There’s definitely something weird about curling up on the sofa on a cold autumn evening, turning on the TV and watching The Great British Bake Off contestants swelter their way through the hottest day of the year.
For viewers it may be a crisp Tuesday in October, but in Bake Off World it’s mid-June and the remaining six are trapped in this pop-up greenhouse, slowly cooking in their own sweat as temperatures climb to 40 degrees and beyond.
It’s odd – but it’s also frustrating to watch. Doesn’t it just seem a bit unfair on the bakers?
Now, I’m not saying we should get rid of the tent itself and move things indoors (Bake Off has just about survived the loss of Mel, Sue and Mary Berry, but dismantling the actual tent would be a step too far).
But surely, having spent all those millions on buying the Bake Off, Channel 4 could reach a little deeper into its pockets and spring for some proper air conditioning? Or perhaps just something more effective than the teeny desk fan we see Stacey clutching in desperation?
I’m not the only one to think it’s not right. Stacey has a pretty miserable weekend, and by the time it comes to piping creme patissiere into her pastry cases she’s too fed up to even chuckle at her own innuendo: “It’s shooting out of every orifice. That is weather related…It’s definitely the heat, it’s not my fault.”
Sun: 1, Bakers: 0.
Kate also has a bit of a bloody mishap, cutting the tip of her finger and then coming close to fainting on the floor. That’s probably heat-related, too. Sun: 2, Bakers: 0.
Paul Hollywood tries to claim this is all part of the authentic Italian Week experience, almost as if he summoned the Sun like some sort of Bake Off god. The Italians cook in the heat, he argues, so why shouldn’t the Bake Off contestants? In other words: if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.
It’s a compelling argument – that is, until it actually gets “hotter than Palermo” inside the tent.
Also, Italians are pretty good at designing buildings that stay cool in summer: the idea of setting up a tent in an Italian field with ovens and hobs and lots of windows – well, that would be absurd.
By this point Paul has practically climbed into the freezer to get away from the punishing heat. Noel Fielding is jumping around like a little sprite fanning people with whatever cooking implements come to hand. The butter has become a slick, the chocolate is melting before it even gets to the hob and every single tea towel is saturated in the bakers’ sweat.
Steven suggests taking the “naked chef” approach, but in fact they have to put on even more layers than usual: deep fat frying requires long sleeves in case of oil splashes. “Health and safety” explains Yan as she grimly puts on her hoodie.
You really have to feel for the contestants as they watch their pastries melt in the heat. All the bakers’ Signature Bakes and Showstoppers have to be decided in advance, but now any stuck with less heat-proof ingredients will be at a disadvantage. Is this really testing their baking skills, or their ability to withstand absurd heat and plan for a heatwave?
Watching the bakers become hotter and sweatier and stickier, it’s hard not to feel frustrated on their behalf. The only good thing? At least it wasn’t Caramel Week… or Ice Cream Week…
The Great British Bake Off continues on Tuesdays at 8pm on Channel 4