Crème brûlée! When the cheesecake’s gone and you can’t go on, it’s crème brûlée!
1. It was pissing down (again) around the Bake Off marquee this weekend, which presented us with a very important opportunity to check out the contestants’ game in the field of autumn/winter outerwear. That’s right, IT’S A MOTHERFUCKING WALK-OFF!
YASSSS KWEEEEEN, WEERRRRRRRQQQQ etc. (Nice cagoul, Ian.) I was rather partial to Flora’s fitted biscuit-coloured mac accessorised with a pure white knitted scarf, which she didn’t really stand still long enough for me to capture here but I’ve done my best nonetheless.
In an entirely different way, I was also impressed by the fact that Tamal appeared not to have bothered with a coat of any sort, and had just flung a denim shirt over his t-shirt which he promptly shed as soon as he got inside the tent.
This was a particularly bold choice since denim gets all clingy when it gets wet, so all I can deduce from this is that Tamal doesn’t really have many objections to getting wet and sticky. Take note, Thirsty Gays Of Twitter.
2. This week’s signature bake was crème brûlée, which I was very excited about. Mostly because I spent two years doing A level French in an evening class and the only thing I can really remember from it is how to get all the accents up on a computer, so at least this way I’m getting my money’s worth. While it may be fashionable these days to crisp the sugar topping of one’s crème brûlée with a blowtorch, the bakers were instructed that they would have to use the grill instead. This is possibly just as well – can you imagine Sandy let loose with a naked flame? Especially when Mary’s blazers tend to look a little on the, er, combustible side. Paul and Mary explained to us that the challenge on this task is to get your custard just the right amount of set – too much and it splits, too little and you’re basically making creamy egg soup. Mat was concerned about his “reasonably large ramekins” (careful now) making it difficult to get the custard to cool down after it was cooked, while Sandy and Ian vied for the honour of “most bafflingly inappropriate ingredient” – him with pomegranates (never acceptable, in anything, just so we’re all clear on that) and her with Pontefract cake syrup (!!!!!!!!). The latter earned our first high-pitched “good luck!” from Paul Hollywood, and that always augurs ill. Meanwhile, Ugne decided to flavour hers with marula fruit liquor and
oh dear we’ve lost her already. Can one of the runners get Mary’s Special Recuperation Chair on standby please, just in case? And her trusty sleep mask, there’s a dear. There was a lot of talk of the bakers who’d added a fruit base to their crèmes brûlées (Ian, Alvin, Tamal, Nadiya) needing to watch for bleeding of the fruit juice into their custard and ruining the whole thing (apparently). Meanwhile Paul was flavouring his with almond liquor and
oh for goodness sake. Someone get emergency judge Lorraine Pascale on standby just in case. The bakers had to cook their custard in the oven using a bain-marie (I thought we’d already banned Marie back in episode two, tee hee) and then subject them to the wobble test to see if they were cooked properly. Once that had been accomplished, it was simply a matter of sprinkling on the sugar and whacking it all under the grill – unless you were Alvin, who forgot to preheat his. Not that he particularly had to worry because pretty much everyone cocked up this round in one way or another, either with scrambled egg, soup (or “brûlake”, as Sue insisted on calling it despite no one in a five mile vicinity finding it funny) or by putting pomegranates in it, Ian. But Nadiya, Ugne and Tamal came out on top, and considering they’re my three favourites, that’s a result.
3. Here is Tamal celebrating his successful brûlée.
RIP me, I died dead.
4. And if you were wondering whether the incident with Nadiya’s biscuit two weeks ago has led to Mel and Sue being more careful about how they handle the works-in-progress
here’s Mel pretending that two of Flora’s tuilles-to-be are in fact an attractive set of cuffs, shortly after pretending that they were a pair of glasses. Mel, it seems, was surprisingly not aware that Flora had made them for the purposes of sticking in the oven and decorating her crèmes brûlées, not as props for Mel’s latest bout of dough-based comedy. Cue a meek and apologetic Mel sliding the dough back off her wrists while Flora politely but firmly made it clear that she would not be using them now regardless.
5. If you’re of the persuasion that Paul and Mary make up all of their “traditional” technical challenge recipes about a week before the series as an elaborate practical joke, the revelation that this week’s mission was to make a Spanische Windtorte from Austria probably won’t have done much to disabuse you of that. It’s a sort of meringue cake that involves French meringue, Swiss meringue, cream, strawberries and raspberries, and also needs to get in my mouth immediately. [TAMAL JOKE REDACTED]. Hands up everyone who wasn’t even aware there was more than one type of meringue? I’m the most card-carrying Waitrose-shopping middle-class person you can imagine, but sometimes this show makes me feel so basic. The vagueness of the instructions drove Sandy to distraction as she stuck her cake stand in the oven with her meringue on top of it, on the grounds that she hadn’t been told not to. I’m not entirely sure Sandy understands the point of this round. This issue was then exacerbated when she bemoaned the lack of specificity in the direction “top it with a meringue disc”, so she butterflied hers for artistic effect, seeming quite pleased with this decision until Sue dared to suggest that a disc is usually (a) a single item and (b) flat. I’m not entirely sure what happened to Sandy in this round, but I think she needed a hug. Still, she managed to come a respectable sixth place, beating Mat, Nadiya and Alvin, while the top three spots went to Flora, Ugne and Paul. Yeah, Paul’s still on this show. Who knew?
