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What American cooking competition shows can learn from ‘The Great British Baking Show’

Bread, pies, and biscuits— the British variety, not a soft round bread. All of those, along with countless other baked goods, are made by amateur bakers from all around Britain every season of “The Great British Baking Show”— or “The Great British Bake Off,” as it’s called in Britain. Out of many applications, between 10 and 13 bakers are chosen to compete in a 10-week competition.

The extent of baking knowledge used in the “Great British Bake Off” truly astounds. Unlike on American baking competitions, which most often only feature cake, the British competition requires competitors to know how to bake bread, pastries, tarts, pies, biscuits and more. Despite the fact that all competitors are amateurs, they have a good amount of baking knowledge, from professional baking terms to the science behind baking.

The fact that the competitors are friendly and encouraging towards each other also makes the competition more pleasant to watch. They cheer each other on, and sometimes even abandon their own work to help another contestant out, something that would never be seen on American television, where competitors often try to sabotage their opponents.

The unique flavors contestants use add finesse. Pairing dark chocolate with passionfruit and using ingredients like hemp and rhubarb strays from the ordinary chocolate and vanilla. Moreover, the designs and presentations are far more impressive than those on American baking shows: the patterns and exquisite structures far surpass the basic colored fondant.

The judging is also elevated above that of American cooking shows. Judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are able to explain scientifically why certain steps won’t work and offer alternative approaches bakers could have taken.

“The Great British Bake Off” expands what baking really means. It reaches out of the bubble of sweet cakes and cookies and explores savory picnic pies, gluten-free bread loaves, and crackers. The show is a must-watch for those that are tired of seeing people drop cupcake tins on the ground and the only comment judges have being not enough flavor or too dry without an explanation why.

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