There were tears people. There were tears.
This week’s episode of The Great British Bake Off nearly finished us off here at Boo Towers.
Tilly lost the plot completely, I was sniffing hard, and Oscar threw the sofa cushions at the wall in sheer manly frustration. Even Tallulah was chewing her fingernails, and she is quite unemotional as a rule. When Tallulah chews her fingernails it means most other people will be wailing in sack cloth and ashes and rending will be occurring. Seriously, that child is nails.
I have put money in the therapy jars for use in later life.
It will be like Alice’s pool of tears by the final at this rate. They might have to scrap the baking bit and just have a giant caucus race instead.
This week saw the contestants dealing, or not, with sweet dough.
You can watch the episode here.
First up was the signature bake. Tea loaf a go go.
I am not a huge fan of fruited bakes as a rule, but I have always had a soft spot for a tea loaf. It’s less demanding than the industrial strength Dundee cake, or anything with glace cherries in (urgh). This week saw the heavy handed use of the apricot as a fruit of choice for many of the bakers, and I can only applaud that. I do love an apricot. Squishy, hairy little beastie that it is.
The secret with a tea loaf, we now know, is in the length of proving. It needs time to get to grips with its own fruitiness. It cannot be rushed – which is probably why I don’t make them very often. There is a lot of rushing going on in this house as a rule. We cannot relax with raisins. We have things to do.
The bakers were all finding the chilling with dried fruit business tricky this week. There just wasn’t enough time, and even Kimberley managed to get a soggy bake this week.
Sogginess, it seems, is one of the universal crimes of baking. Nothing must be soggy, ever. Moistness has its place (unlike in a towelette where I just say NO), but sogginess is verboten.
The show this week was really about Howard and Glenn, my two favourite bakers. Both of them went off piste with the tea loaf idea, pushing the boundaries of acceptable loafishness and generally getting all Hestonish on the collective baking ass.
I don’t think Paul likes that. It reminds him of the competition. His eyebrows start rippling like epileptic caterpillars when this kind of recipe craziness goes on, and his mouth looks a bit like a rat’s bottom when he has to taste test.
Howard reverted to type (i.e. bonkers, country and western crooning rice flour ingredients man) by making something with hemp flour, which ended up resembling a giant cow pat. He himself admitted that it was not quite as soignee as he had hoped. To be fair to Howard, cow pats are hardly ever soignee.
You don’t see Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s with a giant cow pat on her head now do you? And if anyone is going to rock soignee it’s our Audrey.
Mary, ever kind, had to resort to saying that the cow pat had an interesting flavour.
She had been intrigued by the use of hemp and it was clear, upon tasting that it may have gone down better if Howard had just gone the whole hog and made an enormous hash cake studded with some kind of fruit that acts as a mild hallucinogen. She may have baulked at the taste initially but come back for seconds about half an hour later, and warmed to it about forty minutes in, after eating everyone else’s tea loaf in quick succession.
He’d have been the outright winner by the end of the episode and they’d all have been having a party in the lake as the credits rolled.
My friend had a mother who, when she really loathed something you were wearing, but felt she had to say something encouraging, would say; ‘Unusual, but effective’. I feel that Mary’s use of the word ‘interesting’ had much the same tone here.
He took it remarkably well.
Glenn made a saffron panettone which he suspended in a bowl using a Heath Robinesonesque contraption made from skewers and string. Apparently this awesome feat of engineering did not impress Dame Hollywood one iota, who merely arched an eyebrow and disputed its panettoneish qualities. It is obvious from this interlude that panettone brings out Hollywood’s most divaish qualities. Something I must remember if he ever pops round for Christmas lunch.
I shall hide the Boo panettone in a cupboard for Boxing Day. Glenn can come over and share it.
The technical challenge was to make an apricot couronne. I had to look this up.
Every year on Bake Off there is something they make that everyone else in the world nods wisely at and says: ‘Oooh yes, I’ve had it millions and hundreds of times.’ and I go: ‘What? I have never heard of that?’
I think it’s because I’ve spent a lot of my life living in the East Midlands. Apricot couronnes probably do not travel well. Perhaps they are so tasty that people keep meaning to bring me one, but then eating it in transit.
Anyway, it’s basically a fancy Danish pastry shaped like a sort of exploded crown and covered in runny icing and almonds. It can only really be delicious.
Should I ever be allowed to leave the East Midlands again, I will be sure to track one down and try it.
Howard had problems with the technical bake this week. His crown was too etiolated. It is a terrible affliction. The poor man was pretty heartbroken about it. It looked fine to me, but then who am I to judge the correct thick or thinness of a crown, never having been privy to crown judging methods before?
The show stopper challenge this week was to make two lots of twelve buns of European extraction. There were two camps on the bun front this week. In one corner were the Scandi buns, which had a huge surge in popularity, in part, I am convinced, due to the popularity of The Killing and Borgen. They’re always necking buns in cafes in Borgen, when they’re not making political history.
More interestingly, I wonder if Ruby’s jumpers have some connection here as an oblique reference to The Killing?
I am now concerned that the whole Bake Off may actually be a long prelude to a grizzly, bun related death in episode eight, and the ultimate winner will actually be revealed as the best at making both suet pudding, and a sculpture out of human thigh bones which they’ve been hoarding in tupperware containers under a tent flap for the past nine episodes?
All those twitter accounts we’ve been following since episode one may be a gigantic red herring set up by the manipulative, sweater clad murderer…
No wonder she looks so grumpy a lot of the time.
She’s got a lot of little jobs on hand in the background. It’s not philosophy exams, it’s boiling the flesh off squirrel bones and working out what would be the most appropriate episode to off Kimberley, her greatest threat, without giving the game away.
Ruby, I am so on to you.
And I applaud the BBC for merging two clear ratings winners, Scandinoir and baking successfully.
The other bun camp went for brioche.
I love a brioche. I have stopped buying them I love them so much. That’s how much I love a brioche. I love them to the point of a dough related infarction.
Glenn and Howard were at it again. Glenn making some kind of Scandinavian plaited skipping rope affair which was meant to be glued together with caramel stuff and things, but which gently unfurled in the tin instead of coming out beautifully formed. I particularly loved the way Kimberley urged him to bash them out of the tin when time was running out and then promptly washed her hands of the whole affair when it they unravelled like a melancholic Rapunzel’s plait all over the table.
Howard went all out, making buns which looked like peaches, all nestled in a fabulous wooden fruit crate, but which unfortunately tasted of nothing at all, despite looking exactly like they could flatten Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge at a single roll.
I’d cast Paul as Aunt Sponge.
Not even Mel calling him her little snail could quite soften the blow, and it was Howard who went home, even though Glenn, and us, were expecting it to be him this week.
Honestly, we did not want either Howard or Glenn to go. We love them both dearly – hence the tears, on telly and off.
I was so distraught at the end of the episode that I even forgot to remember what next week’s episode will bring. I had to look it up just to let you know that next week we will be big on suet and the causes of suet in the pastry round.
Pass me the tissues will you?