Great British Bake Off 2014 – Series 5 – Semi Finals: Patisserie

I don’t want to write this blog post.

Not because I didn’t enjoy The Great British Bake Off, but because I am sad that writing it means that it is all nearly over for another year.

I suspect that I mean sad in all senses of the word, as it is clearly a pretty wonderful life a person is having if they’ve got time to indulge in a spot of sadness about a baking show, but there you have it. I am a lucky bitch with time to indulge in melancholy about buns.

There are various reasons. Firstly it was the semi-final, which means that now there is only one episode left. One.

How can that be? It seems only yesterday that it started.

Secondly, my friend reminded me that the end of Bake Off means that we can no longer pretend it is late summer, and that we must face the fact that we are creeping inexorably nearer to the dreaded annual festivities that begin with the C word that I really don’t want to mention.

Thirdly, I really didn’t want anyone to go home from the tent today.

To be fair, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the bakers in this series, and didn’t want any of them to go any week, but as they whittle down further, you begin to worry about them more, and every parting is such sweet sorrow.

Plus, it is getting to serious baking time, which means less mistakes, more concentration and less stuff for me to blog about that amused me. Because we are now at the stage where things are not really very amusing any more. There is everything to play for.

I have had a migraine since five this morning. I have steeled myself against succumbing all day, and by the time Bake Off started I had a dull pounding in the temples, but was otherwise fine. An hour of gritting my teeth and worrying about whether everyone’s mousse will set, and my head is splitting again.

Let us begin, however. I am a martyr to the baking.

This week was all about patisserie. You can check out the episode here if you missed it.

I love patisserie. I take enormous and heartfelt delight in walking into a Patisserie and ordering mouthfuls of deliciousness. One of the greatest moments of my life was finding out that I worked within walking distance of the two, original Patisserie Valerie, when I started my working life in London many, many years ago. It made the hideousness of my job bearable, knowing that if I speed walked down Brompton Road as soon as the clock hit twelve, I was in with a shout of an apricot Danish, and if they’d all gone I’d got seventy eight more varieties of deliciousness to choose from.

This week though, we had dispensed with the Scandinavians and their pastry based temptations. In the signature round it was all about baklava. I’m not sure if I class this as patisserie, but until they appoint me as chief advisor for the show, there isn’t a lot I can do about it.

For the uninitiated, baklava consist of layers upon layers of filo pastry, stuffed with chopped nuts and honey. Each piece is so small you feel that you have been cheated, until you actually eat it, and it magically expands on contact with your mouth, taking you twenty minutes to get through it. You will inevitably be picking bits of walnut out of your teeth three weeks hence.

I have never been a huge fan of baklava, which is good, as they are five trillion calories per square millimetre. I have certainly never attempted to make any. In fact I have never made anything which requires me to hand make filo pastry. I took to heart, very early in my baking life, Nigella’s advice to use shop bought filo pastry. If it’s good enough for Nigella. It’s good enough for me.

All the bakers in the tent obviously took the same advice, as none of them had ever made filo pastry from scratch before, and you could tell that the week of practicing had put severe strain on their love for the pastry.

I think the technical phrase is: ‘It’s a bit of a bastard.’

As usual, Richard did marvellous things to great applause. Nancy managed to pull off muesli filled baklava, much to Paul’s amazement, and indeed her own at one point. Luis didn’t have such a good time with his absolutely stunning looking baklava flowers, which Paul didn’t think were technically baklava, and which turned out to be dry. Chetna had good results with flavours, but not so much with getting her layers right.

I’m amazed anyone could talk after testing eight different types of baklava. I wonder if they had an emergency dentist on hand?

Definitely an emergency diabetes specialist.

The technical round this week involved making something called a schichttorte. It sounded rude. It looked weird. It was bound to be German.

I have nothing against the Germans, but it is fair to say that their cuisine is about on a par with ours when it comes to patisserie. It is not their strong suit. One hundred exciting ways with pickled cabbage and a pig? Absolutely. Patisserie. Non.

A schichttorte, it appears, is actually made under the grill. Yes. You heard me right there. A grill.

You grill thin layers of cake, sandwich them all together with nothing at all, and then cover them in apricot jam and chocolate glaze.

Firstly I do not want to grill a cake. Ever. Even though the cake did look cool. It was still fundamentally wrong. Like eating beef flavoured yogurt. I suspect it is possible, but it is not desirable.

