Roll up, roll up.
1. You know what’s weird? This week the show went straight into the recap of last week’s episode without the usual introductory whimsy from Mel and Sue. Had it not been for the events of the last month or so, I might not have really paid this much attention; “oh,” I might have thought, “obviously a very exciting episode this week and they’ve had to cut that out to make room for all the top-quality content” (hahahahaha no, but we’ll get to that presently). But now I find myself wondering: what if this all means something? What if this is Love Productions hastily re-editing the show as is to say “look, Melon Sue, see how expendable you are, we’ll be FINE on Channel 4 when we announce that our new hosts are Pete from Big Brother 7 and HRH Princess Michael of Kent, JUST YOU WATCH”? Or what if this delaying tactic is all to build suspense so we’d have to wait until after the credits for the big reveal of
Mel’s glam hairdo for this week? I mean I’m quite excited by it but I’m not sure it merits THAT level of suspense. I just don’t know what to think.
2. Anyway, to business: this week it was desserts week, and the proceedings began with (who else?) Andrew informing us that he had a bit of a meltdown last week but he’s feeling much more confident now because “I am a desserts man through and through”, just in case anyone has forgotten that the primary narrative of this series is Andrew’s rollercoaster journey to eventually becoming Star Baker. Still, if the intention of this edit was to make us all root for Andrew to eventually receive his long-awaited Star Baker status then I have to say it worked on me, in that I wanted him to get Star Baker just so he would stop. Going. On. About. It. Meanwhile you know the competition is taking its toll when
Candice hasn’t even had time to dig out a new shade of lipstick and has had to recycle the same one she wore in week one. She doesn’t crack any innuendos this week either. Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially crushed Candice’s spirit in a way that a load of adolescent girls learning netball somehow couldn’t. Anyway, this week’s signature bake was a family size roulade or, as we call it in my house, “a light snack”. The advice from the judges amounted to “make sure you roll it up properly so you get a nice spiral” (Mary) and “consider the size of your prospective eater’s mouth” (Paul), and everyone seemed to be following the same initial path of a fatless sponge made from eggs and sugar except Selasi, who opted to add butter into his to make more of a genoise sponge. Mary thought that this would make his sponge more pliable when he rolled it, so she was “hoping there will be no crack whatsoever”, which is odd because everyone I know wishes for the exact opposite when Selasi’s on screen. Once everyone had given their sponge time to cool
and yes, that is Tom using a hand-cranked fan to cool his down (not pictured: Selasi regarding this from across the tent with wry amusement), it was time to get rolling, at which point Jane proved that Selasi wasn’t the only iconoclast of the bunch by rolling her sponge widthways rather than lengthways – her argument was that you get more slices out of your roll that way, but Selasi’s argument for doing precisely the opposite was that you don’t get enough rolls by doing it Jane’s way. Also not getting enough, or indeed any, rolls at this point: Tom, who discovered that his sponge was too flat and that he’d probably taken it out of the oven a smidge too early, so he decided to chuck it out and start again on the grounds that “it’s week seven”, “good enough isn’t good enough” and “Pod told me to, what do you mean you can’t see him?” The second sponge turned out much more to his satisfaction but left him with a lot less time to pull the whole thing together, so that poor little pink hand-fan was working overtime trying to get it cooled down.
3. Come the judging, Paul and Mary acknowledged that Jane’s chocolate and hazelnut roulade was less rotund because she’d chosen to roll it the opposite way to everyone else (not saying it’s wrong, it was clearly born this way, we just need to accept alternative lifestyles), and while there was a nice big goopy circle of filling in the centre that I thought looked very appealing, Paul thought it had too much alcohol in it and Mary thought NOM NOM BOOZE LOL (can we, and by “we” I mean “the show”, retire the “get Mary, ooh she likes a tipple” meme at this point? It was fun for a time but it’s been seven series now and I think we’ve squeezed about as much comic mileage out of it as we’re ever likely to). Mary liked Benjamina’s piña colada roulade while Paul thought the coconut essence that she’d used tasted too artificial, but he definitely felt it evoked piña colada. Tom had attempted to cover up the cracks in his millionaire’s roulade with a thick layer of chocolate icing, but that unfortunately left it looking rather stout and flat and generally a bit
smiling-poop-emoji-looking. Paul, quite correctly, wondered what that thick chocolate glob was hiding, but it tasted better inside than it looked outside, though Mary thought it could do with some cream to separate the sponge from the caramel, otherwise it all got a bit claggy and like to unfix one’s dentures. Candice’s “crowd-pleaser roulade” didn’t live up to its name as Mary dragged it on appearance before even cutting into it, and Paul declared it to be a bit rubbery in the middle, but the filling itself was well-received. Meanwhile, Andrew’s tropical holiday roulade, using a curd recipe he’d stolen from his da, was sagging slightly due to a soft filling (EH LADS?) but his sponge was excellent and the filling delicious. Selasi’s summer picnic roulade got slightly lukewarm praise for the “simple but effective” appearance but Paul told him he had a nice swirl (keep up Paul, the rest of us noticed that in week one) and his sponge was the star of the show, though Mary would’ve liked a bit more lemon curd. Still, being Selasi, he wasn’t too cut up about that and pointed out that at least he could take his leftover curd home and have it on toast. Also given that Selasi appeared to have just as many sponge-cracking issues during the rolling as Tom did, he did a much better job of covering it up and making it look presentable – including, as Mel quickly spotted, serving it on a curved photo frame. I love that Candice brought along a whole rustic-looking tiered cake tray to serve hers on, whereas Selasi just swiped something off the sideboard on his way out of the door that morning. Bonus points if this means there’s a picture of his sister’s graduation still lying crumpled on the hall carpet.
