It is week 9 of The Great British Bake Off.
How the hell did that happen? It only started last week for goodness sakes. I think they should do it all again, because I’m sure I missed some of it. There should be at least eight more weeks of episodes as far as I’m concerned. Not one.
ONE left. Oh God. I shall be bereft. If it weren’t for the fact I saw an advert for Luther this evening and nearly fainted into my tea with Idris Elba based desire I don’t think I could go on.
So, before I devote the whole blog post to talking about my fantasy of Idris Elba and me alone in the Great British Bake Off tent, accompanied only by a super king sized duvet set and a large pot of tempered chocolate, let us get on to the job in hand.
There were four bakers left for this week’s semi final; Ian, Tamal, Flora and Nadiya and this week everything was covered in chocolate. I was completely impressed by the way at how little chocolate actually got flung about the tent actually. If I had been in there it would have been an entirely different story. The entire place would have been running with it. I would have had to make a chocolate canoe in the show stopper round this week, just for Paul and Mary to be able to navigate up to the further reaches of the tent.
I love chocolate. It isn’t that I want to waste it by flinging it around willy nilly, but when you’re cooking with it, it does tend to slide rather. I’d be skidding around all over the shop if I had to fiddle around with it to the extent the bakers did. They call that glossy shine you’re supposed to get on chocolate, tempering. I know that if I had to do it, it would put me in a bad temper. I wonder if this is why they call it that? Maybe there is good tempering and bad tempering. I know which one I would be doing.
In the first round they had to make chocolate tarts. This seems relatively easy until you realise what an absolute git pastry is to work with, and then add in the absolute git chocolate is to work with and reason that what they’ve actually asked you to do is make git tart. Double git tart in fact.
Tamal went simple with a dark chocolate filling in a chocolate pastry case with a layer of raspberry coulis on the top and some fancy pecan brittle crunched up on it. Like my dear friend Rachel, I don’t really approve of chocolate and fruit together, despite loving raspberries in pretty much everything. It is kind of against the law to mix fruit and chocolate, a bit like mixing the grape and the grain. so although his looked nice, I wasn’t keen. I’d have quite liked to lick the bowl though, just to help out with the cleaning up.
Nor, for the same reasons, did Flora’s float my boat, although she did use passion fruit in hers, and I like that too. Hers was a bit more yucky because her passion fruit curd split. This basically means it turns into passion fruit scrambled egg, and no amount of chocolate can really redeem that in my opinion.
She also made macawrongs, which is something my friend Nicki and I thought were the preserve of this small area of the East Midlands, but which, it turns out are spreading their evil tentacles through the land. You’ve got to feel sorry for anyone who ends up with a macawrong, except that Flora didn’t even need to make them, and she keeps making them, and Mary keeps politely asking her not to make them, or any one of the other four hundred twiddly bits she keeps making. Will she listen? Will she heck as like.
Ian blew this one with his insistence on putting bay leaves in his tart. I love Ian. I even admire the way he ruthlessly shot and cooked his guinea fowl just to impress Paul and Mary (although if I was one of his children I’d be nervous at how competitive he was likely to get round about now), but he will insist on shoving herbs in things that shouldn’t have herbs in them. It’s like he’s working for the national herb council or something.
When I used to go on holiday with my friend Rachel and her family. If you got the bay leaf in your portion of dinner of an evening, it meant that you were saddled with the washing up. I never expected to find it in my chocolate tart, and neither did Paul and Mary. Clearly in a tent that size, nobody appreciates having to do the washing up.
Nadiya’s tart was chocolate, salted caramel and peanut. All of these things are good, and are good together. Not only that but she totally won me over when she put in chunks of salt crystal rather than fine, pouring salt. I like a bit of salty crunch. It’s divine.
The technical this week was to make a chocolate souffle. Souffle’s are not my thing. They’re faffy and difficult, and if you’re in a restaurant you have to wait at least fifteen minutes for them to make it for you, and you get fed up because everyone else is tucking into their dinner and you’re sitting, drumming your spoon on the table, waiting…waiting…waiting, for something that when it comes is usually a lot of hot air and which, if you don’t eat it quickly enough, resembles a wrinkled party balloon by the end of the meal.
I appreciate they are technically gruelling, and the evil glint in Mary’s eye was worthy of Paul at his very worst when she unveiled the perfect souffle, the perfect souffle it was clear nobody else was going to make as it gradually transpired nobody else in the tent had ever made one.
It was so stressful, even Nadiya got grumpy and shouted at Mel. Mel is the least likely person you could ever think of shouting at, and the intensity of Nadiya’s outburst took them both by surprise. It was the death knell of Nadiya’s souffle dreams, which turned out to be lumpy, soggy and full of clarty great bits of unwhisked meringue. It was almost as bad as that dream I had where I had to do the fox trot with Bruce Forsyth.
You can imagine.
Flora turned it round in the technical with a hot to trot puffball of chocolate wonder. Tamal scraped in second just ahead of Ian, who, by this stage was wondering whether he had shot a robin instead of sacrificing a guinea fowl, and so we limped into the show stopper with everyone hating souffles for the rest of their natural lives, and all still to play for.
The show stopper this week involved having to make a three dimensional chocolate centrepiece that had many wondrous variations of chocolate work and general top chocolatey skills. Sitting ferally on the work surface tearing lumps of Valrhona from the packet without unwrapping it and snarling like Gollum was not an option, which was a shame, because I’d definitely have rocked that one.
Ian, ever one to show off new skills, and in fact, coming across more like the culinary version of Bear Grylls the longer the show continues, built a chocolate well. Yes. You did read that correctly. A well, made of chocolate, that dipped a small bucket into a vat of liquid white chocolate. The sadness was that the bucket was metal, but pretty much everything else was chocolate. It was intense. It was chocolate engineering. I was utterly impressed, but Paul and Mary didn’t think it was twiddly enough. If he had decorated it with tiny chocolate guinea fowl, say a brace of them, dead and swinging from the crank handle, I reckon they’d have liked it better.
Tamal made a bell tower that was not as impressive as it could have been. It looked rather like he’d put it together in a hurry on Christmas eve after several snowballs and no sleep, in a bid to make it before an expectant child woke up. To be fair to Tamal it was more impressive than any chocolate bell tower I’ve ever tried to make (i.e. none at all).
Flora made a carousel, which, as ever, was decorated every which way from Sunday, although it did not have any macarons, or macawrongs on it. That was because there was absolutely no room on it due to the fact that every other single item she could think of had been stuck to it, including Paul Hollywood’s fag lighter, a bunch of tea spoons and one of Mel’s eyebrows. It was the final straw for Mary, who by now was basically jonesing for a Carr’s water biscuit and a lie down in a darkened room. Flora was out and away, sent home to Scotland with forty eight kilos of excess baggage on the flight home, consisting entirely of macarons and shortbread cut into the shape of ponies.
This left Nadiya to romp to victory with a stunning peacock crouched over a basket of eggs design. It was quite, quite amazing. So life like in fact that the last shots before the credits saw Ian eyeing it up and approaching from under cover of a gingham bird hide with a shot gun crafted entirely from tempered chocolate.
Next week. The finals.
You can watch this week’s episode here.