Choux me the nunny! CHOUX ME THE NUNNY!
1. It all looked a bit empty in the tent this week as just five remaining bakers took to their stations, all of them marvelling that they’d made the quarter-final. As Flora put it, “anything with the word ‘final’ in it is a bit daunting, isn’t it?” I know what she means: final exam, final demand, final warning to keep a minimum of 100ft away from Tamal or he will call the police this time etc. Meanwhile, Ian, Tamal and Nadiya politely talked about how much pressure they were all under, how they’d really have to deliver or they’d be out on their ears, and not a single one of them brought up the elephant in the room: that Flora and Paul are still here by the skin of their teeth, and that the three frontrunners would have to mess up pretty hugely to go home before both of them. So polite. So British.
2. This week was patisserie week, meaning lots of pastry work, which in turn meant alarm bells ringing for Nadiya because…well, you remember our Nadiya face of the week for that episode, right?
And it looked like she was going to have a rough start to the weekend when Sue announced that the signature bake challenge was to be cream horns. Although not as rough a start as I’m having trying to think of ways to make cream horns funny without resorting to end-of-the-pier innuendo. The contestants had to make two different flavoured fillings, 12 of each, for a total of 24 horns overall. Horns a-plenty, you might say. (See what I have to work with here?) The Male Judge explained that the secret to a perfect cream horn is to do full-puff pastry, i.e. “dough-butter-dough-butter-dough”. I believe that’s also the secret to having Swede Mason remixing your random quotes about cookery into a boshing dance track. Ian, Paul and Nadiya all went for the slightly less complex rough-puff, while Flora and Tamal braved the full-puff. You might think that would be enough, but the revelation that Tamal was just using plain flour for his dough earned him this look from Judge Paul:
All right there Zoolander. Apparently if Tamal knew anything about baking he would have mixed his plain flour with strong AS ANY FULE KNO. Tamal did his best to defend his approach, saying “it’s worked out all right for me”, though the effectiveness of this was undercut by the fact that his voice kept cracking like he was being played by Russell Tovey. Ian decided to go for broke by making a second batch of rough-puff, this time flavoured with cocoa powder, which is apparently highly reckless because something in the cocoa can make the pastry go terrible horrible no good very bad, but Ian scoffed that he’d never had any problems so far, because the show’s hubristic editing of Ian is as featherlight as ever. Contestant Paul flavoured his with bananas and custard, which just happened to be Judge Paul’s favourite childhood Sunday teatime treat, while Flora flavoured one of hers with butterscotch and smoked almond, and I don’t know whether it’s an accent thing or if my hearing’s gone in my old age but every single time I heard it as “smoked gammon” and thought she’d lost her damn mind. Although Frances is probably reading this and thinking “butterscotch and gammon, I’M ON IT”.
3. Now, the making of the pastry was one thing, but the filling of it was another matter entirely. I’m sure the Helen Lovejoys of the nation are still recovering from the sights and sounds that accompanied everyone pushing their cream out. And before we even got there, we had shots like this:
And this a full 50 minutes before the watershed. No wonder our kids are all growing up to be queers and vegans. While the other four were all doing this, Flora was inexplicably doing tuilles to make hers look more like ice creams, to the extent that Sue stood behind her going “JUST DO THE BLOODY CHALLENGE AS WRITTEN YOU GREAT NINNY” and Flora was all “yes, I’ll get working on the cream horns as soon as I’ve finished crafting these individual hundreds and thousands and hand-milking this cow”. I’m not sure exactly when Flora lost the plot on this show, but it seems to have been quite a while ago. Anyway, here’s Paul reaching climax (of this particular part of the baking process):
This was accompanied by a long guttural grunt that most viewers on my Twitter timeline seemed to find either alarming or arousing (or possibly both, in this post Fifty Shades-era, who am I to kink-shame?) Either way, let’s just say that Nadiya seems to have found it
a little disconcerting, to say the least. While all this was going on, Flora discovered that she probably should have spent less time faffing with artisan decorations and more time actually making sure her pastry horns were robust, because when she tried to pipe chocolate syrup into them it ended up looking like the last third of the ‘Dip It Low’ video. Flora then ran around looking for a freezer to put them in, in the hope that this might somehow solve all of her self-made problems, only to discover that everyone else was already using them and had already set the shelves at such a height that she didn’t have the room to store hers upright, so she started moving things around and DEAR GOD FLORA DON’T TAKE THINGS OUT OF THE FREEZER DID YOU NOT WATCH THIS SHOW LAST YEAR. In the end, Nadiya conquered her flaky demons as Paul and Mary approved of both her pastry and her cream filling, Judge Paul had a temper tantrum when Contestant Paul’s horns didn’t taste sufficiently of banana, Tamal succeeded in his pastry decide not following Paul’s exact orders, Ian’s chocolate swirls looked and tasted a bit like Mr Hankey The Christmas Poo, and well, the state of Flora’s.