Secondly, I ruddy hate apricot glaze. It reminds me of the Seventies in which many, delicious looking cakes were absolutely ruined by the indiscriminate addition of fruit/jam and marzipan. Thirdly there is no filling. So you are eating grilled Victoria sponge, neat.

Gah.

And the one they showed you being made in the traditional manner in some rustic German town, looked like a cross between a doner kebab of cake, and a small intestine.

Which is no fun at all.

Luis made an absolutely triumphant grilled intestine cake which Paul said was near perfect. Nancy and Richard made adequate bowels, and poor Chetna made a lumpy, malformed duodenum.

She had my complete and utter sympathy, frankly.

The show stopper this week was to make twenty four delectable morsels of French patisserie goodness called entremets. This is French for showing off like a fiend. Paul told us that it is the making of entremets that brings good pastry chefs to their knees.

Probably in layers.

Because that’s basically what entremets are. They are cakes made up of tons of fiddly layers of different things that no rational person would ever think to put together in a cake, but which, when sandwiched together and swallowed by someone like me, produce rapturous vapours and raised eyebrows of delight.

Luis did inventive things with pomegranates and pistachios which I did not like because I can’t really like pomegranates except in salads. They looked amazing, if slightly lurid, and as if you might have to turn the colour down on the telly.

Nancy made heavenly layers with squares of jelly and mousse and all sorts, hidden away inside like a jack in a box of flavours. It was a shame that the outsides of her cakes looked a bit dented, due to the fact that her glazes hadn’t had time to cool properly.

Richard produced technical wonders of cakes that looked like they had come down with some terrible disease, but in a cool way. His practically perfect polka dots won him star baker for the fifth time in a row. All hail Richard.

And Chetna? My lovely, lovely Chetna, with her brilliant taste in shoes, and her brilliant taste in tastes, went home.

And I can see why they sent her home, but it still made me sad, and I will miss her grumbling at her cakes, and exhorting her mixer, and pulling faces, and making food which looks like it tastes like heaven in a springform tin.

Next week is the final, and if Danish hotels don’t have access to BBC channels I will miss all the excitement and you will all be done and dusted and I will come home next Friday to mere crumbs.

Boo.

Like Magic

I have to bow down to my husband’s brilliance.

Yesterday he finished filling in our tax returns. He diligently hounded me for all the right pieces of paper, and didn’t take no for an answer, or try to shoot me when it turned out that I had filed everything very cunningly in a system so arcane that even I didn’t actually understand it.

He showed the patience of a true saint, and were it not for the fact that his eyebrows did quite a lot of uppy downy things I would be writing a letter to Pope Francis now, asking about canonisation in advance of actual death and/or three real life bona fide miracles.

He then spent the afternoon watching Youtube clips of how you are supposed to rebuild toilets, wasting several minutes watching ones for a cistern that didn’t even match ours before figuring out we had a different one. To be scrupulously fair, I suspect that I would have soldiered on regardless in these circumstances and merely cunningly adapted our own toilet to nearly but not quitely fit the one on Youtube, thus necessitating a plumbing emergency, the recreation of scenes from Hawaii Five O but with more sewage and tantrums up the yin yang.

He did not do this, gentle readers. He figured it all out in advance. Then he watched the right videos for the right sort of toilets, and then drove to the plumbing supplies shop twice, and then he took apart and rebuilt the toilet.

And up to now it has managed to stay looking like a toilet, flushing like a toilet and not leaking like a sieve masquerading as a toilet.

I am comprehensively impressed at every, single level.

I don’t know which of the two skills he has demonstrated I am most grateful for.

Imagine, if you can, the joy of hiring a plumber to save your toilet woes, only to find that they can also do accounts and know how to read the tax return forms, and are willing to help you fill them out so that you don’t weep with exhaustion and terror and tick all the boxes just in case. Imagine…

Then imagine that they don’t charge you for these skills, and that they are also quite good at beardy kisses (their beard, not yours), and making your children laugh by being able to fart like ducks quacking.

Then imagine that this paragon of manhood. This unparalleled, nonpareil of manliness and wonder asks you to go to Copenhagen with him next week to eat cake.

No charge.

