Bake Off: The Professionals, review: why are we still being served this stale, bland bun?

The contestants in Bake Off: The Professionals face difficult (and random) challenges
The contestants in Bake Off: The Professionals face difficult (and random) challenges - Channel 4

We are heading into summer, which is when TV executives sling their “will this do?” shows into the schedules. I can all but guarantee that nobody in the upper echelons of Channel 4 watches Bake Off: The Professionals, a show now trudging into its seventh year, but it has name recognition and fills an hour on a Monday night so it’ll do. These days I prefer MasterChef: The Professionals to the original, because the amateur competition has become so hackneyed, but with Bake Off: The Professionals I pine for the real thing.

The contestants come in six pairings and there is no time to get to know them. One of the judges (Cherish Finden) barks rather than speaks while the other (Benoit Blin) comes across as a slightly less friendly Fred Sirieix.

The first series was hosted by Tom Allen, who is funny, but he has been replaced by Ellie Taylor, who is not. The one bright spot is Liam Charles, a former Bake Off winner who co-hosts with just the right amount of charm. The first challenge is batch baking.

This week, the contestants have to make little tarte aux fraises, which they do with varying levels of success. “What we have produced is nothing we’d serve to anyone, including my cat,” one baker concedes. This is followed by the showpiece challenge, which is more fun; a trompe l’oeil pecan pie with a musical theme.

Yes, that is very random, but this programme is like that. Sample dialogue: “Flo is running out of time to make the extra gingerbread needed to complete the accordion concertina.” Some of the results are impressive, even if the judges didn’t think so (the true-to-scale marimba impressed me, anyway).

But one of the problems here is that TV has moved on, but this show has remained stuck. Over on Netflix, professional bakers are producing outrageous results in Is It Cake? – a kind of crazed game show – and Baking Impossible. The latter combines trompe l’oeil baking with engineering, and the results are insane: an edible mini-golf course one week, a remote-controlled boat the next. Alongside these, Bake Off: The Professionals is drab.

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