So…not much to talk about this week is there?
1. If I’ve learnt one thing in 17 years of watching reality tv, and close to 10 blogging about it, it’s that reality shows are more durable than you’d think. Despite their being ephemeral, slight things, and despite the fans and the press tut tutting that shows have really got stale and should be rested immediately every single time the judging line up changes or there’s a winner people don’t like, reality shows, once they’re up in the air, are built to endure. Strictly, Britain’s Got Talent and I’m A Celebrity are all still going strong, X Factor just got renewed again, Big Brother lasted a good 8 years after its cultural peak on Channel 4 and its resurrection is still plodding on (albeit having risen from the grave without a soul), The Apprentice continues with its original boss solidly in place, later this year the Masterchef franchise will crown its 33rd winner since it became a reality show and even across the Atlantic, Survivor just finished filming Series 34 and The Real World Series 32 (74 if you include its main spin-offs). Which is all why it’s so noteworthy (and I’ll be honest, kind of thrilling), that Love Productions just head-shotted Bake Off in front of the entire nation, right at its peak. Because obviously Bake Off is dead. Without Mel & Sue, and almost certainly without Mary, and without the cultural cache of being on BBC 1, it’s just another cooking competition, no matter how much someone in the basement at Love is stapling a massive set of bollocks to a badger and hoping the nation take it to their hearts when Katherine Ryan rides it on on the first episode of the new series on Channel 4. Love have done a great job at building up a massive empire from a fairly flimsy base, via casting, editing, marketing etc, but like so many Showstoppers on the series itself, they really should have made sure everything was firmly in place before taking it off the bench to present it somewhere else, lest it all wobble, melt, and fall off the plate like so much underfrozen Baked Alaska. Still, we no doubt have several glorious weeks of scandal and recriminations to come, which already has encompassed Mel & Sue releasing a joint press release calling their bosses money-grubbing corporate whores via the medium of bread puns, and which will at some point hopefully include Paul Hollywood being bundled into the back of a limo under a picnic blanket as flashbulbs go off and the nation’s housewives scream “SCAB!” and hurl miniature pork pies at him, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s Batter Week.
2. Yes Batter Week.
No, Sue, NO! Did she say “Eurovizh” again? I know it’s annoying but it’s not worth a GBH conviction over. Trust me, I learnt from when I ran McCall over on my mini-scooter because she referred to herself as “Auntie Davina” one too many times.
3. Yes, Batter Week. A new one for Bake Off, and one that ironically enough does rather chip away at the “Bake” part of the title (One challenge takes places entirely within a frying pan!) just as the show’s producers probably wanted the show to look as distinctive and unique as possible. Oops. Definitely not just moving over Paul Hollywood and a marquee for £25,000,000 a series, definitely not (one of my favourite parts of this whole scandal is seeing Americans discuss it and think we’re talking about, like £25 million per presenter). As soon as Sue announced to the waiting tent that the theme this week was “batter”, Selasi
almost broke the fourth wall to let us know that yes, it’s ok, he knows we’re about to spend the entire episode being filthy about his delicious creamy batter squirting all over our baking trays, and he’s as laid back about it as he is about everything else. The first challenge? To make 24 identical Yorkshire Puddings. Which you’d think would be enough of a challenge on its own, given that Yorkshire Puddings are inherently kind of naturally squiggly, but NO! Contestants were also required to make SAVOURY FILLINGS. And as so often has been the case this series, the assembled contestantge took this invitation to over-reach themselves utterly, and ran with it, almost to a man focusing entirely on their fillings and neglecting the solid principles and foundations of good Yorkshire Pudding manufacture. Candice, Val, Tom and Jane all had to have two runs at creating them properly, and most of the bakers ending up with far nicer insides than they do outsides (like the reverse of watching Love Island). You see with Yorkshire puddings, as Mary Berry explained, the batter ratio is all important, they have to have good strong walls, but also dip a little bit to take the filling
I’d make that picture wink if I could, trust me.
