A traybake is a thing you bake on a tray.
1. This week’s episode of Great British Bake Off began with Mel & Sue wandering around the grounds of Harptree Court musing about whipping one another. And they barely bothered to make it an innuendo about baking either. Just openly discussing sado-masochistic sexual fetishes at 8:03pm on BBC Two. We haven’t seen the like since that set of questions reserved for Late Night University Challenge (which really DOES feature one team sat on top of the other) accidentally found their way into the box for the main show by mistake. Between this, Sue elbowing Howard in the muffins and, later in this very episode, Mel violently up-ending Frances‘ stack, it seems like maybe this whole series was in fact a surreptitious show-reel from the two of them to try to get cast as the leads in 50 Shades Of Grey : THE MOVIE! Ah well, Hollywood can keep its Charlie Hunnams and its…erm…the girl ones, and there’s still time for the pair of them to be used as the character models for 50 Shades Of Grey : THE MOVIE! : The Puzzlebook. No mystery where the 8’s going in that Suddoku.
2. This week’s signature bake was “traybakes”. I think was the first week for a while we haven’t had a contestant loathe and despise the form of baking they’ve been asked to participate in. This may be because “traybake” is so broad as to be basically the “free swim” of the Bake Off, or maybe because we’ve now lost all the contestants (*cough*Mark*cough*Ali*cough*) who appeared to be doing the show on a bet (“MERINGUE? WHAT’S A MERINGUE? I THOUGHT IT WAS A TYPE OF HAT?!”). My own personal highlight of the round was, as ever, Howard, who was making a breakfast-themed flapjack. This was mostly because he glumly bigged up his own approach to life and baking as being “rustic”, when I can’t imagine a less rustic human being than Howard (he works for the council). I try to imagine Howard in the countryside, and I just envision him trying to hold a picnic with a friend (called Jean) in the torrential rain, both of them huddling under the same inadequate umbrella until a swarm of wasps descends on them and chases Howard (in his flannel green jogging shorts, limbs flailing like he’s got a pin hinge instead of knees and elbows) directly into the path of a grumpy bull. Also it was a highlight partially for the way Howard said “puffed oats”. A joy. Also partially because when Mary told him that it sounded really healthy, because the main flavour was grapefruit, Howard wrung his hands and cackled that actually it’s full of butter and sugar and will probably kill someone with type II diabetes on the spot. Such a miserable little Eeyore ❤
3. Oh yeah, there are people on this show other than Howard. Ahem. Beca made Hazelnut & Chocolate Brownies, which she described (at 8:06pm on BBC 2) as being “pimped up” by the addition of cherries. I smell a spin-off in the works : “Pimp My Brownies feat. Beca & Xzibit”. Additionally, Christine (mixed berry and almond), Kimberley (cherry and FIVE DIFFERENT KINDS of chrry) and Ruby (blackberry and lemon) all tried to make Bakewell Tarts, of which Christine and Kimberley‘s came out fine and Ruby‘s…well, let’s let her announce them in her own words.
“I’d like to apologise for my (*sneer, speak to the walls of the marquee*) “Blackberry Bakewell”. (*sympathetic, mildly yearning look from Sue*). It’s messy and it’s underbaked. The pastry’s awful as well, I’ll tell you that now” (*fiddles with hair, looks sad*)
That’s right, this week, after three consecutive weeks in the Top Two, EMO-RUBY came roaring back, sullen, awkward, and shuffling her feet. It’s alright though, Sue was there to lend a sympathetic ear(/gentle but firm gripping of the wrists combined with gentle massage of the ulnar artery*). In Ruby‘s defence though she did have her Philosophy exams in the same week as this episode aired and it takes a lot of revision and hard work to write “because” as the answer to everything. Also suffering following a tricky week at home was Glenn who had had a hard week at school, and apparently responded by filling a saucepan with chocolate and butter for his Signature Bake. We’ve all been there. Paul described the results as “grotesque”. Glenn sadly did respond by squeaking “WELL I THINK YOU’RE GROTESQUE PAUL HOLLYWOOD, THERE I SAID IT!” and then running off crying into his pinny. 15 year olds are BITCHES.