It is hard to imagine such wonders I know, but if you squinch your eyes together quite a lot and say: ‘I do believe in men who fix toilets and do tax returns – no charge.’ sometimes, when you unsquinch your eyes they actually appear.

Brain slurry

It is Monday. At this stage in the week I feel I am capable only of random, disjointed stuff:

Oscar is having a Tudor dress up day at school in a fortnight. I will be away in furrin climes, thus necessitating me thinking about what the hell I am going to come up with now, so that I can prepare the necessary for granny. Jason said: ‘No expensive clothes!’ which is fair enough, and I’m not entirely sure where I’d buy a Henry VIII fat suit for an eight year old boy even if I did have the money.

The Tudoring of small boys requires imagination. And considerably more coffee. I shall call it a work in progress.

Tallulah is outward bounding today. She is more resigned than of yore, which is good. I had envisioned her wrapping herself round her chair like a boa constrictor and refusing to budge. I think she has weighed up the outward bounding versus whatever a cookery teacher who thinks eleven year olds who embrace cous cous salad might like, and decided on reflection that rock climbing is the lesser of two evils.

I went to a craft and textiles fair yesterday in a rather posh little village not too far from here. It was at the Leicester Grammar School which has now moved from Leicester to said posh little village, and set up in rural splendour and acres of educational excess funded by wealthy parents. The thing I was most jealous off was the fact that there was a coffee shop for parents and visitors in the grounds. It has always been my firm belief that all schools should have a coffee shop in the grounds. It would be spectacularly profitable and do away with the need for Christmas raffles forever.

The craft fair itself was like the curate’s egg, good in parts. It was £8 for adults to get in and a fiver for students. There were no cash machines, no internet access and therefore no ability to pay for anything by card. One thing anyone who dabbles in textiles will know is that materials/wool/yarn etc is not cheap. I wonder how the stall holders fared, given the fact that temptation to overspend was clearly not going to be indulged by anyone unless they were willing to drive a mile and a half to the nearest cash machine.

The steep entrance price covered a series of workshops which ran through the day, and which had I been better at crafts, and not had children in tow, I might have enjoyed. As it was, I thought it was rather steep for people who were effectively browsing and rubbernecking like we were. Plus points were that we saw some absolutely stunning quilts, there were some gorgeous silks from Japan and everyone was very friendly. Minus points were that although there were quite a few people spinning yarn, there were only a few wool stalls and most of the wool on offer was not for me on aesthetic grounds rather than anything else.

Jason was relieved I walked out having only bought three raffle tickets. He was even more impressed when Byron in Leicester made good on their promise of a free meal this weekend, to make up for the fiasco of the one we had there last weekend. I have to say that everything they promised and failed to deliver on last weekend came good this weekend. We had a fantastic meal, served by a brilliant and helpful waitress and were properly impressed.

The money Jason was able to save on my failure to buy wool/drain his bank account in other ways, will now be spent hiring a plumber to fix the toilet in the children’s bathroom, which after months of behaving in a temperamental manner, and having been blocked twice by the children last week (do not ask), finally died yesterday. This is judgement on us for finally having sorted out the freezer, and having managed to go to the tip last week. You take things off your list, the universe just adds others. Karmic bastard that it is.

We watched Dr. Who. We did not love it. None of us loved it. We had hoped for great things after the last two episodes made us feel that the Dr. was back on track. This time we felt the story was weak, and really just a vehicle to set up the Dr. meeting Clara’s boyfriend. We are getting more disillusioned by the week. Meh. It was my one consolation for the fact that Bake Off finishes in a fortnight. I shall have to embrace the new series of Grand Designs instead. Which is just not the same. Kevin hardly ever meets the Sontarans.

I am finally feeling mostly human after four days of feeling like an aged badger’s rear end. I can walk without making hissing, indrawn sounds. I can bend without going ‘oohyah’ and I no longer wake up believing someone has kindly decided to rearrange my pelvis in the night. I still, however, have incredibly sore bosomage. As my friend so aptly put it once when we were discussing the rigours of hormonal slavery: ‘It feels like I’ve trapped my tits in a drawer.’ I can express it in no finer way than this.

There will be no hugging today.

Ballyturk

The sun shone yesterday, and despite running slightly late, getting snarled up in roadworks on the M1 and the tail end of some accident somewhere, we made it to London just in time to scarf down a load of Pad Thai and then head to see Ballyturk at the National.

