Roll up, roll up.
1. First of all, an apology of sorts. I know you were all expecting Chris to be doing this week’s blog post, but you’ve got me (Steve) again instead. Don’t worry: he’s not ill, and he hasn’t run off to join the circus, but for various operational reasons we decided that it would be a very good idea for me to take this week’s write-up duties and for Chris to take next week’s. All will become clear once you’ve seen next week’s episode and read the accompanying blog post. Hopefully, anyway.
2. Bread week began with the challenge to bake 12 identical rye bread rolls for Paul and Mary to judge mercilessly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, rye flour was unfamiliar territory for the likes of Diana, while naturally a tree-hugging Brighton dweller like Kate was extremely evangelical about it. I learned in this section that rye breads can often involve ingredients such as treacle, cocoa or honey to take the edge off. And to think some of you turned your noses up at this episode for being a savoury week. One of the more experimental recipes was Luis‘s Opposites Attract rolls, which were made out of one pale dough (made from fennel and parsnip) and one dark dough (carrot, coffee and chocolate), which definitely sounded a bit upchucky on paper but ended up getting rave reviews from Paul and Mary. This was also an interesting round in that some of the designated frontrunners like Richard, Martha and Nancy stumbled slightly (albeit in all three cases all they did wrong was take their rolls out of the oven a little too early), thus giving some of the other contestants a chance at glory: Iain finally got some good notices for his cranberry and walnut rolls, and Kate was quite possibly top of the pile with her orange and cardamom knots.
3. And now for a new, potentially recurring, segment that I like to call “Is Mel Turning Into Mary Berry?”
Our study’s results are inconclusive, but they do appear to be shopping in the same stores these days. We resolve to bring you more on this story as it develops.
4. After the triumphant return of The History Bit last week, it brings me absolutely no pleasure to relate that this week’s edition was woefully inadequate.
SUE: Oh hey there, Food Historian, tell me something about wigs!
FOOD HISTORIAN: *makes exact same hairpiece-related joke that Sue made 15 seconds ago*
SUE: No, seriously.
FOOD HISTORIAN: I thought I was your new Mel? Oh, fine: wigs are a kind of fortified bread with spices.
SUE: Great, let’s make some!
FOOD HISTORIAN: K!
SUE VOICEOVER: Samuel Pepys ate a wig once.
SUE: Wow, it’s just like a hot cross bun!
I was half expecting Sue to cut the bun open and display the words “will this do?” written in cloves. Come on guys, I know you’re not on BBC Two any more but that doesn’t mean you have to devolve The History Bit to the level where the role of the expert could be played by Cherry Healey (HER NAME IS AN INGREDIENT AND EVERYTHING!). Must try harder, see me after class.
5. For the technical challenge, the contestants were instructed to bake four ciabatta loaves with “big visible airholes” on the inside (a line that would totally be going in Innuendo Corner if we were having one this week, but more on that in a minute). Possibly in a bid to make up for The History Bit being so short and shit this week, this challenge also included a brief commentary on how ciabatta was invented because the Italians got jealous of the French baguettes stealing all the attention. Ah, Europe. Paul Hollywood, bless him, appears to still be under the illusion that he can pull off “stern, aloof, man of few words” rather than the “pretentious tit” it invariably comes out as, and offered the contestants two words of advice: be patient. This turned out to be rather crucial, as a key part of the process was deciding how long to leave the dough to prove for. Martha, Nancy, Iain and Richard (and possibly some others) all made the mistake of putting theirs in the proving drawer, which Sue revealed via voiceover would – horror of horrors – overactivate the dough, meaning that it would rise but not retain its shape. Indeed, pretty much everyone seemed distrusting of Paul’s instructions to let the dough prove “at room temperature” – I particularly enjoyed Chetna obeying the letter but not the spirit by hunting around the tent looking for the sunniest spot to put it in. There followed an endurance challenge worthy of Survivor as everyone stood around trying to psych each other out and see who’d be the first to give in and start working their dough. In the end, it was Jordan who cracked first and Kate who held her nerve the longest, in case anyone’s keeping score out there. Results-wise, Paul sneered that Chetna had accidentally made a pitta instead of a ciabatta, and Jordan, Iain and Richard delivered similarly flat efforts and found themselves at the back of the pack along with Diana. Top honours went to (in ascending order) Martha, Luis and Kate, who after a couple of weeks of UTR competence has suddenly emerged as a genuine contender, which is always fun.
