Ban this sick filth.
1. This week’s Bake Off scandal? Now…I’m not claiming that the tabloid gutter-press are getting desperate or anything, but it was quite literally “Ian used someone else’s recipe to make something”. Yes, apparently Ian’s best mate is head of catering at Trinity College Cambridge, and last week Ian used his recipe for pomegranate creme brulee and PASSED IT OFF AS HIS OWN, THE CHEATING BUGGER. I mean…I hate to break it to the Daily Mail, but everyone on the show got most of their recipe for that challenge “from someone else” because none of them invented the creme brulee (as we all know, it was invented by popular Nigerian songstress Patti Brulee) I know the only acceptable place to get other ideas from in this show is the revenant of the memory of your dead nanna who taught you how to make Spanische Windtorte three ways with an apricot and aniseed glaze at her Aga growing up, but I really feel Ian has enough on his plate as the designated hated floppity faux-humble overdog without being accused of cheating because he doesn’t follow some sort of X Factor ideal of having been delivered as a savant baker in a Moses basket to the front of the marquee on Day 1. I think my favourite things about the Daily Mail article are that it includes a picture of Ian staring in sinister fashion at a dead rabbit (?!) to make him look more evil, and also that they’ve tracked his poor best mate down for a quote and got the following :
“‘My relationship with Ian and my friendship with him is our private life”
Just for clarification, Ian’s best friend is not in fact Princess Diana.
In fact this week in the tent was PICK ON IAN WEEK in general as we began with first the BBC Show Announcer and then Mel & Sue talking about how Ian has obviously won already, but let’s continue this charade of a competition for another 6 weeks oh well (WINK WINK) before a whole array of contestants (Nadiya, Tamal and Alvin) sniggered and glowered about how they were going to take Ian down and grind him into the dirt and take over his Bake Off crown.
Whilst the idea of a supervillain trio of Tamal (THE ANAESTHETIST!), Alvin (CORNUCOPIA MAN!) and Nadiya (THE SMILING MUSLIM!) does make me salivate a little, I am now officially feeling a bit sorry for Ian all round really. Even though he spent most the episode puttering in the middle Paul and Mary couldn’t stop crowing that he’d been KNOCKED OFF HIS HIGH HORSE.
2. The actual theme of this week was the show’s semi-regular “Free From” challenge, wherein each bake had to been respectively, without sugar, gluten, and dairy.
The sugar-free challenge? To make a cake. Now you might think this sounds like an unsurmountable mammoth of a task, but like is the case with so many faddy attention-seeking dietary restrictions, “sugar free” didn’t actually MEAN sugar free. It just meant “nothing that comes out of a bag”. Says Sue. Hopefully the rules were clarified on paper in full for the contestants, otherwise I can well imagine CHEATING SNEAKS like Ian bringing his in in a squeezy tube. This meant the contestants were allowed to fudge by using honey, agave, molasses, dried fruit, fruit juice, maple syrup and all sorts of things that contain loads of sugar but NICE sugar not NAUGHTY sugar that turns us all into the dependent slaves of the Nestle-McDonalds-Monsanto empire or whatever. In terms of flagrant bending of reality Tamal probably went the furthest, proclaiming his honey & grapefruit polenta cake to contain as its sweetener “50% grapefruit juice, 50% blood orange juice……and also some honey”. Yeah that doesn’t sound like you’re blagging on the spot at all Tam. Just admit you stuck a whole bag of Tate & Lyle in there whilst nobody was watching, nobody cares, you’ve made a polenta cake, no bugger watching wants to eat it anyway. Fortunately, in the midst of all this fudging and irrelevance, Ugne staged a dirty protest against the whole challenge by deciding that she was going to make a cake that was gluten-free as well, sod it. This was not in the rules, she just decided she was going to do it because she wanted to and because “THIS IS BAKE OFF!”. Ugne was the best you guys *sniff*.