Reviews have been mixed, mainly, it has to be said, for the playwright and the play rather than the actors, who are all universally lauded. The reviews say that this kind of material by Enda Walsh is getting very old hat, and he isn’t saying anything new about the state of the nation, the inside of his brain etc.

Me, I don’t care about that.

This is only the second play of Walsh’s that I have seen. I haven’t had time to get bored of it yet, and even if I had, I wonder if I would be.

You see, I’m not really looking to be enlightened, shown something infinitely novel or special. I have seen Hamlet maybe a dozen times in my life so far, for example. I expect to see it at least a handful of times more. I don’t expect it to be novel. I don’t expect them to reinvent the wheel. I love it for what it is.

Sometimes I will see something in it I might have missed. Sometimes I will see it in a novel way, but mostly I’ll be going because it’s a pretty good play and I want to see it again.

I want to be enthralled, and entertained, and immersed in the world that is put before me on the stage.

This is what happened to me yesterday when I went to see Ballyturk. I laughed. I got a bit choked. I cared. I entered into the world on the stage. I believed what I was seeing happen between these people, even though I didn’t fully understand it. I didn’t care that I didn’t really understand it. I just enjoyed 90 minutes of epic acting from three fantastic actors who were more than a match for each other, and whose energy pushed them right out from where they were standing into my heart and mind and brain.

The virtuosity of the language matched the adrenalin fuelled antics on stage. The verbal dexterity matched sweat drop for sweat drop the sheer physicality of what we were watching.

I don’t know how they do that twice a day. I really don’t.

Some people have said it’s a bit like Beckett. I guess it is, a bit. Any slightly surreal play with Irish actors in it is always going to be compared to Beckett. I think it’s a bit of a cheap comparison to be honest. Some people have compared it to Under Milk Wood, and I like that more. It does share some similarities, spinning stories about a community out of the power of the imagination and the flexibility of the human voice.

Mostly I don’t really mind what it was like. I liked what it was.

If you can get tickets and you don’t mind plays that are a bit weird, and that leave you feeling slightly unsure about the way the universe is made up, I really think you ought to go.

Theatre heavy post ahoy

A day of theatre related wanderings today.

Andrea and I are shortly heading off to that there Lunnon to see the very, very splendid Cillian Murphy in a play called Ballyturk at the National Theatre.

How ‘citin.

It’s also got Stephen Rea in it. An actor I’ve seen on screen but never on stage.

How even more ‘citin.

Plus, we suspect the play may be rather amazing. We saw Cillian Murphy in a play called Misterman, last year at the National, which was written by the same playwright as Ballyturk, Enda Walsh. It was mesmerising. Sad, surreal, funny, shocking, immersive, brilliant.

So, I am predicting a splendid day out in which there will be superb theatre, epic amounts of cake, and lunch.

This will go some way to making me forget that I have had the most evil period for the last two days and am still on industrial quantities of pain killers and hobbling round with a hot water bottle. In fact, I am about to take my hot water bottle with me to London.

It may also make up for a little of the disappointment I felt when we went to see The RSC’s latest incarnation of Love’s Labour’s Lost in Stratford on Wednesday.

It is entirely fair to say that I am spoiled when it comes to theatre. I live an hour away from Stratford, where, over the years I have seen the choicest Shakespearean productions by arguably the most famous troupes of actors, in the birthplace of Shakespeare himself. I live just over an hour away from the National Theatre where there is the chance to see fifty or sixty top class plays every year with very little effort made by me except to turn up and remember to turn my mobile off. I have also travelled the length and breadth of England tracking down fabulous productions and actors to add to my theatre going CV.

It takes a lot to impress me, frankly.

If Wednesday had been my first experience of seeing Shakespeare on a big stage with all the bells and whistles I suspect I would have enjoyed it if I’m being honest.

I think part of the problem was that the last time I saw it, David Tennant was playing the part of Berowne, and the cast worked together tremendously as an ensemble. The play was superb. So if you’re coming on after that, you’ve got a lot to do to beat superb, and they didn’t quite pull it off.

If you like your comedy heavy on the physical side, this play is for you. There was no chance at all of missing any of the jokes as they were very boom boom tish, with pointed looks at the audience. Short of holding a card with the words; ‘Laugh now’ and parading about the back of the stage, nothing more needed doing.

