As weeks themed around monarchic dynasties go, I guess it makes more sense than Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Week.
1. As one of the BBC’s Official Faces Of Eurovision, alongside Graham Norton, Scott Mills, and That Bird What Did The Squwky Bits With The Scissor Sisters, Mel Giedroyc would like to introduce you all to our entry for next year.
It’s a ballad.
2. So yes, Tudor Week! Another new theme, although one at least in the same tradition as last year’s Victorian Week. Keep on bumping up the power on the time machine by this much each time and by the time we hit The New Place, it’ll be Paleolithic Week and everything will just be great big rotating slabs of animal carcass. Which would suit me just fine to be honest. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about this theme, seemingly as part of some grand scheme to convince themselves that they’re NOT EVEN BOTHERED the show is going to Channel 4 any more because it’s clearly JUMPED THE SHARK with all these WEIRD THEMES and WACKY BAKES and CONTESTANTS WHO HAVE PERSONALITIES not like in the old days when it was all 53 year old women in pastel pullovers called Maude from the home counties who stroked out every time the camera went near them. The good old days. Personally I quite like the historical themes, because it damn near guarantees an official History Bit (and one with a bit of thought that’s gone into it, not just “all these people ate a massive Spotted Dick once upon a time hurr hurr) and also, even more importantly, a good meat pie.
3. The first challenge began with two very indicative talking heads from our contestants – firstly Candice saying that she was so privileged to be part of the Final Five, and that she felt like one of the Spice Girls before Geri left. As a PE teacher I guess she would be Sporty, and OBVIOUSLY Andrew is Ginger, but from there the comparison kind of breaks down, as our Baby Spice left in Week 3, Scary (/Satan Worshipping) Spice left last week, and whilst Jane is certainly very proper, I doubt you’d call her Posh. Secondly Selasi said that he’s the only baker to have made it this far without being Star Baker once, which he thinks is actually an achievement when you think about it because…well his logic kind of trailed off there, but it felt like a very Selasi thing to say. Never has someone before, possibly in the entire history of reality television, got such a big edit despite being in the middle of everything more or less every week, with neither the thrill of the chase of Star Baker nor the threat of elimination to bump up his screentime to make him more memorable. He is. Just. That. Awesome.
4. Once we’d got the entire point of Tudor Week out the way (hurr hurr imagine Paul Hollywood as King Henry VIII hurr hurr), our first challenge (yes I was always going to get round to it eventually) was to make pies! But not just any pies! Pies that come together to make a shape! The Showstopper Round invading the borders of the usually much more sober Signature Round there. Although come to think of it, who has a signature Tudor Bake anyway? Long time sufferers of this blog will know that this half of the writing team loves pies best of all baked things and if you want to know why
just feast your eyes on this from Jane’s prep session. LOOK AT ALL THAT FAAAAAT. Send it direct to my butt, and do not pass go. Jane’s idea was to create a Tudor Rose out of pies (remember a time when this would have seemed like an unusual thing for a human to do? Pre Bake Off?) and for once the little pre-bake doodle made the design out to be
less impressive than it actually ended up being
in reality. Candice and Andrew meanwhile were being even more ambitious still, with the former producing a hand-shaped medley of both Beef, Chestnut & Oyster AND Macaroni Cheese & Pancetta pies with two different types of pastry, all in the shape of a fish (despite there not being any fish in them), and the latter looking to Leonardo Da Vinci for inspiration (we’ll…glide over the fact that the life of Leonardo Da Vinci and the Tudor dynasty overlap slightly rather than being truly contiguous) with a set of chicken and apricot pies that interlocked like cogs and rotated on a giant set of spigots. It does feel rather like Andrew and Candice are accelerating into the final stretch and all the other contestants are content just to pootle along in their wake. Not that I would ever want Selasi NOT to pootle. He is a natural pootler. He was content just to make some pies sort of in the shape of petals, ish, crammed full of about 7 types of game, including guinea fowl. According to Selasi, back in Ghana, you’d pop out for a guinea fowl a bit like you’d nip out for a kebab. I can positively picture Selasi stumbling home wasted at 2:30am, biting the head off a chicken, then shrugging “close enough”. This exchange also led to possibly the worst joke ever in the history of Bake Off, and it didn’t even involve Mel & Sue :
Mary : “Are the guinea fowl wild?”
