Warning: The Great British Bake Off (C4) will go to your waistline. As the most fattening show on TV returned with trayloads of mouth-watering biscuits, millions of fans across the country headed straight for the custard cream jar.
Two of the regular team have grown a tad since we last saw them. Judge Paul Hollywood tried to hide it by keeping his capacious blue shirt untucked.
Since joining Bake Off, Noel Fielding has plumped up, too. With his jet-black quiff and sideburns, he claimed to be a Shakin’ Stevens lookalike.
Star baker: Manon Lagreve’s biscuit depiction of Japan
Meanies might suggest that Fielding now looks more like Elvis… from his Hunka-Hunka-Burning-Love years in Vegas.
Bake Off abides by its own traditions and rarely tweaks the recipe. Most of our favourite components were in place from the start, from catchphrases to camera angles, but unexpectedly we began with biscuits instead of cakes.
The reason became obvious in the showstopper round, when the 12 new bakers were challenged to create portraits of themselves in ginger nuts and shortbread: Biscuit selfies.
That might sound an abominably trendy gimmick, but cleverly it did force viewers to think about the contestant’s faces – which helped us get to know them much more quickly.
Several of the biccy piccies looked suspiciously as though they’d been drawn by the same cartoonist, but there’s nothing in the rules to say that bakers can’t take art lessons.
The other major change to the format is the absence of scripted innuendo. When Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins were in charge, every comment had a filthy double meaning, even if poor Mary Berry didn’t understand why everyone was sniggering.
Uncanny: A neatly iced holiday picture by Karen Wright
But Sandi Toksvig and Prue Leith are too well-mannered to indulge in such childishness, Noel is only funny when he’s being surreal, and Paul Hollywood can’t do Carry On humour without sounding creepy and lecherous. Bake Off’s much better without the smut.
No one gave that memo to baker Kim-Joy, 27, from Leeds. She took one look at gay dad Dan’s self-portrait of himself cradling a low-slung baby wrapped in a pink blanket, and burst into embarrassed squeals.
‘That looks like a prawn,’ commented Paul, but it wasn’t a prawn that Kim-Joy was thinking of.
Two of the contestants, Bollywood-loving banker Antony and nuclear physicist Rahul, both 30, were born in India.
Meanwhile, farmer’s daughter Manon, 26, from Brittany, introduced herself in French, with subtitles. Paul was impressed by her efficiency at the oven: ‘The style of her baking is very classically French, everything’s precision,’ he said.
Impressive: Luke Thompson’s self-portrait in Vegas
The same couldn’t be said for her English. Struggling with the technical challenge to create wagon wheels, Manon pleaded: ‘I haz no idea what is a wheelin’ wagon, what is it called?’
Prue promised she would be a tougher judge this year, but it was Paul who doled out the withering comments. ‘That’s a really rough biscuit’, ‘it didn’t blow me away’, ‘that’s dry’ and ‘feels rubbery’, were a few of his kinder put-downs.
As the presenters sat down to discuss which baker would be the first evictee, Sandi commented with a note of sincerity that she’d be sad to see any of them go.
I knew what she meant. This opening episode got off to a much quicker start than last year, by making sure we got to know all the new faces.
So welcome back to Bake Off, without the saucy soggy bottoms, and with some extra zip – it’s sweet and addictive as ever.
Bake Off’s return puts the icing on the biscuit
This year’s Great British Bake Off contestants immediately found themselves facing a tough challenge as the series returned last night – becoming artists.
In the first instalment of the Channel 4 show, the 12 bakers were asked to create a ‘biscuit selfie’ – a portrait of themselves in a memorable location made from layers of biscuits.
Manon Lagreve, an early favourite to be crowned winner, created a white chocolate and matcha ganache selfie biscuit of her visit to Japan, which judge Prue Leith described as ‘exquisite’.
Civil servant and DJ Luke Thompson, 30, created an image of himself at Las Vegas, while Karen Wright, 60, made an impressive portrait of herself on holiday. But stay-at-home father Dan Beasley-Harling, 36, raised eyebrows with his depiction of himself holding his baby son wrapped in a pink blanket in Palm Springs, California.
Fellow baker Kim-Joy, 27, asked: ‘What are you holding?’ When he explained that it was a baby, she replied: ‘Oh, I thought it was something else.’ Judge Paul Hollywood, however, seemed to think it resembled a ‘massive prawn’.
After impressing with her hazelnut Cornish shortbread and wagon wheels, Miss Lagreve, 26, was named star baker.
But countryside officer Imelda McCarron, 33, failed to impress the judges with her ‘bland and dry’ selfie biscuit which showed her at the seaside. She was the first contestant to be sent home.