If you love your sets richly dressed with acres of props and fancy, whiz bang technology, this is the play for you. The stage has been mocked up to resemble the nearby National Trust property, Charlecote Park, where it is thought that the young Shakespeare got caught poaching. The fact that I recognised it as Charlecote without having to read the programme notes means you can see the level of detail and skill that went into the set construction.

If you like lots of set changes, things dropping from the sky, coming up from the ceiling etc, you will like this. They had made full use of all the technology they have had installed in the recent refit. We had Elizabethan chimney stacks and widows walks appearing from under the floor. We had whole rooms electronically moving back and forth, up and down the stage. We had studies, and drawing rooms and grassy knolls etc.

If you like rich, beautiful, sumptuous costumes with lots of quick changes, and frankly stunning shoes, then this is for you.

It is a feast for the eye, this production. It has been made to show off the full power and majesty of the RSC in every area they work in. It demands that you pay attention to it.

For me though, all this slightly takes away from what this play, probably more than any other of Shakespeare’s plays, is about. It is all about the words here. The plot is an overindulgent concoction of preposterous events, loosely woven together. What holds it all in place are the words. It is a play about playing with words.

You really got a sense of that in the Tennant production, with great clarity in the delivery and a real sense that the cast are revelling in the overblown wordplay. Here, not every line was delivered crisply. Sometimes it was hard to hear exactly what was being said, and you felt that there was such concentration on getting the timing of the physical stuff right, the words played second fiddle.

I found the sets too fussy for my liking. In the front row of the stalls, which is where we were sitting, the thrust stage is high. Higher than it used to be in the Courtyard theatre, where they put productions while work was in progress rebuilding the main theatre.

The Courtyard was supposed to be a fully working mock up of what you would experience when the revamped theatre was back up and running. I loved it. It was one of my favourite theatre spaces ever. I don’t think it has translated as well into the new space. The thrust is not thrusty enough for me, and the stage is too high for an unimpaired sightline.

When the stage is over full with props, as it was earlier in the week, it can mean serious problems if you want to see anything. In the first scene, for example, set in a fantastic reproduction of an Edwardian library/study, there were globes and astrolabes littered about the place. One particular globe was directly in my eyeline, meaning that instead of seeing the main characters signing the document that will seal their fate for the next three years, I saw a pair of ankles and the bottom of a table.

The director is pairing this play with Much Ado About Nothing, which he has renamed Love’s Labour’s Won. He believes that the plays are meant to be played together, with Love’s Labour’s Lost the prequel to what happens in Much Ado.

I’m not sure I believe him here. I do wonder whether it’s actually more a marketing ploy, given that Shakespeare isn’t about to be writing any new plays, and novelty is always a crowd pleaser.

Anyway, Love’s Labour’s Won is going to be played by the same cast, and judging from what happened at the end of Love’s Labour’s Lost will be heavy with World War I metaphor and an air of post war melancholy. Possibly with heavy portents of World War II to follow.

If he ruins Much Ado About Nothing I may have to have words. It is my favourite of all Shakespeare’s plays and pretty much perfect in my eyes. We are going to see it in a fortnight. I am heavy with portent myself about what will happen.

In the meantime I shall console myself with the belief that Ballyturk will redeem theatre for now.

I will see you on the other side.

The Great British Bake Off 2014 -Season Five – Quarter Finals – Advanced Dough Week

So I had to wait until this evening to get my fix of The Great British Bake Off. I will admit that it felt very weird to be this late to the party. I was worried everyone would have eaten everything and left me with the washing up. Or worse, gotten drunk and given Paul Hollywood my address so he could come and stuff raw bread dough through my letter box as revenge for me being rude about him for two months a year every year for the past five years.

That would be what Michelin starred bakers call a ‘shit load’ of dough. Easily equivalent to the amount used for the 40,000 doughnuts Paul told us he had made in his life time. Crikey. Imagine making forty thousand doughnuts. I note that Mary didn’t divulge the number of doughnuts she has made in a lifetime. Probably a number not yet coined, like squeleventyillion.

I’m not divulging the number of doughnuts I’ve eaten in a life time, but let’s say we could probably launch a competition to name that number and leave it at that.