4. I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss Frances in a bullet point all of her own, because she and her whimsical ways are apparently swiftly becoming the antagonist of this series. I have no problem with her on a personal level (I like a good fringe on a woman) but I have to admit the whimsy is starting to grind me down. Mostly because, on reflection, it’s so half-baked (*Sue Perkins style corpse to camera*). Mel can sigh in voiceover about how Frances is HAVING ONE OF HER FUNNY IDEAS AGAIN, but then it turns out to be “putting banana into millionaire’s shortbread and sticking two bits of gold leaf to it” or “sticking some cupcakes onto a cardboard prop you brought in from home” or “sticking some breaksticks into a cardboard prop you brought in from home” or “putting two bits of bread near one another and pretending it’s a balloon”. When I want whimsy I want the WHOLE HOG, little individual eye-lashes drawn onto miniature bird figurines and all. Frances’ brand of proppery just doesn’t cut it in this post-Brendan world, and it’s kind of no surprise to me that when (*SPOILERS*) given a challenge where she was specifically asked to be whimsical, she fell to bits and looked a bit small-time.
5. It’s always a sign that a good History Bit is approaching when Mel announces a particular baking item as being UNMISTAKABLE AND ICONIC and then it pops up on camera and you’ve got absolutely no clue what it is. In this case, the UNMISTAKABLE AND ICONIC item of baking royalty with a wodge of sponge cake with ugly pink icing on the top. Apparently this is called a “Tottenham Cake”. Fortunately, despite the show’s teasing, the history angle was nothing much to do with the football club (other than that some players ate some once because they won a thing). Really I’m not very good at making football jokes and especially with Tottenham, where I get easily distracted by other factors (so handsome, so brooding, so maligned, look at him staring sadly out to sea, FUCK YOU CHELSEA, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU HAD AND I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW BACK IN THE ARMS OF YOUR PORTUGUESE WHORE!). Instead the focus was on poor persecuted Quakers (the Apple Mac users of the Christian world) who used to make the cake using the berries from the mulberry trees that grew on the grounds of their Tottenham headquarters. I still don’t really know what one is but…you go Quakers! Get down with your mildly smug and mostly justified sense of superiority!
6. This week’s Technical Bake was introduced was Mel making a reasonably good burn on Paul Hollywood by sending him off out to the tent to “start his salsa class”. She then trod on the line slightly by wafting her hands around her boobs and hissing “the shirt” in the exact same tone of voice your grandmother uses to say “gay”. Ah well. This week’s challenge? Tuile. 18 of them. Half unrolled, half rolled, all smothered in circles of chocolate. Those of you looking for a week of uplift following last week’s soggy collapsed scrambled egg custard tart disaster of a custard tart round probably came away disappointed, as Christine was the only one who came away totally clean, although Frances and Glenn also performed decently. Kimberley made a crap piping bag and burnt her twiles, Rob‘s were underbaked, Howard‘s were the consistency of wet tissue paper, Beca‘s were pale and thick and Ruby‘s? Again, I’m sure she can say it best.
“I will not be defeated by a sodding French biscuit” (*Sue flits around the edges vainly trying to engage Emo Ruby in conversation about Wittgenstein, because that is a philosopher that Sue has heard of and maybe Ruby will be her friend and they can wear berets and smoke gauloises together and Sue can tell Ruby that everything she bakes tastes great to her*)
Further joy was obtained during this segment was had by yelling “QUICK, CALL THE DAILY EXPRESS!” after Beca admitted making “Madeleine batter” at home. Go on, try it!
