I am absolutely wrung out by The Great British Bake Off this week. Old dish cloths that have seen twenty years service have more usefulness than me at the moment. I cannot be the only one whose sofa was in turmoil by the end of Dessert week, surely? We have had uprisings here at the Boo house, and some leapings and an enormous amount of hand wringing and watching of stuff through fingers. The situation was not helped by Derek chasing a stupendously large moth hither and yon at crucial moments and Oscar bursting into tears as soon as the end credits rolled because it signalled bed time before his awakening to a new school year tomorrow. I am harrowed, and possibly ploughed, and definitely scattered.
I love desserts.
I don’t know why I say that really. Like I don’t love any of the other things, and it’s a surprise to you all that I do love desserts. It is, let’s face it, a surprise to nobody. I am basically a giant mouth, attached to humongosaur grabby hands and an enormous, five foot long stomach. That’s me.
If you missed the dessert episode, you can catch it here. I licked the screen. All the screens.
I licked your screen.
The signature bake this week was to make self saucing puddings. You had, as per the new rule of the series, to make eight of them. Paul and Mary’s takings at the GBBO shop near the stile at the end of the lane must be sustained from week to week, so we are still all about the huge quantities. I want to know what happens when it gets down to the last few rounds, which used to be all about quantity. Are they going to bring in industrial ovens and have the bakers up at dawn stocking up a shop the size of Greggs?
Wearing hair nets?
I posited the idea that the shop was subsidising the cameraman’s wages in a previous blog, but I have a new idea this week. Is this Paul and Mary’s retirement fund? Maybe the final round will see them bagging up their earnings and getting the last three contestants to make them a Tracey Island getaway out of treacle sponge and custard with a gingerbread Thunderbird 1. Mary is Lady Penelope and I claim my £10.
There are two types of self saucing puddings. There are the puddings which have goo in the middle, and the puddings which have goo underneath. I have boiled this down to its simplest classification here. Mary and Paul went into all the technicalities, but that’s basically it. It matters, in a self saucing pudding, where you put your goo. That is all.
I don’t like the phrase ‘self saucing’ myself. It reminds me of those ‘self cleaning’ ovens and ‘self cleaning’ windows that they’re always trying to flog you and which are actually rubbish. I have never come across anything in the domestic sphere which cleans itself in the way you think it should. When they invent a self cleaning lavvy that lives up to the hype I will be willing to listen. Up to that point, I eschew it all with a firm hand.
Self saucing means that you don’t actually, as the consumer, have to pour custard or chocolate sauce (or gravy – you weirdo) onto the pudding. It’s already in there. That’s not self saucing really, is it? I was imagining something like a scene from Fantasia where the pudding reaches out two spongy arms and performs the custard challenge on itself. In reality, which is way more boring, It just means the cook does all the work instead of the pudding stuffing maniac on the receiving end of the goods. As I am lazy, this is fine, as long as there is extra sauce on hand in case I feel things are not saucy enough. I don’t like having my sauce quantities dictated to me. It makes me tetchy.
Luis was fretting this week, which is unusual for him. He is generally rather collected. Apparently desserts are not his forte, and his slightly stodgy baked pear sponge with a lake of what was in all honesty more pear wee than sauce, did not go down well with anyone much at all, and kind of confirmed that he had more to worry about this week. No pressure Luis. None at all.
Norman was being his usual taciturn, yet revolutionary self. He is the poster boy for utility baking, that man. He continued his long running theme of plain, brown baking with a very brown sticky toffee pudding with extra toffee sauce at the bottom (colour – brown). Upon hearing that Mary considered it a bit ugly he was very firm that he had meant it to be. Apparently there is nothing to be gained by beautiful puddings. They only lead to trouble in the long run. They might look classy, but with beautiful puddings it’s all fur coat and no knickers as far as Norman is concerned. I feel that post Bake Off, Norman will be issuing a book on the philosophy of baking. It will be written on parchment and available in a hollowed out wholemeal bun as a special, limited edition run. When you have finished it you can either eat it, or turn it into a side table.
Chetna continues to be the pudding whisperer. I love the way she looks at her creations with huge, doe like eyes and implores them to rise, or freeze, or set. If I were your pudding Chetna, I’d want to do your bidding. Who could resist that woeful little face?
Iain had gone all woodsman this week. He was making a dark chocolate pudding with raspberry and lime compote and chocolate mint leaf decoration. He got quite growly with his baking and started speed walking round the tent making angry noises in his throat like a bearded, ginger Wolverine. It was quite terrifying. I think the heat was getting to him. Probably due to excess beard carrying. It’s bound to make a man fierce hot. I quite enjoyed his growling. It was reassuringly rumbly. But then I was far enough away not to have to worry about him biting me on the ankle.
The technical round involved making Mary’s epic Tiramisu cake which was like the bed from the Princess and the Pea. It had so many layers to it Luis had to draw himself a diagram in case he got lost. It is a true fact that if you eat an entire Tiramisu cake to yourself you find a tin of marrowfat peas underneath it all, and you are allowed to claim the high throne of Narnia with it, by throwing it at the back of Aslan’s head and then nabbing it while he’s still stunned.