4. On paper, Candice appeared to be the one pushing herself furthest, because her Yorkshire Pudding was supposed to be a “deconstructed Beef Wellington”. No word in the English language being more guaranteed to immediately get competitive food reality viewers instantly riled up and frothing than “deconstructed”, other than maybe “foam”. Or “air”. Also partially because based on the artists sketch
it looked like she was planning to try to insert one food-vagina directly INTO another food-vagina. Eat your heart out Georgia O’Keefe. Meanwhile on the other side of the tent, Jane did pretty much exactly the same thing (right down to them getting more or less the same critiques – lovely filling, but their Yorkshires weren’t right), but didn’t call it a “deconstruction” of anything. I think this one incident partially explains why Jane gets much less online invective than Candice does, but also why nobody really remembers who she is. Benjamina was also deemed part of the “nice filling (brie, chutney, bacon) shame about the frame” club as her puddings came out too small, but for the real disasters and successes you had to look to the bakers who had travelled much further afield with their flavours. Andrew (Spain), Val (Mexico) and Rav in particular (Thailand) had massive success filling their puddings with various types of curried and spiced proteins. Little in the episode was quite as English as Val mithering over whether to put one chilli or half a chilli into her vat of chilli con carne lest she “blow Paul and Mary’s heads off”. I know they’re all still learning the lesson of Paul’s face after he ended up sucking on Selasi’s Scotch Bonnet, but I feel like Val finds Ginger Nuts a “bit too strong for my palette”. However the gamble of straying into foreign climes didn’t end quite so well for Tom whose use of heavy dense chickpea flour meant his Yorkshires came out rather
deflated. Both times he tried them. Leading to Mel cooing that all the colour had drained from his face (like you’d notice). Of course the editors, in a no way Freudian tableau, immediately cut to Selasi’s over, and his monster
swelling rapidly upwards to enormous size. Centuries of male anxiety right there. Although you could also hear a nation weeping and wailing as Selasi revealed at this point that he got the recipe for his Yorkshire Puddings (filled with pork, cider, and crackling apparently so moreish that you could see Paul developing a habit that will wipe out half of even his Channel 4 paycheque faster than you can say “Celebrity Special With Joey Essex and Steph and Dom Gogglebox”) from his girlfriend’s family. GIRLFRIEND?!?!?!
You’ve got some explaining to do Selasi…
5. Incidentally, it was during this round that I realised that Selasi’s chill extends to every aspect of Bake Off life. Look at all this lot, Gollum’ing themselves up and into their ovens, all hunched up panic, intense stares, and spiky angles.
Now look at Selasi.
It’s like he’s sipping cocktails on the beach isn’t it? Nuzzling that oven like a lover.
6. The Technical Challenge this week was…not really a Technical Challenge at all, but an Artistic one. Instead of being given huge amounts of varied and exotic ingredients splayed over a table, accompanied by three gnomic lines of text from Paul Hollywood, to combine to produce a Gormenghastian and obscure funeral cake from Liechtenstein…contestants had to squirt batter into a frying pan in pretty patterns. To create what the show called “Lacy Pancakes”. Wasn’t she in Hollyoaks? If you want to see what a finished Lacy Pancake looks like…
don’t look here, this is Paul Hollywood holding up a pair of his girlfriend’s knickers. That he’s just taken off. The dirty sod. Not exactly dampfnudeln is it? Anyway, despite the incredibly limited nature of the brief, Paul still scrawled
“DO NOT CONFER WITH THE OTHER BAKERS!” on the instructions in bold red font, like anyone was going to wander around the tent asking the other inmates how to make pancake batter. Well, except maybe Val. (Incidentally, Candice took one look at this sheet and announced to camera, pouting with one hand on her hip, “DO YOU WANNA HEAR THE RECIPE? MAKE PANCAKE BATTER! THAT’S IT!”. Which again, I can see why that would annoy people, but in twisting the truth to be a smartarse in an attention seeking manner, Candice in fact IS me and also everything written here, so she’s still in my top tier of favos for this series) The pancakes? Thought they were supposed to be heart shaped, they mostly looked like diseased lungs from an anti-smoking poster or a BIG OL PAIR OF BALLS, apart from Rav’s which
were just sad. When judgement came down, he, Selasi and Kate were bottom of the pack, Jane, Candice and Benjamina were at the top (yeah, of course it was GIRLS what was best at the ARTISTIC challenge wannit, coz it was just DRAWRIN), and yet again Andrew got an inordinate amount of credit for coming 4th. Out of 9. Still, given that we found ourselves in yet another episode where nobody excelled at both of the first two challenges, this was somewhat understandable. In a series where consistent performance across an episode is impossible to find, you promote what you can get.
(Sidebar : for those of you who are purists who keep track only of technical results, as they are the only results not tainted by dread judging favouritism, this is my first update of the series. And it is to say that as with the rest of everything it’s impossible to call anyone consistently good in the way you could a Flora, a Holly, a Nancy or a James, but the best performing so far have been Benjamina, Candice and Tom, and Rav and Selasi have been…the not best. Particularly Rav).
7. A little photobreak again here (no History Bit this week, sorry, mucho filler required) to pay tribute to
Candice’s mouth. Many of us growing up must sadly admit we practiced kissing on inanimate objects. A pillow, an apple, our numbed fist…Candice appears to have practised her technique on a hoover. That was set to maximum suck.
