Tube Talk: Great Holiday Baking Show

By Paula Hendrickson
Television Columnist

The Great British Bake Off was a huge hit in the United Kingdom before PBS finally began airing past seasons here in the US, redubbed as The Great British Baking Show.

I have no clue why they changed the title, but after seeing just one episode of it last winter I was hooked. As a fairly skilled home baker, I love watching contestants face difficult baking challenges. I enjoy it even more when someone fails at something I know how to do, which admittedly doesn’t happen all too often. It’s rare that I don’t learn something new in each episode.

Baking is a precise science, but it’s also an art. That’s where the fun comes in. There’s always a risk in trying new twists on classic recipes, and the contestants have to up their games to stand out from the pack. Slight shifts in proven recipes can either elevate the baked goods or ruin them entirely. The Star Baker one week might be on the bottom of the heap the next, and someone who nearly went home one week might be Star Baker the next.

While the most recent season to air here in the US ended a couple weeks ago, fans like me can still get a baking fix during ABC’s four-episode special, The Great Holiday Baking Show, which is based on The Great British Bake Off. The first episode airs Monday.

Although produced in the US, one of the British judges—baking expert Mary Berry—will be stateside to share judging duties with James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. Instead of being hosted by comediennes Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, the US holiday edition will be hosted by actress Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and her husband, actor Ian Gomez (Cougar Town).

Like the original series, in each episode bakers will face three challenges: the Signature Bake (their own recipe), the Technical Challenge (a surprise recipe that may or may not be entirely complete), and the Showstopper Bake (an elaborate example of baking precision, decoration, and flavor).

I don’t know how well this incarnation will compare to the original. Since ABC needs to fit in time for commercials we may miss tense moments of bakers wondering if their dough has proofed enough or if their chocolate has been properly tempered.

I’m sure there will be some changes to the format, but it’s always inspiring to see talented bakers pushing each other to excel. And what baker wouldn’t love to have Mary Berry bite into one of their baked goods and declare it “Scrummy”? (Which seems to be her term for something both scrumptious and yummy.)

Programming Note:

The Great Holiday Baking Show airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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