1. After the scandal of the SMILING MUSLIM in Week 1, and the revelation that Mad Madame Marie was a DIRTY RINGAH who trained in Paris and was head chef at a Michelin starred hotel restaurent and was already secretly the champion of the Great Australian Bake Off and also was Mel & Sue’s babysitter when they were Muppet Babies and I dunno, had an army of BBC cadets under the desk making all her cakes for her or whatever in Wk 2, it seemed like this week was going to be mercifully scandal free on what it is now officially Britain’s Biggest Show. Mercifully though, Mary Berry toddled into the Chris Evans studio and decided to blart out 11 hours before broadcast who was going to go home. Now of course, this is a minor scandal, because as Bake Off spoilers go, after her last two weeks of haphazardry “Dorret is going to go home” is up there with “the show is going to take place in a marquee”, “Mel will affect an unplacable Slavic accent” and “despite wearing mom-jeans, having frosted tips, and being fake-baked the colour of an actual burns victim, Paul Hollywood will still be the butchest thing on the programme by far”, but it did make me ponder a future of the show without Mary Berry. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she’s going to leave any time soon because, as many of my relatives can attest, even in the depths of Alzheimers the last thing to go is telling somebody their cooking is f****** atrocious and throwing them out of your tent. But there’s no escaping the fact that Mary Berry is an octogenarian, and even Brucie had to go (/be prised off his show with a crowbar, a bar of lard and a water cannon) from his show eventually. Which begs the following question/convenient excuse for a poll.
2. Also wasn’t it funny when the continuity announcer’s phone went off when he was announcing the show? Yes it was.
3. Bread Week then, which means two things – firstly I fill up at least two points before I start because bread is boring, and secondly…well, bread. The show tried to jazz up the Signature Bake by telling us that it featured a TYPE OF BREAD NEVER BEFORE SEEN ON THE BAKE-OFF…but then it turned out just to be bread that doesn’t have yeast in it, which a) is the best part and b) robbed us all of everyone’s favourite Bread Week moment – when they leave everything in a drawer overnight to prove, then go off on the piss and listen to Mary’s stories about that one time when she egged Delia Smith’s car. Or if you’re Holly from Series 2 stand there staring intensely at the drawer overnight because you’re such a type A perfecctionist. Probably. This so-called “quickbread” only takes 90 minutes to make, apparently, which felt barely worth doing to be honest. Apparently there are two secrets to the perfect quickbread – first your balance of buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda has to be right, and secondly, acccompanied by one of my favourite snarky editing comments of the series so far, you shouldn’t knead the dough, or your bread texture will become too dense.
D’OH. This was Nadiya and Mat, who were engaged in a Mexican stand-off of sorts, as both of their breads were full of the flavours of Mexico – tacos, marijuana, and rapis…oh no, wait, sorry, I left my keyboard unattended there and Donald Trump took over as guest blogger briefly. Mat filled his bread with salt, jalapenos and Mexican cheddar, and Nadiya with cumin and coriander. Sadly overworking things south of the border style cost both Nadiya and Mat, as Paul chided them both for their bread being too much like bread. And not soda bread. For shame. If this felt like nit-pickery on an epic scale then it’s because this was one of those rounds where everything went more or less right for most of the contestants. The only bakes that came in for fire of any sort from the judgery were Dorret, whose Waldorf Salad inspired loaf (and can I just say, I know people watch this show for a variety of food related porn reasons, and I have to say “bread inspired by a salad” is pretty much the furthest from mine) was low on flavour and too dense, and Sandy, whose bacon and onion loaf fell to bits as soon as you cut into it. Then again, Sandy claimed that you have to cut a cross in the top of bread to let the devil out, so it was fairly obvious that Bread Week wasn’t her bag from the off. She should be grateful that they edited out the scenes later on in the episode of her throwing stones and ululating at Paul’s 3D Lion bread Sculpture because it looked a bit gay. Otherwise? A clean sweep. Tamal and Flora’s figgy breads were superb, Ugne salted caramel and chocolate and pecan bread (*dribble*) was perfect despite her loading it with so much baking soda that Mary Berry got a contact high and started seeing smells, Paul’s Cranberry & Orange loaf was an impeccably baked delight, Ian’s wild garlic pesto bread was heaven itself (Ian picked the wild garlic himself on a nature walk and used a special type of flour that you can only get from specialist retailers) (The race with Flora as to who can be the most middle class is ON, STEP YOUR GAME UP GIRL! WHAT DO YOU SAY IN RESPONSE TO THAT?)
