In Dining

There are plenty of good reasons to tune in to the new season of "The Great British Baking Show," including an the Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge! (PHOTO: Wisconsin Public Television)

7 tip-top reasons to watch "The Great British Baking Show" on PBS

If you haven't already fallen in love with "The Great British Baking Show," I must encourage you to give it a whirl. The impeccably charming reality show has become a national obsession in the U.K., but it also has a niche following among Anglophiles and foodies in the U.S. And there's good reason for that.

I hereby present seven great reasons to watch the new season, which premieres on Milwaukee Public Television on Saturday, June 23 at 11:30 a.m. (see the full schedule here) and on Wisconsin Public Television on Sunday, June 24.

1. It's delightfully different

Unlike so many of its kind, "The Great British Baking Show" defies the conventions of the reality TV genre. The first thing you'll notice is the tranquil setting: a simple tent on the idyllic British countryside. The decor is painted in pleasant pastel tones. It never rains (or so it seems). Honestly, it's downright relaxing.

2. No blasted branding

Next up is the remarkable absence of irritating product placements (thanks, BBC!). Indeed, there is no blatant brandishing of brand-name flours or silicone baking molds. So, you needn't feel like you're watching a one-hour commercial for household goods.

3. The contestants

Watch no more than ten minutes and you'll also realize that the contestants are decidedly different (in a very, very good way). They are diverse and delightful. And that's partially due to the fact that they aren't type-cast. You won't find "the evil bitch" or the "egotistical douchebag" returning season after season. These folks are simply ordinary people with ordinary jobs who just happen to love baking.

4. The judges

In parallel, the judges are shockingly kind. Unlike the stereotypical critics – who rail on contestants for mistakes or hurl insults (you know who I mean) – the genteel Mary Berry and swaggering Paul Hollywood are firm but supportive. They judge contestants fairly, not by their perceived merits as human beings, but by the texture of their biscuits and the rise of their soufflés. And, although it is often sad when contestants are eliminated, it is nearly never unjust.

5. Simply joy

And – maybe most delightful of all – there are no monetary advantages for the winner. Yes, you heard me correctly: The winner of "The Great British Baking Show" wins a title and an engraved cake stand. That's it. There's simply the joy of a job well done.

6. Get your Mary Berry fill while you can

Instead of feeling irritated by polarizing personalities and falsified plot lines, you'll find sheer pleasure in rooting for the genuinely likable contestants and enjoying cheeky co-hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc's sharp-witted comments and bawdy puns about frosted buns.

It's exquisite escapism at its very best. And you should take advantage before Berry, Perkins, Giedroyc leave the show starting with season seven (wah wah). Heaven knows what will happen once the show leaves BBC, so get your fix while it lasts.

7. You can bake along!

For the second year running, you can also test your pastry prowess by baking right along with the contestants on the show, thanks to the Second Annual Wisconsin Baking Challenge from Wisconsin Public Television.

The challenge is a fun, free baking adventure that is open to all ages and skill levels. As WPT notes: "Whether you can build a showstopper with your eyes shut or are trying a Paul Hollywood recipe for the first time, we want to see your best attempts at greatness — even if they fall flat."

Last year, The Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge featured hundreds of bakes from participants across Wisconsin and around the country. There was even one baker who joined in on the fun from Australia! A total of 12 "Star Bakers" participated in all 10 challenges.

How does it work?

  • One week before an episode airs, WPT will issue three baking challenges based on the upcoming new episode of "The Great British Baking Show." Unlike the contestants, you have a choice: select just one or bake all three. The only catch? You must execute the recipe with a Wisconsin twist.
  • Once you have completed your challenge, share your baking results and story with WPT through their online submission form before the deadline. As part of the submission, you'll be asked to answer a few fun questions, as well as submit a photograph of your creation. You're also welcome to submit a short 30-second video.
  • You can also share your project's progress on social media using #WisconsinBakingChallenge
  • Each week throughout the 10-part challenge, WPT will review all baker submissions and feature them at Six lucky submissions will also be chosen as the week's featured bakers.

We've also got a sneak peek at the very first challenge, which will focus on cake!

Bakers will have the choice of the following three challenges (as specified by Wisconsin Public Television):

  1. Signature Challenge – Upside Down Cake: Traditionally, this cake is all about firm fruit, but the possibilities are endless. Don't let this challenge turn your world upside down, no matter how intimidating Paul Hollywood's glare might be. Pick a cake recipe, choose a bottom layer that will wind up on top (think: traditional pineapple or radical tomato), and flip!
  2. Technical Challenge – Rum Baba: It's time for a classic 1970s treat! In the show, the bakers used Paul Hollywood's very own recipe, but you're not required to do so. Regardless, the Baba does have some unique characteristics: It's a yeasted cake filled with Chantilly cream and topped with fruit. Hollywood describes Rum Baba as a cross between bread and cake; what's not to love?
  3. Showstopper Challenge – Hidden Design Cake: Pssst: This cake has a secret. When you slice your cake, a hidden design or pattern should appear. We're talking colored sponge with a mouth-dropping secret design, whether it's a rainbow, a heart, a patriotic theme or something even more unique. This is the perfect time to hide a Wisconsin twist! Yes, this cake takes some planning, but the wow factor is well worth the effort.

Entries for the first week's challenge are due on or before June 24.

But that's not all

Week two will feature three challenges related to bread, including a signature flatbread challenge, a technical eight-strand plaited loaf challenge and a showstopper challenge featuring the creation of both 12 savory and 12 sweet bagels

Meanwhile, week three will challenge bakers to create a French tarte tatin for their signature challenge, Mary Berry's treacle tart as a technical challenge and a showstopper designer fruit tart.

Get more information and sign up for the Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge on the WPT website.


exchilango | June 12, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. (report)

We don't get Wisconsin Public Television here; why are you referring to that? Season 4 starts this Friday, June 16 at 8 pm on Milwaukee PBS 36.

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