A further shock to my system occurred when I figured out that I will actually be away in Copenhagen for the final. If it weren’t for the fact that I will be stuffing my face with buns and possibly adding to the doughnut numbers I have consumed, and that I will be in Copenhagen, I would be quite traumatised about it. As it is, I will be a little bit sad – but I think I’ll cope.

I shall drown my sorrows in dough. Advanced dough.

The quarter finals this year was all about advanced dough you see.

As opposed to really stupid dough.

If you missed it, like me, you can catch up here.

Advanced dough, as you might guess, is the stuff that they came up with when they realised that they had exhausted almost every other avenue of baking left open to them and had to hire a team of whacky creatives on primary coloured scooters to hover into view to toss about a bit of blue sky thinking and some crazy flipping ideas, that are like so now they can hardly be called yesterday.

The signature bake this week was to make a sweet, fruited loaf that was also packed with yeasty goodness. Not only that it had to be freeform. Oh blinking yes it did.

Smooth.

Nice.

Radical.

Polo neck.

Beard, and other jazz related words.

As we know, yeast does not play well with others. It does not know how to share, and often has to sit on the naughty step for pinching everyone else’s crayons and pulling hair. The more things you try to make yeast play with, the more it doesn’t like it.

As we also know, by this stage in the competition everyone has to try and come up with more and more bonkers ideas to sound in the least bit original and outdo each other, so the ingredients pile on ingredients like nobody’s business. This is the week when ingredients lists read:

Raisins

Yeast

Eggs

Bananas

Kumquats

Wildebeest eyebrows

Oompa Loompa spit

Extract of the Virgin Mary’s tears

Self raising flour

Distilled hope.

Yeast never likes that. So it is all about the long proving, to try and get yeast to stop sulking and hurry up with the bread thing. Except that the time for everything gets shorter. This week they had two and a half hours to make a loaf which Martha tells us on average takes three and a half hours.

Next week Paul will want eighty five bagels made in five minutes, each with individual and distinct flavours, and possibly some layers. That’s how tricky it’s getting now.

Nancy went completely techno and spent the entire time of her bake doing the Hokey Cokey with the microwave, hoping to speed prove her bread dough and defy Paul’s raised eyebrows in one swift move. Except that she mostly ended up with mutant bread that didn’t quite work, but rose, like a giant zeppelin over the tent, having to be shot down by a passing farmer with an air rifle.

Luis made a kind of hand crafted freeform jazz tree based loaf with sugar cubes filled with cherry liqueur stuffed inside it. It was kind of like a fin de siecle absinthe inspired loaf, made more surreal by the Nineteen Seventies glace cherries he had found by creating a TARDIS loaf and going back to my childhood, just to find stuff to decorate his tree with. I haven’t seen a real, live, green glace cherry like that since 1978.

Do not adjust your set. They really do look like that.

Martha’s loaf had prunes in it, which was apt, as my son pointed out that her loaf turned out to be free formed into the shape of a rather large pooh.

Richard made a Chelsea bun which had been given a passport and come back to the tent via Sweden. Paul thought it might be a bit wet. It turned out to be perfect.

Chetna’s bake however, was the most perfect of all. She made a version of povitica, which is another Eastern European thingummy. A kind of loaf/cake/sauna/Ikea product made so that it looked like a pile of logs on the outside, and a massive hallucinatory fractal on the inside.

Go Chetna. Especially as this was pretty much what they wanted everyone to make in the technical round, which nearly blew Chetna’s amazing orange Converse off with surprise.

Strangely, rather than copy Chetna, who by this time I’d have been watching like a hawk, Richard chose to copy Nancy, who was yet again microwave bound. This time with her rather recalcitrant filling.  Luis went rogue with his walnuts, which isn’t something I thought I’d ever have to be typing at this time on a Wednesday evening. Martha admitted she hadn’t watched Chetna the first time, and clearly didn’t think it was worth watching Chetna the second time either.

Surprisingly, except to nobody, Chetna’s was the only vaguely edible offering. Everyone else’s was pretty much raw. Martha’s failure to be a super spy on two occasions left her with the rawest of the raw, and at the very bottom of the pile going into the show stopper.

Numbers were astronomically high in the show stopper this week, with everyone being expected to bake thirty six doughnuts, in two flavours. It strengthens my theory that Mary’s sneaky jacket action last week hotted up the black market, and the shop is back in business. It also lends credence to my other theory that by the final they will be baking cakes which  will take us straight back into the realm of imaginary numbers.