(Strong ear-ring game, well done, advantage back with you) and even Alvin’s prosciutto, manchego and balsamic onion loaf, which resembled nothing so much as scrambled eggs puked up by a colicky baby 5 seconds before serving time turned out just right. The race to be Star Baker started off strong this week. Which is a good job given that we knew who was going home before the episode even started THANKS A LOT MARY BERRY!
4. Sue started off this week’s Technical Bake by telling everyone that they were all OFF TO FRANCE! Not literally, because the show didn’t have the budget, but metaphorically, as the contests were tasked with making 4 identical baguettes. Oh sure, the business wankers of The Apprentice are probably running around Cancun as we speak, but this show can’t spring for a Eurostar to fulfil Sandy’s dream of being photo’d with a saucy face pretending to toss off the Eiffel Tower? For shame. Anyway, despite the show’s best attempts to jazz up Bread Week elsewhere, this was a pretty unsalvageable challenge as it was…making bread. You could tell how boring it was going to be from the obligatory short segment of Paul telling Mary over and over that look at this Mary, look at how it twists, baguettes aren’t just any ordinary bread oh no, it’s so irregular, no little swirls here, whilst Mary
looked bored off her boobs. Poor baby, they have to do some of his recipes sometimes I suppose. Regardless, if nothing else, even if a round is so boring you start to pray for the heady days of Gluten Free Week (seriously, at one point everyone was sat there for an hour doing nothing other than sucking their pens), you can always fall back of infantile innuendo. So I am happy to report that Mat was worried his baguette wasn’t wet enough and wasn’t rising, Alvin’s baguette was massive, Flora spent a lot of time pinching her bottom seam and Tamal told us that if he wasn’t careful his baguette was going to slop out as it rose. Honestly Tamal, I would have no problem with that and definitely would still have a nibble. Honest. In the end, Ian, Flora and Tamal all rose to the top, whilst Mat, Nadiya and Paul all sank to the bottom because they forgot to put a bit of water in their oven whilst baking. I know, fascinating right? Anyway, Nadiya’s third Technical Bake failure in a row (12th, 9th, 9th) prompted Paul and Mary to wonder if she in fact has any off-the-cuff unrehearsed baking talent at all, which seemed a bit harsh given that Paul (10th, 10th, 10th) sucks just as bad at them.
5. Lest we forget that Nadiya does have talents and is here for a reason :
here’s this week’s array of Nadiya faces.
6. The History Bit this week was beamed directly from Ukraine, no doubt leading the Daily Mail to wonder why the BBC is PRETENDING that Britain has run out of baking history. In order to broadcast COMMUNIST propagnda no doubt. Next week’s so-called Great British Bake Off will all be Albanians and sociology graduates and CHEERFUL UNION MEMBERS. Guiding us through the Ukraine’s love of bread was Olia Hercules, a Ukrainian and cookery writer (AT THE GUARDIAN), with a particular eye on “Wedding Bread” which is apparently what they have at weddings instead of cake. I dunno why, it’s probably some sort of Sharia Law or whatever they have there now. In fact not only do Ukrainians have a giant loaf of bread instead of a wedding cake, they all gather round and have a bread-making session instead of a hen party. And instead of tossing a bouquet they throw croissants and instead of consumating the marriage the bride and groom lock themselves into individuals drawers to prove overnight. Those wacky foreigns eh?
