Yes of course, I’ll be right over…
1. This week saw the Bake Off take a little inch of a slide in the great tumble towards gimmickry, as they devoted the entirity of this episode to a British Cultural Icon, Queen Victoria. That’s right, the Signature Bake was to make a vol au vent based around a Spice Girls classic (my personal favourite was Flora’s “Two Become Wahini”), the Technical Bake was to make a Ryvita and for the gut-busting, belt-loosening, decadent splurge of a Showstopper Round, the contestants had to make a Ryvita WITH SOMETHING ON IT! (This episode took three weeks to film as all contestants were given sufficient breaks to detox, purge and rejuvenate their stomachs between rounds). OH ALRIGHT, IT WAS QUEEN VICTORIA SAXE-COBURG GOTHA NOT KWEEN VICTORIA BECKHAM, I WAS MAKING A FUNNY, LET’S MOVE ON. This episode was instead of course a tribute to that great period in British culinary history, chiefly because it was when Mary Berry was born, the Victorian Era. Sadly no costumes though. It was billed by Mel as “for the first time ever, the Great British Bake Off GOES BACK! IN! TIME!”. From when it’s normally set, in 1959. Contestants would be tested on their knowledge of ye olde Baking techniques, which rattled Mat, Nadiya, and particulrly Flora, who claimed that she knew nothing about the Victorians, other than that they had some “nice frocks”. Who could have guessed that Flora would be such a fan of vintage clothes (other than “everyone”?). One person however, was not afraid of Victorian Week. Those keeping track of editing’s attempts to make him look like the biggest Smug Smuggity Smugging ever will be unsurprised to learn that it was Ian who opened this episode out giggling that he’d been looking forward to this week FOR AGES and MORE THAN ANY OTHER because he really took great inspiration from the Victorian Era. Particularly, it will transpire, Jack The Ripper.
2. This week’s Signature Bake? A raised game pie, using hot watercrust pastry, ornate decoration and with the choice of using jelly or not.
It was left up to Mary Berry to explain how this challenge was particularly Victorian. In her words it’s because “Victorians loved pies”. Thanks Mary. Nice to have an expert around for these sorts of questions. Paul meanwhile had to explain the secret of a good raised game pie – use as little pastry as you can, because it’s just taking up valuable space that could instead be crammed with dead animal. The race to cram as many types of dead animal into their pie as possible amonst the contestant was a tie between Tamal (Rabbit, Pigeon, Deer, Sheep), Ian (Deer, Guinea Fowl, Partridge, Pig) and Paul (Deer, Pigeon, Pheasant, Wild Boar) (WILD BOAR! NEVER LOSE IT!) with the ladies and Mat being more demurer and opting for only three types of chopped up carcass. Those of you wondering by just what stretch Tamal was using Sheep as part of a game pie, given that hunting a sheep is hardly the most thrilling of chases, would be even more shocked to learn that he also used the terrifying and exotic spice Ras El Hanout to flavour his game pie, a spice that Mary Berry hadn’t even heard of. What, has she never seen Batman Begins? Also daring to step outside the bounds of the Victorian theme was Nadiya, whose game pie (pheasant, deer, duck) was flavoured with Chinese Five Spice, which is jam-packed full of things the Victorians would never have heard of and certaintly wouldn’t have allowed their womenfolk anywhere near. The Daily Mail was clearly right to warn us about letting brown people on this show, look at them trashing and disrespecting British tradition, it’s APPALLING MAKE THEM SING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AND IF THEY GET ANY WRONG THEN THROW THEM OUT. Oh and if you wanted further evidence that Ian is so gentrified as to be parodic, his pie was dubbed “Roadkill Pie”, and was inspired by him not wanting to waste animals he had splattered all over the country lanes(/”bumped”) near his house in his Prius, DEFINITELY NOT ON PURPOSE. That’s right, Ian routinely comes across Guinea Fowl as roadkill. Alright for some isn’t it? Flora meanwhile (Pheasant, Pigeon, Rabbit) recounted how her particular game pie had won her a local competition in Highland Cheffery, for which she was accorded the title of “Bird Girl”. This really really really did sound like something out of the Wicker Man to be honest.
3. BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THE MEAT, HOW DID THEY TASTE? Sadly, Nadiya’s tweaking of the nose of Victorian tradition did not go down well, as the spices absolutely overwhelmed everything else inside. Probably should have just used Chinese Three Spice. Paul’s Wild Boar (WILD BOAR! NEVER CHOSE THIS WAY!) pie was unfortunately dry and overbaked, although he can at least take some comfort in the fact that his ignored avuncular advice to Flora not to turn her oven up too high could have saved her from burning the entire outer of her pie, which is getting to be something of a habit with Flora). She was also criticised for trying to cram too much meat in her pie which…I’ve no idea if this is something of a habit with Flora because she’s a teenage girl and this isn’t that kind of blog. Ian’s Roadkill Pie tasted great although was dinged for looking bland
and also probably because it reminded Paul Hollywood of twitter, where he never goes any more after Ruby Tandoh sent him all those angry DMs about how he should stop reinforcing the patriarchy. You’ll also notice that Ian is the only contestant to have made a jelly, because of course he was, and it tasted great, because of course it did. Finally Tamal’s pie
aroused thoughts so overwhelmingly filthy in me (you’ll be happy to learn that it’s quite incredibly moist inside there) that I wasn’t even listening to the judges, but they seemed to love it.
4. I would like to reserve this point to talk about, not Mat’s pie’s taste, which apparently was a little underwhelming and needed MOAR BACON (although what in this world doesn’t?) but the glory of its appearance, which was mostly due to his authentic Victorian tin, which he brought in having borrowed it from his mate “Dangerous Dave” (I hope his friend isn’t a fireman…) and more particular, his mum Sheila.
Look at it. How REGAL does it look? HOW MAJESTIC?
5. As if Nadiya and Tamal hadn’t disrespected the Victoria Era enough with their non-Empire-approved spicings, this week’s History Bit was devoted entirely to utterly trashing the reputation of one of the great figures of Victoria cooking – Mrs Isabella Beaton. Look at these two PC thugs
cackling whilst they trash a bourgeois icon, sniggering about how earnest she was calling her recipes “useful and benevolent”, backslapping over how she didn’t even come up with her own recipes and one time forgot to include flour in a recipe for SPONGE CAKE (lest we forget that this show was once won by a man who confused salt for sugar). Honestly, this show starts averaging over 10 million an episode and it tries to trash everyone else who marked out the path for them to continue to make good honest baking and homemaking to take its place in the centre of our culture, it’s shameful. Next week : Maria Anna Fisher was a slag.
6. This week’s Technical Challenge? TENNIS CAKE! No, not a Martina Navratpavolva, or a Roger Fedeira, or a Marion Tartoli, or even an Arantxa Sanchez Vaccaraway Seed Cake (to my credit, I only stole two of those off people on twitter, thanks), but a fairly bog-standard fruit cake with a tennis court marked on the top in gopping green marzipan icing, complete with royal icing net and lines. I would guess this was being done because “VICTORIANS LOVED TENNIS!” or whatever. As you might expect, given we’re left with the cream of the bakers now, the discussion was more around what was on top of the cake than inside it, even if Mary didn’t tell them how long the cake was to be baked for. It was moments like this
that made me miss Ugne. Just imagine what she would have made with that colour wheel to play with. *Sigh* At least all this decoration faffery led to my favourite edit of the episode :
Tamal : I’ve never even thought of making my own sugar paste, it’s not really a home baker thing
I’ve made my own sugar paste before. I made some yesterday.
Right on Nadiya. Right on. Despite all the shots of gloppy icing, solid marzipan and busted-up nets, those on the bottom of the class were in fact there for their actual cakes. Mat’s was raw, Ian’s was underbaked and Flora’s was, yet again, burnt around the edges, leaving her in the bottom half of a Technical Bake for the first time ever. In fact, in another up-ending of the order of things from the beginning of the competition, Paul and Nadiya were yet again the top 2, with Nadiya just edging things based on the face that her net stayed up and his didn’t (Tamal didn’t even have a net, so he was 3rd). On such things… If you’d told me at the end of week 3, when Paul and Nadiya had both been bottom 3 in every single technical bake that they’d claim three of the next four between them, I wouldn’t have believed you. Meanwhile, in terms of this episode, Tamal was the only contestant to have done well in both challenges so it seemed like Star Baker was *finally* within his grasp.
