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Trio shape up for Bake Off battle


Richard Burr is the favourite to win The Great British Bake Off

Richard Burr is the favourite to win The Great British Bake Off

Richard Burr is the favourite to win The Great British Bake Off

Cookery queen Mary Berry said she is expecting "sheer perfection" from the contestants as the heat rises for tonight's final of The Great British Bake Off.

Master builder Richard Burr, 37, heads into the series climax as the hottest favourite yet for the TV hit, which is now into its fifth series.

Burr - who has notched up an unparalleled five weeks as star baker on the BBC1 show - takes on Luis Troyano, 42, and Nancy Birtwhistle, 60, as the standard of baking reaches new levels.

Berry - who judges the hit show with Paul Hollywood - said of tonight's finale: "The tension and pressure of a final will really test the remaining three bakers. The bakes will have to be more and more elaborate as we go to a new level.

"The result has to be sheer perfection. I think this is going to be the most exciting final we have had so far."

Burr, who is famously seen on screen with a pencil tucked behind his ear, is at evens with Bookmaker William Hill - the shortest ever price to win the series since the show began five years ago.

Hill's spokesman Joe Crilly said: "Richard has impressed us the most this season without even the hint of a soggy bottom in sight."

Burr has pointed out his pencil has a practical purpose: "It's not an affectation - it is just a habit from my day job as a builder. With attention to detail, you always need to write down measurements and dimensions, to be fairly precise and it's the same in baking."

And whether he wins or not, he said it has been a valuable experience: "I went into Bake Off as a novice and I feel that I have learned so many different aspects of baking, to become a competent baker. It expanded my repertoire so much and I will always be grateful for that."

Hollywood and Berry have repeatedly said the standard of baking is the highest it has ever been as they wrestle with tough decisions about who to send home from the marquee each week.

The series, which transferred to BBC1 this year after previously being screened by BBC2, has grown to a new level of popularity as it boosted its audience to draw around nine million regularly and is now one of the channel's biggest shows.

Last week's semi-final drew an average of 8.8 million, which is on a par with the audience for entertainment hit Strictly Come Dancing.

For their challenges in the final, the trio - whittled down from the 12 who started - will have to serve up a showstopper featuring a perfect sponge, caramel, choux pastry and petit four in the space of five hours.

They also have to tackle a signature challenge in which they have just three hours to work on a classic pastry which normally takes a day, and for the technical task they are pushed to the limit working without a recipe.

Success in the show could mean turning their passion for pastry into a career, with spin-off books and commissions like past contestants.