I learned that from Wikipedia.
Both Richard and Iain had sponge based issues with the Tiramisu, and had to rebake their sponge layers, leaving them very pushed for time. There was more growling from Iain who was so feral at one point we got a flash of builder’s bum. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had done a small wee up the mixer to mark his territory by the end. As for Richard, his usual savoir faire had deserted him and I think he had to stroke his lucky pencil quite a bit during this round. Tensions were running high.
The sponge had to be sliced incredibly thinly and there were a lot of people doing exactly what I would have done in the same situation, i.e. making an utter hash of it, and having to construct layers of sponge like a raggedy ass patchwork quilt. Needs must when Mary Berry’s gimlet gaze is on your timer.
In the end Martha won the technical challenge with a relieved Luis coming in second, which gave him a break from his pear based nightmares earlier. Diana came last, and Norman snuck in behind her, thrilled that he hadn’t quite hit rock bottom. I expected him to do reasonably well, given that it was a brown pudding. Even though it was foreign. Which can’t be helped.
The technical challenge was, what we in the baking world like to call ‘a right git’, given the broiling hot temperatures in the tent. The contestants had to make a baked Alaska. A baked Alaska for those of you to whom the Seventies is history and not a pivotal part of your life to date, is a sponge cake, which has ice cream on top, and then a layer of swirly, whirly, twirly meringue on top, which you crisp up with a naked flame until it goes slightly burned and bubbly looking. You then swallow it whole because it is so delicious and you just cannot wait. My mother had some very glamorous cookery books in the Seventies, one of which had a full colour picture of a baked Alaska, taking up an entire A4 page. I used to stroke that page for hours, wild with meringue based longing.
Baked Alaska is all well and good if you’re working in a kitchen where you can regulate the temperature and take the required amount of time to freeze and cool things. When you’re working in a giant, canvas sun trap, with a freezer the size of a shoe box and you’ve got four and a half hours to produce something that’s going to make Paul’s sling backs pop off with desire, it’s not easy at all.
I would tell you how amazing Martha’s key lime pie version looked and how Richard won star baker with his tiramisu based efforts. I want to tell you that Luis triumphed with his Bakewell Alaska and Nancy went all out with her summer fruits Alaska. I want to tell you that Norman nearly got sent home for his Alaska which was essentially as unsexy as an Alaska can get, although not brown this time.
But I can’t, can I, because you’re all waiting for what I’m going to say about Iain and Diana, aren’t you?
We all know that disaster struck.
Iain, who up to now had been having a pretty good week, was making something that Mary described as looking like mushroom soup. It was black sesame seed and honey ice cream with chocolate and coffee caramel sponge and meringue. He was going great guns except for the fact that like many of the others, his ice cream wasn’t setting. For some reason he decided to put it in Diana’s freezer, and she took it out and left it on the side.
Without telling him, and without thinking to put it in another freezer.
To be fair to her, she was worrying herself sick about a spectacularly crippled meringue swan, and probably wasn’t thinking straight. But still, she did play a part in melting Iain’s ice cream. Which is tricky, especially as it was edited so that we were unable to see if she said sorry, and how long she left it out for.* In the programme she just looks cross with him for using her freezer space, which is kind of fair enough, except she had just helped to melt his ice cream. In a major baking competition.
Tallulah was devastated. She loves Diana best of all.
When Iain found it, it had melted to a non salvageable sea of mushroom soupiness, and it literally poured, like Niagara, all over his cake, and this is where things got horrific. The growling got the better of him, his inner Wolverine came out and he lobbed his entire cake in the bin in a temper, and stormed out of the tent.
What to do?
He did come back into the tent when it was time for the big reveal, and revealed his bin full of messy leavings to Mary and Paul, who sent him home because of it.
It was devastating.
Twitter actually melted with the intensity of anti Diana feelings after the episode aired.
I don’t want to turn this blog into a witch hunt. My posts are meant to poke gentle fun at lovely people doing a lovely thing that makes me effervescently happy every week. I am so grateful for this programme. It literally lights up my Wednesdays. The things I write are not meant to excoriate anyone, or to make anyone miserable. They are meant to entertain.
I am certain that Diana is going to be pretty unhappy over the coming days, and that seems very harsh, for what was in essence, a mistake, made under stress. I think Iain has already felt pretty unhappy over his own mistake of putting what he had up to that point in the bin out of temper. Had he not done that I feel fairly sure that Mary and Paul would have sent Norman home this week. I am sad for them both.
I think Mary and Paul would have done better to send Norman home and give Iain another chance, but then I’m partial to a ginger Wolverine. What do I know?
Hopefully we will all have recovered our equilibrium by next week’s pies and pastries round.
Take note faithful readers. I will be blogging later next week as I have my first crochet class and I will have to catch up with Bake Off when I return. It cannot be helped.
Save me a jam tart.
* Sue Perkins has since tweeted that Diana left Iain’s ice cream out for forty seconds. As she states, not long enough to melt ice cream to that extent. And again I say, poor Diana, poor Iain.