4. Who’s still here for Selasi and Benjamina helping each other out, sampling each other’s wares and just generally being inestimably cute together?
ME ME ME I AM. And maybe Selasi growling in triumph straight down the camera in a way that you might, if you were so inclined, be able to incorporate into your personal fantasies?
Oh go on then, why not.
5. For the technical challenge, Mary wanted the bakers to make a marjolaine,
at which point Selasi basically cemented his role as this year’s Nadiya-esque audience surrogate. Eh? What’s a marjolaine? Well, it’s a layered French rectangular gateau with a buttercream and hazelnut meringue filling, and Mel used her job as expositioner and the fact that teacher is always out of the room at this point to poke fun at the way that Mary says “layers”. Laiirrrrrs. With Rav now out of the competition, everyone realised that this meant one of us has to finish last now, which lit a fire under Selasi in particular, who I think felt rather in danger this whole week, albeit in a rather Selasi-like way where he acknowledged it but didn’t seem to be actually, you know, worried. Weirdly, we didn’t even get that much innuendo about the part where everyone was working their nuts (other than Tom saying “my nuts are nice and golden brown”), which I felt rather cheated by. Andrew had apparently enough prior experience of dacquoise (of which marjolaine is a variant) to know that you should pipe your meringue mix into your cake tin rather than spread it, and once the meringues were in the oven everyone got on to the business of making ganache and praline, with Jane talking as though it’s the easiest thing in the world to whip up a caramel at short notice and I had to sit quietly and pretend that the one time I tried to make caramel all I got was a weird translucent substance that very quickly turned hard enough to double as bathroom grout, and left me trying to scrape it out of two ramekins and a non-stick saucepan for the next fortnight. There was a fun bit where Mel pounced on Tom as he was cooling his meringues in the oven and, sensing that this was a typically unconventional and Tom-esque way of cooling something, asked if anyone else was doing it and suggested he keep this brilliant idea to himself, only for Tom to point out that it actually said to do exactly that in Mary’s instructions.
As they constructed their marjolaines, the contestants speculated on what the judges might be looking for: Candice thought they’d want neatness and precision, while Andrew thought it should like “like a Viennetta, only posher”. Actually, considering none of them seemed to really be sure what it looked like, they all got pretty close to the mark, producing gateaux that looked not just like Mary’s demo effort, but pretty much like each other’s, and even once Paul and Mary got their chops around them it didn’t seem like any of them were a total disaster. Selasi finished in last place because his was, according to Mary, “a bit drunk-looking”, while Tom took fifth place with his lopsided piping and “not quite straight” cake. Jane got fourth, Benjamina third, Candice second leaving Andrew the master piper to land his first ever technical challenge win.
6. FACT: There is no greater opening for a History Bit then Mel suddenly leaning out from behind a tree like she’s about to abduct your children if you can’t solve her riddle.
This week’s historical meanderings were all about the praline, which was invented by a chef in the employ of Count Praslin, and the count used it to encourage the nobles to support the king at the time, Louis XIV, according to historian Coline Arnaud. (I’m so disappointed that the historians this year don’t seem to have super-niche areas of specialism, that’s half the reason I watch.) That’s kind of it for the history angle, so to fill time Sue went to see confectioner Benoit Digeon at the Maison de la Praline, which is basically my Barbie Dream Home right there. Benoit told Sue that his grandfather bought the company over a year ago, and they still follow the same recipe of caramelising almonds in a not-remotely-secret way. I’m as staunch a defender of The History Bit as you’ll ever find, but even I’m admitting at this stage that they may have run out of compelling stories to tell given that this one was basically “praline was invented, continues to exist”.