7.The Showstopper Challenge this week? To produce a 3D bread sculpture. You know as opposed to all those 2D bread sculptures we remember from seasons past. What a tasty bunch of laminates they were. Now, I’m on record as finding these challenges slightly bizarre, as I like my Bake Off challenges to at least bear some relation to real life, and when I nip to out corner shop and buy a 6 pack of Mr Kipling, the serving suggestion is not, in fact, “Darryl Hannah In Blade Runner” or “four dogs playing poker”. I like my food to look like food, not like a Turner Prize nominated conceptual sculpture, what can I say? Still, it makes good copy for the blog when someone makes a giant 3D sculpture of a lion’s head out of brioche, so let’s run with it. Contestants had to make their 3D scupltures out of at least three types of bread and also contain at least one type of filling and as Contestant Paul told us, the key is setting out initially what you’re going to make and delivering it. You can’t say you’re going to make a lion and then present something else entirely. Unless you’re James from series 3, who’d probably just have seen the disaster, sprayed silly string over it and punched great big holes in it before proclaiming “IT’S A DEAD LION PAUL!” before Paul clapped his hands and said “oooh how creative and clever”. Not that I’m still bitter or anything. Going into this round, Sandy, Mat and Nadiya were all battling to avoid being the person who would have gone home if Dorret wasn’t there, having done pretty poorly over both of the previous rounds, and of the three of them only Nadiya really pulled it off, and only then because she got her snake out (take note Mat) (you too Tamal). She produced a wonderfully firey brick-red snake out of her so-so basket, and thus secured her place for at least one more week. Sandy’s rather uninspired and withered looking basket of bitter flowers on the other hand, along with Mat’s curried Brighton Pavillion that looked a bit more like the Mushroom Kingdom (seriously, I’m a bit saddened there wasn’t a little Super Mario cob jumping up and down on them, left me wondering who really would have gone home if it weren’t for…you know… Dorret). Alvin’s redemption though was backdated a week, as after last episode’s complete lack of box, he was damned if he didn’t have a massive erection to deliver directly to Paul Hollywood.
Gulp. I mean it was buried under an absolute mountain of other breads but…message received Alvin. No wonder your box was wrecked.
8. I would like to take this point out to celebrate the wonderful, weird, and quite frankly deeply disturbing world of Ugne. After last week’s lurid decapitated biscuit baby, this challenge saw Ugne produce an Easter basket. Which sounds like Ugne couldn’t possibly bake her own unique brand of Baltic Body Horror into it, but this was before we saw her cackling dementedly and skipping like a pixie around her oven giggling that MY BUNNIES IS LOSING THEIR EYES AND SOON THEY WILL BE BLIND BUNNIES A HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! When you factor in that her Easter Basket of Horrors was a combination of truffle oil, bacon, maple syrup, coffee, cardamom, brioche and prune flavours. Apparently it was all too musky for Paul and Mary, but I find myself oddly compelled towards the idea, in a Mulholland Drive sort of way.
9. Despite strong efforts from Tamal and his breadcycle, and Flora with a mocked-up clothes horse she called her “Herb Couture” because of course she did, the race to be Star Baker (your time has come, I cannot take your evil ways) fell down to two prime candidates – Ian who had been running solidly at the top of the pack all week, and finished off with a bread flower growing out of a bread flowerpot (baked in a non-bread flowerpot) which got solid 8/10 reviews from the judges, and Paul, who had screwed up the Technical Bake something rotten, but who had a decent first round and then who produced
THE GREATEST BREAD SCULPTURE THAT PAUL HAS SEEN IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE, A BREAD TRIBUTE TO CEDRIC THE LION EVEN BEFORE HE WAS COOL. The show itself came down on the conservative side, awarding Ian the rosette for the week, cementing his status as a frontrunner alongside Flora, Tamal and Alvin. Still, you can’t help but think that maybe producing the GREATEST THING PAUL HOLLYWOOD HAS EVER SEEN EVER, IN THE MEDIUM OF BREAD, EVER might balance out possibly a few soggy baguettes. I’m not sure the rather bizarre pat on the head of the “Special Commendation” Sue doled out really makes up for it, so…here’s a poll.
10. So yeah, Dorret went home this week, which would have been obvious even without Mary Berry’s spoiler interjection (seriously, I hope she spoils a new BBC pearl in the crown reality show every week – Strictly participants, which contestant punches Claude in the face in the upcoming Apprentice series, how old Paloma Faith actually is (I mean they were in the same year at school, Mary should know)). Her attempt at a bread sculpture – the afore alluded to tribute to Tracey Emin which ended up looking more like a tribute to Chris Ofili was a raw horror show, not helped by her constant cheery admissions that she’d never made it before and never would again. Still, I can’t help but think I’ll miss her. In this year’s rollercoaster series where contestants leap from Star Baker to elimination, amazing biscuits to crummy bread, and generally flip from top to bottom more frequently than Tamal does in my more fevered dreams, it was nice to have someone who was consistently nervy and a bit ham-fisted in a charming sort of way.
AN EXTRA SLICE : Josh Widdicombe has never been forraging for mushrooms.
Next week : Mel is on the rag, the tent is overrun with illegals and Sue is a fat pi…GET AWAY DONALD. Seriously. Erm…Steve writes about puddings.