That one second from the right in the front row looks like a Clanger. Mary called them “great fun”, which I think is how Mary articulates “I would slap you in the face right now if I didn’t consider you unworthy of coming into direct contact with my skin”.
4. Big up to Tamal for proving that you can still be utterly dreamy and swoonsome even if
you’re thinning a little bit at the crown. Speaking as someone whose hairline is receding on a minute-by-minute basis, he’s the role model I want, nay, need.
5. Now, you and I know that I am not prone to hyperbole but this week’s History Bit was in fact THE GREATEST HISTORY BIT OF ALL TIME. Mel travelled to Nancy in France on the trail of The Macaron Sisters (I think they performed on a Strictly Come Dancing results show once) whose macarons were famous back when a macaron was just a single-layered almond biscuit. This was mostly exciting for Mel interviewing a modern-day pastry chef who makes macarons to the nuns’ original recipe and conducting the interview in French.
No disrespect to Mel and her modern language skills, but in the linguistic equivalent of the boy who cried wolf, we’ve heard so many cod-European accents from her over the years that on this occasion it took a while to register that she was in fact speaking proper, real French. It was wonderful, though. More international Mel in future, please. And give her the BBC3 Eurovision job permanently. And maybe make her the BBC News EU correspondent.
6. The technical challenge was mochatines, which are not a kind of slipper but in fact a kind of small individual coffee cake with buttercream in the middle. It is my understanding that these single-bite-sized portions are the ideal way to serve coffee cake because it makes them so much easier to THROW IN THE BIN WITHOUT ANYONE NOTICING. Ugh, coffee cake. Anyway, Nadiya had cause to kick herself because she’d seen this recipe in one of her Mary Berry cookbooks at home before and decided that she wasn’t going anywhere near it because it was too fiddly. However, it wasn’t completely a lost cause for her because she’d made a genoise sponge (which is the kind of cake required) last week, whereas Paul had never made one before ever and spent the whole of the sponge-making section of the task muttering to himself about how it was all wrong and destined to fail as though he’d been temporarily possessed by the spirit of Howard. Even Mel, normally an endless source of encouragement, could only really say “well, it might not be as shit as you think” in response to Paul’s melancholic outpouring. Meanwhile, things weren’t going for much better for Flora as her genoise was
sagging in the middle like a series of Sherlock, and then Paul cut into his sponge and discovered it was raw in the middle, and I don’t know about you but I pretty much sat back and waited for either Paul or Flora to get eliminated from this point onwards, because there was clearly no way that Nadiya, Tamal or Ian could possibly fuck up badly enough to overtake either of them short of accidentally writing “ABOLISH THE LICENCE FEE” in shop-bought fondant on the top of their cakes. That said, Ian did seem to still be labouring under the misapprehension that this was
Imitation Poop Week. As the challenge went on, only Ian and Nadiya seemed to be even remotely confident with what they’d produced, as Tamal started to fret that his genoise was under-risen and his mochatines would only be fit for the sort of patisserie that would be sandwiched between a pound shop and a drug den in an unloved corner of town. Flora’s fondant icing went all strange and stringy so she was forced to flee to the freezer again in the hope of rescuing it, but on the bright side this did lead to the quintessential image of middle-class angst.
