This evening’s Great British Bake Off, was, as ever, foreshadowed by the untamed excitement of my crochet class, in which all of you (ahem) will be thrilled to know I learned how to make a competent granny square. I shall now be crocheting everyone in the universe antimacassars for Christmas. You have been warned. In honour of this week’s episode of Bake Off I will be making them in the shape of empanadas.
I was thrilled that when Mary and Paul were dismissed from the tent for the technical challenge, Paul was ordered to go and get on with his crochet. Perhaps we can exchange tips and techniques? Maybe bread is now playing second fiddle to yarn in his life, and he will amaze us all with crocheted naan bread recipes very soon. I cannot wait.
There was also cake at crochet this week, because I made it. I abandoned taking my fancy, new chocolate cake, which on its second attempt was considerably better than first time round. Despite this I decided you can’t beat Malteser cake in a crochet crisis. So that’s what we had, and I ate a generous slice in anticipation of the fact that Bake Off would have me foraging amongst the kitchen cupboards at midnight if I didn’t line my stomach sufficiently first.
This week’s episode was all about the pastry. You can check it out here if you missed it.
I had a secret little bet with myself as to how long Paul would restrain himself before the word ‘lamination’ came out of his mouth. He is big on lamination. He laminates everything. Everything. He laminated our dog once.
No really. He did.
Sometimes he laminates his face. That’s why he gets such twinkly blue eyes and skin the colour of ripe walnuts. Also, a good laminating means you don’t have to have a wash for six months. Ew.
It took him longer than expected to get on his hobby horse. Which he has also laminated. (So true it can hardly be called fiction). In fact, he didn’t get into stride with the lamination until the technical round. I would have been disappointed by this had he not been obsessed with the word ‘crimping’ throughout the signature bake, which cheered me greatly and more than made up for the lack of lamination. Even though we all know lamination’s what you need if you wanna be a star baker. Yeah.
Before we get deep into baking, let us first consider the modern wonder that was Mary’s jacket this week. Blimey O’Reilly’s trousers, say I, and many other people, including my friend Nicki, who sent me a photo of some 1930’s wallpaper they scraped off their lounge wall last time they did some decorating. She sent it to me to prepare me for the jacket.
Quite honestly, although the wallpaper did bear more than a passing resemblance to said jacket, nothing could prepare you for it. Nothing.
It reminded me of a cross between Bergerac’s Nineteen Eighties blouson jacket, and a drag queen’s kimono. A drag queen who has a thing for Bill Oddie and thinks that decorating said kimono with massively oversized herons in flight might be interpreted by Bill as a come hither signal, when spotted through his twitcher’s binoculars.
It was quite voluminous, and bucked the recent trend of Diana Rigg style, spy jackets she has been wearing. I wondered if she might be smuggling things in it this week? Presumably stashing all the pies Mel was stealing during the signature round. Perhaps she was going to start a pop up shop at the side of the road, and much like the old fashioned spivs who used to sell dirty post cards and nylon stockings from their capacious poacher’s pockets, she could whip out a pakora, lobbing it into the open window of a passing motorist, in exchange for 50p.
It gives weight to my theory that the Beeb have clamped down on Paul and Mary’s selling activities in recent weeks, but that Mary isn’t giving up that easily. The bouffant jacket, pie pilfering and the renewed quantities of pastries required for each round suggest black market activity to me.
In the signature round this week, the contestants had to make twelve pastry parcels, filled with delicious wonders and marvels. Everyone was very keen on the word ‘parcels’ as well as ‘crimping’. No pies, just parcels, even though technically a pie is a sort of parcel, right?
The repetition of the word parcel had me wandering off on my own jolly train of thought which involved Julie Andrews, who it has to be said that Mary sometimes bears a passing resemblance to (although not in that jacket, to be fair to Julie. Even though she has been known to break into soft furnishings in fashion before), and postmen. I got quite carried away with the idea of putting first class stamps on whiskers on kittens, and it took Chetna’s delicious kachori to bring me back to the tent.
Did I mention that I’d quite like to live with Chetna? Or at least go on a picnic with her? Packed lunch? Sandwich? Post me a kachori?
