The Great British Bake-Off 4 – Episode 3 : Desserts

Someone’s been at the custard…

1. And so we after the comforting easing in with classic Bake-Off staples like cake and bread, we immediately shake up the established order of things (well the established order of things last series anyway, I don’t know what happened before that, there be marzipan dragons mostly), skip a week, and jump to Desserts Week. That’s right this year, apparently there are no tarts in the Bake-Off (*casts a knowing glance at Paul Hollywood and says nothing*). “Desserts” being code for “things that, to be honest, don’t really require any baking but we need to pad out the tie-in book, and what better way to do it than with a picture of Beca looking down glumly at her flabby iles flottantes?”. Last year it was one of my favourite weeks, as Brendan won Star Baker by getting his Dacquoise out, and mercifully there was an entire sweets based episode in which I could drool over everything, as the show removed my arch-pudding-nemesis, SPONGE. Unfortunately this year they dove straight in with…

2. TRIFLE. FUCKING TRIFLE. THE WORST DESSERT IN THE WORLD. THE ONLY DISH TO LOOK MORE APPEALING AND COHERENT COMING BACK UP THAN IT DOES GOING DOWN. LAYER UPON LAYER OF TEXTURES THAT DO NOT GO TOGETHER. SLOPPY, GLOPPY, MUSHY, DRIPPING, LUMPY, SLIPPERY, DIRTY EVIL TRIFLE. Ahem. Really the only good thing about this week’s Signature Bake being trifle is that it prompted amongst my gang of peers a brief spate of nostalgia for that episode of Friends where Rachel put beef (and peas and onions) in the trifle. Truly it was the “Del Boy Falls Through The Bar” of my generation. The major theme amongst the contestants though in terms of trifle, or at least amongst the women, was “tropical”. Ruby made a Desert Island trifle (coconuts, mangos, rum, bananas) complete with Palmtree Ladyfingers (#dragqueennames), Beca laced her trifle with the Caribbean combo of orange and ginger, Christine‘s was inspired a pina colada, and Deborah made her trifle chocka with mangos. Less tropical was the topping, which frankly looked like she’d topped it with Aquafresh, as only befits a special-needs dentist. Of course this was all rendered moot with her frantic wielding of a plant-spritzer filled with cointreau. Frankly I would have put her through to the next round on that alone… Less adventurous though, were the men. Glenn basically stole one of Mary Berry’s recipes and pretended he never, Mark cheated like a dirty cheater by using CORNFLOUR (*gasp*) to thicken his custard, Rob just made a big bowl of custard with two wedges of sponge and some manky rhubarb at the bottom and Howard (who works for the council) sighed down the camera that he doesn’t really care for jelly. I bet he was a joy at parties as a kid, sat in the corner with his packet of pumpkin seeds refusing to get on the bouncy castle because it gave him vertigo. (BLOG FAVOURTE). Where’s the TESTOSTERONE? Last year John did this entire episode with a hangover and flashing his torso at Mary Berry. WHERE’S YOUR JAMES DEAN BAKING SPIRIT?

3. Of course the most fun to be had from the Trifle Round was the mystery of “Who Stole Howard‘s Custard?”. Prefaced by a “Getting To Know You” shot of Howard jogging gloomily through an overcast Sheffield council estate in green flannel shorts (actually his jogging resembled Kimberley‘s salsa dancing from her own “Getting To Know You” clip almost exactly, and I’m not sure who that speaks more ill of…), we were thrown right into the middle of the missing custard, with Mark whistling like Moriarty as the red herring suspect. Of course this is Great British Bake-Off, so rather than a long drawn-out whodunnit ending in Deborah being fingered as the culprit when a small quantity of dental floss is found at the scene of the crime, she admitted it practically immediately and simpered her apologies to Howard with watery eyes from behind her ample fringe and promised she never meant it and she’d do anything to make it up to him. Of course being beset by actual calamity prompted a great big shit-eating grin on Howard‘s normally dour face. Seriously, I’ve never seen him look so happy. Such an Eeyore. Howard spent the rest of the challenge revelling in his own misfortune, making Deborah run round fetching him spoons and knives like his flappy harrassed PA. Howard‘s misery was only made complete and soul-touchingly satisfying when it turned out that his custard had been AMAZING and Deborah’s custard (which she’d let him use to replace his own) was ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING. Or, as Paul Hollwood would have it “slack custard”, words I hope never to hear again in combination, from his mouth or any other. Howard GRINNING “I just want to get one uneventful bake out the way” down the camera-lens, clearly loving being wrapped ever-tighter in his foggy cloak of misery, was my moment of the series so far.

