You heard me.
1. Yes, in the wake of last week’s merciful sparing of whoever would have gone home (Sarah-Jane), it was sweet buns that hovered over the heads of our intrepid final seven bakers. Well…ok, not that intrepid, as they never seem to leave that marquee, not even to change clothes. I bet they sleep under the tables. I bet James and John share a sleeping bag. I bet Cathryn has a little rabbit made out of two twisted teatowels that she hugs for warmth. I bet Brendan just sits in a corner, never sleeping, clutching a knife. I bet a lot of things. You might think it odd that sweet buns were the root of the most BRUTAL BAKE OFF WEEK YET, rather than something like cakes or pies or biscuits or something like that, but you clearly are not aware that having sweet sweet buns is an English institution. Or at least it is in my house. Naturally the theme of this week all led to rather a lot of tedious arse-related innuendo which, as you’ll know, we have no truck with on this blog, so let’s move swiftly on to our first challenge of the week.
2. Which was to create 24 sweet buns of any sort you wished. Which was rather a broad brief for this show. Frankly you could have wanged out some bog-standard baps and sprinkled a bit of sugar on the top and it still would have counted, so thank goodness the bakers of the Great British Bake-Off showed some imagination. In Brendan‘s case, by stuffing his buns full of heroin. Oh, sure, he tried to come up with a wholesome explanation for his “popp-seed” mixture, but we all know that he sailed through the first challenge by getting Mary Berry floating down Scag Street to Mr Brownstone’s house. That rich 70s heritage isn’t good just for disco dips you know. Brendan’s Mexican Mud Cakes were dubbed “Chelsea Bunskis” by the man himself, because of some vague Polish connection that he only hauled out in order to try to make his gimmick “well-travelled man of the world” rather than what it is, which is “flare-wearing, tye-die dipping, disco-dipping daughter of Gloria Gaynor”. Other highlights of the round included : James filling his sweet buns with booze, much to Paul Hollywood’s dismay ; Cathryn trying to split Lady Arundel’s buns and fill them with cream and jam but finding them too tight ; John‘s sweet buns sadly turning out to be flavourless and bland ; and Sarah-Jane actually biting the bullet and baking the sweet bun that tied in with this week’s first official History Bit – the Cornish saffron bun.
3. Apparently the Cornish Saffron Bun was invented in the 19th century, as some sort of alcohol substitute. These were the years when the menace of gin was laying waste to our country’s poor, not just serving as something for twee middle-class people to put in their twitter biographies. And to combat the gin menace, apparently the Christian of Cornwall set up abstinence pacts where, instead of guzzling down the devil’s liquor, everyone gathered in a big field and ate buns. Big buns. Only in the 20th century I’m guessing, although maybe the NHS should consider prescribing chelsea buns rather than methodone. Either way, this segment was hosted by an incredibly enthusiastic vicar, high off love of the Lord’s sweet buns. I like to imagine that he was in fact Sarah-Jane’s husband, his hyperactive jabbing excitement perfectly explaining in one fell swoop her rather Pooh Bear-ish demeanour.
4. So here we’re going to talk about Cathryn, who is fast turning into this year’s most controversial contestant. Well…her and Brendan, but I can see where people would dislike Cathryn whereas if you hate Brendan then frankly you hate the medium of television itself and what it was designed to do. No, the problem with Cathryn, such as it is, is that her series-long fingernail-chewing lack of self-confidence is slowly being revealed to be accompanied by a slight inability to take criticism from anybody else. Specifically Paul Hollywood, as she for the second week in a row talked back at judging, when he accused her of having burnt buns. In that she told him he was TALKING SHITE (/being unfair). Personally I think that talking back to the “mean judge” is a noble reality tv tradition, as is the idea of a previously mousy woman TAKING HER DESTINY from the hands of a man who has dampened her spirits and poo pood her buns for TOO LONG. And hey, it’s always fun to pretend that a perfectly nice person on a reality show is secretly a deranged villain (see : everything this blog has ever said about Brendan). Go on, try it. Imagine what it was that Cathryn whispered to Sarah-Jane when it was revealed that her jammy doughnuts were inedible. Imagine it was something passive-aggressive and foul. Fun isn’t it?
5. So yes, the Technical Bake this week revolved around the Jam Doughnut. A fact that caused Ryan to pipe up immediately that he was “very experienced with doughnuts”, before clarifying that he meant eating them, not indulging in any sort of American Pie sort of scenario with them. No dunkin’ for these doughnuts, if you catch my drift. In fact James was the only contestant who’d ever made a doughnut before and he…erm…won the technical challenge, making it rather an anticlimax. Not that this didn’t stop James rather smugly smiling that he felt like he’d cheated everyone out of the win by being naturally awesome at it already. In fact James turned into a bit of a smug git all round this week (which of course only made me love him more) as he hand-waved away his disastrous SHOWSTOPPER bake as being awful but still definitely good enough to keep him in, as the judges discussed his potential demise. Mostly for being a smug git in a jumper. Other highlights of the round include : Ryan yet again making something entirely different to what he was supposed to in a Technical Bake, in this case a crepe ; Cathryn taking the oily plunge early and still winding up underdone ; Brendan almost losing his rag over someone daring to beat him AGAIN ; Sarah-Jane judging doughnuts on the colour of its skin not on the contents of its character and therefore ending up with raw oozing inedible messes. YEAH, TAKE THAT YOU DOUGHNUT RACIST!
