Paul Hollywood's Bread - TV review
He's the softly-spoken Scouser who became a household name as a judge on TV cookery contest The Great British Bake Off.
But unlike certain TV reality contest judges – Simon Cowell, or Craig Revel Horwood, for example – Hollywood had no interest whatsoever in creating good telly by humiliating the failures.
He just told it like it was. And even in that gentle, benevolent burr, if he told a contestant that their cake was not up to scratch, their disappointment was tangible.
This is because Hollywood knows an awful lot about baking, pure and simple, and he has no hidden agenda. All he has is a passion for his craft, and that has earned him respect.
"Baking is in my blood," he declared in last night's show, the first of a six-part series.
He explained how he learned his craft from his father as a boy, and in turn, is now passing his expertise on to his own son.
Blessed with one of the coolest names in showbusiness, Hollywood is rapidly becoming the George Clooney of the culinary world – the thinking woman's crumpet.
With his carefully coiffed silver locks and gleaming, piercing eyes, he has set many hearts aflutter – and last night's show seemed to capitalise on his newfound sex symbol status.
There were plenty of close-up shots and dreamy slow-motion footage of him effortlessly kneading and pummelling dough.
In a recent interview, he insisted he was not a sex symbol at home, preferring to lounge around in his dressing gown and slippers.
This distinct lack of ego, however, only adds to his appeal.
The show started off with a lesson on how to make the basic bloomer – the bread and butter, perhaps, of baking.
"Master the bloomer and everything will fall into place," he said, all the while, those eyes penetrating right through the screen.
His top tip was to use cold water in the mix, instead of hot, and to minimise stickiness by slathering olive oil on the surface when kneading.
There was quite a lot of kneading going on last night. "It's a great little workout, it gets rid of the bingo wings on the side," he grinned modestly, tapping his arm.
He then used his bloomer to create something a little more ambitious – a roasted vegetable picnic loaf. Packed with vegetables, basil and buffalo mozzarella, it looked rather tempting, if a little decadent. "Summer in a loaf," said Hollywood.
After that, he left the kitchen to visit a flour mill, where he picked up supplies for his next loaf, a rye, oat and ale round, with which he whipped up a ploughman's lunch.
He then prepared a teatime bread from the 19th century – a good old-fashioned malt loaf, which he turned into a tasty pudding.
"This is a really comforting, warming pudding and one that shows just how versatile bread is," he said.
The smell reminded him of his grandmother's house when he was a child.
In fact, this was not the first time he referred to the aroma of his freshly baked bread. It was a common theme – just a pity that the viewer could not experience it.
The final treat was a trencher bread, the humble fare enjoyed by peasants in medieval times because they did not qualify for the "upper crust".
Cue more slow motion shots and a touch of muzak, as Hollywood prepared lamb steaks to go with it.
The bread was served with water cress, green beans, radishes and spring onions – a rare savoury dish for the sweet-toothed Hollywood.
Next week, he will be looking at flatbreads from around the globe.
Let's hope smellovision is invented by then.
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