And Vicars’ Wives.
1. Now tarts? Tarts I like. Tarts are pretty much first on my “go to” list once people have stopped hyperventilating about the fact that I don’t eat cake, at which point they normally ask which flour based dessert-stuffs I do eat. And tarts sneak in above cheesecakes, just because it’s funny to say “tarts”. A fact that the show recognised officially with that little preamble where Mel & Sue gave notice that this week was so rich in innuendo potential that they were going to take a backseat and let everyone else have free rein. And so it went. Dropped tarts, sticky tarts, pale tarts, jammy tarts, undercooked tarts, overcooked tarts, unusual tarts, tarts with a stringy latice, tarts with crumbly rims and, most prominently of all, soggy bottoms. Everyone was joining in. Even Mary Berry – a woman you can imagine having to leave the studio for a raspberry lemonade if someone says “damn”. But the most eager seizer of the innuendo rod was John who was gleefully spraying around innuendo that didn’t even make sense. What do you MEAN when you say that everyone knows that Mary Berry loves a lemon and then all but wink at the camera? WHAT DO YOU MEAN? Filth.
2. So the Signature Bake this week then, was a paean to all of us who didn’t quite get enough hot “Turning Things Upside Down” action in week 1, as contestants were challenged to make an Upside-Down Tarte Tatin. A task screwed up by Manisha not 5 seconds after Mel & Sue announced it, as she obliterated the first of about 17 different attempts at caramel. Oddly enough this rather made me warm to Manisha, as her caramel was about the only basic recognisable flavour in a challenge full of random blue cheese, pear, fig, Chinese 5 spice, gammon, passion fruit, porcini mushroom and baked potato tarts. I know I’m a baking philistine, and coming to this show three series in, but would it have killed these people to have made a tarte tatin with…apples? Maybe? To be fair, I also might have warmed to Manisha because of the brief insight we got into her personal life – nursery teacher by day, mother-baker-provider by evening, and rat-arsed barfly by night. Now there’s a contestant I can get behind. Sure her tart tatin was barely salvaged even when she did finally get her caramel right, but…I feel I want to turn into Gregg Wallace and start talking about GOOD HONEST BRITISH FOOD so…let’s not eh? Other highlights of this round included the revelation that be-jumpered Scottish medic James is not a fan of a rough puff (it’s alright James, I’ll be gentle), perennially frustrated single mother Cathyrn’s further Adventures In Twee when she made a little tin-foil hat for her Upside-Down tarte tatin (how very New Girl) (also my favourite Cathryn moment of the entire episode was the brief shot of her crouched over a tiny little camping stove in miserable weather, face contorted in despair as her two mute toddler-children stared disdainfully at her woeful attempt to make fairy cakes or whatever, like The Shining) and Master of the Disco Dips Brendan arranging his apples such to resemble a hedge maze. I was almost expecting the camera to pan down to a little miniature Mel & Sue chasing one another around its golden walls.
3. Can we speak a little bit more about Brendan this week incidentally? Because whilst Brendan has up until now been a zen master, hovering around the sidelines with his tales of hot rocks, Gloria Gaynor and over 90 international breads, this week he was Not Good at something. Yes, it turns out that Brendan doesn’t have much of an eye for tarts, a fact illustrated by his outsized apples and woeful treacle tart. The chiding by Mary Berry that followed seemed to push Brendan into a slightly Gollumy rage fit, casting furious squints at everyone else’s succesful efforts, and a naked lust to regain his position on the throne that was only sated by him whipping out his dragon fruit. God only knows what mystical far-flung location Brendan got them from, but they mercifully saved his arse this week, and hopefully we won’t have to see Evil Brendan for a good couple of weeks yet (ie the ones which I am recapping, because I love Evil Brendan).
4. Alright, let’s just get this over with – three episodes in, I still know nothing about Danny other than that she is a doctor (which James already does), she has a vagina (which half the cast already do) and also she seems to do well enough in each challenge that I should view her as a candidate to win the whole shebang, but all I know is that she’s utterly redundant and also her having a boy’s name totally screws up my spreadsheeting. DO SOMETHING EXCITING OR GO HOME DANNY. This is your final warning.
