TV: Interview - Prue Leith on the return of The Great British Bake Off.
The Great British Bake Off is back next week, with Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith returning to judge the bakes.
The Great British Bake Off launched in its new Channel 4 home last year and attracted an impressive average audience of nine million viewers per episode (10m for the final), rising to 10.5m with linear repeats. It was the biggest TV series of 2017 for viewers aged 16-34.
Here, Prue tells us about getting back in the tent...
* It’s your second series filming together and how has that been, more laid back?
Absolutely. It’s so much more relaxed, we are so settled into our roles now. Paul and I have a really good relationship, I followed his lead at the beginning but now it’s very even handed. He has been absolutely sweet and so professional to work with.
*What do you think you brought to the show?
I am a huge admirer of Mary, she is an expert cake maker. Paul is a brilliant bread maker, but I am more of a cook, so I am much more light hearted about the judging and I can tease Paul about banging on about crumb. I just feel it’s about the essence, the balance of flavours, what makes your mouth water, and it has got to taste fantastic.
*And the chemistry between you and Paul?
Sometimes I think we are like schoolkids, he can say some mad things to get a rise out of me. He is constantly teasing me. I think we have a great natural chemistry and we both respect each other’s baking knowledge.
*What was the audition process like the first time?
When I started I had no idea that Paul had been auditioning with other people, which of course because of the kind of show it is, there would have been. When I was asked to meet Paul Hollywood to see how we would get on, I thought we might meet and have an informal chat in a pub. When I got there it was makeup, clothes and cameraman. I did get a bit of a shock, but Paul made me feel really relaxed about it, and I felt less nervous. He told me to go for it and not just follow him. He knew I had more oomph and experience than I was showing, and encouraged me to show more of myself.
*Why and when did you first get the baking bug?
The very first time I made a cake was at school - a Christmas cake and come Christmas Day - my father tried to cut in to the cake but because I hadn’t put any glycerine in the icing it was then rock solid. As my father hit the cake, the knife which was a family heirloom split in two, so in the end we turned it over and scooped out the cake, with a half inch thick bowl of icing left.
*What's your favourite recipe that you would bring to the table
Pavlova with pineapple and passion fruit, the family always love it.
*From this year’s series are there any trends from the Bakers that have come through?
Cardamom and coconut are popular and a citrus flavour Yuzu has been big this year.
*How skilled are the Bakers this year?
They are exceptional, and skilled in different ways. I can’t talk about them separately but they all bring something individual and different to the table. Some bring strong and exotic flavours, and others bring intricate flavours with delicate icing.
*Any recipes you have taken from the show?
I loved Steven’s caramel cake from last year. And last year one of the home economist’s made an amazing moist chocolate sponge cake which I now make at home regularly using her recipe. And I have pinched a few from this series too.
*Do you both pretty much agree when it comes to judging the Bakers?
Yes we do, it’s a bit uncanny but we are pretty much together from beginning to end even though we come from such different baking backgrounds. There might be occasional shades of difference, we tend to rank every baker in the same order.
*Anything you wouldn’t eat.
*Paul - how has he helped you?
He helped me find my feet and I have learned such a lot from him. He is an absolute genius when he sums up the judging with few words…..it’s straight to camera, no errms or arrhs , he is so succinct. Whereas I go round the houses with lots of words so I have tried to pick up on his critique and absorb it! I am not as good as him, but I think I am getting there now.
*Describe Paul, Sandi, Noel in 3 words
Paul - Soft-centred, professional, masculine
Sandi - Humourous, loyal, caring
Noel - Quirky, daft, clever
*Being around a show that has so much noise around it, was that daunting?
I have had such a great experience on this series, and I haven’t found any of it daunting as everyone has been so professional and welcoming. The crew and production team are so brilliant, I really admire them all. Working with Paul, Sandi and Noel - it’s a pleasure to do. The only downside is that I just don’t want any of the bakers to leave!
*The show is very popular amongst young people why do you think that is and what are they like when they meet you?
They absolutely love Noel, and I think that they love the show because it’s unthreatening and happy. Everyone is lovely when they meet me, supportive about the show, and it’s wonderful to be asked to pose for a selfie!
*What’s next in your baking or anything else world?
Next I’m bringing out my first cookbook in 25 years, Prue: My All-Time Favourite Recipes, and I’m also working on another cookbook with my baker niece Peta to come out next year. I have just finished my eighth novel, to be published in the Spring, The Lost Son, the third book in a trilogy.
The Great British Bake Off starts Tuesday 28th August at 8pm on Channel 4