6. This week in Nadiya Is Just The Best And Your Favourites Could Neva:
– on crème brûlée: “It’s something I have made before without success and then not tried again.” (This also applies to virtually everything I have ever cooked.)
– learning what a Spanische Windtorte is:
– actually attempting to make a Spanische Windtorte:
– reeling off how to make a meringue for the benefit of the audience at home while simultaneously STILL WHISKING HER MERINGUE LIKE A BOSS
– serving face even in those little pictures they use to identify who made which technical bake
– look just skip ahead to number eight and READ ABOUT HER CHEESECAKES ALREADY
7. There was no History Bit this week. Call OFCOM.
8. The showstopper challenge was a trio of tiered cheesecakes, decorated, baked (of course) and sweet not savoury (Ian). The bakers were divided by those who decided to make a pastry base (Nadiya, Paul, Ugne, Sandy) and those who decided to make a BUTTERY BISCUIT BASE (everyone else). Possibly drunk on the power of having been star baker (dream maker, soul taker, we’re happy now) twice already, Ian decided to flavour his cheesecakes with peppercorns, rosemary and tarragon, and honestly I love peppercorns, and I love cheesecake, but if you tried to make me eat the two together I would more than likely kick you in the babymakers and run for the border. Some things are just wrong and an affront to God. That said, he wasn’t alone in going down the herb route for his cheesecakes, since Tamal chucked a bit of rosemary into his, along with mango and hazelnut, and I’m nothing if not easily led by my hormones so if Tamal’s doing it too I guess it’s okay. Nadiya had the best idea of the round (/series/my entire life) by making a trio of fizzy pop-themed cheesecakes (one ginger beer, one lemonade, one cream soda) inspired by her kids’ parties, with a can of pop levitating above it, with meringue-pop cascading down onto the cheesecakes. Oh, and she made her own syrups for the flavouring by boiling down pints and pints of fizzy drinks until they were sufficiently concentrated. Seriously, just end the series here and give the prize to Nadiya, I don’t care what else happens. If we must continue with the charade of actually bothering to check in on what everyone else is doing, Ugne said she didn’t want to “go over the top for the decoration” (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA), while Sandy attempted to represent the ethnic diversity of New York City through the medium of cheesecake, Mat flavoured his after his favourite chocolates (obviously this is the BBC and we aren’t allowed to talk brand names, but they’re clearly Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Bounties and Crunchies) and Flora was being dead borin’ by making three cheesecakes of the same flavour (elderflower) with the same base (granola). This led her to panic stations when she saw everyone else’s elaborate concoctions at the point where hers was already in the oven and halfway done. Flora found herself wondering if she could make her idea more exciting somehow, and wasn’t sure that she could, and if you honestly can’t think of a way to make “elderflower and granola” more exciting then I think that’s a very good time to stop and check that you didn’t turn into Norman overnight. In the end she plumped for making some macarons for decorative and deliciousness purposes. The problem for most of the bakers came in giving themselves enough time for their cheesecakes to cool before attempting to stack them, since an insufficiently-cooled cheesecake would not provide a stable enough surface to balance another one on top and you’d risk ending up with some sort of dessert sinkhole. As Sandy found out the hard way.
(Absolutely did not take that screenshot just for the sneaky peek at Tamal’s butt, how dare you even suggest such a thing.)
Ian’s trio of herby, spicy, fruity cheesecakes went down a treat with Paul and Mary, and for once the inability to taste a particular ingredient turned out to be an advantage, since that ingredient was the peppercorns. Also performing well in this round were Ugne (apart from some ill-advised piping around the outside, clearly this is why Ugne should never attempt understated presentation and should go back to decapitated babies), Tamal, Nadiya and Mat, while Paul, Flora, Alvin and Sandy failed to deliver the goods.
9. So who gets to be Star Baker this week? Ian. Again. Despite pomegranate in his crème brûlée and a mid-table finish in the technical challenge, his showstopper was apparently magical enough to propel him to the top spot yet again. Either that or the field was so higgledy-piggledy this week that despite excelling at individual moments, nobody else made a consistent case for their skills across the whole weekend so Mary and Paul went back to Ian by default. Can he be stopped at this point? Are we merely just filling time now until he takes the whole thing? I don’t know, but I just wish somebody else could get to be Star Baker, if only for a week, just to make this feel a bit less one-sided. The screenshot below is from an entirely unrelated moment, but Ugne’s face and overall stance sum up perfectly how I feel about another week of Star Baker Ian.
Come on now, that’s enough.
10. It wasn’t a great week for Alvin, who struggled in all three rounds, but he didn’t collapse quite so comprehensively as Sandy, who ended up getting her marching orders. I liked Sandy, but I can’t really argue with this outcome because nothing went right for her this week, at all. But I shall miss her, if only because she was one of the few contestants who always looked ready for a scrap if Paul Hollywood looked at her funny.
EXTRA SLICE: Blowtorches were patented in 1791, so Mary’s claim that they didn’t exist in her day is either an exaggeration or a shocking reveal of her true age.
Next week: the marquee embraces intolerance with free-from week. Definitely better than the original plan for National Front week.