Technical Bakes, Who Needs Them?
1. Welcome to a recap of the calumny and scandal against decency that was the final of the GREAT BRITISH PC BAKE OFF. That’s right, over the course of three rounds the contestants were asked to make nothing but Pretty Cakes, neglecting those of us with a savoury tooth who were already mourning the loss of Pie Week. Is there no room in the world of Great Britain any more for tuna paste? Have we come so far? Oh and also The Daily Mail and The Sun threw a collective wobbly that all their pre-series predictions about how the SMILING MUSLIM and the ASIAN DOCTOR and the FILIPINO NURSE and the LITHUANIAN BODYBUILDER had only been cast to make the box-checking numbers up, and that the truly talented people would turn out to be all the middle aged white women, proved…wrong, as two of the TOKENS made the final, meaning it must have been a GIANT FIX the whole time. (You’d think Amanda Platell would be a little bit kinder to people are don’t fit the antiquated notion of the stereotypically British given that she is a) an immigrant and b) at least 60% shark DNA). Of course this is all nothing new from The Daily Mail, but it is amusing that the final of Series 4 had a similarly diverse composition (black woman, mixed-race lesbian, white woman) and the papers mostly ignored it in favour of insinuating one of them was a slag. There’s always a heirarchy isn’t there?
2. We began our final with a profiling of our three finalists, just so we’d know what their storylines were going into the home straight, in case we’d forgotten them in the overwhelming blizzard white-out of “FLORA OVER-COMPLICATES THINGS” over the last two weeks. Tamal was listed as the one who has been consistantly succesful over the entire series, but has had problems with his timings, Nadiya the one who initially struggled with technical bakes and then didn’t, and Ian as the one who likes building things out of things and trying wacky flavour combinations like APPLE AND TARRAGON (!!!) Our contenders were also given a brief moment to talk about their headspace in the run up to the big reveal, with Tamal saying that he was so tempted to go up to random strangers in the street and tell them he was in the final of Bake Off (so *that’s* where all the leaks this series came from), Ian saying that he’d been scribbling furiously in his journal (presumably bound in actual badgerskin) and Nadiya just saying “I WANT TO WIN! WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN! WIN!” over and over again. It takes that competitive edge I guess.
3. The first challenge of the final? Not to reflexively punch Sue out as she bellowed
“BAERURURRKKKKKKKKKK!” in that stupid voice like she’s just stubbed her toe on one of the Smeg fridges, for the 28th time this series. After that, the comparatively easier task of producing two different lots of 12 iced buns. Which you’d think would be simple enough given that iced buns operate on a similar level of the dessert heirarchy as chocolate mousse and the Rice Krispie cake but no, of course Paul Hollywood can even get evangelical about the sort of thing you’d find flogged in Greggs for 30p, talking about how the iced bun is a THING OF BEAUTY WHICH LEAVES NO PLACE TO HIDE and advising the contestants to “Keep Calm and follow in your head the stages that you need to achieve to produce perfection”. Which is both a bit much and also not going to be fitting on any novelty mugs any time soon. Unless they’re the ones Mary Berry uses to swig her gin from. All three bakers decided to push themselves and break the mould in order to express themselves in this final “Sig Chal” as Mel (and only Mel, ever) described it – Nadiya by making one set of buns round and the other oblong, Ian by making two different types of flavoured dough, one with spices and one with elderflower cordial (is there anything more Ian in the world than elderflower cordial, refreshing you on a hot summer’s day as you work on the perfect bbq marinade rub for the hedgehog you just scraped off the A473?), and Tamal by being REALLY REALLY BORING and not flavouring either his buns or his icing, hoping that his filling would carry the day by itself. Spoilers : it didn’t, especially as his creme patissiere didn’t set, leaving one half of his iced buns to function as marmalade sandwiches with what looked like toothpaste on top. This of course led to further questions about his timings and generally left him feeling a bit out of the running already. Poor Tamal. If only I’d been there, I would have happily iced his buns. Ian meanwhile was not let down by his beloved and emblematic elderflower, but by his spiced buns. Because he forgot to put any sugar in them (…), rendering them, per Paul, “crispy baps”. This left Nadiya to swoop in and take the round with her perfect round cardamom and almond buns, and her even perfecter sour cherry and nutmeg fingers. I mean…
look at them. It was obvious from the start which way this was all going right?
