[This post originally appeared as part of Recommendation Machine, IndieWire’s daily TV picks feature.]
Where to Watch “Nadiya Bakes”: Netflix
There’s a camera angle in “Nadiya Bakes” that lets you watch pies and cakes and pastries as they cook. It’s time-lapsed and without the filter of the glass of an oven door, but it’s a tiny touch that shows you that making these kind of delicacies don’t happen by accident.
Host (and all-around ray of enthusiasm) Nadiya Hussain first broke through the TV ranks as a contestant on “The Great British Baking Show.” Over the course of her season, she managed to stand out not just on the strength of her ideas and execution, but through a week-to-week ability to bring some extra passion and energy to a show that’s already brimming with it. She would talk about her family and her childhood, she wasn’t afraid to show emotion, and when it came to executing the dishes of her choosing, she did it with a confidence and creativity that set her apart.
So it’s no wonder that, in the years since, Hussain has managed to craft her own tidy cooking show corner, including a mini-travelogue and a series geared toward quick recipes. As “The Great British Baking Show” nears the end of its current season, “Nadiya Bakes” is a show that exists as a complement or an alternative or an entry point into an ever-growing universe of series like it.
There’s no competition aspect here, yet “Nadiya Bakes” does manage to capture some of the mid-bake/downtime appeal of the show that Hussain was first on. She gives clear, easy-to-digest ideas on time-tested logistical tips, all with the playfulness that she’s letting you in on a secret. Freed from having to put together massive ornate creations in a compressed time frame, “Nadiya Bakes” can better take any viewer through the steps of putting together the component parts of a dough or filling or any kind of top layer.
“Nadiya Bakes” isn’t just a recipe brought to life, either. Aside from the necessary rundown of ingredients and technique, there’s room for some spontaneity. (One dish leads to an aside about lavender and lemon so sweet and goofy and genuine that it had to have been made up on the spot.) The show also ventures outside the kitchen at points to give the occasional break from the bright pastel interior aesthetic.
Part of what made “Great British Baking Show” an international sensation is the allure of participation. Those contestants are amateur bakers who have developed an appreciation for the craft without it needing to be their full-time gig. “Nadiya Bakes” similarly doesn’t go overboard with equipment and goes a step further by keeping its ingredients accessible, too. Even if the show is a little indulgent in hyperbole every once in a while, it comes from a place of changing the act of cooking from something to be endured to something worth anticipating.
“Nadiya Bakes” also acknowledges that mistakes happen. Odds are, the first attempt at these recipes are not going to be perfect successes. Part of what gave Hussain her “Baking Show” appeal is that, in a handful of technical challenges, she was working through making things for the first time. She had good instincts, though. Her show isn’t guaranteeing that someone without experience will magically be able to whip up these baked goods overnight, but her success stands as proof that even the most accomplished, confident bakers need a few tries to get something right.
The episode-ending touches of pulling back the curtain and showing the surrounding camera crew serves a dual purpose. It reinforces the idea of cooking and baking as a communal act and it also punctures the idea that these dishes look spectacular on their own. Like the best of its fellow cooking show peers, “Nadiya Bakes” is at its best when it shows the care and work that go into making something scrumptious, while demystifying that process along the way.
Other Fans: In her Variety review, Caroline Framke connects “Nadiya Bakes” to the way that Hussain has consistently found a way on TV to make traditional dishes her own, expanding the idea of “British” food along the way. Framke also highlights another standout element of “Nadiya Bakes”: ceding the floor each episode to another baker who is also finding exciting ways to reinvent classics.
Pair It With: Also produced during the 2020 lockdown, the podcast “Home Cooking” happens to feature fellow Netflix cooking show host Samin Nosrat. Along with prolific podcaster Hrishikesh Hirway, the show was originally designed to help people make use of mismatched food in their pantry and quickly became a place where Nosrat, Hirway, and any number of special guests could freely share what they love about (and can learn from) making meals at home.
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