3. Sadly, Tamal’s fudgery with fluids paid off as he got amongst the highest plaudits of the round for his cake. Although given that he probably shared joint honours for the round with Alvin, whose pineapple upside-down cake looked like something I would have made in Home Ec at age 11, and Mat, whose cake basically looked like someone had sprinkled cake-crumbs over the insides of a bunch of mince pies, I think we can safely say that this round was a write-off in the annals of Bake-Off. At the bottom of the bunch though were Flora, whose pretty enough pistachio and apple madeline was almost inedibly stodgy and Ian, who made the mistake of trying to bring extra flavour to his honey and flowers cake by lacing it with pear juice. This lead to Judge-Paul sadly having to inform him that “pear brings nothing to the party in an unsweetened cake”. Paul’s attempts to sound cool are so precious. So precious Mel and Sue even left the possibility of talking about all the parties they’ve LIVENED UP WITH A LOVELY JUICY PEAR WAHEY, RIGHT MARY, I BET THE BOYS LOVE YOUR PEAR WHILST YOU’RE DOING THE LAMBADA OF A FRIDAY NIGHT ETC ETC! Best of all though was the reveal that Ugne, having decided that making a sugar free cake wasn’t enough of a challenge, had also decided that making a sugar-free AND gluten-free cake wasn’t enough of a challenge, and so had made the inside of her cake into a chequerboard pattern, which would literally be an entire task in an earlier series. Of course the whole thing tasted bitter and horrible and prolapsed so hard Ugne had to cover the gaping sinkhole up with non-edible flowers (leading Mel to of course try to eat them and Ugne to hiss “TAKE THEM OUT, TAKE THEM OUT!” like she was a Bond baddy ordering Mel & Sue’s execution by passing firing squad) but I salute her anyway.
4. Gluten-free came in with this week’s technical challenge, which was to make gluten-free pitta breads. The pre-challenge chat between Mary and Paul really summed this challenge (even this whole week really) up, with Paul saying “mmmm, they’re ALMOST AS GOOD AS NORMAL BREAD!” and Mary twittering “I doubt any of them will ever have baked anything gluten free before unless they were specifically asked to”. Possibly at knifepoint. Such a dour episode. Even Mel on voiceover was getting in on making the whole thing sound as unpleasant as possible by barking “the contestants have been given a packet of brown powder”. Sounds yummy. This “brown powder” was to be mixed with water until the colour and smell of baby poop, then added to flour, yeast and salt, then left in a drawer for an hour, then baked. Sounds simple enough, but the whole process produced paroxysms of confusion rage and frustration in the contestants, with Mat shrugging aggressively,
Flora flinging her tea-towel across the kitchen in a fit of middle-class teenage pique
and Tamar clutching his rolling pin furiously in his tight fist, waving its heavy hard length around like a great big trunch…
where was I? Anyway, yes, everyone got very fraught, particularly poor Alvin who, sod gluten free, had never made a normal pitta bread in his life. In fact Alvin has never even EATEN a pitta bread. He thought he had, but it turned out he was thinking of a naan. Easily done. In the end, the contestants needn’t have worried about the fine details of the bake, as literally the entire thing, as so often is the case, was decided by how many fingers Paul Hollywood could wedge up it before it split. And it had to be easy to do as well – Mary was only able to get one of her fingers wedged up Mat’s pitta after a lot of wriggling (we’ve all been there). Top of the vaguely unappetising tree were a very zen Paul (who seems to be coming into his own as a baker after a slow start), Flora (preserving her position as the only contestant to be in the top half of every technical bake) and best of all Nadiya, finally breaking her Technical Bake duck, producing something not-awful for the first time ever and in fact WINNING THE ROUND. I would have made her Star Baker on the spot, but I guess I’m just soft like that. Less fortunate were Ugne, Tamal, and Alvin whose pittas all remained sadly unpenetrated by Paul’s manly tikka red hands.
5. No History Bit this week, again, but some small recompense for those of us who would have been fascinated to hear about the history of sugar-free pastries from the Zambezi region, as a quick glance at the schedule for the weeks ahead reveal a whole history WEEK, as in a fortnight’s time the whole show goes back in time to the Victorian era, and Sue Perkins gets locked in a cupboard as nice ladies don’t do that sort of thing. If we don’t get full costumes, rats running harum scarum around the tent and Paul Hollywood dressed up as Mr Bumble complete with full mutton chops and Mary Berry as Mrs Lovett wailing in Mat’s face that these have to be the worst pies in Bake Off, I’m going to be very, very disappointed. Don’t let me down Love Productions.
