Nuala McCann: The new series of Bake Off conjures fond kitchen memories

YES, the Bake Off is back – but it’s on Channel 4 and there are new presenters ... no little old lady Mary with the twinkly eyes and no Sue and Mel and their dreadful double entendres.

They’ve washed their hands of all that – ha ha – cooking hygiene, stars on the doors and all that jazz.

But ol' blue eyes Paul Hollywood is still there – he supped the soup, broke bread with the devil and migrated to Channel 4.

Oh yes, and there are a whole new set of bakers in the tent.

They’ve also got rid of that 'oh so bloody interesting' bit in the Bake Off where the presenters leave the red hot oven heat of the tent to discuss 'fascinating' stuff like who put the toad in the hole and the current school of thought on the Eccles cake.

That part whiffed of po-faced education, so it was always time to make a cup of tea in our house.

I love Bake Off, I really do. It’s car crash television with a squirt of cream and a cherry on top.

I still feel for the local guy who got caught up in 'ice cream-gate'. Remember how another contestant took his baked Alaska out of the freezer... they said it was only for 40 seconds, but he begged to differ.

He ended up chucking it into the bin. There was custardgate before that.

As for shy Harold, I’m still heartbroken that he didn’t get crowned king of the tent. Oh the drama, oh the horror, oh the tears shed over a flat bit of sponge and some seized chocolate.

And oh those stupid double entendres: I come from an age when buns meant butterfly ones and not somebody’s well-toned ass, while baps meant big floury ones and no boobs about it.

When people said “soggy bottoms” in those days of old, it was because Pampers had not been invented and whole generations were chained to the drudgery of the nappy bucket and the mangle, living in earnest hope of a good drying breeze.

In the end, let’s face it, don’t we all love Bake Off because of the disasters? Who wants to see it all go swimmingly?

There’s shadenfreude in a mile-high tower of teetering chocolate fingers; in filo pastry that flat refuses to flake and in dry meringues that crumble like volcanic dust.

It’s the personalities, it’s the breathtaking moments, it’s drama, it’s crisis. I’ve given up smouldering over Ross Poldark; give me a sticky toffee pudding.

What is it about baking that speaks to so many millions? Is it that it just spells home?

Back at my mother’s place, there is an old faded cookery book full of recipes that whisper of Christmas and Easter and Sundays after mass, when the blue formica table became the centre of dreams whisked up with a set of electric beaters.

Maybe everybody’s mother had one of those recipe books. No tippy tapping up the perfect recipe on the internet back then.

Ours was a hard-backed book with lined pages and on each page, the handwritten headline told a story.

There were Peggy’s rum truffles, Mrs Craig’s flakemeal shortbread and Greta’s chocolate cake. There was home-made lemonade, coconut pyramids, Dundee cake and Christmas cake. There was special American frosting – guaranteed to cost you a decent incisor.

Swishing the frosting on to the Christmas cake was my job. I loved to swirl the glossy white stuff, making snow patterns all over the cake before plonking the traditional toy robin on top.

That old recipe book is dog-eared with use.

The original recipes were all written out in my mother’s beautiful handwriting and have faded with time. And the book bears the old cookery scars – a grease spot of butter here, a splodge of treacle from the tin across the gingerbread recipe, a turned down dog ear at a favourite recipe.

So when Bake Off comes back next week with a nearly new team, I’ll probably be there on the sidelines cheering on my favourite competitor.

I’m a nervous baker – people who chuck in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and come up with a treat, never cease to amaze me.

But the recipe for the programme has me hooked... maybe because my whole life, I’ve come upon so much love cooked up in a loaf tin.

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