No vicars though.
1. We opened this week with the sad news that Diana had been forced to leave the Bake-Off because she had taken ill. Which was the tasteful way that the show as live put it, but of course if you’ve lived through the last week of madness you’ll know that the BBC Press Department needed to sate(/stir up) the sort of bloodthirst and desire for revenge that you don’t normally see outside of The Gaza Strip or a Jumpin Jaks in Doncaster on a Friday night, and so we all now know the exact details of exactly how Diana severed something and how it may have left her permanently disabled. I’m surprised we didn’t see a full live re-enactment on Newsnight complete with arterial spurting. With Diana gone, it was left up to her three closest friends, who were apparently Luis, Nancy and Martha, to eulogise her. Nancy called her a lively character (the sort of thing that gets put on the school reports of the bloody annoying) and Martha called her her “grandma in the tent”. In fact Martha didn’t know what she’d do without her baking nana and seemed to be in a bit of a tizz all episode. Iain on the other hand could be heard in the distance popping open champagne and noisily singing some choice Bananarama.
2. But, after a passive aggressive lol-reminder from Mel NOT TO THROW YOUR PIES IN THE BIN LIKE A CRYBABY LOSER OR ANYTHING, we moved seamlessly on this week to less dramatic concerns than through ice-cream in the bin, to the question of pastry week. Called “pies and tarts” week for the purposes of advertising, because let’s face it, what we all needed after the most fraught week in Bake-Off history was to make a bunch of innuendo about Sue Perkins licking the gooseberries out of a tart. Given that you’d think that pastry would be a key weapon in the armoury of any baker, a lot of the contestants seemed quite afraid of having to complete such basic sounding tasks as “make a custard tart” or “make three pies and leave them in a heap”. Precocious Infant Supergenius Martha seemed particularly daunted, dismissing pastry as something you only make if you’re, like, really really really really really old and past it like Nancy. Or words to that effect. Frankly she’s lucky that at the point she said this Nancy was elbow deep in a crusty ring, otherwise she would have got a clip round the ear-hole.
3. The first, Signature Challenge this week was to create the aforementioned custard tart. Of course the show wasn’t going to accept just *any* custard tart. We’re 5 weeks in now, so the fodder, the frivolous, the unstable and the Jordans have all been weeded out and we’re dealing with people operating at a SUPREME LEVEL OF BAKING. With this in mind Norman made a small concession in his War On Flavour by putting a wee bit of citrus in his, with the zest of quarter of a lemon (segment), to make it a tarte au Citron. Norman revealed that he first tried the tarte au citron in France 20 years ago, when he was 87, and he was so overcome by the exotica that he had to have three cold showers and take a bromide afterwards to recover. Poor Norman. It may have been a thrilling excursion for him, but in the eyes of Paul Hollywood who has travelled the world (HE WENT TO GREECE ONCE, DID HE MENTION IT?) it stood out as staid and unexciting in a sea of Pistachio, Apricot and Honey custard (Martha), chocolate custard passion fruit (Nancy), almond fig and orange (Richard) and dessicated coconut and, orange, lime and mangos (Luis). Luis named the latter his TROPICAL MANCHESTER TART in a bid to be ironically interesting that to be honest landed about as well as all Luis’ other more extravagant attempts to be interesting for anything other than his name (NO I STILL HAVEN’T FORGIVEN THOSE OLIVES WRAPPED IN GOLD-LEAF AND I NEVER WILL). To add insult to injury, Paul dismissed the end-product as a mess, although to be it did look a bit like Norman had tried to apply a thin layer of icing sugar by running a pound of Tate & Lyle through a leaf-blower and wound up taking off half the crust in the process. That said, for a round that should have been simple on paper, there was a high proportion of disasters – Richard had seepage and no flavour, Chetna had chewy rice, Paul couldn’t taste Kate’s rhubarb (maybe Sue had got at it first?) and Martha had wetness, dullness, raw pastry and unpleasant flavours. Really only Luis and Nancy emerged with unfettered praise, as Paul expressed shock and delight that they’d managed to pack so much flavour into such a shallow pastry circle. Because normally ladies, it takes a really deep ring to fully satisfy Paul Hollywood *wink*.
4. It should be mentioned that utter barrage of criticism that Martha faced for every single aspect of her disastrous tart induced the first time that Martha actually seemed like the young person she is, rather than some sort of insanely self-possessed (if a little quiet) wunderkind, as she sat wet-faced through everyone else’s critique and sniffled her way through the post-challenge interview. As much as it might be a little unkind to say so, I’m glad that she’s finally showing a little vulnerability and humanity, because it makes it much easier to feel less bad about my own cooking capabilities at the ages of 16 which if I remember ran to a lot of recipes that ended in “n sauce”. And of course she came right back and aced the next two challenges anyway lol.
5. This week’s History Bit (which incidentally, am I just becoming one of those people who rattle on about how tiny Mars Bars have got, or are they definitely getting shorter. By episode 9 I’m guessing it’ll just be Sue running full-pelt past the camera carrying a 600 year-old Swiss Roll yelling WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!) focused on how it used to be traditional for a man to smash a cake over his wife’s head “for good luck”, a tradition presumably started off by Evil Trevor from EastEnders. Sometimes, if the bride was extra “good luck”y one of the cakes would contain lamb testicles and a jagged glass ring that signified who would be next to get married. HOORAY! The segment also featured Mel thoughfully slapping an artichoke on her palm and saying aloud how much it reminded her of a penis. I’m not sure whether to feel proud or ashamed for Mr Giedroyc to be honest.