7. This week’s Nadiya faces?
THEY WARM ME.
8. The Showstopper Challenge this week? A Charlotte Russe. Now, if a Creme Caramel is supposed to quiver like delicately like a lady’s bosom blissfully exhaling, a Charlotte Russe wobbles about like Joan Sims bra-less on a running machine in a hurricane. I presume it was chosen for Victorian Week because Victorians liked BIG FLOBBING JUBBLIES, and why not? Containing, barely, the quivvering wobbling mass of Bavarian cream are a circle of lady-fingers, leading to the second disturbing Ian revelation of the week : that he has a lady-finger chopper. I can think of three ways that sentence can be interpreted, and all of them leave me feeling slightly sorry for Ian’s wife. (Incidentally, I can’t WAIT to see Ian’s wife if/when he makes the final. I hope she’s shown sat at her laptop, made-up for the Gods in a power suit and surrounded by bags from Whistles). Having been chided for his lack of decoration in the Signature, and for his poor technique in the second round, it was clear that Ian was going to go hell for leather to impress in this round and so this happened.
I take back everything I just implied earlier in this section Ian, your crown jewels are clearly massive. I love how Ian keeps on snatching victory or almost-victory for the jaws of being bottom-of-the-middle-of-the-pack. Actually in the middle-of-the-pack was Flora, who put in her third underwhelming but not terrible bake in a row, with a Charlotte Russe laced with pomegranate. I was glad to see Paul putting his foot down and effectively banning pomegranate from the Bake-Off Tent from this round forwards, and bemused to hear him praise Flora for how much these
“looked like actual ladies fingers”. Yes, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Woman, maybe. Nadiya was dinged for her ladyfingers being too flat, but otherwise her Charlotte Russe was a thing of beauty.
Look at it! Look at it glow! Compare it to the
GLOP OOZING OUT OF PAUL’S. Looking at this, I’m slightly confused by how Paul escaped elimination this week. I think maybe it was a combination of his Technical Bake triumph and his artfully carved decorative fruit, which were about the only thing this entire week that really reminded me of Victorian cooking and presentation.
9. Victoria Victorious this week though was, as it very much looked like he would be halfway through, Tamal, whose Blackberry, Raspberry and Cardamom Charlotte Russe meant that we finally reached the APEX of Tamal Innuendo for the series, as Paul praised it for being creamy and silky, and keeping its rigidity well before melting in the mouth. I mean, really, that is it, isn’t it? Even I can’t do better than that and I’m nothing if not completely disgusting. After Tamal finally broke through and claimed Star Baker status after weeks of “banging at the door” (again, Paul’s dirty dirty words not mine) he let us in on his secret aims for the series. Don’t go home Week 1, make something the judges like, and win Star Baker once. And that’s it. He’s done everything he’s set out to do, so now the question is, can he win? (Probably). I can’t help but wonder if Tamal had “get more restraining orders than all of One Direction and Five Seconds Of Summer combined” on the secret list, because I’d bet he just ticked that box off as well.
10. You wait ages for someone to be eliminated the week after being Star Baker and then it happens twice in one series. After a sloppy Charlotte Russe, with collapsing ladyfingers and boring basic flavours, Mat was expelled from the Bake Off only one week after his triumph with pastries. Paul (Judge) said rather sniffily this week that Mat had just reached a realm of baking that was beyond him, like it really speaks poorly of him that he was a bit inept with flavours combinations and techniques that haven’t been relevant in 120 years. I’ll miss Mat, because he was tall but also I will not miss him because he permenantly looked a bit like his nose was permenantly dripping and it made me want to stick a hankie under there to stop it dripping into his vol-au-vents but I will also miss him because he was quite chill and likeable most of the time but also I will not miss him because I am only two weeks away from the Tamal-Nadiya-Paul final 3 of my dreams and nothing, not even a 7 ft tall fireman with a mate called Dangerous Dave, should come between it and me.
EXTRA SLICE : The Victorian Diet doesn’t do a lot for David Baddiel
Next Week : Steve writes about the contestants’ “pastry demons”. Again, I miss Ugne.