Free-from frenzy: why we loved this week’s Great British Bake Off

Ever since she stormed into the tent with her goji berries and power bob we loved Ugne on the Great British Bake Off and felt like she was a bit underrated by the judges who didn’t quite “get” her. Last night saw Ugne’s killer guns whip up their last batch of healthy delights as she was given her marching orders by judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

But how did the other bakers shape up in free-from week?

Since it began in 2010 the Bake Off has rightly attained national treasure status. You only have to read US viewers’ tweets about it to recognise its charm to telly addicts everywhere – I saw a great Buzzfeed post I annoyingly can’t now find where loads of Americans were tweeting how cute it was the contestants drank tea waiting for the bakes. Like us they LOVED Mel and Sue. We were huge Late Lunch fans and Chaz even bought me a book Mel wrote about pregnancy from a charity shop for 50p and it was ace *spoiler alert – she ate a LOT of cheese*.

Free-from week was a zeitgeisty move on the part of the show’s producers. No one can deny its trendiness although the backlash is bound to be on its way with the likes of (the hilarious) Deliciously Stella poking fun at the smug revolution.

We love Gizzi’s no-nonsense take on the phenomenon: “If you can eat wheat then for god’s sake eat wheat”. That’s an approach we favour – dipping our toes into every corner of the healthy eating pool to find things we like, things that make us feel better and things we can easily incorporate into our daily lives.

The bakers kicked off with a bang whipping up a sugar-free cake for their signature bake. This was an, erm, brief brief for the show which made for an unusually broad and interesting mix of offerings. And while our baking queen mum confessed she hadn’t heard of half the ingredients, talk of agave syrup, basil seed blueberry jam and hazelnut cream was music to our ears.

Ugne's (collapsed but tasty looking) sugar-free lavender, hazelnut and chocolate cake (from www.telegraph.co.uk)

Ugne’s (collapsed but tasty looking) sugar-free lavender, hazelnut and chocolate cake (from http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

We love Nadiya and she seemed more at ease in the free-from sphere than she had in other challenges – the entire show is worth watching for her facial expressions alone.

Next up was the technical challenge, where judge Paul Hollywood challenged the gang to create some gluten-free pittas (aptly, because I happened to be shovelling down Tesco’s glutenous wholemeal pittas stuffed with homemade falafels at that very moment).

The final challenge was a dairy-free ice cream roll showstopper which is sure to boost sales of coconut milk in supermarkets throughout the country – just check out World Foods aisles before you overpay in the fancy sections (prices at our local Tesco alone range from 69p to a ridiculous £1.99 for a tin).

Tropical treats from Paul (image: www.mirror.co.uk)

Tropical treats from Paul (image: http://www.mirror.co.uk)

All in all the bakers seemed to enjoy the challenge but it was obviously not a comfort zone for the majority. Ironically, Ugne seemed the most knowledgable and ambitious in this arena but it didn’t pay off for her – maybe she aimed too high, maybe they just weren’t ready for her grape jelly.

Either way, it was great exposure for the healthier side of the baking world. While we’re by no means 100% anti-sugar we’d always choose healthier, sugar-free and vegan cake options if they were more widely accessible round our way.

Maybe this is an important step in the crusade?

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