It turns out I’m the perfect target audience for Victorian Bakers, having enjoyed The Great British Bake-Off, become a keen home bread-baker, and once spent a year learning about Victorian Britain (1984, the last year you could take Late British History at higher school certificate level in Tasmania). I quite enjoy a bit of food history, too, and visiting National Trust properties, and watching BBC documentaries. So it all comes together nicely, unlike some of the loaves the four bakers on the programme attempted. I’m looking forward to next week’s instalment where they start adulterating their loaves with chalk and alum.
Out of curiosity, I looked around for some online reviews. The Independent’s is bizarre, as it seems to assume that the show is Bake-Off, with “contestants” and a lack of “drama” or “nail-biting tension”. The Radio Times says much the same, criticising “any kind of show involving members of the public having a go at something that requires skill”, completely ignoring that the four are professional bakers (one employs 200 people, while another comes from a long line of bakers); when they say that the old methods are hard work, it really means something. Plus the reviewer keeps repeating that “it’s just bread”, ignoring the fact that any viewers who weren’t professionally required to watch it would be doing so because they don’t see it as “just bread”. The only review that did the show justice was from the Daily Mail.
Unlike freshly-baked bread, you wouldn’t want too much of it—three episodes seems like the right amount—but it’s a worthwhile bit of telly. The only disappoinment is that, because it isn’t Bake-Off, the BBC website doesn’t have its recipes for beer-barm bread, Coburg loaves, and the delicious 50/50 Chalky Alum Loaf.
The chalk and alum loaves on episode 2 were just as satisfyingly grim as I’d hoped.
Added by Rory on 14 January 2016.