6. Is it just me, or is Paul Hollywood actually growing two horns in the middle of his forehead?
I know he’s supposed to be the mean judge, but this is taking things a bit too far. Especially given how red he is these days. If he starts lifting up the technical bakes using a pitchfork, I think we should start getting worried, and tell any putative future contestants called Rosemary (come on, you know there are at least a handful) to be extra careful with their lady parts around him. Extra extra careful.
7. The final challenge this week was dairy free, and saw Sue very very tentatively asking the contestants to make a dessert based around ice cream and sponge, whilst a researcher crept around in the background making sure that all the freezers were definitely working, the bins were properly secured, and the pentagram they drew on the floor to ward off Dirty Diana’s evil psychokinetic powers was complete. To be precise, the brief was to make an Arctic Roll, but fancy like. AND WITH NO DAIRY. Those of you watching with technical expertise, waiting to see what intricate and technical ways the contestants got around the “no milk” dictat would have been disappointed to see that pretty all of the contestants just said “oh I’ll just use coconut milk instead” and thought no more of it. This then, as a snowball effect, led to a whooooooooole lot of tropical themed end-results, with all five of the men left in the competition opting for desserts located somewhere between Cancer and Capricorn, although only Ian and Paul went the whole hog and made an actual “dessert island”. Paul just tipping his over the edge by including a sexy nudey lady.
PHWOAR, right lads? (We’ll brush over the fact that at one point the sexy nudey lady definitely had a penis
because it’s the 21st century and we’re all cool with that, right?). I think it says a lot of the comparative personalities of Paul and Ian that the best the latter could offer up in defence against this robust adult sexuality was a rubber duckie. Imagine Ian in charge of a men’s prison. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it? Still, both tasted great, and actually contained ice-cream, which is more than be said for Mat’s attempt to make a tropical swiss roll, that saw all the ice-cream spurting out of both ends before he got it to the table. Alvin and Tamal had the opposite problem with their ice cream blocks though – although both tasted delicious, both were just too thick to fit inside the casing without a lot of trimming and squeezing. It’s worth noting that, finished with nudey fondany boobie fondling, it was Paul who stepped in to help Tamal out. He’s just going up and up in my estimations.
8. This week’s Star Baker though?
NADIYA! Despite a middling effort in the first round, she came on strong in the last gasp, producing a really beautifully decorated henna-inspired chocolate and strawberry and lime ice-cream roll with a core of solid strawberry mousse. Probably the meanest edit of the episode was seeing Nadiya slowly pull back the paper on her sponge to reveal a wonerfully intricate design and perfectly compact roll, before cutting direct to…well Ugne’s coming up in a minute but…that. Nadiya’s been bumping along in the middle for most of the competition so far, held back by her crappy Technical Bakes, so it’s great to see her (and her face) really break free and go for the prize, especially as the other women are fading rapidly.
9. Speaking of which, I am sad to see Ugne go (Flora’s final bake was probably worse but she was saved by virtue of a strong Technical Round) but beyond pleased she went out on her own terms, producing her most nightmarish hellscape yet.
It’s like Event Horizon isn’t it? It makes The Thing Sarah Jane Did from Series 3 look like small beer in comparison. The browns, the reds, the nightmarish lumps and oozes…wonderful work. I think Ugne was, despite everything, actually one of the stronger bakers from this year’s competition, and on flavours probably deserved a space in the top half but…there’s only so long that someone can every week turn out Showstopper challenges that look like they were designed by Hieronymus Bosch before they have to be turned loose. Imagine the cover of the tie-in book Ugne would have produced as a member of the Top Three. They would have had to have kept it on a special shelf covered in brown paper, only to be handled with particularly thick gloves. So long Ugne, the competition will be all the poorer without you.
10. HALFWAY POLLINGS! (After that opening blog entry saying the men this year are really weak I’m not proferring an opinion) (Oh alright I want Nadiya, Paul and Tamal and am anticipating Flora, Ian and Tamal)
AN EXTRA SLICE : Judy Murray loves nuts
Next week : the blog is on holiday, but I’m sure Steve will catch up writing about the RETURN OF SOGGY BOTTOMS at some point.