Everyone is talking about The Great British Bake Off, but you've never really seen it. Here’s the ultimate cheat sheet for talking all things GBBO...

Do you know your tight crumb from your slack custard? Can you spot a burgeoning bin-cident at 100 paces? Have you any idea what half the country is talking about from August to October?


If not, it's time to swot up. Bluff your way through any Bake Off conversation with these handy phrases…


"Signature bake"

Noun. Another classic phrase from the days before time began, this is the first challenge the amateur bakers face. The signature bake is the moment when they can be creative and bake the kind of impressive stuff they do at home. Mary and Paul give the bakers extra points for inventiveness, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to mix marzipan with Marmite, this is your chance to shine (we think?).



Noun. The final challenge of the episode, the showstopper is designed to allow the amateurs to show off their prowess at tackling detailed and difficult recipes. Expect tears.


"Crumb structure"

Noun. The 'crumb' is the bready bit of bread that isn't the crust – but you knew that, didn't you? Crumb structure can either be open (the big holes in ciabatta or artisan sourdough that are great for filling with tiny lakes of melted butter), or tight/close, which is often the sign of a factory-made, shop-bought loaf.


Cakes also have a crumb structure, and if you want to impress Mary, just make sure your Madeira cake has a tight crumb structure (that'll be the plain flour, you see), rather than a light and airy Victoria sponge with a more open crumb.



Adj. Proving is the process by which bread dough is left to rise before it's baked. The yeast multiplies and reacts with starches in the flour to produce carbon dioxide and puff up the dough (that's what gives sourdough its slightly 'sour' taste). You know you haven't let your bread prove for long enough when it's dense, heavy, and has Paul Hollywood's thumb stuck into the middle of it. 


"Underproooooooved!" he will shout, triumphant, and you will know that you have also underproven yourself.

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Bake Off bread prodding

The Great British Bake Off/Love Productions/Via: thedebrief.co.uk



Adj. You might think that overproving your dough would have the reverse effect and produce an enormous B-Movie bread monster that takes over your house, but actually it's a bit disappointing – it means bread that has deflated rather than risen. Oversized gas bubbles burst and break the structure of the bread – and it pretty much breaks Paul's heart, too. 



​Noun. Salacious carbohydrate-based innuendo, usually found spilling forth from presenter Sue Perkins like cream from an overfilled piping bag.

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Sue Perkins

The Great British Bake Off/Love Productions/Via: tumblr.com


"Slack custard"

Noun. Series four's answer to the soggy bottom, slack custard is the dessert equivalent of the friend who always cancels at the last moment. It has all the appearance of fun but none of the integrity. It is custard that simply doesn't pull its weight, or support its four trusty trifle colleagues: fruit, sponge, jelly and cream.


It's runny, is what we're saying. Slack custard is runny custard, and in a trifle this is Not A Good Thing. 


"Knocking back"

Verb. 1. The process of kneading dough after it has proved, to knock out some of the air and give it a second proving.

2. The process of telling a really smug contestant that their pie is under-seasoned and their pastry overbaked. Not so puffed-up now, are you?   


"Even bake"

This is a phrase that Paul and Mary use when a contestant has cooked something really well, usually indicating their bake has a similar colour all over. May also be applied to office workers who have just come back from their holiday and have achieved a lovely, even tan.


"Soggy bottom"

Noun. Soggy bottoms are the most consistent feature of the Great British Bake Off to date: they were there in series one (back when there were only six episodes and the cakes looked like something you might pretend your child has made for a Blue Peter cake sale), and they will probably still be there long into the future, when we're all gone and Paul and Mary have been turned into confectionery-testing cyborgs. 


Technically, a soggy bottom is just pastry that hasn't been baked for long enough to hold its liquid filling without turning to mush. But where GBBO is concerned, a soggy bottom is so much more than that.

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Soggy bototm gif

The Great British Bake Off/Love Productions/Via: tinypic.com


"The curse of star baker"

Noun. There's a legend round these here parts, and it says that whoever receives the sheriff's badge will find their fortunes falling harder than an overbaked barm brack the very next week. The curse befell Richard, Nancy and Luis in series five, striking fear into the hearts of flan-fanciers across the land. But this floury curse was eventually broken by heroic Nancy. Or perhaps everyone just forgot about it. 


"Gingerbread barn"

Noun, slang. Refers to the moment series three contestant James Morton joined the Hall of Blagger Fame, by pretending his disaster of a broken gingerbread house was actually supposed to be an artistically derelict barn.


He pulled it off and was awarded star baker, thus giving us the useful phrase 'gingerbread barn': to brazenly pretend your massive error was meant to be like that all along. 


"Bingate"; 'the bincident'

Noun. Colloquial term for the scandal that rocked the Bake – and the country – to its very core. Like 'Who Shot JR?" except with more egg white and genuine emotion.


To recap (for those living temporarily underground during the whole of August and September 2014): on a warm day in the tent, extravagantly bearded contestant Iain Watters found his baked Alaska melting on the table like a climate change advert after fellow contestant Diana Beard removed it from the freezer to make space for her own. He then threw a strop, dumped the whole thing in the bin and had a small tantrum near some trees, before being booted off the show. Meanwhile Diana was villainised by the tweeters and meme-makers of the nation, before the show's presenters and producers leapt to her defence and claimed that she wasn't to blame at all. 

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Iain Watters meme

Via: Facebook/greatbritishbakeoff 


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