4. This week’s “History Bit” was the story of Hannah Glass, who wrote a cookbook. Hannah Glass was some rich woman from the 1760s who threw her virtue and wealth away after some bit of rough soldier, but then decided that whilst she didn’t mind shagging a navvy in a ditch, she was going to make DAMNED sure she had a decent creme caramel on the side whilst she did so. She’s not a SAVAGE. This story was presented as the triumph of the proletariat and high-end cookery being made accessible to the masses. The fact that it was mostly presented through the lens of “what can you teach your servants to do?” undercut this somewhat. Actually, to be fair, the point of the segment was mostly getting Mel to eat jelly made out of the feet of a calf and pull faces. I’m not sure why, because who doesn’t feel comforted by the last words being said to them before they eat jelly being “don’t worry, it’s not that bad, it doesn’t taste that meaty!”? Thankfully of course today we make our jelly out of far more appetising ingredients. Mostly pig skin and horse bones isn’t it?

5. Look, I told you all at the start of the series that Ali was the hot one. Don’t act surprised now when you find yourself intoxicated by his chunky red knits, wide-eyed innocence, history of charity fund-raising, trifle-savant ways (He’d never made one before! And it was perfect! Well apart from having too much filling but…what woman ever complained that a man overstuffed her trifle?), and long pianist’s fingers. It’s so sad that EL James got the casting for 50 Shades Of Grey so very wrong this week. Ali would have made a perfect…well not Christian, let’s be honest, but give him a shave and throw a decent wig on him and he would have made a perfect Anastasia Thinly-Drawn or whatever her name is.

6. This week’s Technical Bake? “Iles Flottantes”. Or, apparently “snow eggs”. Which sounds a bit like what you’ve found when you discover dog poo in the middle of a snowdrift, but ok. Iles Flottantes apparently are marshammlowy meringues floating in custard with spun sugar on top. Cue a montage of all the contestants going “what?” “…I’ve heard of them…I think”, and generally making out like they were about to hurl themselves out the GBBO marquee window. All of them apart from Glenn, who apparently is an Iles Flottantes aficionado, and won the challenge handily, as more or less everyone else crashed and burned around him. Ali I think spent the entire contest just staring at everyone else, panicking that he wasn’t using the same pans they were, or that they were quinelling with more finesse than he was, or that his snow eggs were too small in comparison. We’ve all been there haven’t we guys? Of course he needn’t have worried, because in the end it turned out they were all doing it wrong as well. Beca‘s iles were far too big (she protested noisily that she’d been given the wrong size spoons *eyes to Deborah*), Frances dotted her iles with little nipples of spun sugar rather than beautiful strands (maybe she was being WACKY AND WHIMSICAL again? Otherwise it was a slow episode for her), and Howard decided he had time to bin his entire bake halfway through and start again. Yeah…they don’t really design these challenges to give you time to do that Howard. Holding up the honour of the iles alongside Glenn though were Rob, Christine and…oh yes, Ruby.

