Hooray for the Great British Bake Off. It is a high point in a week of wet Bank Holidays, officious school letters, troubling blouse lengths and other domestic conundrums that are set to confound me when all I want to do is deny all responsibility and run off into the hills…
to a tea shop.
This week we had the joys of a new theme to get excited about. I cannot remember what Week Five was last year, but this time we had the thrilling title of: Alternative Ingredients to wrestle with. Do not be alarmed dear readers, no Emos were eaten during this episode. No four and twenty Morrisseys baked in a pie. It was instead all about things like no gluten, no sugar, no dairy. Basically it should have been renamed: ‘NO POINT’ week, in my opinion. I have always been suspicious of healthy cakes.
I totally appreciate that I would not feel this way if I had a gluten allergy and still wanted to wolf down chocolate eclairs until I was sick, so I am willing to be persuaded that such things can be good, and not all taste like bits of MDF welded together with a hot glue gun.
The first round went some way towards persuading me, mainly because Tamal’s citrus based polenta cake looked amazing. Plus he got out his special supply of medical grade syringes to doctor the cake with. I confess that I did get worried when he announced that his syrup was 50% grapefruit, 50% orange and something like 10% honey. It’s a small thing really, but I think it’s important that medics should be able to do sums. They have to measure out dosages and stuff, and then poke them into your veins with pointy things. There is a need for accuracy there that a vagueness about percentages does not really convey. On the other hand I’d forgive him for overdosing me if he revived me with citrus polenta cake.
Lots of the bakers used honey to sweeten their cakes with. Nicki and I were slightly dubious about this. I believe our exact exchange was:
Nicki: ‘Honey. Bleurgh.’
Me: ‘Too medicinal.’
Nicki: ‘Too bee-eey’
Me: ‘Bee spit.’
The general consensus being that we would rather eat Robert Smith from the Cure made into a Battenberg cake than eat bee spit, even in a cake.
Also, Ugne used quinoa flour in her cake, which we feel was a little too alternative, and possibly healthy. Healthy cakes are worse than cakes made with bee spit, and we really couldn’t like it at all. Also quinoa. It is just, you know, middle class, Guardian reading, weave your own clothes out of hemp on a recycled loom.
Yes. I do have quinoa in my cupboard.
The technical round took us right back to Communist ruled Eastern Europe with Paul’s recipe for greying, lumpy pitta breads made with gluten free flour and a raising agent that looked like something sniffer dogs would have you pinned up against the departures board in an airport for possessing. Even his looked like something you would have had to queue for a week for, and would only take if they had run out of cabbage or horses hooves to boil down to glue your own mouth shut so you never had to eat the pitta breads even if you won them in a raffle.
The contestants had to make twelve, identical breads which had to have the pocket in the middle to prove they weren’t just made of bits of canvas cut from the back of the tent, and which apparently only happens if you bake them properly. As none of them had ever baked pitta breads before, and the flour and raising agent were made out of substances previously only found in industrial processing plants, there was a strong likelihood that pockets would be thin on the ground, or even in the trouser.
This was borne out by the sad, raggedy ass collection of cardboards masquerading as breads which were presented to Paul and Mary in lieu of real bread. Nadiya played a blinder and was the only one to produce pockets of any depth and consistency. Alvin was completely flummoxed by the entire process and spent a lot of time trying to convince himself and everyone else that pitta breads were probably triangular before spying on his fellow contestants and rapidly changing his mind. It is possible that making them triangular might have actually helped somewhat in the end, given that his were surpassed in grimness only by Tamal’s, which had no redeeming features whatsoever, and no pockets.
The show stopper round this week involved making an Arctic Roll. They were not allowed to say Arctic Roll, because this is the BBC darling, and we don’t do product placement, but that’s basically what it was. An Arctic Roll for those of you who never had the misfortune to go to school during the Nineteen Seventies, is a thin layer of vanilla sponge, wrapped around a cylinder of ice cream, and glued together with jam. As a child I thought they were possibly the most perfect dessert in the entire world, with the exception of Butterscotch Angel Delight. I still like Angel Delight, but I had the opportunity to eat Arctic Roll again last year and it was a Luciferian fall from grace. Bleurgh.
The alternative Arctic Roll the contestants had to make included a fatless sponge a homemade jam, and dairy free ice cream. Nearly everyone in the entire tent made coconut milk based ice cream, and went for a tropical themed roll. The tent probably ended up smelling like an Um Bongo factory at full chat. The only person that bucked the trend was Ugne, who went for peanut butter ice cream with grape jam and chocolate sponge. Unfortunately, when she had finished it looked like something an elephant had sat on, and what with that and the quinoa it was farewell to Ugne, as she left the tent for the final time.
The others battled it out amongst the coconuts. Paul not Hollywood deserves a special mention this week for his evil laugh in the first round, which made him sound like Hugo A Go Go, the mad scientist from Bat Fink, and endeared him to me in a way I never would have previously thought possible, and also his fondant bikini babe, which sported boobs and a gusset and made his roll a thing of alarming pornographic content not previously experienced in a tent with Mary Berry.
This week’s star baker turned out to be Nadiya, who not only had the deepest pitta pockets in town, but also made a Stone Henge of roll of such magnificence that nobody could deny that she deserved to win this week, even Ian, especially because he had disappointing pears in the first round. It’s always a problem when you have disappointing pears.
Next week it’s the pastry round. Until then you can console yourself with this week’s episode on catch up, here.