It’s almost difficult to imagine a world of cosy baking TV before The Great British Bake-Off. GBBO laid the table so perfectly that all other shows since have in some way tried to copy its recipe.
A different show requires a different angle, and these can frequently move away from what makes such a format work. Yet, when all those ingredients are mixed up just right (healthy competitiveness, mouth-watering creations, carefully ladled out ‘wow’ factor), you get a show like Baking Impossible.
Baking Impossible takes the GBBO showstopper round and multiplies it by a factor of 10. Each episode requires the teams of two to create something that needs to be both delicious, but also pass an engineering focused ‘stress test’.
In order to achieve this, the teams all consist of one experienced baker and one experienced engineer, and between the two of them, they will need to craft something gloriously practical yet deliriously edible. That none of the teammates had met before the show adds a little frosting of drama to each challenge.
All of the above results in a show where each episode goes over and above what seems like unstoppable feats. Feats such as boat-shaped confection that can float down a watercourse, or chain reaction machines that reveal a surprise pudding, or edible catwalk clothing.
Unlike mean spirited shows such as Nailed It, Baking Impossible replicates that GBBO warmth and amazement at what skilled and determined people can create, without ever making it look like a superhuman certainty.
Whilst the hugely impressive end results are obviously the payoff of each episode, there is a lot of enjoyment in watching this collection of ‘bakineers’ (yes, they rolling-pinned the words ‘baker’ and ‘engineers’ into a twitching LED pie crust) go about the challenges.
For the most part these sieved together strangers get on endearingly well. Cindy and Taylor wow straight off the bat with impressive floatation food and chemistry that extends beyond the inside of an oven, whilst Sara and Rodolfo have a lovability that makes you want to hug them. And for those who enjoy a bit of tension, well Steve’s barely concealed irritation at Renée’s failing engineering is there to wince at.
Thankfully the show format is complimented by judges Dr Hakeem Oluseyi (engineering), Joanne Chang (baking) and former GBBO series 7 contestant Andrew Smythe (bakineering…nope, still really awkward to say). Whilst none have particularly stand out personalities, they deliver good judgement soundbites and bounce off each other well, particularly in the Mini Golf Course episode.
Overall host Justin Williams (who also hosts Magic for Humans on Netflix) ties things together with a charm that often eludes the tortured GBBO bits to camera, and works in a few ‘twinkle in the eye’ magic tricks just for the heck of it.
Following the cookbook to the letter isn’t a guaranteed way to succeed in the cosy baking genre. An indefinable ingredient is always needed to activate that yeast and achieve a good rise.
By combining jaw dropping challenges (think Is It Cake?), a sprig of organic chemistry, and keeping it all on a closely monitored low heat, Baking Impossible is a perfect choice when you want a satisfying helping of “I don’t know, just something tasty from the kitchen, please”.
Words by Mike Record