7. Oh Ruby Ruby Ruby (ah ah ah ah ah ah). Who would recognise your Week 1 performance (when you nearly went home) now? Star Baker last week and either 2nd or 3rd this week, suddenly you seem like a contender. Personally I would credit it to your donning of the hoop ear-rings of your tribe (the Essex Girl) as suddenly your mewls of protestation over not knowing what you’re doing, not having prepared, and not being entirely sure what a brownie even technically is are prefacing perfect bakes and delightful flavour combinations, rather than floury abortions and tearful fits in the corner, complete with hugs from Sue. All whilst revising for her philosophy exams (can you revise for philosophy exams? Do you do it just by sitting there and thinking about the universe and shutting out all thoughts of gingerbread?) How long can it last? More specifically how long can it last before it gets kind of annoying? I do miss emo Ruby a little….

8. The SHOWSTOPPER challenge was…petits fours. Not sure what show you could stop with Petits Fours. Maybe those little art-house films they sometimes show after Channel 4 news called things like “Trigger Warning” or “Dude, Where’s My Syria?”. 12 of the petits fours were to be sponge based, and 12 to be biscuit based. Whether they had to be buttery-biscuit based was not recorded. The fun sides of both Frances and Howard emerged strongly in this challenge, with Frances presenting her Nutcracker Suite themed petit-fours on a giant vinyl record, with the further theme of Nutcrackers and Sugar-Plum Fairies, and Howard choosing to do the only savoury bake of the week in the theme of…well I’ll let the man describe it himself in his own words :

“I’m doing one which is based on cheese and biscuits. It’s essentially a cheesy biscuit”.

What a star. It also contained quince paste.

Going into this round it was Beca who needed the most benediction, having performed averagely and poorly in the two previous rounds. Fortunately her redemption came via the world’s weeniest macaroons, each about the size of a thumbprint, dinked on the top of her petits fours. In particular they compared favourably with Rob‘s which were matt-dull and wonky, and Mark‘s which were….yeah. They looked pre-chewed. Other individual highlights were Glenn’s Orange Financiers (sadly missing the intended gold-leafing), Kimberley’s lemon bergamot biscuits, and Ruby‘s White Chocolate Lemon Shortbreads.

9. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been keeping an eye on Christine. Hovering eternally in the background, being about 5th or 6th best in every single challenge. It was only a matter of time until she had her breakout moment, and this truly was her time to shine. Aided by handmade tools created by her husband, which were ostensibly to help her make her “bradysnap 99ers” but which in reality looked more like antique wooden butt-plugs. Christine‘s break-out was actually mostly pretty low-key, and really just consisted of her calmly saying what she was about to do and why, and then doing it, which never makes for the MOST exciting television, but on the other hand it looks like she’s stood in the middle of an apocalyptic wasteland of a bakestation praying to the God Of Crisps, so hopefully she’s here to stay.

10. And finally, to this week’s eliminees. Yes, after a whole three episodes worth of nagging, Paul and Mary finally snapped, like a couple of parents snapping and going “YES, ALRIGHT, WE’LL GO TO ALTON TOWERS! JESUS CHRIST, IT’S 3AM, GO TO BED!”, and let Mel & Sue have their double elimination. After last week’s shake-up in the bake-off, it was slightly comforting to see a return to form with both Deborah (who, despite obvious baking potential, failed to produce one completely decent bake across three episodes) and Mark (who was noticably coasting solely on being able to follow the recipes in the technical bakes and fell to pieces the minute they got more than slightly complex) getting the boot. Deborah at least can go home happy in the knowledge that by stealing his custard she gave Howard a moment of pure bliss and also that she has a cute baby and this year’s surprisingly Hot Husband. I’m just saying. If Deborah‘s Hot Husband was my Hot Husband, my custard would be slack as well. Mark…well he seemed undefeated by his time on the Bake Off, he’s got that going for him. I think his time on the show can best be summed up with his words following the technical challenge :

“I don’t know how to spin sugar, I can’t make a creme anglaise, and I’ve never poached a meringue in my life”.

I just…were you expecting to win this?

Next Week : Steve blogs all the pies, Steve blogs all the pies, MEL MAKES PUNS, SUE PULLS FACES, Steve blogs all the pies.


