times. Though his nerves affected him, he calmed them with his cup of chai tea cake that Prue called “lovely.” His third cake, a pirate’s treasure chest, may have been a bit off in flavor, but showed once more his inventiveness.
Finally, Steph took her place this episode as one of the most solid and consistent bakers—a position that will often get you to the semifinals. Her citrus and apricot loaf and upside-down ice cream cone cake was delicious, and with third in the technical she did almost no wrong this episode.
Though these five bakers may be the ones who will stick around the longest, they are not the ones I am most eager to see more from. No, that would be Helena, who is inexplicably obsessed with all things Halloween. Her slightly witchy aesthetic is mirrored in her home, as well as her fruit bat cake, though her bat wing decor was not able to soar.
No matter who wins, it is sure to be another thrilling, if also slightly calming season of GBBS.
Image Credits: CreditCreditMark Bourdillon/Lov Productions, via Channel 4