1. We opened Biscuit Week on the Great British Bake Off with this
the most sinister shot ever seen on the show, at least since Howard’s face when he realised Deborah has nicked his custard. Yes, Mel was just…casually hanging out on a bridge in an isolated patch of woodland, in a murderer’s duffle, to tell us all that one of the bakers would sadly not be coming back. Ever. Also that Sue was…off. For the week. But she, or alternately Rhona Cameron in similar glasses trying to affect her accent, would be back! Promise! Whether Sue was off nursing a hangover, sunning herself in the Azores or THINKING VERY CAREFULLY ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SHE ASKS MEL WHY SHE DOES THOSE STUPID ACCENTS WHEN SHE PRESENTS EUROVISION, it meant that this week we were flying solo with Giedroyc. Sadly we were deprived of the one upside of this – not having to hear the ridiculous “cartoon hippo getting roughly sodomised by a garden gnome” noise Sue makes every time she has to say the word “BAKE!” – as Mel got in on the action there too.
2. The first challenge of Biscuit Week was a seemingly simple one – to make 24 iced biscuits. So seemingly simple that Jane (who out of this cast do you already always forget is there, it’s Jane or Kate isn’t it, admit it) tried to make things sound more jeopardous than they were by mithering that she’d made loads of biscuits before BUT SHE HADN’T ICED MANY OF THEM!!!!! I mean, I know this cast on the whole on average seems like…maybe so far like one of the less talented ones maybe, but don’t try and front me out that icing things is beyond your skill level love. You wait until French Patisserie week when the Showstopper is to ice an entire chiffon cake with a picture of your favourite historic world leader. BLINDFOLDED! IN 15 MINUTES! Despite this obvious basic simplicity in terms of the challenge Mary cautioned the contestants against being too ambitious and to focus on getting all of your biscuits nice and uniform and regular, rather than getting too wacky and/or intense with it. Cut immediately to Selasi mashing up Scotch Bonnets (my favourite part of this being Paul asking Selasi if he’d made sure the recipe wasn’t too hot for “our judging palettes” clearly gesturing to make out to the audience that he was thinking of poor old Mary, when we all know which of them would be sprinting to the fridge and emptying an entire carton of milk over their face AND IT WOULDN’T BE BERRY), Candice comitting to in fact making 48 biscuits so she could pair up the tops and bottoms, Andrew waffling on about biscuit tesslation, and Tom uttering the words “spiced chai frappe latte chino biscuits”. A phrase so outdated and cliche-wanky-frou-frou that it was in fact used as a punchline on “The Wright Way”. Four times. Despite the fripperie, these four mostly came out ok – Selasi’s spiciness was mellowed by the lime flavour also in his motorcycle shped biscuits, Tom’s biscuits were much nicer to taste than they were to hear described, and whilst Candice’s over-ambition meant her biscuits looked raggedly as all getout, you can never go wrong with salted caramel. Only Andrew’s faffing got the better of him, as his dedication to snug tesselation meant that his biscuits were a little soggy. In actual fact, all-round disasters in this round were hard to find – even Kate’s “lavender and bergamot butterfly biscuits”, the very idea of which made Mary pull this face
ended up tasting ok (yes, that shot of Mel on the bridge didn’t have a particularly *long* reign as most sinister shot of the series did it?). For real problems, you had to go to an old Bake Off staple
FLOORBISCUIT! The first case being Louise’s, the second being Val’s. Both traumatic, but I felt more for Val, if only because Louise had Candice fluffing around her, being reassuring and making sure she was ok, whereas Val just had Selasi doing this
and making a noise like his estimate to fix Val’s boiler just doubled.
3. This Signature Round, as it often is this week, had a loose tie-in around the contestants hobbies (Kate made BUTTERFLY BISCUITS because she likes BEING A BROWNIE, who are often OUTSIDE IN NATURE!) so it was nice to get a chance to know a little bit more about the contestants whom the editing spotlamps haven’t shone so brightly on. Louise likes
walks in the valleys with her fiance! Val likes
spending time with her grandson! Selasi likes
being a baller! Candice loves
her pugs! Michael likes
teasing me with the possibility that his biscuits might come out willy shaped tee hee! (sadly they did not). Andrew likes
spending time alone with two other nice young men belting out showtunes! Jane likes
lower back problems apparently! Tom likes
…let’s move on shall we? (Also Rav likes travelling, and Benajmina…doesn’t seem to have any other outside interests but I’m sure they’ll come, she seems nice enough) (I think my biggest disappointment of the week was when it looked like Benjamina was going to do iced biscuits shaped like chicken drumsticks, and they instead ended up just being boring old floral bouquets. I wanted to see Paul Hollywood go the full Henry VIII, and that’s not a fantasy I share often).
