Well, this week is turning out to be a hell of a lot better than last week my lovely friends. Although, short of falling down a well and breaking my neck it would have been hard to get much more miserable.
I have celebrated a few days of relative calm by watching The Great British Bake Off with the children whilst making inroads into a bar of Belgian chocolate.
You would think, wouldn’t you, that watching a programme about baking would be a soothing thing to do, ‘plodding about, baking in a tent’ to paraphrase Sarah Jane?
Is it ‘eck as like!
I have just finished watching the most gripping hour’s television since the last episode of The Killing aired. And there were serious hand knits and blood.
So you can stick that in your Danish Pastry and smoke it.
It really did give Sarah Lund’s Scandi po faced misery a run for its money this week. In fact, the only thing that could have topped it for excitement was if Lund herself had magically popped up from under the canvas, waving a strudel and slapping P Bad Hollywood in irons for crimes against La Berry.
This week we were deep in pudding territory, which caused consternation amongst the children as they got confused between desserts and puddings because of the fact that we are linguistically of the pudding is dessert camp, as well as saying scown instead of scon. Once we had sorted out the ‘posh’ definition of a pudding the natives ceased to be restless and we got on with staring breathlessly at the screen.
At the end of it all, Tilly announced that she had needed a wee since the technical challenge but had held it in until the end because she didn’t want to miss any of the excitement.
I am wondering if I can get Sue Perkins to come to her bedside if she needs kidney dialysis because of this. I LOVE Sue Perkins more with every week that passes.
I note, in passing, that it has rained so much between this week and last week that the sheep had to be filmed lying down. This was not because they were tired, it was because they had swollen with rain water to such an unfeasibly large size that they had sunk into the grass. They looked like huge hover sheep that had just landed.
To get back to the matter in hand.
This week there were sponge puddings to signaturise. Each baker had to make two different types, and make six individual portions of each. The technical challenge was a queen of puddings, and the show stopper was a strudel.
Let us start with my old favourite and my best, Brendan. You knew Brendan meant business this week when the camera cut away to show his chiselled jaw in profile right at the start. That jaw jutted with determination, and the honed instincts of a killer.
No matter how floral the cloth he was using to stare through his strudel pastry, you wouldn’t mess with a man who greases his arms up to the elbows just to make a pudding.
The way he was slapping that oil on reminded me very much of James Heriot in a crisis over at a windswept cow byre in the middle of a dour Yorkshire night. Picture the scene. The calf is breach, Tristram has lost his head and gone off to drink gin out of a wellington, and James has only got fourteen gallons of linseed oil, a bicycle pump and the thoughts of Siegfried’s disapproval to get him through the night, but he still manages to deliver the calf, blarting into the straw, to the joy and amazement of all.
That was the way Brendan delivered that strudel into the waiting arms of Paul and Mary. The proud strudel grandparents.
‘We shall call him…Heinrich.’
As well as giving good strudel, Brendan excelled at everything else with an insouciance and a devil may care glint in his eye that may have been because he is indeed old enough to remember the setting point of jam, or may have been because he managed to shoe horn in a vicious slap down to the master of molecular gastronomy, Heston ‘snail is a kind of porridge’ Blumenthal with an air of withering contempt that made Sue wince.
Next week we marvel as Brendan flambes Gordon Ramsay whilst juggling profiteroles.
This week he he just had to settle with being Star Baker. Again.
James had a terrible week this week, despite putting on his jumper of power. I think the sheep’s hate campaign is really getting to him. That and the fact that if they are indeed hover sheep, they really are fucking scary. They can mess with your mind, man.
And your clooties.
These may sound like something nasty that American children give to each other during the long school holidays, but it is, in fact, a kind of dark brown fruit dumpling that should be boiled in a bag until it has a skin on it.
I know. Hold me back.
James’s went wrong. Their slimy, skinless forms slithered onto the plate like the rebirth of Voldemort gone badly awry. In fact, it may well have been James’s plan to actually bake an evil sheep nemesis as a kind of amulet. Sadly, thanks to inadequate flouring the whole thing went tits up and he was left with a lot of fruit based slime that nobody really wanted.
His queen of puddings was more of a lady in waiting, and his strudel had spectacular leakage in which molten strawberries poured forth from a hole in the pastry like some kind of baked volcanic eruption.
We will draw a veil over the whole thing and hope for happier times next week.
Cathryn had an interesting weekend, particularly when Sarah Jane persuaded her to try Paul Hollywood’s totally show off yo yo strudel pastry making, and she managed to throw her pastry onto the floor and into the green hairy carpet, which then adhered to her dough, causing it to resemble Mr Twit’s beard.
I thought Sarah Jane would actually faint with the sheer enormity of what she had done. She was certainly only millimetres away from kneeling on pencils and begging for forgiveness.
And here we are again, with Sarah Jane. I am still chewing cat valium like there is no tomorrow, and she is still weeping into her rain mac, as the relentless toil of whipping stiff meringues and getting hospital corners on her home made custards drives her to despair.
I have noted that Sarah Jane’s hair gets more emotive as the demands on her skills increase and the gimlet eye of the Hollywood eviscerates her every effort. Her hair was positively despairing this week as he played a kind of cruel, cat and mouse with her expectations, and she panicked herself silly. She has empathic hair. It is like Star Trek The Next Generation but with more creme Anglaise.
This week’s episode just lurched from disaster to disaster for everyone. Ryan had dry sponge (you can get cream for that); and his jam was not jammy enough. Sarah Jane made souffles instead of sponges, and then Danny dropped her sponges and only managed to deliver four instead of six, which caused Mary and Paul to come to blows in the judging tent. They showed film footage of their verbal disagreement, which got quite heated. What they didn’t show you was the pair of them playing slapsies and administering vicious Chinese burns to each other to decide which of them was right.
Something to do with the watershed I believe.
Finally, poor John had a horrendous week when he accidentally magimixed his own finger during the strudel round. Soldiering bravely on with a royal blue glove on to stop blood leaking into his pastry, he finally had to admit defeat when the glove actually turned into black pudding he had bled into it so much, and he was escorted from the tent by a St John’s Ambulance lady and whisked off to hospital, never to finish his strudel.
It is debatable whether he will ever play the violin again.
After a disastrous strudel round for Sarah Jane and James, and not a lot of joy for Ryan, it was unbearably tense waiting for them to announce which of the bakers was going home this week. I actually ate one of my own teeth I was stress grinding so much at this point.
And, at the final moment they announced that due to John’s detour into butchery when he should have been only attempting bakery, they are putting off the metaphorical chopping until next week, when two bakers will go home.
I wept. Tilly widdled, the nation went wild.
Nobody fiddled while cake burned. Too sore in the finger department.
Tune in next week for more adventures in baking.