Welcome to batter week here on The Great British Bake Off. Well, it’s not actually the tent, but it’s as close as I’m likely to get, so slip your shoes off, pull up a mixer and let’s get cracking.
It could be argued that batter and its related by products are not strictly speaking the stuff of bakers, or indeed baking. I admit that I was somewhat sceptical. What, after all, can you really do with batter, other than make and consume four thousand pancakes and then explode, leaving nothing but a smoke filled, sticky kitchen and a pair of shoes dusted with flour?
You could argue that batter week is about as made up as dampfnudel, except that after last week lots of you commented that they are indeed a thing, albeit a peculiarly German thing and unlikely to catch on anywhere else. You would however, be missing the point about Bake Off, which is that it is all mostly made up, and it has had enough of a battering (See? See what I did?) in recent days. We will let it slide and continue with our weekly round up.
First up this week was making twenty four identical Yorkshire puddings which had to be filled with some kind of savoury mixture. Now whether you have any questions whatsoever about whether batter is baking or not, you have to agree that this was an absolute bugger of a challenge, and was possibly what the word ‘challenge’ was invented to describe.
Yorkshire puddings are, in my opinion, rather like horses. They’re delicate souls who need coaxing, and who, at the least sign of stress, let you down very badly. In fact the only difference between horses and Yorkshire puddings is that a Yorkshire pudding has never won the Grand National.
For years I could not make Yorkshire puddings to save my life, and then my brother introduced me to Gordon Ramsay’s recipe in his Sunday Lunch book, and I have never looked back. I’m sure that it’s not the only foolproof recipe out there, and I know it’s more to do with the nuclear heat applied at every stage, but I am completely superstitious about this, in much the same way that my best friend insisted on wearing her lucky knickers for every single GCSE exam. I will not budge from the strap line: ‘Gordon Ramsay Saved My Yorkshires.’
The thing that makes cooking Yorkshires so difficult is that the slightest little change really upsets them, and so you can be sure that the Third Rule of Bake Off applies double. It doesn’t matter if you always do it like that at home and it works out brilliantly. It doesn’t matter if you were crowned Queen of Yorkshire puddings twenty years on the trot, if you try and cook them in a tent under the steely gaze of Mr. Hollywood, it will all go tits up in the whisk of a batter. And it did.
Jane, the ever moist of eye, had the proper Yorkshire fear this week. She, like me in days of yore, cannot make them and unlike me, did not have a brother, nor indeed Gordon Ramsay, to stage an intervention. She looked on the verge of insanity for the entirety of the bake, and if someone had dropped a baking tray in her vicinity would probably have either gone postal with a spatula, or run screaming from the tent never to be seen again. Despite this, she did very well in the end.
Tom, on the other hand, who I am increasingly convinced is Joaquin Phoenix’ slightly less mad, doppelgänger, had a terrible round. He insisted on using chick pea flour for his batter, which as Rule Three stipulates, worked brilliantly at home. In the tent, however, it repeatedly created things which you could easily have subbed for a discus in the Olympics. It may be that he should think on this, cut his losses and take them on Dragon’s Den instead of Bake Off.
There were varying degrees of success from the other bakers. Val nearly had a total collapse when her first batch of Yorkshires didn’t rise. It was particularly important for her, given that she actually comes from Yorkshire, and would have been denied re-entry, having to skulk the Lancashire borders, whimpering and scratching at the door, had she not pulled it out the bag with her second attempt.
The technical round this week was, in my considered and always humble opinion, absolute bollocks.
The test was to make twelve, identical lacey pancakes in the shape of hearts. I get that it was to test whether they could work consistently under pressure and produce something that looked pretty and edible, but it was even more of a nonsense than dampfnudel, frankly. And I am still wondering what the hell the point of a lace pancake is. You cannot fill it with sugar and lemon. You are basically eating something which is more hole than pancake, and WHAT IS THE POINT? I can’t even carry on down this train of thought I am so annoyed by these items.
As an aside to the whole lace debacle I was pleased to see that Paul was in a better mood this week, and even attempted joviality. I’m not sure which I find more unnerving, his grumpiness or his jollity, which doesn’t always come that easily to him. I was also pleased to see that he acknowledged the curse of pancake makers everywhere, which is that your first pancake is always a bag of shite, and must either be fed to the dog or thrown in the bin.
The show stopper round this week wasn’t really very showy in my opinion. It was undoubtedly challenging, but when you compare it to other show stoppers, things like creating the entirety of the palm houses at Kew using only spun sugar and meringue, making churros wasn’t that enticing visually.
I say that as a woman who spent an entire long weekend in Seville chomping up churros as fast as my pudgy arms could scoop them towards my face. It isn’t that I don’t like them, it’s just that they’re not really the most aesthetically pleasing item you can bake, are they? Basically they’re sweetened, fried dough that you use as a vehicle to manoeuvre as much chocolate into your face as humanly possible. Traditionally they look like extruded, ridged garden hose which has been fried.
Ideally they should look like giant spoons.
The secret with churros apparently is not putting too many of them in the deep fat fryer at the same time. If you do, the temperature goes down and everything gets soaked in oil, and instead of transporting chocolate to your mouth they transport gallons of engine oil into your face instead, which is no fun at all.
The bakers had to make sweet churros, something which Tom completely ignored in favour of pretending that fennel was a deliciously sweet treat. This is patently untrue, as any fule no. Fennel is something that I have come to tolerate over the years and which is resolutely medicinal and undoubtedly good for you, which means that it absolutely is not, and never will be, a delicious treat. Sorry Tom. It is not often I side with Mr. Hollywood, but we are definitely on the same page with regard to fennel. i.e. it is the devil’s work.
Selasi triumphed again this week with his zen baking approach. When his Yorkshires were all different sizes he reclassified them as being large for adults and small for children. When his churros were patently burned and Paul mentioned it, Selasi just looked like butter wouldn’t melt and said wonderingly: ‘Are they?’ He just styles everything out, absolutely everything. I feel like we should put him in charge of something of national importance. He is my national treasure.
Andrew made fancy pants churros in the shape of flowers, which were, unfortunately as dry as dog biscuits, despite looking fantastic, thus ruining his chances of getting star baker this week. In the end it went, deservedly to Benjamina who coolly and calmly knocked it out of the park at every stage of the game this week.
As for who went home, it was a difficult call this week. We hotly debated it as the bakers slid through disaster after batter based disaster and in the end I couldn’t choose between Tom and Kate to go. It was Kate who went home in the end, after three terrible rounds, but it could so easily have been Tom, or indeed Rav, and there were a lot of very relieved faces once Kate’s name had been read out.
You can catch up on batter week here.
Next week pastry. It will be tense. The word lamination will be used. Butter stockpiles will drop. It’s still all to play for.