8. Our Showstopper Batter challenge? (No not bukake sir, get your head out of the gutter). 36 CHURROS! Now, I’ve seen some people say that this should have been the Signature Bake, with the Yorkshire Puddings better suited to the Showstopper but…come on, it’s the exact same round with two different names, let’s be honest. The show’s going out in flames, let’s dismantly all the illusions at once. Yet again with this round we were eschewing the ovens in favour of a saucepan table-top deep fat fryer, in order to get truly crispy batter, and also potentially to set things on fire. Teetering on the edge of elimination, Tom decided to go back to his good old mainstays
occult penises, as he intended his churros to look like serpents wriggling around beneath Paul & Mary’s feet. In the end, they looked more like
discarded cigarette butts, and were inedible to anybody but the most hardened fennel fan (Fannel?) but Pod moves in mysterious ways doesn’t he Tom? You still survived. On the whole, this was a very physical round after the more relaxing “squirt this into a pan” of the Technical Challenge, with contestants having to exert plenty of energy churning their churro batter until it was thick enough to hold together in the fryer, causing great exertion from everyone (except Selasi, natch, for whom it was no effort at all), before piping said thick batter into many little squiggly sausages. Resulting in a quite frankly
volcanic looking Andrew on the verge of passing out on the floor after about 2 minutes of stirring. Between him and Benjamina, the geeks may be about to inherit the Bake-Off, but they might want to build up their biceps a little bit first. All the huffing and puffing was a bit too much effort for him in the end, and unfortunately despite two decent first rounds, he had to play bridesmaid for Star Baker yet again as his churros came out too fatty and one-note, despite their cute appearance
you know if you’re into that sort of thing. And LOL look how cautiously Paul’s incy-pincing it, you’re not going to catch gay off it Paul calm down. Unfortunately, poorly done churro batter was kind of a thing all round, with Selasi (catching the sore end of a poor decision to freeze his churros before frying them, resulting in a burnt outside and a raw middle), Candice (too oily) and Val (spoiling the dream I think we all of us had once of a week where Val was, y’know, GOOD AT BAKING, as she’s still topping out at one good round per show at most) all turning out the sort churros that you’d get at a sticky-floored regional funfair with bits of candy floss randomly stuck to them. Triumphant though was Jane, cementing a good week for her again after a couple of rum affairs with Biscuit and Bread Weeks. If you want another patented “Jane Is Too Dull To Win (And Some Of Us Prefer Her That Way)” moment, you can have a direct contrast between Val beeming and cackling into the camera like she’s filming an amateur 1983 exercise video for the elderly about how she’s doing her churros like chocolate oranges because her lovely daughter loves Chocolate Oranges, and Mel saying deadpan that “Jane’s flavours are inspired by her love of pistachios”. Spoilers : Jane’s churros were pistachio flavoured. Rav meanwhile came a cropper not for the texture of his churros (although they looked terrible, like deep-fried aubergine gone wrong) but for the taste, as the matcha tea contained within made them far too savoury to make pleasant eating. This led to a patented Paul Hollywood moment – him telling a contestant “your flavours are normally SPOT ON” when we have heard literally nothing to this effect from him about them before. The same thing happened with Chetna. All I remember Paul saying about Rav’s flavours before now is him taking the piss out of him for using lime too much. Such a mystery this show sometimes. Rav has literally never been in contention for winning anything, why is he suddenly King Flavour?
9. Taking Star Baker out of Andrew’s hands at the last was Benjamina, marking her out officially as his co-front-runner in the competition so far (and Andrew’s banterish “so surprised!” at her as she was announced suggests that the rivalry might not be entirely a friendly one unless he gets Star Baker soon DAMNIT, this is the THIRD WEEK IN A ROW THEY’VE TEASED HIM, COME ON) , and also as a Quiet Force To Be Reckoned With, as despite her victory she was still only really focused on in the episode when it came time to taste her food. And what food
It’s nice to be able to rely on someone at least to turn out professional looking plates as we head to the halfway mark. At the moment, Benjamina and Andrew seem most likely to make the final, although it’s a mystery who will join them (other than to say NOT VAL). On overall performance so far, Jane seems the safest bet (if they want a final that will officially be billed as “Andrew And The Other Ones”), although you wouldn’t bet against any of Candice, Selasi, or Tom joining them also as the official Controversial One. Or at least I hope so.
10. I’ve seen a lot of people disagreeing with this week’s boot, but whilst Tom and Rav both had noisier failures with their Yorkshire puddings and their lacklustre lacy pancakes respectively, Kate was the only one who was consistently poor across all three rounds (despite having been a solid middle-order finisher in the competition until now), all culminating in Paul Hollywood telling her that her churros were completely inedible. So I find myself in agreement with her departure. Like Benjamina’s rise to power this week, Kate’s was an under-the-radar sort of failure. She was stealth-shit you might say. Still, she can take home with her the comfort that Paul said she was by far not the worst baker overall in the competition at that point
HINT HINT HINT HINT HINT, so that’s something. It’s also kind of appropriate that Kate leaves in The Week That Bake Off Died, as there was something very BBC Bake Off about her at her core. There’s a variant of Kate on most series – all talk of ponies and flowers and being a stay-at-home mum and every single sodding bake being somehow inspired by her husbands or her kids or her mum or the brownies or some other member of her family. Every series there’s a woman who ends up getting eliminated for something like turning out “bunny rabbits” that look melted
and this is the week we lost her this time. I’ll leave with my Most Kate “Kate Moment” of the week, which was during her Signature Bake Round, when she said that she grew up in a household that didn’t have Yorkshire Puddings with Christmas Dinner, and her husband grew up in a household that did, so in tribute to that she was debuting her “Christmas Dinner Compromise”.
Having Yorkshire Puddings with Christmas Dinner. What a very Middle England “compromise”.
Next week : Steve does Pastries Week. You know, if the show’s still on.