6. Not nearly as much fun, however, as the budding showmance of Sue and Kate, which has been taking shape for some time now and basically moved up a gear to full-on flirting in this episode. The catalyst for this? None other than Mary Berry who, during the rye bread round, casually remarked that someone as slender as Kate would surely find it difficult to work the dough. This prompted Kate to show off her guns for (the judges and) Sue, and for Sue to remark that she has “the face of a wood-nymph and the body of Ryan Gosling”. This was then further developed in the ciabatta round when Kate finally got her dough out (STEADY) and Sue declared “that is bubblicious, girl!” – which we can clearly all recognise as the sort of mortifyingly embarrassing thing that a person would only ever say to another person who they really fancy and want to look cool in front of. And there was also the moment when Kate came first in the technical challenge and Sue piped up all “THAT’S BECAUSE SHE WAS THE MOST PATIENT JUST LIKE PAUL SAID, GO ON SIR, GIVE HER A GOLD STAR!” Honestly you two: just kiss. John Barrowman did it at the Commonwealth Games, I’m sure you can do it on the Bake Off.
7. We all know that Norman’s days in this competition are numbered, so let’s just enjoy the time we have left. This week I particularly enjoyed him saying, entirely seriously, that he’s “no Heston Blumenthal”, his failed attempt at flirting with Mel as they played around with his temperature gauge, and that time when he pronounced it “semo-liner”. I don’t understand, but I love it.
8. The showstopper challenge was to make a filled loaf, or a bread centrepiece if you prefer. Kate decided to make a prosciutto, coriander and olive bread, which Paul remarked was VERY GREEK, THAT’S THE SORT OF THING YOU SEE IN GREECE ALL THE TIME, LIKE I SAW WHEN I LIVED IN GREECE FOR SIX YEARS AND BAKED BREAD IN GREECE, DID I MENTION I KNOW ALL ABOUT GREECE? *Kate suddenly regrets literally every aspect of this decision*. Luis drew upon his Spanish roots again to make a roscón, and while I was impressed by his imagination and ambition, I’m afraid he lost me with the golf leaf (no) and all the olives (NO). Jordan, bless him, took complete leave of his senses and made strawberry and raspberry cheesecake brioche, on the grounds that he likes all of them individually so clearly they’d be even better together. This was the same reasoning that led to my ill-fated Bacon Nintendo Games Greg Rutherford Casserole, in case anyone’s wondering. It’s not that I couldn’t see where he was coming from, but the fact that he didn’t seem to register at any point that this was a terrible horrible no-good very bad idea suggested that his time might well be up this week. Pinwheels were popular, with both Richard and Diana going for them, while Martha betrayed her Waitrose cheese counter origins by baking an Époisses cheese into the middle of hers. I was not familiar with Époisses prior to watching this episode, but apparently it’s so pungent that it’s banned on public transport in France. Martha learned this the hard way (in the UK) when she took it on a train and was officially charged with an act of terrorism. She was planning to bake it into a sunflower-shaped loaf where the petals would alternate apricot and fig chutney, but then got into a bit of a flap mid-bake and couldn’t remember which ones were which, meaning that the end result had apricots next to apricots and figs next to figs. She’ll never be able to show herself at the local Flower And Produce Show again after a gaffe like that. The other Memorable Martha Moment from this challenge was when she removed her dough from the proving drawer and remarked “it’s looking huge” only for nearly everyone on Twitter to mishear that as “it’s fucking huge!” I know this show’s let the odd big-bollocked squirrel slip past the censors in the past, but I don’t think it would let a prominent top-tear swear out on BBC1 at 8:42pm, especially from someone not yet old enough to vote. Richard and Iain did well, while Norman’s chicken and vegetable picnic loaf was too safe and bland again (and also about 30% raw dough). The biggest heartbreaker of all though was Kate learning that her loaf was completely raw in the middle and seeing her dreams of Star Baker glory shatter right in front of her eyes. (Although I guess narratively it made a nice counterpart to last week’s moment where several bakers who were on the verge of elimination saved themselves at the last minute with a showstopper.)
9. After such a tragic fall at the final hurdle, the race for Star Baker (you’ve got the best of me, but I just keep on comin’ back incessantly) was suddenly wide open again, and clearly my opinions on olives and gold leaf aren’t shared by Paul and Mary as Luis received the honours this time around. To be fair, anyone who thinks to use a parsnip in their baking and actually manages to make something edible out of it deserves the prize for sheer chutzpah.
10. The elimination, predictably enough, came down to Jordan or Norman, and despite Paul and Mary’s general concern over Norman’s conservative tastes in foodstuffs, ultimately Jordan didn’t have a single good round this week (whereas Norman at least managed fourth in the ciabatta round), so Captain Chaos won’t be joining us next week. Mostly I feel bad about the slightly myopic piece of editing at the end of the episode where Mary’s piece to camera about how she is “really sad that Jordan’s gone” was followed almost immediately by Luis squealing “I’M TOTALLY ECSTATIC!” Dude, he’s not even cold yet. (Actually, it was pissing down throughout this episode so they were probably all cold all weekend. But you know what I mean.)
EXTRA SLICE: Paul Hollywood smells like cinema hotdogs.
Next week: you’re definitely getting Chris back, honest. Also: puddings and a “sort of unacceptable” meltdown.