Well, all my plans to be a more committed blogger this half term have come to naught it seems. I even managed to be out last night for the final of The Great British Bake Off.
I sat through the encore performance of the NT Live Hamlet with half a mind on murder most foul and the other half on whether someone would accidentally set the tent on fire in the technical challenge. It wasn’t the most committed I’ve ever been to watching Hamlet, it has to be said.
I think Hamlet would have been a terrible baker. He’d have always been nipping off to brood in the corner, or run off a quick soliloquy while his muffins burned to flinders. I think he’d definitely have been prone to a soggy bottom.
He looks the sort.
The children and I bundled downstairs in our pyjamas this morning and watched Bake Off before breakfast. We couldn’t wait any longer.
You can watch the final here.
We had Kimberley, Frances and Ruby in this episode, battling it out for a much more tasteful trophy this year. I’ve always slightly pitied the winners in previous years, having to cart home that monstrous award that looks like a 3d model of the uterine system made with balloon whisks and pipettes. This year’s glass cake stand was much more the thing.
All my favourites had gone by this time, as you know, but I was obliged to pick a new favourite for the final, because it’s just not the same if you haven’t got someone to cheer on from the sidelines is it?
I picked Frances for my team.
Frances is well known for her love of placing cakes on vintage records. She has done this several times during the course of the series. I suspect she’s a bit of a nightmare to take to HMV – smearing cream horns over white label remixes of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’. It may explain why we no longer see their stores on the high street. Too much icing sugar in the grooves can prove fatal.
She is also very artistic, whipping up scale models of gigantic match boxes, or small potting sheds with ease. Unlike Ruby, her sheds would never have subsidence issues, although she did have a collapsing tower of biscuits earlier in the series which caused not a little excitement. Despite this, she has risen like a phoenix from the flames. In fact, it is a wonder that this was not the theme of her show stopper this week.
Kimberley is the Mary Poppins of the Bake Off this year. There is always one baker with a penchant for a slide rule and methods executed with ruthless efficiency. This year it has been Kimberley’s turn to nod knowledgeably about the stretch quotient of gluten when squeezed in a lightly floured hand, or how many macarons make five. I am torn when it comes to Kimberley. Everything she makes looks delicious, plus her hair is ace, and she has a fantastic smile which you just can’t help beaming along with. On the other hand, her naked ambition scares me and makes me want to hide along the back of the sofa and whimper gently into a paper bag.
Ruby does not do naked ambition. Ruby does doleful, woebegone with a hint of spaniel. I had hoped that this, like her execrable taste for alpine knitwear, might have worn off over the weeks, as she has remained in the competition, but it hasn’t, and I just couldn’t find it in myself to back her as my favourite, even at this point. I do not hate her, and I would pay good money to try the things she has made that look like they will see her going home on the last bus from tentsville, which are proclaimed delicious. They must be truly delicious, because they quite often look like a bag of spanners. A bag of spanners with subsidence, and possibly jumper hair.
It is my one great annoyance with the Bake Off, that I cannot sample the products.
Maybe this will happen when it moves to BBC1 next year. You will be able to apply for tickets, like Glastonbury – and bits of cake will be mailed out to you at the end of every episode.
It was all to play for in the final, and the signature challenge saw the contestants making a picnic pie with a pastry crust and distinctive layers.
Paul and Mary have been big on layers this season. I think the term ‘distinctive layers’ should take over from soggy bottom as the catch phrase for the series, except that it doesn’t sound as rude and isn’t as fun to say. One could combine the two and have a Juicy Couture track suit with ‘soggy bottom’ tastefully embroidered across your arse, and ‘distinctive layers’ snaking across your bosoms.
That would be nice. Mary and Paul could have his ‘n’ hers ones.
Ruby and Frances both made a pie in the shape of a picnic basket, and I have to confess that I had my first inkling of sympathy for Ruby when she found out that they were having a picnic basket head to head.
You just knew that Frances’ pie would probably be woven in an artisan pattern handed down through the generations, and that each strand would be decorated so you could see the knot holes in the willow withies – and then you thought about shedtastrophe and knew that if you were in the same position, your mouth would be doing the same thing as Ruby’s. i.e. looking a bit like a cat when it’s smelled something really terrible.
As it was, Ruby’s pie actually got more praise than Frances’ in the end, and did actually look properly finished, which genuinely shocked everyone, including the camera man and the man who puts up the tent poles.
Kimberley’s on the other hand was a piemare – which was almost as shocking. It was not a final lacking in excitement. The world had gone topsy turvy and it was only the first round.
Kimberley’s pie oozed and crumbled, and crumbled and oozed, and was deemed claggy in the mouth. This is not good. Claggy is a word best used to describe things like mud, and other things it is probably best not to put into your mouth. Claggy is something one suffers from around the calf and ankle region generally, and one rarely hears Heston, for example, trying for a claggy consistency in anything at all.
The technical challenge saw the bakers having to make pretzels.
It was not a fantastic success for anyone, this round. It resulted in great strands of dough being flung about like laggy bands in a school playground, and me humming ‘Double Dutch’ by Malcolm McLaren as everyone attempted double loops and going around the outside. Twisting and poaching and browning, and achieving crunch with chew just gave everyone a massive headache and produced many, many pretzels, all of which looked a bit like a cross between glazed dog pooh and bagels.
Paul’s eyebrows were doing overtime at this point in proceedings. Rather like the dough twisting.
I did not check to see whether they looped themselves up so much they actually produced pretzel shaped eyebrows. I wouldn’t put it past him. I may have to watch again on iPlayer.
Frances bombed in this round, with Kimberley coming out the victor (but not too victorious due to dog pooh shaped issues) and Ruby hovering in the middle – which meant that everything was to play for in the show stopper, which involved making a three tier wedding cake which had to be exciting inside and out – and no doubt would ideally incorporate distinctive layers somewhere.
The show stopper was tense, not because I doubted the outcome of this one, which I was pretty sure Frances would nail – but because, as Frances said, six hours to make a three tier wedding cake is pretty nail biting – most people take about six days to make a cake like this.
The final show stopper is always a feat of endurance, and you could see even the normally cool and collected Kimberley scrunching up ribbons of icing and muttering the word ‘compromise’ – which in her book is probably a swear word, and in my book is a word to live by.
Ruby went about constructing her cake in much the way I would do it, i.e. on a wing and a prayer with very little forethought. It would be what I would call a prototype – but sadly prototypes don’t cut it in the final of finals and Ruby’s winning hopes faded along with her sunset themed cake.
Kimberley didn’t quite manage the perfect finish on her cake, due no doubt to all the compromises that had to be made – and it was Frances, with her beautiful inside and out cake that not only won that round but also the Bake Off as whole.
I have been reading a lot of grumbles in the media about Frances winning, and I feel it is unjust of people to moan. The Bake Off has always been a competition where the judging is mostly about what you do on the day, not how you have done over the whole of the series. I think, had it been judged across the whole series, Kimberley should have won, as the consistently more perfect baker. On the other hand, judged as it is, Frances was a worthy winner, as she really did pull it out of the bag on the day. She absolutely deserved to win.
I was delighted that the sun shone as they handed out the cake plate, and we got to see Howard and Glenn mingling on the lawn with everyone, and everything looked idyllic as the final credits rolled. It kind of summed up what Bake Off is all about. Camp drama with buns and extreme loveliness all played out on an English lawn.
Long may it last.