Crikey that was a lot of doughnuts under one piece of canvas. It must have smelled like the circus had come to town. Mel and Sue definitely get the clown car. Paul and Mary are still wrestling it out for the top hat and twirling moustache.

My money’s on Mary for what it’s worth.

Lion dung made by Martha’s prune loaf.

Chetna, who is my favourite, as we know, made chocolate mousse filled doughnuts, which confirmed her as my favourite still. Although I’m not sure what was going on with her South African inspired braided, twisty doughnuts. Neither was anyone else.

Luis decided to try and up the ante this week by getting Mary plastered with his Baileys filled doughnuts and Mojito doughnuts. Mary was all for it. She is a goer that one. There was dancing on the roof of the tent after the show stopper round. I’d put money on it. And if the fire brigade didn’t have to be called, I’ll eat my hat.

Nancy made scary doughnuts in the shape of Paul’s face, which she hung from a tree, in the manner of some kind of deep south inspired lynch mob doughnut action for the male judge. She softened the message by also trying to get Mary drunk with her limoncello filled doughnuts.

By this time Mary was weaving about the tent with her tights on her head, getting Paul in a headlock and singing the songs of yore in a slightly maudlin’ voice.

Richard pulled all the stops out and won star baker for the fourth week, with his rhubarb and custard heart shaped doughnuts, which I confess, as a self avowed rhubarb addict, did make my mouth water somewhat, and his apple caramel doughnuts served in tarted up orange boxes.

Martha though, over proved everything it was possible to over prove and produced some seriously disappointing doughnuts which saw her having her worst week in the tent, and being booted off. It was very sad indeed, but nobody could deny that advanced dough with a jazz interlude really wasn’t working for her.

Next week it’s the semi finals and patisserie. Be still my beating heart.

Health and Safety Gorn Mad and all that.

We took delivery of our new freezer today.

I cannot wait to fill it full of food until we are utterly prepared for the zombie apocalypse.

There are very few things in life that are guaranteed to cheer me up more than bulging cupboards/fridges/freezers full of food. I really do have a ‘thing’ about it. I fear being underprepared in the food department.

I worry about people coming round and me only being able to serve them grapefruit segments on Ryvita or some such Hestonesque concoction.

The horror.

Anyway. My freezer is currently plugged in and getting cold and preparing itself to accept the bounteous cornucopia I will shortly bestow on it (for this read, forty seven packets of Birds Eye Potato Waffles. They’re waffly versatile).

In the meantime, Jason has been sorting out the warranty and some other paperwork that came with it. He has been letting me feel a part of things by reading out the instruction manual that comes with the freezer.

He is kind like that.

Me, I don’t bother with instruction manuals, even with complicated things like computers, or phones or digital cameras. Things I might conceivably actually need an instruction manual for. I see them as my last, best hope Obi Wan Kenobi. The sort of thing I might turn to if say, videos on Youtube have let me down.

It baffles my tiny mind that someone might actually write an instruction manual for a freezer, let alone read one. It baffles me further that the instruction manual for our new freezer is actually 23 pages long.

What could you possibly have to say about a freezer that would take 23 pages and diagrams to explain?

Jason has enlightened me.

Apparently you are not supposed to put boiling hot food in a freezer. Nor are you supposed to light fires in it.

Ray Mears. I am looking at you here.

Nor are you supposed to do anything other than attempt to freeze food in it.

Stuff like ballroom dancing, crochet, martial arts, whittling sticks into the faces of famous celebrities. That sort of thing.

You are not supposed to put animals or babies into freezers (unless they are cooked and thoroughly cooled I presume. See Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ for details).

You are not supposed to use the freezer to play in. So no cunning games of hide and seek. OK?

You are not allowed to scrub down your freezer with bleach, sulphuric acid or uranium.

You are not allowed to operate the freezer under any circumstances if you are ‘not normal’. I kid you not. There is a section that warns against use by minors or the mentally impaired. Imagine if you let a drunken toddler run amok with your freezer. It hardly bears thinking about.

I think you’d have to be pretty mentally impaired to read through 23 pages of a manual on how to use your freezer before using it, so I’m not letting Jason use it without supervision from this point onwards.