A SUSSEX baker joked she would never wash her hands again after earning the first Paul Hollywood handshake of the new Great British Bake Off series.

Lottie Bedlow, from Littlehampton, only had to wait until the second episode before she was able to clasp the host's outstretched hand.

The gesture has become heralded among Bake Off fans as a symbol of a near-perfect performance.

The pantomime producer's "quarantine florentines" certainly met this high standard.

The Argus:

An impressed Paul said: "I think you've got a good, tempered chocolate on there and I do like the top - classic Florentine

"There is a nice shine and it's busy, and that's what a florentine should look like."

Breaking one of the Florentines in two, Paul admired the "snap" - a sign that it had been well-baked.

He and fellow presenter Prue Leith also praised the flavourings Lottie had chosen, with the 31-year-old opting for powerful ingredients such as sour cherries, ginger, dark chocolate and almonds.

Paul said: "The ginger and the cherry with the dark chocolate is just fantastic, and it does snap, it's nice and thin.

"I can't find a fault with them really."

It was then that he reached out his hand to a flabbergasted Lottie.

She was seen mouthing "as if?" to a fellow contestant.

"It's completely mad," she added. "I'm never going to wash my hand again."

Two further impressive bakes were enough to help Lottie survive biscuit week and progress to the third week of competition.

Another Sussex contestant, Linda from Bexhill, also secured her place in the next stage of the show.

While baking her batch of florentines, the 61-year-old revealed the heart-warming story behind her recipe.

She said: "My florentines are one of my sister's favourite biscuits.

"She had a really, really sweet tooth and, when we were kids and my mum turned her back, I used to quickly eat her dinner so she could get to her pudding more quickly."

Presenter Matt Lucas introduced viewers to Linda in a short video shot at her Sussex home.

He said: "Green-fingered Linda and her partner Richard love nothing more than a refreshing pint in their shed."

The shed has been built to include their very own private bar.