Can you believe it’s been 10 years since The Great British Bake Off entered our lives, causing us to care more about genoise sponge and caramel work than we ever thought possible? That fact somehow went amiss last week, when the show’s 10th series delivered an underwhelming, slightly clunky premiere. Things are looking up in this second episode, which revives the tried and true Bake Off hallmarks that have turned a baking competition into a global phenomenon over the past decade.

It’s biscuit week in the tent and we waste no time diving into this episode’s signature challenge: decorated chocolate biscuit bars. As any Bake Off fan will know by now, biscuits mean judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith will be paying close attention to texture, be it snappy, crumbly or shortbready. The bakers, naturally, display admirable creativity when it comes to riffing off this week’s theme – Helena’s making matcha-flavoured “witch fingers”, while Henry’s going for an intricate combination of hazelnut shortbread with a coffee and cardamom mousse and hazelnut caramel. Upon getting teased by Hollywood and co-host Noel Fielding about wearing a tie, 20-year-old Henry proudly declares that his sartorial goal is to look “like a prepubescent American schoolboy”. At this point, who knows how his chocolate biscuit bars will turn out, but his witty repartee is certainly baked to perfection.

Time goes by fast during the signature challenge, meaning the bakers, of course, scramble to finish. Participants unite to help a struggling Priya and Jamie salvage their bakes. The contestants have had a week to get to know one another, and it shows – throughout the episode, they exchange encouragements and words of support, and later on, when Michael gets upset over his showstopper, Priya rushes to comfort him. This is the kind of good-natured solidarity fans of Bake Off have come to crave, and it’s good to see it in action once again.

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Michelle’s Bakewell-themed signature wins over Hollywood and Leith, suggesting that last week’s Star Baker could now be this year’s clear frontrunner. But skilled challengers emerge in Rosie and Alice, whose respective virgin mojito biscuit bars and honeycomb peanut mallow bars are runaway successes. Not doing so great are Helena (whose witches fingers fail to impress Hollywood), Jamie (whose bake isn’t set, but who demonstrates an admirable sense of humour when confronted by Leith’s judging), and Amelia (whose nougat biscuit bars are a bit “rough and ready” and not cooked properly, says Hollywood).

Moving on to the technical challenge, which this year consists of fig rolls, a childhood favourite of Hollywood’s. This is announced by Fielding, who forgets he’s supposed to specify the bakers’ rolls must be identical in shape and size – meaning it’s up to co-host Sandi Toksvig to swoop in to fill in the blank, eliciting giggles from the bakers. “It’s a given at this point,” Fielding remarks, almost breaking the fourth wall. This is a lighthearted, fleeting moment, but it’s also a sign that the Fielding-Toksvig pairing (which seemed risky when it was announced after Bake Off’s move from the BBC to Channel 4) is beginning to work.

Helena, who accidentally makes 11 fig rolls instead of the mandatory 12, comes bottom of the technical, while Jamie’s egg-washed rolls land him in 11th position. Alice comes first, confirming her status as the rising star of this episode – and with that, we’re on to the showstopper challenge, a biscuit sculpture.

For their 3D pieces, the bakers must demonstrate their construction skills, without compromising on appearances and flavours. Rosie, a veterinary surgeon, sets out to craft a chicken out of an impressive 212 biscuits, while Henry aims to build an organ (the church kind) out of gingerbread and brandy snaps. Jamie goes for a biscuit guitar made out of chocolate gingerbread and lemon shortbread, David for a delicate wedding spray, Amelia for a “swimming with dolphins” seascape, and Helena for a spider and her web. Jamie’s biscuits collapse as he takes them out of the oven, pretty much all the bakers mutter to themselves as they rush to finish on time, all of which makes for decently suspenseful television. Ultimately, Rosie’s chicken and David’s wedding spray are hits with the judges, while Henry’s organ and Jamie’s guitar are both deemed underwhelming (this is Bake Off, mind you, so even crafting a church organ out of eggs and flour doesn’t necessarily qualify as a feat). Helena redeems herself with her flavour, which, as Hollywood points out, demonstrates her “massive artistic flair”, but Amelia’s nautical scene is just “OK”.

All in all, this is a good episode of Bake Off, which revives many of the show’s beloved features while allowing the personalities of this year’s bakers to shine through. There’s sweetness, creativity and a trademark sense of good-natured competition. Let’s hope this series keeps moving in this direction – with perhaps an extra hint of tension as the stakes get higher.

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