I swear she’s about a minute away from breaking into a plaintive rendition of ‘This Woman’s Work’. In the end, Paul finished dead last while Tamal sank below Flora due to the irregularity of his sponge-slicing and the general inconsistency of his piping, and Nadiya took top honours for the second week in a row for making something that actually looked and tasted like it was supposed to. With her technical challenge redemption arc now kicking into overdrive, Nadiya admitted that it felt like she was having an out of body experience and she isn’t sure she really did any of it. Careful Nadiya, the last thing we need is for the Daily Mail claiming you’ve been sneaking an army of helper monkeys into the tent under your hijab.
7. With Mary and Paul’s mid-episode evaluation bringing the shocking revelation that Nadiya’s well on course for Star Baker and either Paul or Flora is going home (I hope you were sitting down for that bombshell), we advanced into the showstopper where the bakers were asked to prepare a religieuse a l’ancienne, otherwise known as a nun-shaped pile of choux eclairs. Of course. To make things trickier, the nun had to be freestanding, so no crafty use of pipe cleaners or matchsticks to keep her in place. Ian decided to flavour his with passionfruit and call it a “NUN OF HIDDEN PASSIONS” (HO HO HO), while Paul attempted a do-over for his failed banana flavouring and Nadiya lost me immediately when she decided to make hers bubblegum flavour. I had a bubblegum flavour Calippo in Barcelona last year, nearly ruined my entire holiday. This round seemed to revolve around who was using strong flour rather than plain (Ian, Flora and Tamal being in the former camp and Nadiya and Paul in the latter) and who was using a star-shaped piping nozzle for extra fortitude (Tamal and Ian vs everyone else), but this was all just the warm-up act for the electrifying theatre of the nun assembly. Nadiya told Sue that in her seven previous attempts she’d experienced both “nun landslides” and “nun explosions”, while Flora admitted that most of her practices had looked more like a Dalek. Actually, to be honest almost everyone’s end result looked more like a Dalek than a nun anyway so I don’t think she needed to worry.
This specific one is Paul’s, but he’s hardly an outlier. By far the cruellest part of this task came at the very, very end when everyone had finished assembling their religeuses a l’ancienne and were told that, since the whole point of these is to be a party centrepiece that has to hold its shape throughout a dinner, they had to leave their showstoppers behind and come back for the judging after a two-hour lunchbreak, and just hope they’d still be standing. (Also, a two-hour lunchbreak? Bloody communists.) This proved to be the undoing of Nadiya, whose bake more closely resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa upon her return and full-on collapsed when she took it up to be judged. She was praised for the quality of her choux pastry and her crème pat, but her flavours were deemed a little bit too much for Mary and Paul. Contestant Paul’s also collapsed, but at least it tasted of banana this time, while Flora opted to take hers apart because she saw it about to fall, and Mary and Paul couldn’t taste her lime and basil or her coconut flavourings. It was Ian and Tamal, then, who emerged on top in this round with upright nuns and quality flavourings.
8. Your Nadiya faces for the week:
9. Yep, that’s Nadiya winning Star Baker again at the end there, since Paul and Mary decided that the collapse of her nun didn’t matter and neither did the terrifying synthetic flavours, because she’d already shown the skills necessary to prove herself worthy of the title, and also they wanted to stick it to the subsection of the viewing audience that swears that the whole thing gets decided on the showstopper round every week. Interestingly, Tamal was cited as the runner-up with Ian as the middle ground, despite Ian arguably outperforming Tamal in the second and third rounds this week. This doesn’t seem particularly fair, but when a system favours Tamal over Ian I’m not going to poke too hard at the framework even if it is transparently corrupt. Nadiya, for her part, said she was so excited she could streak down the river, and all I can say is I hope Tamal gets Star Baker again next week if that’s the sort of euphoria it inspires at this point.
10. So who got the boot out of Flora and Paul? It could easily have gone either way but as it happened
it was Paul who got sent back to the chokey. He seemed fine about it, but Flora was struck with a serious bout of survivor’s guilt and said that it was completely unfair that Paul went instead of her, though I didn’t exactly notice her coming over all Katniss Everdeen and offering to take his place. Still, apparently it was the near-raw genoise wot dun Paul in in the end, and that seems like as good a reason as any for his ouster.
AN EXTRA SLICE: Contestant Paul has been keeping his 3D lion loaf in the freezer.
Next week: you’ve got me again for sweet, sweet chocolate week.