4. Most fascinating of all in this round though was the dynamic it revealed amongst the bakers. By which I mean Tamal and Nadiya spent the entire challenge (/episode) gossiping and whispering and teasing one another in the corner about Technical Bake disasters past, calling one another names like “old friend” and “chum” and generally pitching for their own 7:30pm BBC 2 matey baking show, whilst Ian was left alone to plough his own furrow. I swear, I think Sue was the only person even to acknowledge Ian’s existence outside of judging, as she periodically tried to get him to rough up his soft charming fluffy exterior (even going so far as to call him out as being “feminine” which was…an interesting moment) and admit that he wanted to win or at least do something other than chatter endlessly about the nice things he saw on his nature walk the other day. Poor guy. I hope his real life is different from his Bake Off life, and doesn’t consist entirely of people taking agin’ him for no reason. And at least he got spared the indignity that was given to Paul this week, who was told by Sue to go and bungee jump without a safety harness and die. Sometimes BANTAH goes too far, even on this show.
5. Our final Technical Bake was never going to quite live up to the merry-go-round of madness that was last week’s session, but 6 millefuellielees (sp?) was a suitable way to go out especially as, as Paul pointed out, neither pastry nor Technical Bakes in general have been the speciality of any of these three (Tamal in particular has very quietly been putting together the worst record in Technical Bakes of any finalist in this show’s history) so it’s not as though they could have pulled last year’s trick of just giving them the names of three things and telling them to get on with it. (Nadiya incidentally IMMEDIATELY sniffed this out and giggled to Tamal that the judges were obviously trying to test them, which…is kind of the idea of the whole show Nad, but I take your point). The story of this round really was Tamal and Nadiya continuing their roles as constantly joshing siblings, both trying to outperform the other as to how badly they were doing (“WHAT’S A CANDY STRIPE?” “WHAT IS THIS SUGAR SYRUP FOR?” “YOUR PASTRY LOOKS AMAZING, MINE’S AWFUL!” “I’M LOSING CONTROL!” “I CAN’T EVEN DO KEY STAGE 1 MATHS!” “THIS IS A DISASTER!” “THE DECISIONS I MAKE HERE I HAVE TO LIVE WITH FOR THE REST! OF! MY! LIFE!”) which might leave you believe that Ian was cruising silently and confidently to victory but…oops, Nadiya won this round as well, because Ian’s piping was poor and his pastry wasn’t quite cooked. Still, Tamal’s hammy paroxysms of woe were accurate, as the judges told him that the pastry for his milliefflieuls (sp?) was a disaster and they looked like they’d been sat on. So at this point, especially if you took into account Mary continuing in her role of delightfully doddering spoiler-auntie by giving a pre-show interview wherein she said that all three showstoppers were amazing, you could pretty much call this series definitively for Nadiya. But let’s carry on anyway, because the Showstopper Round is always the most fun, right? And we could always hope that Tamal made it out of the final with at least one thing he could be proud of. (Incidentally, her victory here puts Nadiya second on the list for the record of most Technical Bakes victories after Argyle James from Series 3, even though she sucked the bag in pretty much every one she didn’t win. So mercurial, so Nadiya)
6. Unfortunately for Tamal, God himself intervened to try to ruin his Showstopper chances, by opening the heavens and upping the humidity just as he began the sugarwork required to produce his final masterpiece – a multilayered sticky toffee fruit cake based around an abandoned Chinese fishing village he saw on the news. This was supposedly to meet the brief of an “iconic British cake, with at least three tiers”. Contestants ambitions were curbed though, with the proviso that every tier had to have the same basic flavour, presumably in memory of James’ doomed attempts to make a different cake for every composite nation of the British Isles, or the absolute horror show of the Series 4 finale. In truth, Tamal’s cake ended up looking more like the lair of a Spider Boss from a Super Mario Galaxy game
but you can’t fault him for ambition, and apparently it tasted nicer than it looked, in that it didn’t taste like it had been just hooked out from underneath your sofa. For comparison, this is the abandoned Chinese Fishing Village.
