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'The Great Holiday Baking Show' fan react: The joys of American baking

Season 1 | Episodes 1 and 2 | “Cookie Week” and “Cake Week” | Aired Dec 7 and Dec 14, 2015

The Great Holiday Baking Show has firmly cemented The Great British Bake Off on American shores! First, I know I wrote a huge diatribe about what could make The Great Holiday Baking Show suck, but you know what? The show’s great! The only jarring things are hearing American accents and seeing Mary Berry without Paul Hollywood (although her American cohost, Johnny Iuzzini, is just as judgmental and fear-inducing, which is great).

For brevity’s sake, this post will be broken up into three definitive parts: “Cookie Week,” “Cake Week,” and miscellaneous notes. But for a quick reaction to the episodes: I am simultaneously entertained and disappointed in this week’s offing. The person who got “voted off the island,” as it were, had more to give, I thought—but I’m not a judge, so there you go. Let’s get into the baking discussion!

(By the way, if you haven’t seen the episodes yet, click away now, since there will be some spoilers!)

“Cookie Week”
The Great Holiday Baking Show
jumped things off with “Cookie Week,” or, as they would say in Britain, “Biscuit Week.” Cookies are generally thought of as easy to bake (well, at least in my household, they are), but there was one cookie in particular that stumped the contestants: brandy snaps, presented in the technical round.

I’m not exactly sure why brandy snaps are even considered cookies. They’re just sugar and butter, basically. You’re making caramel and baking it. Is that a cookie? In any event, it gets filled with cream, so maybe the cream takes it more into the “cookie” realm and takes it away from being just a baked candy. The lacy look of the brandy snap, which occurs as the cookies are baked, was difficult for many of the contestants to get right, particularly Grace Langan, whose brandy snaps really did look like melted caramel circles.

Unfortunately, brandy snaps weren’t the only shortcoming Grace had that week. The showstopper, a gingerbread construction in the shape of her workplace, her local hospital, didn’t have enough decoration. The decor it did have wasn’t applied expertly enough. Not to mention that the treatment used to stick the construction together was messy. Sadly, she had to leave the tent.

“Cake Week”
Grace’s exit from the tent is understandable, since sadly, she seemed out of her element. But I didn’t expect Eddie Downs to get ousted from the tent. Poor Eddie didn’t make it past the fruitcake showstopper. The fruitcake didn’t hurt him as much as the technical, which was Johnny’s grandmother’s tiramisu cake. Eddie’s mascarpone cream soaked into the still-warm cake, with only the edges of the cream still visible. His first bake, a German-chocolate yule log, was surprisingly delicious (surprising because he created his yule log in an unconventional manner). Johnny went so far as to call him an “unorthodox” baker.

The person I though should have gone was Nicole Silva. Eddie got the critique of being all over the place with his baking, but if anyone’s inconsistent with their bakes, it’d be Nicole. Nicole got good marks for her fruitcake, and her ladyfingers for the tiramisu cake were great, but other portions of the mascarpone cream were too runny. Her first bake, a pumpkin-spice yule log, was also more cakey and dense rather than spongy.

I’m not sure why Eddie was chosen over Nicole, but I think Nicole’s time is coming, since all the remaining bakers have to face the contestant who has been the most consistent throughout the competition so far: Lauren Katz. Lauren has created immaculate-looking bakes, at least two of which the judges considered worthy of selling in a European shop. But if there’s also something Lauren’s consistent with, it’s the occasional lack of flavor. Even with that critique, most of her bakes are usually technically sound. The one slip-up she had this week was with her tiramisu cake’s ladyfingers.

Other thoughts
It’s always amazing to see how well the host country of these Bake Off shows come out looking. Currently, we have a mess of a Republican-candidate pool, battles against Islamophobia and other forms of racism, Chicago melting down and Washington still not dealing with gun control. But you’d never know the apocalypse was happening on The Great Holiday Baking Show. It would appear like we, as a country, have our ish together.

The same goes for Britain. We here in the States sometimes romanticize Britain because we love the fantastical worlds of Sherlock, Dr. Who, The Lord of the Rings, Downton Abbey, and my personal favorite, Poirot. But Britain isn’t Dr. Who or Sherlock; the country isn’t always full of quick witticisms and Tumblr-ready moments for Anglophiles to obsess over. Britain has pulled itself together on some issues (like gun violence), but it’s still got junk going on just like we do. They have to fight Islamophobia and racism and governmental strife just like us. But you’d never know that by watching The Great British Bake Off. If you go by just the show alone, you’d think Britain was a happy place in which everyone’s biggest objective is to put a proper pudding on the table for dessert.

But, perhaps the fact that Britain and America have so much strife is why shows like The Great British Bake Off and The Great Holiday Baking Show are so popular. These are escapist shows, shows that paint the picture of our country of origin the way we’d like to always see it. Wouldn’t it be great if America’s biggest problem was how to create a proper brandy snap without burning it or ruining its lacy effect? What if countries could solve diplomatic issues just by sending each other one of their country’s best desserts? What if we could acknowledge differences and still unite over breads, cakes, cookies, and pies? That’s the world the Bake Off and its spinoffs provide to viewers. If only this was the model the world used for getting along with each other.

Perhaps that went down a rabbit hole of thought, but that’s just what it is: a thought. What are your thoughts on The Great Holiday Baking Show so far? Give your opinions below in the comments section. Let’s all go down the rabbit hole together!

The Great Holiday Baking Show airs at 10/9C for two more weeks on ABC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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