You may or may not be delighted to know that my raspberry torte turned out to be absolutely stunning last night, both to look at:
and to eat.
It was so good that I ‘accidentally’ ate two slices, as did my friend Saj, who came over for an evening of cakey indulgence. We wolfed down my torte whilst watching episode two of The Great British Bake Off.
We learned a lot about bread.
What we mostly learned that was watching people make bread for an hour makes us feel very, very hungry indeed, and we wish that they would put such programmes on before tea, and not before bed time, so that you don’t have to end each episode by sneaking off to the kitchen and falling face first into the biscuit tin, and going to bed with crumbs in your cleavage.
Mostly that, but there were other things.
The three challenges this week were:
- To make two different types of flat bread.
- To not die of stress during the technical challenge, which was to make a plaited loaf of eight (yes eight!) strands.
- To make twenty four bagels, twelve sweet, and twelve savoury.
Here are our thoughts this week:
Paul Hollywood’s chest puffs out more on the episodes where his recipes are more prominently featured than Mary’s. As we know, bread is his forte, and yesterday he spent the entire hour looking like a man pigeon who was just about to bag a prize laydee pigeon in the act of lurve, because every recipe was his.
MWAHAHAHAHAAAAA SQUAWK was basically what came out of his mouth the entire time. Mary had to slap him down to size a few times, and chivvy him into saying something nice to some of the more haphazard offerings, particularly during the technical challenge. He was worse after downing half a pint that Sarah Jane the unscrupulous vicar’s wife had left there to tempt him into loving her flat breads. I can only imagine what he would be like after a few jars at the pub:
‘Did you know? Did YOU KNOW that the Queen Mother has masticated one of my scones? Well? WELL? WHERE IS MY MEDAL? THAT’S WHAT I WANT TO KNOW. WHY HAS MARY GOT A MEDAL AND NOT ME? Eh?’
Shortly before falling off a bar stool into a giant vat of scone mix.
Plaiting a loaf is not as easy as it looks. Even though they had instructions. There was a great deal of mumbling along the lines of: ‘strand one folds over strand seven, take away four, add three, divide your birth date, add pi, do a little dance, make a little loaf, get brown tonight.’
It did not help at all as far as I could see. It was like the Da Vinci code of baking, either you ended up with the holy grail, i.e. something that looked like a plaited loaf (James and John), or you ended up with something that looked like a side table by Ikea called Svensto (everyone else).
Perfect Peter is not so perfect. In fact Perfect Peter totally bollocksed everything up this week and ended up by having to leave the baking tent of dreams for good. His plaiting was a disaster and his method very much approximated the ‘Oh fuckit’ school of hair design. His loaf looked like it had been made by blind pygmies with chop sticks for fingers. It was not pretty.
His bagels were flaccid. The word flaccid is not good, ever, in any circumstances, but particularly not when you are seeking buoyancy in a bagel. His flatbreads were distinctly meh. After the mathematical prowess of last week, and his flawlessly geometrical cake, it was rather unnerving to see him go to pieces this week.
I predict that he will now be haunted by yeast. He looks like a man who does not take defeat well. He left vowing to ‘conquer’ the world of bread making. I pity his wife. I hope she is not prone to bloating.
Stuart is, in our expert opinions, being secretly funded by the tomato marketing board. That man is obsessed by tomatoes. He finds a way to put them in everything and anything. This week he scattered them over flat breads and I’m sure he injected them into his bagels. It is only to be mourned that he could not find a way to force them into his plaited loaf, although the lack of tomatoes may explain his dismal score on that front. Next week they are doing tarts, and if a tomato does not rear its bulbous, round head, I will eat my hat.
Having said that about tomatoes, it seems the surprise ingredient of this season is going to be the parsnip. It has appeared in both episodes so far in unexpected and frankly worrying ways, and I feel that it may be experiencing a resurgence of epic proportions in weeks to come.
Only time will tell for the once humble parsnip.
Brendan is a dark horse isn’t he? He is not only a disco diva, but he also knows his onions when it comes to hot rocks. Not content with whisking up breads that nobody had ever heard of, he filled his oven with pebbles from a well known DIY shop and proceeded to bake his bread on them, much to everyone’s amazement. I can only imagine the clanking/grinding noises he must have made when he arrived for the first baking assignment dragging forty tons of river washed pebbles behind him.
I am intrigued by Brendan. I am now imagining him as a sort of cross between John Travolta in his Saturday Night Fever era, and Ray Mears, with his survivalist tool kit; ‘First find your ideal schist’. Sparkling combat gear topped with oak leaves may be the way forward for our Brendan.
Victoria, last week’s winner, did not have a good week. She spent the whole time looking stressed and panicking about her failure to know anything much of anything about bread. You could see her roll neck getting more and more constricted as the episode went by, and it’s a wonder her head didn’t come clean off by the end of the bagel making challenge.
Luckily she had Peter and Stuart and their disasters, and Ryan and his floppy bagels to buffer her away from the kill zone. You knew, despite what Paul was saying in the judging tent, about her being in danger this week, that she was never really in any danger of going down. Her food was at least edible, and looked like what it was supposed to. Ryan’s bagels came out looking like deck quoits, which is never a good thing in a bagel.
Let’s see if she can pull back from the brink in the tarts round next week.