7. Going into the final challenge, Andrew and Benjamina were identified as the front runners for Star Baker (lol good luck Benjamina), while Mel suggested there were two people in serious danger of going home, which Paul named as Tom, Jane, Selasi and Candice. Well, somebody’s maths was definitely off there but I can’t figure out whose. The showstopper challenge was to make 24 mini mousse cakes, and sadly nobody misheard the instructions and turned out 24 Minnie Mouse cakes instead. This challenge should have probably raised a few red flags for Jane who, in the previous bite-size food showstopper challenge, didn’t quite get the memo and made hers far too big, but if she was flustered, it didn’t particularly show as she flew around the kitchen icing fleur-de-lys designs into her mini sponges before popping them in the freezer to set. Ah yes, the freezer was very important in this round for getting those mousses ready on time because apparently it was the hottest day of the year (Dull Goddess Jane: “Well, they say if you can’t take the heat…” *knowing look to camera*, god I love her). Benjamina and Tom were each constantly casting wary glances across the room at what the other was doing after realising that each of them had one recipe that was heavily apple-based, but as Tom said “I suspect they will come out very different, not necessarily to my favour, I imagine.” Tom, bless him, was attempting to make a hipster picnic of conventional ideas executed with a complicated twist, “which is the hipster way”. I love that he said that while dressed like
he was doing a test shoot for a Gap childrenswear campaign. Tom announced to Paul and Mary that he intended to pipe his mousse on to his sponges, a technique that both Paul and Tom himself agreed was probably a bad idea, and yet Tom decided to do it anyway. In fact everyone seemed to be determined to overcomplicate everything – Candice listed like nine different elements that were going to make up just one of her two mini mousse cake recipes, while Jane had five different types of mousse on the go and couldn’t remember if she’d put gelatin in all of them or not and just chuckled to herself about it in the way a person does shortly before you schedule the intervention.
This, incidentally, was shortly before Mel came up, took one look at the state of Jane’s apron, and said with some concern that she looked like she’d been in a “chocolate abattoir”. The heat and the time limit conspired against all of the bakers with those whose mousses had been set when they came out of the freezer – Jane, Benjamina, Candice – having to work quickly and generally failing to get everything in formation before it all started to ooze down the sides, and those whose had already been saggy and unset when they came out – Tom and Selasi – having to do frantic, futile repair jobs. Only Andrew seemed to sail through this round with something close to a calm head on his shoulders.
8. So when it came to judging, Jane appears to have been vindicated on the gelatin front as Paul and Mary were happy with all of her mousses and indeed all of her cakes – the only thing letting her down was a bit of melting which was at least only partially her fault for not freezing it long enough, as the scorchingly hot weather was almost certainly playing a part here. Selasi got good reviews for his passionfruit, lemon and strawberry cakes, but his chocolate and mint cakes were a bit of a mess, being not remotely mini (even by Selasi’s standards) and having come off worse in The Great Melt Disaster Of 2016. It was an uncharacteristically rough week for Candice here too, as her after dinner mousse was lacking a supportive sponge and her blackberry and raspberry bubble cakes weren’t fruity enough and didn’t have the right texture. Benjamina got dinged for the presentation on her coffee mousse cakes (again, they hadn’t quite set properly) but both sets got the thumbs-up from Paul and Mary flavour-wise, while Tom’s hipster picnic
(oh Tom) looked unrefined, and because he’d piped his mousse it had all come out rather heavy and, well, not mousse-like, so what he’d made felt more like miniature cakes rather than mini mousses. The only one who really managed to nail both taste *and* presentation then was of course Andrew
(look at that!) with his “childhood ice creams on holiday theme”. Indeed, Andrew’s existence was so charmed this week that when he was loading his mousses onto the platforms of his ferris wheel, one of them slipped off – only to land perfectly on another platform down below. I’m almost surprised there weren’t woodland creatures dancing around his feet, to be honest. (Where’s the squirrel with the big nuts when you need him?)
9. Jane’s efforts in the final round were ultimately enough to lift her out of the danger zone for the week, and while they attempted to deflect us by saying that Benjamina could still take Star Baker this week no for real honest as long as you didn’t actually *look* at her showstoppers and just voted on taste alone,
it was always going to be Andrew this week, wasn’t it? He didn’t really put a foot wrong anywhere and literally kept his cool when all around him were losing theirs.
10. And while Selasi was conceivably in danger this week, and even Candice was warned not to prioritise the appearance of her bakes if she isn’t going to get the flavours right (though the editors opted not to include her in the “who’s going home?” reaction shots right at the end of the episode), the elimination seemed every bit as much of a foregone conclusion as the Star Baker award as
the Curse of Star Baker struck once more and Tom was sent packing. I will absolutely miss his eccentricity, and I’m fuming that we still don’t really know anything about his friend Pod, but I think he was the right pick to go based on this week’s efforts. Shine on, you crazy diamond. Hopefully we’ll run into you at the local Picturehouse when the next Wes Anderson film is out, but please don’t crunch your fougasse too loudly. (Oh and Paul decided to be wrong once more by saying that this is “the first time in Bake Off history” that the winner of Bread Week hasn’t made the final, having entirely forgotten that series two happened, apparently. Good luck with your resident expert, Channel 4!)
NEXT WEEK: Tudor Week, where you only get to be Star Baker by locking the incumbent in a tower and ordering their execution. Should be fun!