4. This week’s History Bit left me a little uneasy. And not because we had to deal with a plain old “food writer”, instead of our usual “food historian”, “food architect” or “food gynaecologist”, but because it focused on the historical etiquette of biscuit dunking. This after Paul Hollywood provoked a minor national furore last week by dunking a Jaffa Cake. I’m not sure if I’m ready for this show to start so self-consciously plotting itself out from week to week, like it’s The Wire or something. Imagine if they’d followed up John Whaite slicing his hand open on a Magimix with a History Bit about kitchen related fatalities, or Bingate with one about how a mysterious old gypsy crone cursed Captain Birdseye’s fridge. You can be a bit TOO knowing, you know? Not that this bothered Sue, who set merrily about dunking biscuits of antiquity, from Ancient Greece to Ancient Persia. Particularly merrily, as someone backstage in the research department decided that all of these old time biscuits were in fact to be dunked in
BOOZE. I am so sure.
5. This week’s technical biscuit bake was the Viennese Whirl. Commence speculation amongst yourselves as to whether this was done solely so that Mel could do a silly dance move and also do a silly accent at the same time. Viennese Whirls to me are always a slight anticlimax. It’s three of my favourite things (biscuit, cream, jam) combined in a undefinably disappointing melancholy way. Just like the similar combination of Mark Ruffalo, chocolate spread, and “having a dream” that one time. The contestants were tasked with making 12 Viennese Whirls, with the primary potential sticking point, as identified by Mary, being the consistancy of their biscuits, and an unbalanced cream-jam ratio. Michael was right on that jam issue, in that “nerdy, but less showily so than Andrew, so destined to be neglected” sort of way, by identifying that
the provided thermometers had an exact jam notch on them. Also one for soft balls. Which…in my experience, the hotter the softer, but I’m no baker. (And let’s not even get into the soft crack). Whilst this might seem a trifling matter, temperatures were all round a problem in this round, as the frigid atmosphere in the Bake Off tent led the biscuit mix for several contestants to become too stiff to pipe. Leading to the following exchange
Mel : Do you need a pair of warm hands? Either on your bag, or on you?
Rav : Erm…
the bag please.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is how we deal with acts of mild sexual harassment in the workplace without causing a scene. Whatever the effects of Mel’s magic hands (and they do seem to have shrunk Rav’s biscuits somewhat), they saved Rav from a baking disaster, and propelled him solidly to mid-table for the challenge. Down at the bottom? Selasi, Louise, and Michael (despite his mastery of jam thermometers). Right at the top? Kate, Jane, and Benjamina. If you want to know why, just imagine both Paul and Mary saying “definition” more often than the flipping Dream Warriors. Now, if you want a lesson in reality tv editing, ponder on how at this point in the episode, during Paul and Mary’s usual chat, they had a FUNNY FEELING that despite their having not really distinguished themselves in the first two rounds, Andrew and Candice *might* both be in the running for Star Baker later in the episode, whilst people who had had two good to great rounds already (Benjamina, Tom, Jane) didn’t get mentioned. I’M ONTO YOU EDITORS, DON’T TRY TO MAKE PAUL HOLLYWOOD LOOK OMNISCIENT, I KNOW BETTER. Oh and if you don’t want a lesson in reality tv editing, but DO want to know what Selasi looks like following a crashing defeat
there you go.
7. Our Showstopper Round, just as it feels like it always is during Biscuit Week? Make a structure out of gingerbread that represents your life in a suitably reality tv friendly way. And as usual, you kind of pray for someone to go “I’m on this show, my life is that I’m into baking, here’s a biscuit”, but nobody does. Oh and just as a note to the producers of the show – most of us are watching this to stimulate our appetitites and activate our tastebuds :
fewer shots of dark brown smears sliding down the sides of porcelain bowls please.
