The quarter finals of The Great British Bake Off took on a decidedly historical air this evening, with the unveiling of Tudor week. I have to say that I had been looking forward to this with unholy glee for many reasons, not least of which was my desire to see Paul Hollywood look like a bit of a tit in a doublet and hose with a cold water pastry, lattice worked cod piece. When he strode into the tent in his usual, casual attire I admit to being wildly disappointed. Also, Mary would have totally rocked one of those head dresses with the Princess Leia ear bits and a tightly laced bodice. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother to pay my licence fee. Am I the only person in the world who makes an effort anymore? Am I? Am I?
I’m actually typing this in a replica of Elizabeth I’s coronation robes, that’s how much of an effort I make.
Very few people know that she was actually crowned wearing a Primark onesie with rabbit ears and a tail.
The first round this week was to create spectacular savoury pies in a Tudor style. This did not mean executing people who annoyed you in their droves whilst forcing indentured servants to do all the pie making while you put your feet up on a serving wench. It meant creating ridiculously elaborate pies within which lay ridiculously elaborate ingredients. Ideally these would light up and rotate, or play the harpsichord or release a choreography of bats into the roof of the tent to spell out GBBO with their tiny wing hands.
The only person who even came close to that level of detail this week was the lovely Andrew, who was in his mechanical element with a giant cog based paean to engineering and pies. Nicki texted me at this point to say that her husband, Rob, had nearly fainted with desire at the fusing of two of his favourite things, and Oscar wasn’t far behind him. There were deeply appreciative oohs for Andrew’s efforts on our sofa, and we were particularly pleased that the cogs whirred, although I’d have liked mood music and a laser show, but beggars can’t be choosers.
In other pie news, Jane’s pies, despite looking a bit boring to me, threw everyone into ecstasies when they tasted them. Candice’s macaroni pie called to me, although there were complaints about texture issues, which I could well understand. It probably needed about half a tonne more cheese in. It never hurts in these situations. Benjamina’s flavours appealed to me most, and I’m sure Selasi’s would have been delicious if he hadn’t tried to recreate traditional Tudor smells with his game being so high it actually had to be coaxed into the pie dish and lashed down.
The technical round this week was to make a type of Tudor biscuit called jumbles. You’d think the word jumble would mean any old tat was acceptable, but no, Paul’s jumbles were items of precision and geometrical dexterity. The bakers had to make two types of jumble, one that was supposed to look like a knot, but which in most cases more closely resembled an elephant pooh, the other had to look Celtic. It was all points and encirclements and the like. It was this that proved to be most of the bakers downfall. Even Andrew got a bit of a sweat on, plaiting and knotting. Their ability to make friable dough resemble the wrought intricacies on the diagram sheet in front of them, became ever more elusive the more they tried. Apart from Candice who rocked the entire round, the others created things which looked like something you’d draw on a grave to open Buffy’s hell mouth. Benjamina’s in particular were what a kind person would call ‘interesting’ or ‘freely interpretive’.
In the show stopper it was all to play for as Jane, who had done so well in the first round, came last in the technical, and Candice who hadn’t done so well in the first round, rocked it.
Tensions were never higher than when it was revealed that the bakers had to recreate a three dimensional scene using the power of marzipan and/or marchpane. Marchpane is, apparently, the Tudor version of marzipan. Modern marzipan is soft, and melts droopily if you spend too long working it or get it too warm. Tudor marchpane is stiff and more solid, but tends to crack. As I watched them trying to fuse the disparate elements of their bake together it made me think of someone trying to build a house out of say, mashed potato and crisps. Neither is particularly fit for purpose and both are a bugger to work with.
Andrew, who I had high hopes of, given his great cog wheel of pies, kind of lost the plot with his show stopper, despite having a mould for his tiny horse, which made me think of Father Ted quite a lot. He was supposed to be making a jousting scene, but when he’d finished, his knights resembled Mr Hanky The Christmas Pooh, from Southpark, and the unfortunate place he’d put their lances made it look like they were having a wank rather than going into battle. I’m sorry to lower the tone, but it has to be said.
Jane grilled a lot of her marzipan, as did Selasi, and I’m not entirely sure why, given that every time they pulled it out of the oven it resembled those crumbly dog turds you used to find all over the place in the Seventies, and was distinctly unappealing. I’m sure there was a good reason for it all, but what it was, completely escapes me.
Selasi’s ‘bling’ version of Tudor crowns and swords ended up looking a bit shop soiled in the end, and Benjamina went home this week thanks to a gigantically fat rendition of a maze that looked more like the top of her cake had been infested by giant caterpillars of death.
This left Candice resplendent and deserved star baker with a tremendously elaborate marzipan peacock of such magnificence it led Sue to show off her world’s second best peacock impression, not once, but twice.
You can watch it here, if you want to catch up.
Next week it’s only the flaming semi-finals, innit?