20 thoughts on “The Great British Bake-Off 4 – Episode 3 : Desserts

    1. Penny

      The answer to that last question is #onlastsaturdayspointlesscelebritiesoniplayer

      (But John was wearing one of those deep V neck Tshirts that I don’t like on men, and some other chap was with him, not James)

      1. monkseal Post author

        I’m sure if you wait…ooooh 5 minutes he’ll tweet that picture of himself with his shirt off again.

  1. Ferny

    I’m glad you agree with me about trifle (although I do like sponge). I just …can’t eat it. Especially if it has sprinkles on top because then it’s just mush with crunchy bits in it. What’s to like?

    All aboard the Howard train!

  2. Soph

    Trifle is amazing, you’re all wrong.
    I fell in love with Howard when I saw him run. There’s a child who was always picked last for team sports.

  3. katy

    Trifle. Evil.
    Ladyfingers should be enjoyed crisp. And without custard. Urgh.

    Glad I wasn’t the only one who saw an antique but plug being paraded around the tent,

  4. DeltaBlues

    Hmmm, this year’s series is a slow burn. I mean, it’s still fabulous because it’s GBBO, obvs, but elbowing a muffin and stealing Howard’s custard…it’s no Cathryn and the Green Carpet.

    I don’t have an out-and-out favourite yet but with the demise of Mark, who was dull and couldn’t bake (always a slight disadvantage in a, you know, baking competition) and Deborah who annoyed me for the sole – and completely irrational – reason that she reminded me of the mardy mum-nurse in recent BBC drama Frankie, I’m not far off the point where I don’t really want any of the others to leave. Assuming Frances winds in the whimsy.

    1. monkseal Post author

      I think with Deborah and Mark gone we are definitely left with 9 people who’ve all done very well in at least one week. Ali and Beca maybe haven’t scaled the HEIGHTS yet, but they’re both likable enough that it doesn’t really matter. I’m guessing Two Women + Rob in the final at the moment.

  5. Josh

    I loved how poor Deborah slowly descended into an irrational, terrifying mess by the end of the episode. I reckon Howard put something in her drink as revenge for the custard incident.

    And its nice that someone else hates trifle as much as I do!

    1. monkseal Post author

      This is what you get for messing with Howard’s shit. You wait til you see the slow hex he’s put on Sue for elbowing him in the muffins.

  6. Lizbet

    Don’t trifle with me or ice cream…

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Don’t get the trifle hate myself, but on the other hand, what was with poached meringue in custard? It looked vile.

    The right people left this week, although I’ll miss Deborah’s thieving ways (and look of abject hangdog horror afterwards).

    Love Howard too, and Kimberley. Frances is a little intense (read: creepy) – I’m looking forward to seeing whether the intensity manifests as ‘running amok with a rolling pin’ when the pressure builds later in the series.

    Thanks Monseal, your blog is, as always, essential reading!

    1. monkseal Post author

      I don’t find Frances particularly intense, although then again I don’t find Frances particularly anything. Although I did get a STRONG urge to correct the wikipedia page that has her as one of the best non-winning bakers of the week. ERM, SHE FLUNKED THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE AND HER TRIFLE WAS SHIT, SO I DON’T THINK SO WIKIPEDIA.

      But I guess she spent three hours making a cardboard vinyl record at home beforehand, so that makes it alright.

      Yeah, like I said, no strong feelings either way.

  7. Isolde

    Trifle’s fine if you like that kind of thing, but it has no place in a baking competition.
    My recipe – open a packet of sponge fingers.
    Open a packet of jelly – add hot water
    Open a tin of custard (Birds)
    Open a pot of cream.
    Top with hundreds and thousands.
    Do NOT bake

  8. Neio

    When Howard’s custard went missing, for a moment I thought there was going to be a reality TV crossover, and Aliona from Strictly would turn out to be responsible!


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