Luis was embracing his crazy again this week, reverse engineering empanadas. I’m surprised he didn’t set up a 3D printer and just programme it to spit them out to be honest. Perhaps he’s saving that for if he gets to the final.
Everyone’s parcels looked splendid this week, and I was glad I’d had pre-emptive cake to stop me eating the sofa cushions. I wouldn’t mind receiving any of the bakers’ parcels by first class post, although if I had to choose it would be a hard call between Chetna’s and Martha with her beef wellington parcels. Kate’s had the potential to be wonderful. Her samosa mix sounded delicious. It’s just a shame that she had problems with her deep fat fryer. Clearly she is too young to remember The Generation Game, or she would have had one for the past thirty years and be a dab hand with it by now, and possibly made parcels in the shape of huge, cuddly toys.
Richard triumphed with his lamb pasties this week, which helped make up for his disastrous week last week. He then went on to storm the technical, which was pretty impressive given that it was another one of those recipes that Paul had blatantly made up.
They had to make Kouign amann. I don’t like it. I had to look it up. The spell check didn’t like it. It had to look it up. It is, apparently a kind of cross between a brioche and a Portuguese nata, but without the custard and with a lot of lamination. It’s what you need. None of the bakers had even heard of it, which gives me hope.
I wonder even if Brendan, of days of yore; my hero, who was baking his way round the world, would even have heard of it, or whether he would have looked me in the eye and said: ‘Now Katy, you know Paul is a big old liar. There is plainly no such thing. He says it’s from Brittany, but it’s actually Finnish for ‘a load of old horse shit.’ As well we know.’
Whether it was entirely fictional or not, it had to be made, and it involved lots of turning and counting, and dividing by ninety seven on the back of bits of greaseproof paper. This is something Richard excels at, and it is no wonder his lamination won the day. I was very sad to see that Chetna’s came last. Luis and Kate didn’t have a good round either, and that left everything to play for in the show stopper.
This week, the show stopper was eclairs. The only good thing that happened to me when I broke my nose in an argument with a motor vehicle in 1982, was my mother taking me to Mrs. Bridges tea room to eat eclairs after the consultant at the hospital stuck sugar tongs up my nose and let go of the sides in order to ascertain how much damage my nose had sustained. The answer, as any fule no, is: ‘Not as much damage as after you’d let go of the sugar tongs situated up my nose. You bloody idiot.’
The eclair was a great sop to me on that day, and has always proved to be an item of patisserie that soothes the fevered brow, calms the querulous and brings down a swollen nose a treat. I have a great interest therefore, in the furthering of eclair research as I believe that the correct application of an eclair could actually save a life under certain circumstances.
The bakers had to make 24 eclairs, with two different flavours. I was intrigued to see Nancy making a salmon one. I thought I wouldn’t like it, but by this time I was coming off a Malteser high, and just fancied something savoury with a bit of bite. It looked blinking delicious. Martha, after impressing us with the news that she had basically written a small novel on the art of choux pastry for AS level, royally messed up her eclairs, and if it weren’t for the valiant efforts of Chetna and Richard, helping her pull it all together at the last moment, it is not sure whether she would have lived through to the next round, frankly. The moral we can draw from that? It is better to eat choux than to write about it.
Luis made American style eclairs with blueberries and peanut butter and jam and other things that American people cheerfully eat that I really can’t get my head round in terms of flavour. His eclairs were loud, proud and waving flags, and Mary and Paul loved them, which saved Luis from the chop this week. Chetna triumphed with chocolate and mango and lemon meringue eclairs, both of which looked utterly splendid, and definitely like they could save someone’s life. Mine, I think. Imagining them as giant, eclair sized defibrillators is making me hum with happiness.
Richard got star baker this week with perfectly executed rose and lavender eclairs, which unlike Norman’s lavender meringue did not make anyone’s eyebrows shoot up into their hair line as they incredulously shouted the word ‘lavender’ as if they were actually saying ‘Pooh pie? With extra flies? Are you insane?’
Which left poor Kate as the one going home this week. Her chocolate eclairs were deemed too messy and her lemon meringue with basil eclairs didn’t have enough thyme in for Mary, and altogether she had a rotten week from start to finish and I felt so sorry that she was going because she has been a joy to watch every week and I shall miss her pink hair terribly.
And next week it is the quarter finals.