Let us not shilly shally. Let’s get right down to the serious business of week two of The Great British Bake Off and the issue of biscuits. I haven’t got time to worry about Theresa May wasting an entire day in Chequers just to come back to say that Brexit is Brexit. I haven’t got time to worry about the collapse of the NHS. I do however, have a great deal to say on the subject of Viennese Whirls.
This is called prioritising.
Firstly though, where was Sue? We had Sue’s disembodied voice, drifting in from the ether, we had her pre recorded person at the Savoy talking about biscuits that taste like a ‘boulder dipped in Blue Nun’, but no Sue in the tent. I found this very disappointing indeed. I love Sue. I am a firm believer in having more of Sue on the BBC. I love Mel too, but it’s Sue I’m going to run off and marry one day.
If my friend Claire doesn’t get there first.
I did wonder if Paul and Mary, much like Samuel Whiskers and and Anna Maria, had tied her up with string and were out the back of the tent, rolling her in pastry covered in chimney smuts to make a roly poly pudding. I shall reserve judgement on this until next week. If steamed puddings feature and Sue doesn’t, I shall be calling MI5, and the estate of Beatrix Potter.
The first challenge this week was to make twenty four identical biscuits that had ‘snap’ when you broke them, and which had icing on them.
Icing is a skill I do not possess. Mainly I suspect, because I am not a huge fan of icing, so I am not compelled to learn. Also because where other people have dextrous, nimble fingers which are entirely under the control of their brains, I have feckless bunches of bananas which are entirely independent of the rest of my body and which have a tendency to wander off and get into lots of trouble. I often think that should my decomposing body ever be pulled from a ditch, that they will be able to recognise me by the unique scarring patterns on my much abused fingers. Also by the fact that my right thumb is significantly less fleshy than my left, due to the fact that I grate and chop large chunks of it off on a weekly basis. I suspect there is a term for people like me, the Latin for clumsy, great paw hands probably.
Most people, except Andrew and Louise were able to create snappable biscuits. What fascinated me about Andrew and Louise was that they knew they had to do this, but they had actively chosen not to. They both confessed to the chief inquisitors that their biscuits were more soft than snappy. Why? Why would you do that? Do they not fear Mary’s pursed, slightly cat’s bum moue of disapproval? Do they not quiver as the Hollywood’s gimlet stare burrows into them like one of those nasty African worms that drills into the bottom of your bare feet and lays its eggs in your brain?
STOP! I want to shout! Do not commit to this folly. Go back. Do not let the Hollywood creep up through your foot and lay tiny breakfast rolls in your spinal fluid. Do not provoke the arse face of disapproval. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I might scream as I possibly jab repeatedly at the screen, and my loved ones have to drag me back into the warm embrace of the sofa.
So, anyway. Would they listen to me? Would they buggery?
Although Andrew’s icing and his perfectly interlocking cell shaped biscuits were rather splendid in a sciencey way (bread week will see him completing a cheese and garlic plait scale model of the DNA double helix – you mark my words). Louise’s sheep were not something Mary was going to forget in a hurry, she said, with a shudder. Nobody wants to have their biscuits shuddered over. You never live down a shudder.
I very much approved of Selasi’s Scotch bonnet biscuits, but was slightly disappointed when they didn’t shoot fire into the top of Paul’s head and melt his hair. Rav’s coconut and lime ones sounded delicious (although he suffers from the same icing disability as me), as did Candice’s salted caramel ones. Kate’s did not, due to being flavoured with lavender and bergamot. This is basically, Nicki and I agreed, what old lady’s knicker drawers taste like. Paul said they were surprisingly lovely…for something that tastes of underwear drawers (see what I did there?).
The technical round was to create my best ever biscuit, the Viennese Whirl. My friend Gina and I, once had a twelve month period where we worked together. I say ‘worked’, when what I mean was, we spent a lot of time giggling and the rest of the time nipping to Sainsburys’ for Viennese Whirls. We ate the entire of Oxfordshire dry of short bread and butter cream.
Not so happy for the bakers, who, unlike the Jaffa Cake disaster of the week before, at least recognised what they were supposed to look like. This did not always help. Selasi proved the third law of Bake Off by having baked them before, and yet still managed to get them disastrously wrong. Kate triumphed in this round with near perfect whirls, which meant that I forgave her slightly for the knickers. Only slightly, mind you.
The show stopper this week was to create a three dimensional structure in biscuit form, using gingerbread. It had to be at least thirty centimetres tall and contain eight different components. It also had to tell a story that was relevant to the bakers’ lives.
I was torn between something contemporary, aka: ‘My gingerbread hell’ and a tableaux vivant in which I am depicted, combing nits out of the children’s hair, whilst swigging gin and crying. Jason would be entering stage left in his banking/mage costume, wearing a shower cap and clutching a bottle of Lyclear. I think that would adequately sum up my first decade of parenting in a nutshell. Even I could probably ice in the tears, and the permanent rings around my eyes.
The bakers were no less ambitious. Val, who did not break into aerobics this week, and only did a bit of light chatting to her ice cream cone biscuits, decided to recreate New York, and her sister. The Statue of Liberty fell over, and Paul ate her sister, which tells you everything you need to know.
Michael, who despite filling his ear with flour in the signature bake, had done very well up to now, had the icing curse and created a 3d model of a trip to Lapland when he was nine, in which all the characters had been replaced by wonkily iced figures from the film Hell Raiser by the look of it.
Andrew recreated his student days. For me this would be vomiting cider and black currant into my shoe whilst holding someone’s hair and shouting ‘All men are bastards’ raggedly into the wind. For him it was punting on the Cam, complete with schematics, a spread sheet and tick boxes. I was not too sad when his gingerbread bicycles fell off his bridge.
The winner this week was Candice, who made a model of the pub she grew up in, complete with sticky gingerbread carpets and lime green jelly baize on the pool table. I really thought Kate would get star baker this week, but who can resist a sticky carpet?
The loser this week was Louise, who not only had shudderingly bad sheep, but managed to fail to make her own wedding chapel out of gingerbread due to its total collapse, despite being 89% icing. Most people made scenes from their past (I was particularly impressed by Tom’s near death experience rendered in gingerbread), but Louise attempted to make her future. The wedding is in twelve months. I’m hoping the saying about a bad dress rehearsal making for a good first night is true here. On the off chance that the bake is premonitory I’d suggest taking out extra insurance, and nipping round the chapel with a huge bag of royal icing and a piping bag the day before. It can’t hurt.
Well it might.
You can watch this week’s episode here.
Next week, bread.