I guess it’s an inspiration, rather than an exact copy right? Ian meanwhile took inspiration from his own colossal curly carrot apparently to produce this :
supposedly the greatest collection of carrot cakes in one place that Paul Hollywood has seen ever. And you have to believe that Paul Hollywood has eaten a lot of carrot cakes in his time. Now, you might think that cake looks amateurish and a little “kids birthday party”, but as with any carrot cake it pays to look at the raw (and I mean raw) materials it was made out of
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Who cares if the green icing was a little lurid, anyone who can make anything halfway edible out of that diarrhoea coleslaw deserves our undying respect. Yet again it was Nadiya who identified the point of the round – not Chinese fishing villages, not carrots, but shameless reality tv pandering, as she made white lemon drizzle cake adorned with red flowers and blue sarees (RED WHITE AND BLUE AND AT THE SAME TIME A COMMENT ON HER EXTERNAL HERITAGE ISN’T IT?) with an adorable back story – it was the cake that she would have had at her wedding if she’d had a cake at her wedding which oops she didn’t because she got married in Bangladesh, where they don’t have cakes.
Simple, but effective, precision strike pandering.
7. As it was the final, we got to visit with the remaining contestants families before they all turned up for the big series ending “tea party” which at one point was an actual thing where the attendees got to eat everything the finalists had made in this last episode, but which now serves mostly to have cute kids around to react to things. At any rate, we met
Tamal’s bossy older sister, who took all the credit for him entering the world of baking, and also told us that she thinks her younger brother is “good-looking, funny, and intelligent” very much like she was writing his online dating profile for him. Sorry Tamal’s sister, I think Grindr asks for more detail than that, do carry on…
Ian’s kids, who shaded Ian impecably by saying that they thought daddy had done very well to make the final (we also met Ian’s wife, and whilst she wasn’t the glamourpuss Vampirella-In-Wellies of my dreams, she did basically say that she only let Ian out of the shed to do the show so she could get her mug on camera at the end, and frankly if she’d known what a shitshow he’d make of her kitchen over the intervening months she wouldn’t have bothered, which kind of makes her my fave)
and Nadiya’s husband, who apparently was doing a lot for twitter, if not for me, so here’s a picture of him anyway. Also we met Nadiya’s kids, particularly her daughter.
PARTICULARLY her daughter (<3)
8. As well as friends and family, the final crowning was also attended by the departed contestants of episodes past, who were of course grilled as to who they wanted to see win. Paul wanted Nadiya to emerge triumphant, Marie thought it would be Ian because he’s
“…very different”, Mat chose Nadiya also, and Stuart said that he’d “like to see Tamal do it”. First and last time I’ve ever agreed with Stuart there. Ugne meanwhile expressed a preference for HA HA HA HA IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME I SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE TENT HA HA HA BUT THAT’S LIFE ISN’T IT OH WELL HA HA HA. (Hooray for Ugne). In other news, Flora
continues to dress like a harassed middle-aged mother of three enjoying a brief Premier Cru break, and Sandy still will not shut up about how RANDOM she is. If she’d been in the final she would have been, like, tap-dancing and singing and stuff. RANDOM. (We sadly didn’t hear from Dorret. I hope she’s doing ok)
9. Our winner?
The obvious. Having now watched all six finales of the Great British Bake Off, this was the most comprehensive final hour stomping of all time, as Nadiya put out three professional looking and (per Paul and Mary) great tasting final bakes and her rivals…didn’t. I mean the worst you could say is that her Showstopper was a little unambitious. Her winning was augmented by three teary speeches – firstly from Tamal, who teared up with pride for her and then sighed that she’s going to insufferable from now on (seriously when did these two become best friends and life partners forever, I love it), secondly from Mary (good grief) who talked about how much she enjoyed watching Nadiya channel her nerves and her passion for baking together to form the competitive edge she needed to win rand finally from Nadiya herself
tearing up, about how she’s never going to second-guess herself or her choices ever again. I mean…even the ones involving bubblegum flavouring? OK. To close out Nadiya’s time as probably the most beloved Bake Off winner of them all (who was more popular at the time of their victory? Joanne maybe?) here are some more of those patented Nadiya Faces.
Thanks for being such a reliable source of filler-blog-content Nadiya Hussain, I salute you.
10. And finally, as ever, where they are now :