Glazing brushes aloft people! Look lively. It’s pastry week on The Great British Bake Off. Set off the flour cannons. Sprinkle sultanas like confetti. It’s time to find out if Andrew uses a micrometer to measure his pastry thickness (yes). It’s time to see if Val ever does anything as Hollywood intended (unashamedly, no). It’s time to see if Tom will find a way to shoehorn hint of polish with tarmac rubble and Old Spice into his baking and pretend it’s sweet (yes).
Pastry week means many things, but two things were as sure as eggs is eggs. Firstly, that the word lamination would be used excessively, and secondly there would inevitably be talk of layers. I was not disappointed by this, losing count of the number of laminations, and being amazed to find out that there is actually an algebraic equation to measure the exact number of layers in pastry. I was so amazed by this, my eyebrows actually shot into my hairline.
They still haven’t come down.
Before we get to the nitty gritty, can I just say that this is one of the tensest seasons of Bake Off, if not the downright tensest-est I have ever seen? Every week there are disasters, in every round. Every week the star baker from the week before has a crisis and everything is turned upside down as it becomes a star baker free for all. Usually, by now there is a firm favourite, someone who even though they might wobble here and there, you’ve got pegged as a potential winner, but this season? In my opinion, it’s all to play for. Seriously, I wouldn’t be that surprised if Mel won, things are that up in the air.
I do think she should get an honourable mention this week, even if she doesn’t actually go on to win the series. I commend her for her excellent Danish pastry theft. I could not have done better myself. If it weren’t for Paul’s gimlet eyes catching what she was up to, she would totally have made it out of the tent with a stack of five of Candice’s pastries balanced in her hands. Top work, lady.
Given talk of stealing Danish pastries, it seems a good time to mention that this week’s signature round was to make twenty four Danish pastries, 12 sweet and 12 savoury. Long term readers will know that I am intensely interested in Danish pastries, having essayed a trip to Copenhagen two years ago on the pretext of wanting to experience the culture, but actually just wanting to stuff my face with cake. It was everything I dreamed of and more.
I paid very close attention to the Danish construction going on. Val, as ever, going against the grain and doing things entirely her own way, made a virtue out of slightly soggy middles and other middles that just fell out of middles and became holes. Tom tried to convince us that adding what he said was granola, but which looked suspiciously like guinea pig food to pastry was the way forward. As for the unspeakable abomination that was his Weetabix custard surprise Danish, I shudder at the mere thought.
Most people made raw Danish, or dry Danish, or raw, dry Danish. Jane however, played a blinder and had another small weep. I have decided that she looks rather like a sad owl. This is not a criticism. I am all for owls, and their sadness. Candice also did well, which is why Mel tried to sashay out of the tent with half her display under her arm. Sue had probably been gaffer taped to a mixer to allow Mel unfettered access or I’m sure she would have been in there too.
The technical this week was to make a Bakewell tart. It was a Mary Berry, old style Bakewell, with pink, feathery icing and a mile of frangipane in. I am not a fan of the Bakewell, as regular readers will know. This is due to being scarred emotionally by a party at which my dad tried to pass off twelve types of Bakewell as ‘assorted cakes’ and was nearly assassinated by an angry mob waving sharpened tbsps.
Nevertheless I laughed immoderately as Val surpassed herself by not realising that there were two pages of written instructions until she had freestyled herself and her first page into certain doom by not only ignoring everything she was asked to do, but also invoking the third rule of Bake Off by claiming that ‘I make one every week.’ It was at this point that you knew that whatever she made would be more like fish pie than Bakewell, but like Selasi and his zen approach to disaster, she just styled it out.
Rav pipped her to bottom place by producing a Bakewell that resembled the wreck of the Hesperus. His fell apart while Val’s stood firm. In fact, it’s still standing firm, and has been employed as the foundation stone for a new baking school which will be erected on the site of the first ever Bake Off tent. Andrew’s was also disastrous, due to the fact that he failed to turn the oven on for the first fifteen minutes of his baking time which meant everything was rather gelatinous and suspiciously wobbly.
Jane took the Bakewell crown this time, with Candice coming a close second.
The show stopper this week was to make forty eight amuse bouche (horses doovres), twenty four sweet and twenty four savoury, using home made filo pastry. This was a killer challenge and I can only assume that Paul and Mary were hosting a ball later that evening and didn’t want to pay for outside caterers, which was why they wanted so many of the bloody things.
Making things with filo pastry is a bit like knitting with fog, or perhaps more aptly, given the stickiness, spider webs. It gets bloody everywhere, and no sooner have you rolled it to the required thinness than it decides to try and rejoin its fellow pastry sheets and welds itself to every available surface. This was beautifully demonstrated by Tom whose pastry looked like Derek (our cat) had chewed it and spat it out. His flavours, were as ever, deeply troubling to me, and somewhat troubling to Paul and Mary too. Jane continued with her brilliant week and ended with mouthfuls of joy whose only fault were being too big. I cannot fault her on that. I would have been happy to cram it all in.
Candice took Star Baker this week with absolutely stunning looking pastries which amused everyone’s bouche no end. Rav, lovely Rav who had been up to his neck in trouble all weekend, pulled it out of the bag with gorgeous parcels of scrumminess, as did Benjamina.
Val, who completely lost the plot, flailing in pastry ribbons and making things that were so terrible even she, of the indomitable spirit and cheeriness, lost her shine and borrowed some of Jane’s moistness of eye, went home this week. I confess that when this series started, Val was not my favourite, but as the weeks have gone by things have changed. Her wonderful eccentricities, her clear kindness and her gentleness of spirit have foiled the Hollywoodinator and left him speechless, and made me rather love her. Her final words about baking things because you love them, and baking them with love made me shout:
‘NO! YOU HAVE SOMETHING IN YOUR EYE!’
Rather viciously at the television.
If you want to shout this too, you can catch up with the episode here.
Next week, not just a fictional round, an entire fictional episode. Welcome to botanicals week, in which everything must be baked using different bottles of Herbal Essences shampoo.