Tonight my lovelies, I throw down the oven gloves of TV based blogging for another year. The final of The Great British Bake Off has come and been and gorn, and after this post I can rest my fingers again until next August. This season has seemed even shorter than the last don’t you think? Even though it has been exactly the same length. I expect it has to do with quantum, or possibly using bicarb as a raising agent.
Parting is such sweet sorrow and all that, even though my autocorrect tried to make Martin is such sweet sorrow, and he wasn’t even in the final. The fule.
It has been fair to say that despite the fact that we all went over to see my friend Nicki so we could watch the final together instead of furiously messaging each other every thirty seconds for an entire hour, and it was joyous to share a couch with her, and her dinner with her, we watched for a whole hour in a veil of tears. A veil.
If we weren’t crying with tension, we were crying with joy and then we were crying with sorrow and then it all started again, and then we had a little weep because it was all over, and the entire room ran with a river of snot and honking, and it was all very cathartic and satisfactory, and why can’t every single thing on earth be as uplifting and happy making as Bake Off?
Let us start, so we can prolong things for a few paragraphs more before the final curtain.
The first round was bun making, iced bun making to be precise. Now we’ve had iced buns before on the Bake Off, and it is a well known fact that La Hollywood is an absolute iced bun fascist. He has clear expectations of what an iced bun should be and woe betide you if you go agin him in anything at all. It is as if he has seen the ur bun and nothing, but nothing else will do.
He probably ate the ur bun.
One of the things in the iced bun rule book by P. Hollywood Esq. is that buns should be baked in batches, so that they kind of glue down the sides and you should see the tear marks where you rip them asunder in manly baking pride and yeasty rage. There should also be a good amount of filling and they should be iced properly. The icing should preferably be a bit shiny. Why this is, I don’t know. I don’t make the rules, or things would be a lot different in bun city. For a start, there’d be a lot less icing and a great deal more custard.
Ian and Tamal went for the batch baking option with their buns. Ian going for flavoured dough hi jinks, Tamal going down the plain dough route. Nadiya caused utter Hollywood based consternation by not going for batch baking at all, preferring instead to go for non tear marked buns, and in her second batch even going for round rather than finger buns. At this point I thought Paul was going to order her from the tent for desecrating the memory of his beloved buns. It was all very troubling.
Could Nadiya go rogue this early in the baking? It seemed she could.
Things went wrong for Ian when he forgot to put sugar in his second batch of dough. Things went wrong for Tamal when he didn’t leave time for his creme patissiere to rise. Both of them had trouble with their icing, which looked more like they had squeezed it through their clenched fists than piped it with a bag. In fact Ian’s looked positively choppy, which is not what you want, unless you’re recreating The Fighting Temeraire in bun form.
Everything went right for Nadiya though, and her buns looked and tasted like heaven, despite her tearing up the rule book and baking it into the shape of a giant two fingered cream bun salute. Paul was forced to eat humble bun, which was very satisfactory. I’m glad Nadiya triumphed. Her sour cherry buns looked amazing and her almond buns were the classic ’round and fat with sugar on the top’, which everyone who knows anything about bun based nursery rhymes will know is absolutely crucial to a bun, regardless of what Paul says.
The technical round was my idea of perfect heaven. I would literally have crawled around the tent, licking crumbs off the floor had I been there, I was that excited by it. They had to make raspberry mille feuille. The mille feuille is very probably my favourite cake in the entire universe. I prefer mine with creme patissiere to fresh cream, but given that they were putting raspberries in, which are my favourite fruit in the entire universe, I can live with the cream. In this round I was doing a lot of weeping with joy.
Plus quite a bit of dribbling.
Tamal was just doing a lot weeping, as rather than grate his butter, as instructed by Paul, he went rather off piste and whacked it into a large mattress shape instead. He was mildly surprised when his pastry did not come out of the oven as the finest and best in the world and his lamination was a bit sub par. One wonders why, given his deliberate buttery anarchy earlier. Still he took his defeat with good grace, as did Ian, who looked to be doing wonders until Mary and Paul discovered that his pastry was not quite cooked through and his icing was coming adrift. He had many issues with watery icing metaphors this week. He should have stuck resolutely to dry land.
