Firstly ERMAHGERD. It’s week six. How can this even be possible? Time on The Great British Bake Off seems to distort. It waves a floury, two-fingered salute to all the normal rules that govern this sort of stuff (I don’t know what it’s called. Ask Brian Cox). You wait three quarters of a year to watch the damn thing and it’s all over in about a nano-second.
Then there’s that terrible thing where you want to watch it, and Wednesdays to roll around quicker, and yet you don’t want it to be over, and you’re just torn and it’s like argh! Or is it just me?
Tara put this better in one of the comments for last week’s episode, by the way. What she said.
I’ll get my coat.
This week we had botanicals week for the first time in Bake Off history. I was not convinced. It sounded too much like a shampoo commercial squeezed into a baking format and not enough like hard core cake making, but on balance I enjoyed it more than batter week, which was mostly a total nonsense.
It may have been that the bakes were actual bakes this week that made it better. It may have been that in my humble opinion, this week was the tensest yet, and each week has been tenser than the last. As Nicki said at the end; ‘We spent most of the time texting ‘Oh no!’ to each other. The other favourite sentence we typed this week was ‘Poor X ‘(insert appropriate baker’s name here). My jaw now hurts from clenching its way through three rounds of culinary trauma disguised as a gently entertaining baking show.
The bakers started the challenges by warming up with a citrus meringue pie. The pastry, Paul said, must be crisp (as if we didn’t know this), the curd must be a riot of citrus and according to Mary, who went on about this alarming, the meringue must have a satisfying crunch to its top, preferably baked in the oven, before cutting through to the meringue goo below. Mary obsessed about this throughout the challenge. I haven’t seen her quite so aerated in a long time. She even had a sub rant about the over reliance of the modern baker on the new fangled blow torch instead of the old fashioned oven.
Blow torch manufacturers up and down the land wept into their balled up hankies and pulled the shutters down forevermore. Setting fire to their now, redundant stock with one last flick of the despised blow torch before throwing it on the pyre, followed by their own, despairing bodies.
Andrew had yet another bad round in terms of actually cooking things. He did turn the oven on, which is one blessing at least, but the bottom of his pastry case was worryingly pale, and Paul’s spider senses were tingling as soon as fork hit crust. I have a theory that Andrew’s oven is cursed, and is actually out to get him by either over or under baking everything he puts in it, except for the weeks where it just refuses to bake anything at all. I think he should put in for a bench transfer. It was a problem that plagued him for the entire weekend, and there were tears before bedtime.
Tom had a disastrous meringue round. This was once more down to his stubborn refusal to bend to the dictates of flavour. This week he decided that pumpkin was actually a citrus fruit. Now, pumpkin may be many things, but it is not and never has been a lemon. No amount of finessing or stern, beetling looks from under Tom’s perpetually furrowed brow was going to convince anyone that it was. As far as that went, I think he was trying to take on Val’s mantle this week, due to there being a huge, Val shaped vacuum left in the tent. One of the things that made Val’s words work magic however, was that Val herself believed everything she said. Tom just couldn’t pull that off. You could see he was trying to convince himself as much as everyone else, and it just didn’t work. I did yearn for Val in this round to be honest. I entertained myself imagining what meringue based shenanigans she would have come up with, given that she probably makes one every week.
Selasi and Benjamina were a delight this week. They seemed to be having a competition within a competition, when Selasi could shift himself out of zen mode long enough to participate. He does like to lie down on the floor a lot, which to be fair is where I would spend a lot of time if I were on Bake Off. The only difference is, he chills out, and I’d be rolling around in the foetal position, crying.
Also, I am really hoping that they are not having a competition. I am hoping they are going out, and the final legacy of Bake Off will be a wedding, with cake from every baker that ever participated on the show, and lots of drop dead gorgeous Selasi/Benjamina babies. Please let this happen. Thank you. Kind regards.
As far as the pies went, I thought Selasi’s looked better, but Benjamin’s won hands down on taste. Jane ticked all the boxes for Mary and would have won even if she’d have piped her meringue onto a shoe box full of satsumas, because she was the only one who baked hers in the oven. Candice’s looked promising until her piping nozzle got clogged with coconut and her subtle green stripes ended up a bit toxic waste like, and absolutely everyone except Jane and Selasi had problems with getting height on their meringue this week. I would suggest firm hold gel, and hanging upside down off the bed. It’s always worked for me.
This week’s technical was to create two herb fougasse, which are like a French version of a ciabatta, but more crunchy. Rav, I was delighted to see, got the perfect crunch. Tom trounced everyone with his top notch bread skills, and Selasi bombed this week due to being far too relaxed and producing loaves like small, underdone trampolines.
The fougasse, is apparently, supposed to look like a leaf. From the decoration that Paul asked for, you need to think of Seventies Swiss cheese plant leaves, and about as large. Sadly, due to issues with where Paul said the slashes for the leaf pattern had to be placed, I was put in mind rather more of lady gardens than cheese plants. This kept me cheerful throughout.
Especially when Paul commented on their chewiness.
The showstopper this week was where it all went a bit insane and everything you thought you knew got turned around. The challenge was to create a three (or more) tiered floral cake. You could go for flowers on it, or in it, or round it, or everywhere. It was a fairly loose brief. Mine would have been three Vicky sponges decorated with a lot of privet clippings and some carnations from the garage.
Nicki and I like to place bets on who will get star baker and who will go home. It’s part of our weekly ritual. This week, we had agreed that Tom would probably be going home, and Candice would win star baker. We made this decision as soon as Tom announced he was going to make three, tea flavoured cakes. One chamomile, one jasmine and green tea and one so horrifying I blacked out with floral tea based cake stress at this point and remember no more. It was the mention of chamomile that tipped me over the edge. Who the hell wants a cake that tastes like boiled grass?
Mary and Paul seemed to be in agreement with me there, but we were all stunned when Tom’s cakes were pronounced excellent, and won him star baker. I was pleased for him, but worried for next week’s desserts, because he will now become even more emboldened with flavours. He’s like the Jilly Goolden of cakes. It will all be pampas grass flavoured Swiss roll made with hemp flour and a yard of ale whipped up to look like cream, and I will cry.
Andrew was the one crying this week. Everything went so wrong for him, he had to have a sit down on the crazy paving and fall apart a bit. For a boy faced, ginger optimist with the heart and mind of an engineer, this was terrible. This was almost as upsetting as watching Val getting teary last week. Oscar was in pieces. Andrew is his favourite baker and he just couldn’t take the emotion. He kept shouting. ‘Andrew! Noooo! Pull yourself together!’ which is something we could all get behind.
Luckily for Andrew it was Rav that went home this week. I was very sorry about this. I have a huge soft spot for Rav, who is as cute as a bug’s ear and just a lovely, lovely person who just wants to make sensible cakes and not get flustered by having to make nine thousand small sugar flowers. I don’t blame him. You could tell he was close to having a crazy paving moment himself at one stage, and defeat was in his eyes. I was sad to see him go.
Next week, desserts. Swiss roll will feature. Also the first time I have ever seen cakes on a small ferris wheel. Except in my dreams.
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