Anyway, this round was meant as yet another opportunity to delve deep into the contestants personalities, and show off their hidden quirks and fascinating complexities. So I can only imagine how excited the producers were when Jane said “I’m making Hastings”. Be careful Jane – they very quickly ditched their Week 1 Star Baker last year because they decided that she was a basic baker, don’t allow yourself to fall victim to the same fate. Get your abandoned Laotian fishing village on stilts ready in your back pocket. Are you getting a two part primetime BBC 1 travelogue off the back of Hastings? No you ruddy aren’t. Michael meanwhile went back to his childhood (so…yesterday) as he reminisced about how he met Santa in Lapland one time to Mel. Mel of course was indulgent
Silly kids, believing that Santa really lives in Lapland, so naive. Everyone knows that really he lives in Hounslow. Sue took her to meet him one time. She had to stand in a cupboard, but she knew it was him. Continuing the childhood theme, Kate was baking this :
Now I know what you’re thinking (/throwing up into your nearest pedal bin) but bear with me, because this saccharine paean to childhood innocence and Brownie endeavour, did lead to the best moment of the episode – Kate, Mel and Mary gleefully reciting the Brownie Code (with Mary clearly giving her age away by almost swearing fealty to our current reigning king, bless her), whilst Paul stood in the background scowling and rolling his eyes and folding his arms
He’s practically Johnny Rotten on the Bill Grundy show isn’t he? What a bunch of fackin’ squares how borrrrrrin’ NEXT QUESTION. Benjamina meanwhile? Well Mel announced that her cake was commemorating a time she “went downtown” and then this popped up
so I presume the rest of her segment was lost due to the show being broadcast before the watershed. Whatever it is, it didn’t end up particularly well, and neither did Michael’s Christmas fantasia unfortunately, both of them not really living up to billing. Although speaking of not living up to billing editors, if Rav says that his Christmas themed gingerbread village is inspired by a trip he took with his grandfather
try to respect that a little bit, yes? I know his best bet is a Dr Danny/Chetna style 4th place invisigoddess but play fair.
8. I’d like to just pause at this point to devote a whole point to Tom, because he’s one of my favourites so far, but more for his dark horse qualities and numerous amazing website quotes (“Tom always finds time to bake, and if he feels that he doesn’t then he will sit down and reevaluate, as it means his work-life balance is off” ; “the pair like to make a real event out of every dinner time” ; “Tom isn’t shy when it comes to flavours and likes to surprise those he’s feeding with unexpected ingredients”) than anything that’s actually aired on the show, where normally he can be found
just broodingly staring off into space, or occasionally bursting into occasionally inappropriate quotes from Dune. But in this challenge what I hope is Tom’s nascent insanity really started to shine through, as his bake was devoted to the time he and his definitely not imaginary friend “Pod”, had a near death experience halfway up a mountain with a black goat.
What’s best is that the details of what happened were at no point revealed or discussed in any way, so I’m choosing to believe that Tom and “his friend Pod” were involved in some sort of Black Mass. Is Tom in fact possessed by the devil? Find out in Pie Week as 500 black satanic eels slither out of his Melton Mowbray.
9. And so, oddly enough, the race for the top, against all expectations, resolved down to Andrew vs Candice. Funny that, eh? It was a battle of equal but opposing classic Bake-Off forces. The formal, regimented, engineers approach of Andrew
constrasted with Candice making a good ol’ family pub, and more importantly, innuendo to make your hair turn white. Forget Kate’s rather mimsy and awkward giggling over how she liked the taste of Cox in Week 1, Candice’s boozer represented for real the point where we can’t pretend any more that the contestants aren’t doing rude stuff on purpose, as Candice spent most of the challenge asking anyone near her whether they wanted a taste of her ginger carpet, and then in her coup de grace, asking Mel to “come and grab my jugs please”. Andrew’s piece may have had its own potentially saucy backstory
(Where is that punt sliding into? A tunnel? Why is the man steering the punt winking saucily? And holding a massive stick? Why is Andrew lounging provocatively at the bottom? How many young men were in that musical theatre society up there again?) but it’s Candice who got those slide whistles sliding, and therefore Candice who got to be Star Baker. Because this
is the saucy strut of a champion. (Also it was incredibly involved and tasted great, but mostly it was the tit jokes let’s face it)
10. There was no question down at the other end of the table though, as we were left with one of the most obvious boots ever this early in a run, as Louise fouled up all three rounds, making a good case to be bottom in two of them and second bottom in the other. There’s just no coming back from maths like that. The show did its best to drum up suspense as Val’s globetrotting showpiece slowly crumbled from a structure to a
…freeform diaroma, but even then
compare it to this. Really. Apparently this is the church that Louise intends to get married in. And by the looks of it buried in. On the same day. Anywho, Louise took her medicine, admitted she’d had an awful week, and went home to get wed. If only she’d claimed her structure was abandoned, like James did in Series 3, and she might just have survived. (Yes I am still bitter, why do you ask?)
Next Week And A Bit : Steve takes on Bread Week, although with a small delay, as the blog is off on its holidays.