7. This week’s Showstopper Challenge was one that I loved whole-heartedly last year, and didn’t dare to dream could possibly come back again. And yet it has. Yes, it’s the ARCHITECTURAL CHALLENGE. The one where the contestants are asked to construct buildings out of biscuits. My mouth was already watering when Kimberley talked about 16 layers of Viennese Whirls and I was not disappointed (when they collapsed like Emo Ruby on coursework deadline day). The most beautiful excesses of creative madness were to be found in the works of Howard who created a Japanese pagoda using biscuits that tasted of four different types of tea, and Christine who made a Bavarian Clock Tower, complete with lemon-flavoured white frosting (the only time in life when you SHOULD eat the yellow snow) made entirely out of shortbread. You could sense Mary Berry seething on the sidelines as she muttered angrily about how Howard’s Japanese pagoda didn’t actually TASTE of anything, but it was too late. Howard’s biscuit tower was pretty, and that was enough to save him on a week when, by rights, he probably should have gone home. Also exciting were Beca, who created a pretty pink girly fantasia which she proclaimed was SO not her because she’s SUCH a tomboy (can’t say as I noticed), Glenn, who constructed a Helter Skelter that looked more like Marjorie The Trash Heap than a Helter Skelter, but which apparently tasted AMAZING and Emo-Ruby whose biscuit tower was constructed around the concept of a child’s dropped ice-cream. In fact Mary Berry looked at it and said that she wanted to take it, turn it upside-down and lick it. Sue looked like she agreed. (I so want both Howard and Emo-Ruby to both make the final and be declared joint winners and for the ensuing celebration to make a works leaving do for the antisocial temp who stole things look like a Bacchinalean orgy of joy). Less exciting was Frances who responded to a challenge asking for unbridled creativity by building a giant stack of buttons which collapsed 5 seconds before deadline when Mel tapped her ruler on the table a mite too hard. I definitely didn’t laugh. I definitely am now a bad person.
8. It is at this stage of the Bake-Off that you start to see the friendships that have formed between the contestants, like when Christine randomly offered to enter into a murder-suicide pact with Ali last week over his tragic departure. But the alliance between Glenn – harassed homosexual Head Of Sixth – and Abi – snarky combative Military Wife – has been brewing for a while. Last week we saw them watching agog as Mel & Sue tried to dislodge Howard fresh fig and feta filo flan from the worktop, practically holding hands, and this week they had a full on charming minute long pow-wow over the merits of dried raspberry powders (not many apparently) whilst Howard glumly sipped a mug of tea in the background. When he had a friend she stole his custard. He doesn’t see her much any more.
9. STAR BAKER was Christine, although really her journey to victory was overshadowed by the drama surrounding Frances, who was hyped up all episode as being on the verge of FINALLY winning Star Baker and proving she wasn’t all style and tree-whimsy and no substance and then blowing it at the last. In fact, in the end Glenn probably came closer. Baroque Shortbread clock tower aside, Christine’s rise to victory was mostly marked by stolid competence, as only befits the oldest competitor in the history of the Bake-Off. Hey, the The Great British Sewing Twee was won by a 174 year old woman. It could happen. Especially as nobody has ever won Star Baker twice and failed to make the final before (we’re not counting Jason because one of them was shared, so really it was more like one-and-a-half times for him).
10. Leaving the competition? Rob (much to the exagerated bafflement of Kimberley), apparently having met his pre-series aspirations of winning Star Baker, not being first out, and winning a technical challenge. You can tell he’s a scientist from the fact he arrived with a defined check-list of goals. I personally was pretty surprised as well, given the obvious angle the show could work around the appliance of science to bakery and molecular gastronomy and all that “snails wrapped in chorizo and suspended in a sphere of liquid blueberry” nonsense. In the end though, Rob’s technical background didn’t help him make things look right pretty and that, as he followed up the disaster that was “Paul The Psychic Octopus” this week with a neon blue Dalek held together with glue that was only about 75% edible. You could see in Mary’s face that the second she learnt that she couldn’t the Dalek’s…face-gun thing was just for decoration. In the end it probably didn’t even matter that his signature bake was raw to the core – nobody tells Mary Berry that she can’t like a Dalek’s plunger. She won’t have it. Of course she still stomped up to Howard and told him that he was very lucky to still be there, because that’s how Mary Berry do.
We close with one last line from Emo Ruby about her Showstopper, which ultimately saved her place in the show :
“I’m SO disappointed in myself because that bake had to save me and CLEARLY I’VE MESSED IT UP COMPLETELY” (*eye roll*)
Next week :
Steve tells you all about sweet doughs, Glenn’s had a haircut, Beca gets the booze out, and the crumpled frosted burnt leaves of autumn’s dreams continue to flicker across Ruby’s soul no doubt.