What This Great British Baking Show Winner Thinks Really Ruined The Brownie Challenge

Remember in October 2020, when all the remaining contestants on the Great British Baking Show (or, as it is known in England, the Great British Bake Off) failed to make brownies, a baking staple? 

"If you can't produce a decent brownie, there's going to be problems," Paul Hollywood told the Baking Show contestants at the start of the challenge (via Grub Street). Yet all the contestants ended up with brownies that just did not make the cut: they were undercooked, over-spiced, too sweet, ruined in the oven, ill-conceived, and overall just... not good. As it turns out, according to one past winner, that these failures may not actually completely be the contestants' fault. As Season 10 champion David Atherton explained, the deck is stacked against the bakers — it's way harder than it looks. 

"The main problem with Bake Off, again and again, is that you just get so little time to try and achieve something. So, therefore, you're looking to cheat. So, you're looking for slightly different ways of doing things," Atherton told Insider.

Bad luck or bad timing?

This time constraint can seriously hurt contestants' performance, no matter how good a baker they might be. Atherton added, "All the way through Bake Off, everyone has their bake that they struggle with when they really shouldn't struggle. Something that you [could] do every single time you try at home, and then you get on Bake Off and it goes wrong."

Atherton suggested that the collective failure was likely poor luck all around, and that maybe "some horrible stars aligned and every bad bake came at the same time." If that was not the case, Atherton noted, "The only other thing I can think of is it was very little time."

Atherton knows what he is talking about, after all. In addition to winning his season of the show, he also has a food column in the GuardianFit food with David Atherton. (Check out his latest recipe for lemon and ginger walnut frangipane tart, if you are looking to do some holiday baking.) He also literally wrote the book on learning to cook.