6. The second history bit this week revolved around doughnuts, telling the tale of how shell-shocked, injured, traumatised and direction-less war veterans had their spirits raised and their wounds salved by a great big party van full of doughnuts and prostitutes. Or “Doughnut Dollies” as they were apparently called. This sin-wagon rode round the country with its sticky floor and sugar walls, dispensing sweet oozing jammy treats to Our Brave Boys in the Second World War. These were educated women, with degrees and dreams and aspirations to be doctors or lawyers or even, maybe, food anthropologists, but they threw all this away to drive around the country in the 1940s equivalent of the FHM Highstreet Honeys Fun Bus. Or so claimed “WWII Re-Enactor Tori Bottomly”. To be fair, the women may not have been prostitutes, but instead representatives of the Salvation Army but…come ON. They were called “Doughnut Dollies”. How naive do you think we are?
7. In further “objectifying women” fun, let’s discuss Mary Berry’s top this week. Now normally Mary Berry is a sober dresser – the very model of the Daily Express twin-set and pearls, with the occasional mid-length skirt when she’s feeling like a bit of flirty fun. But something in Mary Berry’s waters this week told her to turn up in an early 90s rave-shirt, spattered with psychedelic patterns and mind-blowing colours. You’d think Mary Berry would treat this Double Elimination Week with the sobriety it deserved but now, she appears to have been mashed out of her gourd even before Brendan’s Opium Buns. She did seem to be in the grips of a flavour related high the whole week, with each tasty sweet bun prompting a veritable synesthesia of delight in Mary. Or maybe it’s just that Paul was being particularly dickish this week, and she was trying to be nice, grinning “lovely flavours though!” blissfully as he hurled another doughnut at an errant contestant’s forehead yelling “IT’S RAW, YOU STUPID HAG! RAWWWWWWWWWWWW!”. Or whatever.
8. The SHOWSTOPPER bake this week was a Celebration Bread. I ask you. Who celebrates anything with bread? Apart from the Amish? By the sounds of it, Europeans, as most of the breads seemed to be on a European theme, with John making a rather tragic turdly stollen, and James making a Kugelhopf-Brioche Baba (want your bad romance). Filled with booze again, in this case whisky-soaked raisins and whisky jellies (an Apprentice crossover opportunity sadly missed. I’m sure Jade was positively hammering at the walls of that marquee trying to get in). Brendan was, as ever these days, at the centre of the challenge, both for his ever-tightening opposition to being cast as a 70s throwback, and for the fact that his Black Forest Christmas Stollen was a veritable Gomrnghast of a Celebration Bread. If Sarah-Jane’s THING-WELLINGTON was the visual low-point of the show thus far, then Brendan’s Celebration Bread was its Birth Of Venus. Other highlights of the round included ; Ryan’s leaky Chinese pork buns ; Cathryn’s “Twist N Share” tribute to Bonfire Night that almost ended up tasting like burning ; Sarah-Jane’s tribute to The Thing That Sarah-Jane Did – The Thing That Sarah-Jane Did 2 : The Prolapsing (like most sequels, not a patch on the original).
9. This week’s Star Baker was Danny and because it was Danny, she did so in the least spectacular way possible – coming up with a solid performance in all three rounds, without ever standing out as being exceptional (except maybe her Bakewell buns). What really excited me this week is that Danny has finally found a way to push herself forward as a reality show contender. Because Danny appears to have noticed that 50% of this show’s dialogue revolves around innuendo, so she’s started throwing in her own, in the most disinterested, half-hearted way possible. Yes, Danny’s rise to BAKING STARDOM was built on the bake of mumbling things like “oooh, I couldn’t handle anything bigger than this, ooooh it’s a big beast, like, erm, a big beasty penis, yeah” and “this is like a drunken seaman, like…semen…like…jizz….ooh how rude” whilst shoving her dough around. It’s not going to get her a hosting gig, but for now, it’s enough.
10. So who was going in the double elimination? Well for a start, the TENSION inherent in the double elimination was rather undercut by the fact that Sarah-Jane, already fairly clearly the weakest of the seven remaining (at least in terms of this competition as televised, I don’t want to pile on the poor woman) tanked every single one of the challenges and was dispatched with all the ceremony of James flobbing his lattice onto a tart. Following her out the door, sadly, was Ryan, even though he had one of the better signature bakes of the week. Ah well, in terms of his televisual IMPACT he was lagging somewhere only marginally ahead of Danny, so it wasn’t necessarily a great loss. We’ll always have that Key Lime Pie, Ryan. Forever.
Next Week : It’s Biscuit Week, Brendan turns to torture, and James and John both remove their trousers. Steve will guide you through this, the QUARTER-FINAL.