The whole of yesterday was merely an impatient wait for The Great British Bake Off in our house.
You can catch up with the episode we watched, here.
By seven thirty, the telly was on, ready so that we didn’t miss it. Text messages started flooding in from friends all over the country (I kid you not), as we all got fully pyjamaed up and ready for the bread round.
I know people scoff about social media, but I do love the feeling that on occasions like this, I am united with my friends, and that we are all snorting at the same things. It is rather like going to the cinema but without the annoyance of having to get dressed and pay the equivalent of a body part, only to find yourself sat behind someone with huge hair who insists on eating loft insulation all through the best bits.
My friend Claire is a fan of the Silverback, Hollywood. She thinks the adverse press he’s had in recent months has made him leaner, sleeker and more gimlet eyed – like a snowy panther waiting for the kill.
Me, I love Sue. I’d marry Sue in a heartbeat. Knowing that she’s on telly is a thing that makes my heart skip a beat. Tra la. I’d be more than happy to wash the icing sugar off her glasses.
Weird televisual fantasies aside – let us get on to the serious business of baking. This week the subject was bread, which means much chest beating and slanty, Eagle Eye Action Man manoeuvres from La Hollywood.
The thing is, everyone on Bake Off has now had the opportunity to watch three previous series of people being mercilessly mowed down for their failure to check that their gluten is stretchy enough, so the mistakes this week were not quite so catastrophic. Everyone knows that Mary, nails though she is, will be kinder to you if you massacre one of her pet recipes. Paul is a different matter. He behaves as though you’ve cut the throat of his firstborn, so there is a lot more striving when it comes to his challenges.
You can actually see the cords in people’s necks standing out as they concentrate to the point of getting an aneurysm.
This is why I would be rubbish on Bake Off. I crumble under pressure. I would be running around crying, sweating profusely and swearing so much nothing they filmed would get passed by the censors at the BBC. Then I would probably be sick into Paul’s shoe and get fired out of a cannon over the disapproving sheep into the next field.
There were a lot of disapproving looking sheep shots yesterday weren’t there?
This week there were very few out and out disasters, which is good for the bakers, not so good for people like me, who love a bit of a baking car crash. This is why they should have let Toby stay in. He was such excellent value.
Paul tried to create disaster by deliberately pressing very hard with his thumbs of steel into everyone’s dough and looking like a cat had weed into his mouth while he was doing it. Mary had the measure of him though. He said: ‘Hmm, this dough is very undercooked – look’ and did the thumb pressing thing, until Mary slapped him down saying: ‘Yes, and you’re making it look so much worse by sticking your thumb in it so hard, aren’t you?’
Round one to the Berryinator – Go Mary!
This week the worst disaster came from Sue, who accidentally plonked her elbow in one of Howard’s English muffins to disastrous effect. I have to say that he took it very well indeed, given that it was the technical challenge and there were no spare muffins/dough on hand to whip up another one, and it was already stressing him out, bless him. Clearly he is not a man to indulge in the red mist of rage and go postal with a dough hook.
Which is good news for Sue.
I have decided that Howard is my new best favourite. This is still partly because he looks like my hero, John Hegley, despite not having come up with an ode to the muffin yet. It is also partly because he also looks like he should be in a country and western combo singing about how his woman done gone and left him, and his dawg has died on the porch, leaving him with only a bottle of whiskey to drown his sorrows.
I am hoping that this side of him will flourish as the series continues.
This week we had issues with Lucy.
Lucy, you may recall, was the woman I wasn’t sure about. My bet was either boho earth mother or Jo Woods style rock chick. My final summation was more sulky gardener, a la Diarmuid Gavin, but without the winsome curls and tight leather trousers that so enamoured him to me in the early Nineties when I had a small child, didn’t get out much, and was very sleep deprived (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
It seems we are destined never to find out, as she was ousted this week due to her total failure to be spectacular or take any risks whatsoever. In the first round, which was the creation of a vast quantity of matching bread sticks, and which after watching the delicious array of flavours the contestants made me come up with, had my stomach actually rumbling and me thinking fond thoughts of a short run to Tesco after the programme had finished, she chose to do ones with salt on.
That is all.
Fair enough I hear you cry. Sea salt on your bread stick is nice.
Yes. It is nice. But it is also rather boring, and even I, woman who refers to all her food as ‘rustic’ to cover the multitude of sins I create, could have come up with something a bit more scintillating than wanging a bit of salt on the end of some dough. Even Domino’s Pizza make them twisty, and they’re evil.
In the second round, the muffin challenge, her muffins were uninspiring. I think that would make a wonderful double entendre on a t-shirt by the way: ‘I’m sorry. Your muffins are uninspiring.’
In the third round, which was to create a show stopper bread ensemble with decoration and va va voom, she made a round loaf with a bunch of roasted tomatoes on top.
That is all.
There was much eyebrow raising from La Hollywood. In fact, at one point his eyebrows actually flew off, nested in a tree, had eyebrow babies and came back to land on his face.
Even Sue, who is usually kindness personified when it comes to the competitors, was slightly non plussed as to how decorative a bunch of wilted tomatoes could be.
There was no doubt in everyone’s mind that Lucy would be going home on the train of shame.
She tried to style it out, but in that way, slightly red of cheek and glinty of eye which said: ‘I know I’ve buggered this up, but I’m not backing down.’
You get the feeling that she had decided that she was not going to pander to Paul and Mary and their show biz demands. She was not going to have show girls with feathers in their hair dancing about in dough form. She wasn’t going to write: ‘I love Paul in edible glitter through every slice of her loaf. Oh no!
She was going to show what a stunning baker she was by keeping everything pure, and all about talent, and skill, and organic ingredients hand crafted by artisans called Percy, who live for chipping salt into perfectly formed crystals, like his father before him, etc.
Which works if you are Raymond Blanc. Not if you are a slightly dishevelled woman with raised beds and flyaway hair.
This week Kimberley and Ruby came to the fore. I was quite pleased about Ruby shaking off the low cloud of gloom from last week, and delighted to see she didn’t burst into floods of tears and blow her nose on the canvas awning. I was less delighted with that terrible cardigan she insisted on wearing. What was that about?
Ruby, for the record, is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. She looks like a startled fawn crossed with a goddess and is very pleasing to the eye. Why she was wearing a cardigan that looked like it had been knitted by one of the Shreddie nannas I don’t know.
I wonder if it was her lucky cardigan? My best friend Rachel had lucky pants, which she wore religiously to all ‘need to win’ situations until her mother cruelly burned them on the pyre of despair. With lucky pants it doesn’t matter how grim they are, you’re unlikely to be exposing them on prime time telly unless things go badly awry, in which case they cease to be lucky and immediately morph into the pants of shame.
Sadly, Ruby’s cardigan had nowhere to hide, and was not doing much for the nasty headache I’ve been nursing for over a week now.
I loved her bread. I wanted to eat her peacock made out of white chocolate and fairy wishes, which looked amazing and tasted so good Sue sobbed when they tried to take it off of her, but the cardi has to go.
I would mention Rob’s psychic octopus bread, which was, what my friend’s mum used to call ‘unusual but effective’, when she was slightly stumped for words but wanted to make you feel very bad about whatever it is she was talking about. Ditto Mark’s plaited loaf which should have been adorned with ears of corn, but which fattened up nicely to produce what Mary called ‘very posh looking slugs’, but I am out of time.
Until next week my baking chums…