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Scottish Bake Off contestant hopes to inspire a revival of traditional skills

THE judges on The Great British Bake Off can be harsh, but one taster who will always be appreciative of Norman Calder's white bloomer is his miniature schnauzer, Lucy.

FAMILY BUSINESS: Norman Calder, pictured with his in-house taste tester Lucy, is belatedly following in the footsteps of his baker father. Picture: Peter Jolly
FAMILY BUSINESS: Norman Calder, pictured with his in-house taste tester Lucy, is belatedly following in the footsteps of his baker father. Picture: Peter Jolly

Each morning she stands eagerly awaiting her corner of toast, slathered in butter.

The son of a baker from the village of Portknockie overlooking the Moray Firth, Mr Calder is the sole Scot to have made it into the final 12 for the new series of the BBC programme.

Though he did not initially follow in the footsteps of his baker father, instead joining the merchant navy, the 67-year-old is now on a mission to revive those skills of Scottish traditional baking that are in danger of dying out. Among his favourite local traditional recipes are butter biscuits and the "Garibaldi scone" his father used to make.

Mr Calder's father ran a family bakery in Portknockie at a time when there were three bakers in the village. Now there are none. "Everyone drives to the supermarkets," he says. "That finished the old family bakeries." He contrasts with France, which he visits regularly on caravan tours with his wife, and where, he says, they "jealously guard their wee boulangeries."

For all Mr Calder has a talent for baking, he says he could never hope to emulate the skills of his "total perfectionist" father. One of his regrets is that he did not learn more from him. "My father could pick up a handful of flour and tell you exactly how much was there," he says.

Mr Calder is a man of many interests, among them "the manipulation of yeast" and making home-brew beer. He believes that with this fifth series, The Great British Bake off has been forced to get more "exotic". Luckily, he does have his own visual flair, honed through his love of creating slab pottery, in which clay is flattened with a rolling pin, just as with "working with pastry and bread". "Most bakers," he says, "are very creative, but what they've created gets destroyed in two minutes. Clay gives something that will last forever."

Mr Calder confesses he is bit of a "jack of all trades". "On the Bake Off I felt a bit of a fraud," he says. "Some of the others really knew what they're doing. But, of course, it all comes down to what happens on the day."

Mr Calder is sworn to secrecy about much that happens on the show. He is, however, relieved to now be able to tell his friends that he is in it. "My wife, Iris, had to tell lies about what I was up to. Some people thought, 'Oh, he's left her this time'."

When the BBC crew came up to film his home, he says: "I just told them they were from the miniature Schnauzer society, filming Lucy. She's a star."

The new series of the Great British Bake Off starts next Wednesday at 8pm on BBC1.

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