It was left to Nadiya to triumph again, even though she struggled with the mathematical conundrums of measuring 18 identical rectangles of heavily laminated pastry and making geometrically perfect stripy icing to go on top of them. I sympathised with her when she wailed: ‘I can’t even do simple Key Stage One maths.’ I hear you Nadiya. Neither can I, and at least you had the excuse of being in a blisteringly hot tent under extreme pressure. I can’t even do it with an endless supply of propelling pencils, more calculators than you can shake a stick at, and all the time in the world.
The show stopper challenge this year was a good one I thought. The contestants had to bake a single, classic cake, but construct it in various, complex tiers rather than do the kind of baking of previous finals where they had to make nine thousand small something or others. I much preferred this, and strangely it was just as tense as watching the smaller, fiddlier challenges. At least with a trillion small things you can rely on one or two of them tasting alright and shove the others at the back, or in the bin. With one cake mix you are putting all your Victoria sponges in one basket, to mangle a metaphor.
Tamal’s cake looked like being an utter disaster, from the fact that he had adapted it from a recipe for sticky toffee pudding, to the fact that he had decided to base its design on the wreck of a Chinese fishing village complete with cobwebs. If I had based my own final cake on a wreck, I would have just made one, then fallen into it face first, leaving only the edges and a few jammy crumbs behind. Then I’d have styled it out by saying it was based on a small village flattened in an earthquake.
Not Tamal. His looked like something Johnny Depp might stride out of in the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. It was immense, and somewhat troubling in a nightmarish way, if nightmares came bedecked with pansies and sugar syrup.
He compounded this folly (in all senses of the word) by taking on sugar work as a new challenge – in. the. final. The LOON. Then he forgot to take his cake icing out the fridge on time and generally scrambled from disaster to disaster until you really didn’t know where to put yourself. Right up until the last minute, when he made a triumphant if slightly bonkers cake it looked like he was going to mess it up. As it was, it was declared delicious if slightly the workings of a mind deranged by too much icing sugar and stress.
Ian went for the classic carrot cake with a typically Ian twist. He resisted the temptation to add some kind of road kill or rare breed of poultry, which was a relief to us all, but he couldn’t resist adding a twist or two of star anise. He’d probably gone all the way to Madagascar to forage it from the paws of a bush baby, so fair play to him, and he made himself a special five tiered cake style diving board contraption to showcase his carrot cakes of power on as well. I think he should team up with Ray Mears and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for a foraging/survival skills/cookery programme. It would be epic.
I’m picturing him riding into the first shot clad in a hand crocheted loin cloth, astride a mutant guinea fowl, with a stinging nettle clenched between his teeth. It could totally work.
But let us get onto the best bit now. The best bit being Nadiya’s beautiful wedding cake made out of lemon drizzle cake and absolutely genius icing made of marshmallows. It was simple, and beautiful and utterly stunning and I would have cut my arm off for a slice of that cake. It won her the final, and it won it unashamedly and utterly and completely and nobody could possibly quibble with the judges’ choice because she owned this final from the minute she walked into the tent. It was an absolute pleasure and a joy to watch.
What’s more, she was gracious in victory and was clearly loved by everyone else as much as we loved her because there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Even Mary, stern dominatrix of the mixing bowl, choked up and had to dry her eyes.
The whole living room erupted in cheers and whoops as they announced she’d won, and rightly so. Not only that but my entire Twitter and Facebook feed were also in agreement that the best baker won. It was tremendously uplifting and particularly satisfactory because it was cake appreciation that brought us all together.
If only we could come together in the same way about who runs the country, life would be pretty sweet.
How about Nadiya for PM? I’d vote for her.
Watch the final here. Bring Kleenex.
Until next year.