The Great British Bake Off 2016 – Semi Final

I didn’t have the energy to write about The Great British Bake Off last night. I was exhausted by the whole procedure and after treating myself to a large slice of rhubarb and raspberry crumble cake, I went to bed, hoping that somehow by the time I got up this morning, this post would have written itself.

Sadly that did not happen, and the day has sped away from me until there’s hardly any of it left, and what there is is overcast and gloomy. I feel like that about Bake Off itself, to be honest. There’s one left. Just one. I am already feeling bereft and it’s not even been twenty four hours since the last episode. Curse you 2016. You are a brutal task mistress. I can only hope I’ve done enough penance and general sacrificing to allow you to at least ensure Donald Trump falls down a deep mineshaft very soon. As it is, I had very mixed feelings about Sue’s jacket, which sported the word ‘Happy’ on the back. Part of me wondered how dare she be happy? Then I thought. ‘She’s in a tent full of cake. Of course she’s happy.’ Then I thought. ‘I want that jacket.’ Nicki says if I find the right jacket for me, she’ll get busy with the letraset. This made me slightly more happy.  I might have several. ‘Meh’, ‘Alright’, ‘Happy’ and ‘Fucking Livid.’ Nicki also suggested ‘Outraged of Knighton.’ I might have to get a coat for that one.

I digress. I have ten minutes before I have to worry about throwing dinner on the table, and it’s all yours. What doesn’t get done by then, stays undone.

It was patisserie last night. One of the greatest words in any language, anywhere, ever in my opinion, and they did us proud. No inexplicably weird things to make, nothing which had to be assembled with spirit levels and bits of balsa wood, just proper, delicious baking. Hence my emergency crumble cake ration. I broke the glass with a spoon and ate it in three bites I was so hungry by the end of the episode.

The first round demanded twenty four palmiers, two flavours, both savoury, twelve of each. Oh lordy lord. I’m salivating just thinking about it. Thank God dinner is nearly done. I love palmiers, but I’ve only ever eaten sweet ones before. I will be rectifying this before the year is out. They looked delicious. I wanted to eat every, single one, even Selasi’s and his were raw. He made salmon ones, which I think would have been my favourites, except for Candice’s and Andrew’s and Jane’s. You see my dilemma? Basically, whack any old ingredient in a whirl of flaky pastry, bake it till it’s crisp and serve it to me. Keep them coming until I pop. Don’t mourn me when I inevitably explode.

The technical round was called a Savarin. I am convinced I have eaten one at some point, way back in the mists of time, because I didn’t immediately make a ‘pshaw’ sound when they announced what it was, and I have a very clear taste memory of one. I have no idea where or when I ate one though, which is annoying. It can be rectified by me eating another one very soon.  I am willing to do this. I am very brave.

A Savarin is a sandcastle fortress shaped cake which looks a bit like sponge cake, but which is yeasted. Think Pandoro/Panettone type of thing. Add in sugar syrup and liqueur and decorate with whipped cream, shards of caramel and fruit and a pointless chocolate medal sporting the word ‘savarin’. Then eat with a dessert spoon, kicking anyone who gets too near you and shouting incomprehensibly with your mouth full. I believe that’s how it’s done.

It was boiling in the tent, which made the chocolate work tricky. The caramel wasn’t easy either, and Jane, whose bete noire this is, gave up in the end, shoving lumps of muddy melted sugar on top and disguising them with cream. I don’t blame her. I’m impressed she kept her temper. I’d have wanged a boiling saucepan at the nearest cameraman’s ear in her place. Sweat poured off everyone, Andrew looked redder and redder, and I did wonder if he might actually combust at one point. Sue had to keep wringing Selasi out like a damp towel in case he actually dribbled to the ground and seeped away under the tent flaps.

Only Candice really kept her cool and I thought she’d win this round hands down, but no. Apparently she was under proved, which caused her sandcastle to have poor definition and wobbly underpinnings. This basically describes my entire life. Andrew won, followed by Jane and then Candice. Poor Selasi trailed in last with a badly constructed fruit salad that mortally offended Mary. Nobody likes a badly constructed fruit salad.

Or one with banana in.

The show stopper was fondant fancies. This is something that Claire, Nicki and I all agree on. There was an influx of ‘Oh my God!’ messages passing from phone to phone as it was announced. The fondant fanciers of the UK were united in their excitement. Fondant Fancies are the holy grail. I have written about these extensively in the past. I have been known to bypass entire birthday cakes in order to eat Fondant Fancies. I have been known to eat them in the bath, I am that keen on them. Literally nothing could get between me and a fondant fancy.

This, in my opinion, was the best round of the entire series so far. The only thing that could top it in the final next week is if they have to make a croquembouche of Fondant Fancies. In which case I will surely die of pleasure.

The problems with fancies are many. Firstly you use genoise, which is the curse of me and apparently Candice, who was not happy. Then you have to get your icing and decoration super smooth. This was the curse of everyone, and me. Then they have to be small. This was a big worry for Selasi, for whom the word small is simply incomprehensible, although he did his best. Selasi is not small. Selasi is a great, beaming, bake god who radiates goodwill like other people shed dandruff. He has not time for trifles. Or fancies, it appears. They did look rather feeble, like he just couldn’t really get his head around them at all, even though he tried. Sadly, it was the end of Selasi in the tent, and it will be a poorer, drabber world without him.

Jane came a cropper by refusing to fanny about putting butter icing round her fancies to protect them from the rigours of the other icing. Consequently, the sides looked like a pebble dashed council house, no matter how wonderful the top looked.  Candice had gone for a lilac food colouring for one of her cakes, and it did rather remind me of a pensioner’s blue rinse. It wasn’t a good look. Not that I wouldn’t have scoffed one down in a heart beat, mind you. Andrew on the other hand, produced near perfect fancies of musical and edible joy, and came away with star baker to take into the finals with him.

I can’t even think about next week without sniffing and getting icing sugar in my eye.

Watch this week’s episode here.



6 responses to “The Great British Bake Off 2016 – Semi Final

  1. I saw Sue’s jacket and felt similar feelings, and then I thought, “maybe I should just get a jacket like that and be happy.” The world is too much at the moment, and we can only change a very little bit of it. Cake, and a good attitude (not blinkered, mind you, just optimistic) — plus a bit of alcohol — might go a long way towards making certain things bearable.
    Anyway, as usual, you have nailed the zeitgeist in a compelling, personal and funny way. Thank you!

  2. It sadly became obvious that Selasi’s laid back attitude had deserted him this week so it all went wrong. When he didn’t care and lay on the floor contemplating life, the universe and everything, magical sprites did all the work required to keep him in the competition. Now that TGBBO has deserted to the dark side the Beeb can hire Selasi to host a cookery programme because we all adore him and would watch an hour of him doing mostly nothing.

  3. Selasi will indeed be missed and not just for being so laid back he was practically horizontal, but because he vowed to bake wearing a dress if he reached the final!

    Like you, I am hoping 2016 has had enough horribleness in it to avoid a Trump win, because frankly that would be scary on a global scale & I for one have enough scary with that May woman wrecking the country so she can keep her job.

    No idea who is going to win Bake-off, but suspect it will be Candice, as she is probably the most polarising of those left. Which would be par for this year, unlike last year when just about everybody seemed to love Nadiya.

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