It surely cannot be quarter final time already here at The Great British Bake Off?
Apparently, it is. This makes me very sad indeed. Things are so very nearly over, and then there is a whole other year’s wait, and nothing else does it for me like Bake Off, not even John Torode and his ‘beef journey’. It is too sad. Too sad to even polish Gregg Wallace’s head for luck, or shout at pictures of Marcus Wareing. I may have to go into cake based hibernation in a fortnight. I shall hollow out a Victoria sponge, climb inside, and get the children to bury me in rainbow hundreds and thousands until next August. They can pipe my name on my back in icing in case I get lost.
I mourn too soon though, despite feeling a hint of Autumn melancholy in the air. Let us rejoice that we had an entire hour of patisserie to watch this evening, and what an hour it was. Every week we agree in our house that it is all very tense. But every week it seems to get tenser. This week the tendons in my neck were standing out for an entire hour, and if staring at the screen with full on eyeball action could help keep a tower of eclairs in the shape of a very tiny headed nun upright, I would have won prizes for my efforts.
The signature round this week was to make cream horns. Twenty four cream horns to be precise, in equal batches of twelve, in two different flavour ways. It’s a tall order, given that they’re all supposed to look the same. Now I’d have no trouble whipping up twenty four assorted cream horns as long as you didn’t want them to look or taste a lot like cream horns and were entirely willing to take my word for it that I’d done my best, but matching cream horns? Not likely.
I can’t even pair socks efficiently.
Tamal got my vote for the most exciting cream horns this week, with his lime and mascarpone and honeycomb and malt offerings. Had I not already been full of pizza and creme caramel ice cream I would have hot footed it to the cake tin when he announced his flavours. Nadiya’s were also winner, winner chicken dinner this week with rose and pistachio being a hot favourite in this house, although I preferred her hazelnut ones, despite being shouted down by the rest of the Boo clan.
Sadly, Ian totally blew it this week with unravelling pastry trails that looked more like drooping DNA than rampant horns, and too much kirsch. I do not do too much kirsch, I once lived with a very enthusiastic German lady who used to like to stride about naked and hirsute before I’d had tea in the morning, and also put too much kirsch in the fondue. If I ever flat share again these are two key things that will be on my questionnaire for suitable flat mates. I never knew I was that intolerant until I came eye to nipple without caffeine as a buffer between me and harsh reality, and nearly had my faced ripped off with cheesey kirsch offerings. It’s an odd world, but there you have it.
Paul not Hollywood didn’t fare much better with disappointing banana and custard flavouring and creme patissiere you could artex a wall with. Flora’s horns also let her down as they pooled half her flavourings on the floor with their leaky ends. A leaky end is just as bad as a soggy bottom when you reach the quarter finals it seems. In fact, given the choice I’d go for a soggy bottom over a leaky end any day of the week.
Next year I am lobbying for the technical challenge to just be renamed the fictional cake round and have done with it. Let us not beat around the bush any longer people. Is this why we have to wait an entire year between series, because they have to spend six months in development coming up with fictional technical challenges? I think it is. It has been a three cake problem, but in the manner of Sherlock, I now have it by the cream horns, and I will not let it go.
This week’s pretend cake was an invention of Mary’s called a Mokatine. She invented it on the 163 to Chiswick on a day when the Hammersmith flyover was down to one lane, and she had an old envelope and the stub of a pencil to lick and it was better than an hour and a half of staring out the window or down the neck of a hirsute man who was fuming over a missed connection. For those of us who care about such things, a mokatine is a Genoese sponge cake, filled with some kind of icing, piped with another kind of icing, rolled in some kind of nut, and topped off with more piping and another type of icing altogether. If you’re trying to make one in non competitive telly time it takes three weeks of your life, and unless you are a Michelin starred chef, comes out looking like a slightly squashed dog turd. If you’re doing it under test conditions it still comes out looking a bit like a squashed dog turd, one where your dog has eaten a lot of hazelnut nibs.
Poor Paul not Hollywood had a nightmare due to his failure to know how to make a Genoese sponge. I sympathise with him there. I once made a Genoese you could tarmac a road with. It’s easily done, and I was following instructions, not going at it in a gung ho, give it a whirl and see what happens kind of way. Kudos to Paul NH for styling it out, even though it looked a lot like something you lag the boiler with. Flora’s did not go well either, as her icing pooled in lakes and Paul definitely Hollywood looked unimpressed, perhaps he cannot swim. Perhaps his ears were full of icing which is why he could not understand Flora saying the word ‘dalek’. Who knows what goes on in his head, or indeed his ears? Nadiya was yet again triumphant, with Tamal and Ian bringing up the rear, despite Ian’s defiant use of both a ruler and his insistence on weighing his icing. Things are really getting down to the wire when people start weighing icing.
Can you tell that I have never weighed icing in my life? I fear that were I to even attempt it, we would be buying a new set of scales within the very hour, having given up scraping welded icing out of the works shortly after weighing commenced. In fact we would probably have to chisel the kitchen door down to get to the scales shop. I am terrified of icing. I’d rather use superglue. It’s a lot less adhesive.
The show stopper this week was to make something called la religieuse a l’anciennes, which is a triple decked tower of stacked eclairs with a choux pastry bun on top that is supposed to resemble a nun. This is the sort of nun who has been head hunted by one of the lost tribes of the Amazon and has had her head shrunken and then reattached with sugar syrup.
Oh, those nuns, I hear you cry.
The absolutely mean thing in this challenge was not the gluing the whole edifice together, although that in itself was tricky and there were a lot of ‘ows’ as contestants welded bits of their anatomy to the nun as well. It was that they got to leave the whole fragile construction for two hour while they went and had lunch, just to see if they had made something that could stand up for more than thirty seconds. This seemed very mean to me. In a strong wind I can barely stand up for thirty seconds and I am not a shrunken headed nun, nor is pastry an good construction material or we would all be living in choux bun igloos by now. Am I right? Eh? Eh?
I think I am.
Anyway, despite Nadia’s nun clearly coming from Pisa, and tasting of bubble gum and mint, she won star baker for the second time this season with her top notch baking skills, and very well deserved it was too. I am coming to love Nadiya more and more with each week that passes. She is very funny, and I like the way her face is so expressive. She lives what she thinks, that girl, and she is a delight to watch.
Ian pulled things back from the brink by using his engineering skills to create a corrugated nun of power. I think it also helped that he did not bring guinea fowl into any of his recipes this week. The guinea fowl are a sign that might be an omen and I think he should stop bothering them, and who knows, he might even make the final?
Tamal also made a tower of power, the power of prayer mostly I think, given how much he sweated over his nun, but it stood him in good stead, whereas Flora and Paul not Hollywood both had droopers, and Paul not Hollywood’s drooped so badly that even his nun could not save him and he went home. I was sad to see him go. I really warmed to him as the weeks went by and if he hadn’t disappointed Paul with his lack of banana and then too much fake banana offerings this week, he might have pipped Flora at the post, but it was not to be.
Next week, chocolate and a most intriguing sounding technical challenge. Bring it on semi final. I will be waiting.
You can watch this week’s episode here.