5. This week’s History Segment was about the noble art of dietetics, which I’m sure was a novel subject for many people watching, but I work with dietitians and the fact that the wikipedia entry for the profession leads off with a 2 paragraph long debate about whether I should be spelling that “dieticians” should give you a clue about how much fun that is. (NOT REALLY, I LOVE YOU ALL). More specifically the segment touched on the creation of something called “Invalid Fruit Tart” – a fruit tart designed especially for the invalid. Which of course just invites the response “no, YOU’RE an invalid fruit tart” than a circuitous argument about PC GONE MAD whilst I nip outside for some fresh air and a biscuit.
6. OH MY GOD TREACLE TART, TREACLE TART, TREACLE TART OOZING WITH GOLDEN SYRUP ENCASED IN CRUMBLY BRITTLE CRUMBLY PASTRY, SWEETNESS AT THE BACK OF MY THROAT AND IN THE BACK OF MY NOSTRILS, CUT WITH SHARP LEMON OR LESS SHARP LIME OR FEROCIOUS GINGER, MAYBE WITH CUSTARD OR A VANILLA CREAM OR CLOTTED CREAM OR ICE CREAM OR SOME FORM OF BRITTLE, ALL WARM AND STICKY AND COMFORTING AND DRIBBLE DRIBBLE DROOL. Anyway, highlights of this round were vicar’s wife Sarah-Jane having a major cry because Mary Berry didn’t like her lazy laticework ; James gracelessly plonking his lattice on his tart at the last second practically announcing “eh, fuck it” as he did so ; and Manisha making a treacle filling the consistency of mashed potato yet never being considered for elimination even slightly, and Stuart not fucking everything up for once.
7. This being a bit of a theme for the episode. Stuart, having spent the last two episodes screwing everything up from pillar to post just about managed to come out of the episode with his honour intact. Admittedly he did completely mess up Mary Berry’s recipe for treacle tart by not including enough…treacle, but he just about salvaged it by pulling it out of the oven and just adding the rest of the ingredients half way through the cooking time (if only all recipes were so kind, and not so apt to give people food poisoning). And then his Showstopper Bake was a positive triumph. I mean, I’m sure he’s going home next week because he’s that contestant – the one who screws everything up right out the gate but lasts three or four episodes anyway somehow (aka : the Bitchell) but at least he can point his finger at his tarts and say he did a good job. Comparatively. To his usual standards.
8. And so the Showstopper Bake, which this week was “Bake Me Like Your French Girls, Jack”, as contestants were tasked to produce a tart the likes of which they might see in the window of a Parisian patisserie. Or alternatively, down an alley by the side. Plaudits went to bakers who baked outside the box or, in the case of Cathryn, baked inside the shape of a box, as the judges went slightly giddy over the fact she made a RECTANGULAR TART instead of a ROUND ONE like everyone else. Never mind that it tasted of nothing and had a greasy base, it was the thought that counted. Also notable was Danny, for curdling her frangipan but being so unmemorable that nobody cared, such is Danny ;Manisha producing a tart that contained a layer of sponge (TRAITOR!) ; and Ryan, normally such a stickler for preparation and detail producing a rubbery base. Hardly the sort of thing you’d expect from a French tart.
9. This week’s Star Baker? James, obviously, a victory I feel was sealed when he made his own hand-crafted macaroons, then shared the off-cuts with the cast and crew, just because. Actually, it may well have been sealed before that, when he won Mary Berry’s Treacle Tart challenge easily, despite his indelicate hand with a latice. Or, in fact, maybe even before that when he made his own puff pastry by the most time-consuming method possible, such is his love of the tarte tatin. Actually, probably EVEN before that, when he admitted on camera that he plays double bass in a pub band with his sister. Oh, alright, let’s face it, James was Star Baker from the second he pulled out that truly excellent tank-top. There was no denying him from that point onwards, regardless of his baking.
10. And so it was that we say goodbye to Victoria whose downfall may well have been rooted in her sudden desire to fill everything with peppercorns, an ingredient that you wouldn’t normally associate with tarts, but which are very in vogue at the moment, as befitting her role as a cut-throat modern high-powered female executive businesswoman in chunky lilac knits. To be fair, Victoria seemed to spend the entire episode well aware of her own imminent dispatch, and possibly even deliberately topped it off with singularly the biggest disaster of this series of the Great British Bake-Off so far, producing a Tropical Fruit Tart with :
- water-logged fruit
- a soggy bottom
- a mouth twisting overwhelming taste of lime
- a topping that frankly looked like spoiled salad cream
So long Victoria. Back to dispatching your rivals in the world of British wildflower charities via nefarious means in an episode of Midsummer Murders.
Next week : Steve does desserts. Which means tortes, meringues, and creme caramel apparently.