6. The technical challenge this week was one of Paul’s recipe for a change. Reports that he sat in his dressing room and pouted until the producers caved in are unfinalised. The recipe in question was for mini pear pies, which contained actual poached pears, wrapped in a tightly-wound spiral of pastry. Clearly this week was set up to provide redemption for Luis after the clagggy pastry floating in piss that enveloped the poached pears he produced last week. It didn’t really work though, as he finished in the bottom 2 for the rawness of his pear, just being pipped by Norman, who also produced a raw pear. You might think Paul’s nitpicking of Norman reached its height with his saying that his pastry wrapping for his pear was only “thinnish” and not “thin” but I couldn’t possibly comment. The undisputed worst in show though was Richard whose poached pears (also rare) appeared to have done some sort of dance of the seven veils in the oven, flinging their pastry across the baking tray like discarded scarves. Not that it really bothered Richard – he clearly just sees the technical bakes as an opportunity to scrounge ingredients down his apron from the Showstopper later. Ruling the roost at the other end were Chetna and a now dry-eyed Martha.
7. Now whilst Martha’s Redemption Arc this episode was an obvious one, Chetna’s victory in the technical bake was ALSO a redemption of sorts as apparently until now, Paul Hollywood has considered her to be the Queen Of Flavours (amount of camera time given to this designation so far : 0) which you think would be quite important in a competition where getting things to taste quite nice is at least 5% of the final aim. Then she failed in the Signature Bake by producing a tart with very little flavour (amount of camera time given to this : about 5 seconds) before coming roaring back in the technical and showstopper challenges with full-flavoured masterpieces (amount of camera time given to this : as little as possibly could around celebrating that Martha wasn’t crying any more so we can put her down for nap-time). This is all to say that I think Chetna is being thoroughly Dr Danny’d by the editors and deserves far more air-time to tell her story and I’m not at all saying this because she favourite’d my tweets twice and also I got told I WAS HER in a buzzfeed quiz. JUSTICE FOR CHETNA – QUEEN OF THE FLAVOURS.
8. The Showstopper Challenge was to make a tier of pies that went at least three deep. Mary told us all that if the bakers felt like it they could make more pies than that if they wanted to. In fact, when she left them, they could pie 96 tiers! (*rim shot*) (*ahem*) (*joke for the swinging oldies there*) (*cough*). Luis in fact actually took Mary up on her challenge and made a grand total of(*drumroll*)…………FOUR PIES. To create Luis’ FOUR FRUITY SEASONS TOWER. The twist was the pies were meat pies. I don’t know when Luis started giving me bad Frances Quinn PTSD flashback but here we are. Each pie also represented one of the four seasons, because reasons. Actually to be fair a lot of the bakers were taking the opportunity to theme their pies with Richard going for pies inspired by classic builders’ favourites (because he is a BUILDER who BUILDS with his meticulous construction and his pencil behind his ear and his pears he nicked from the challenge before) and Martha going for pies themed around the Three Little Pigs (ie they all had pork in them). This prompted Mel to tell Martha that she was going to “huff and puff and blow her pie”. A rare show of unprofessionalism from Mel there, as she accidentally read that off Sue’s autocue. From where she was talking to Kate. Later that night in the Newbury Holiday Inn. Nood. Pick of the pies in this round were Martha (despite a little bit of what Sue called “fat weepage”), Chetna, Nancy (with a variety of apple pies all baked without benefit of a tin thank you very much). Oh and this week’s Star Baker, Kate.
9. To be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to Kate’s final set of pies because it had prunes in it. Prunes and rhubarb. I could feel my bowels loosening just looking at it, and that’s not why I watch the Great British Bake Off. On the whole, Kate seemed to win Star Baker (dream maker, love taker, don’t you mess around with me) by putting in two solid but unspectacular performances followed by a great showstopper in a week when everyone else messed up at least once (except Nancy, but since when did Nancy get nuff respect these days?) which is never the most exciting end to an episode. Really for me the moment Kate truly *earned* the mantle of Star Baker was when she helped a despairing Martha serve up with her custard tart, which came out of the oven in a parlous state of repair and didn’t get much better. After last week’s sabotage and shenanigans, it was nice to see a moment of togetherness in the tent that came from someone other than Mel & Sue.
10. So who left then? Despite the fact that arguably Richard deserved it based on his overall performance this week, Norman left the bake-off tent, leaving the nation bereft of the cuddly Scottish Grand-dad figure we never knew was missing from out lives. Happily he managed to get one last shot in in the War On Flavour as he left, as he struck where the judges would be expecting it least. FLAVOUR OVERLOAD. Yes all this time in his war bunker Norman had been holding back a lavender nuke, so powerful that it left both Paul and Mary feeling like they’d been placed on kidney dialysis but had all their blood pumped out and replaced with pot pourri. Norman placed this flavour-bomb in his “Piefful Tower” (always respect a supervillain with a punning weapon of war, like Marvin The Martian or Mao Zedong) then stood well back, resting assured that Paul and Mary had just had their taste buds so wrecked that for the rest of the competition the remaining bakers would have to produce so bland that it would make Findus Crispy Pancakes taste exotic, lest a rogue salt crystal on the tongue send them into toxic shock. Rest well Norman.
EXTRA SLICE : Iranians aren’t very bakey.
Next week : Steve and I are on holiday, so the recap will probably take bloody ages to go up. It’ll be about European stuff though apparently *shrug*