Paul : “THEY’RE LIVID MARY!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Paul’s dedication to being the daddest of all dads in the room continues apace. Finally, conceptually, Benjamina came up with this :
…It’s not VERY Tudor themed is it? I mean, I’m not claiming that the elimination this week should have been contingent with knowing about a period in history you either never did in school or ONLY did, to the exclusion of all other time periods ever (I have History all the way up to A Level and I swear we only did the Tudors, between the World Wars, and a little smidge of Napoleon), but at least nodding to the weekly theme might be an idea. Selasi knew the exact dates of the reigns of all the Tudor monarchs – maybe he could have given her a hand? In terms of actual flavour, Andrew was the only one to nail it, with everyone else getting variations on “nice filling, shame about the pastry”, with Jane probably coming off best and Candice possibly coming off worst. But all much of a muchness really.
5. In retrospect, the signs that Mel & Sue were over this whole show
were kind of there the whole time weren’t they?
6. Our Technical Challenge saw the contestants challenged to make two different varieites of “jumble”, which apparently is a type of biscuit. It also featured the second real true point of Tudor Week – allowing Mel to say “Baketh” instead of “Bake”.
Look at that spray. The only hint Paul Hollywood left the contestants with in terms of working out what the hell a “jumble” is, was to stentoriously intone “FOLLOW THE PATTERN!”. Looking at said pattern for the larger jumble
it’s clear why they eliminated Tom last week isn’t it? The runic biscuit patterns he would have crafted would have summoned up the Norse Old Ones, possibly even Pod himself, riding astride that Black Goat. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to recap Tom’s departure by the way, here is a picture of him quite literally jizzing out icing that I made anyway
There were two main puzzling points to the jumble – firstly when to sugar the jumbles in order to make sure they achieve maximum brownage (Answer : as early as possible), and secondly whether the smaller jumble, made with denser dough, would require longer in the oven than the larger jumble, which was made with thinner dough (Answer : yes). As the only one to ace these two questions, it was Candice who came out on top, with Andrew trailing behind her in second at a safe distance. Selasi rode the middle, with Benjamina below him due to her severely underbaked little jumbles and with Jane in last for…well…
look at them. Look at the wormy little impacted jumbles “dusted” with great big crunchy snowdrifts of sugar. Mmm. This left the standings in the episode so far as “Andrew’s clear in first, everyone else in a big crumpled heap behind him, but with Benjamina and Jane possibly looking the worst of it” and overall in terms of Technical Challenge over the course of the series at Candice >> Benjamina >> Andrew > Jane >>> Selasi.
7. As promised, we got our History Bit, AND one that was thematically appropriate for the Showstopper Challenge, which was to be to make a showstopping centrepiece out of marzipan. This History Bit took us back the court of Queen Elizabeth, where apparently she used to make her suitors compete for her love by creating the most elaborate and expensive marzipan centrepiece structures possible. You don’t get that on Take Me Out do you? There were all, according to our Food Historian, very impressive and ornate and based on the examples given
I’ll take her word for it. Ye olde decorators had the advantages of working with marchpane, a sort of prototype marzipan that was made without eggs, and which was therefore incredibly stiff and held its shape. And also kind of disgusting sounding. Apparently the most impressive sculpture of them all was commissioned by Robert Dudley, who put together a life-sized replica of his own castle. And if your mind didn’t go to the same place mine did as Mel started with that hard c in “castle” then I don’t even know why you’re here and reading this blog. Still, even his crenellations weren’t good enough for Elizabeth, and as we all know (except possibly Benjamina) she died a virgin. I bet if you ask Hollywood he thinks he could have constructed something spectacular enough to open her up. That old Hollywood magic. Maybe a giant Maserati? That would have worked.
8. Our contestants all chose designs that were a little more prosaic than that found in ye olden times. Candice opted for a peacock in honour of her favourite tv show Game Of Thrones (as has been pointed out, not an uncommon theme for Showstoppers, with both Nadiya and Ruby opting to produce one in the past), Selasi opting for a castle with a sword and crown in the middle, each wall representing a different wife of Henry VIII (with the added bonus that if one of the walls turned out a bit ugly and broken up, you could always claim it was supposed to be the Anne Of Cleves wall), Andrew selecting knights on horseback, Jane going for delicate and elegant swans, and Benjamina going for that old Tudor favourite, the disco dancing robot.
Oh ok, not really, she chose to create a maze instead. And a tree.
Having gone into this segment in the clear lead, Andrew managed to blow it AGAIN and made himself a bridesmaid AGAIN by focusing too much time on fiddling with his knights lances and trying to get them right
and failing, and not enough time making sure the marzipan looked right all the way around the cake, and also that all his currents didn’t sink to the bottom. That will happen when you spend too much time on the lance I guess. Jane faired better, although was overall probably too far behind to snatch the win with this
which looked much more authentically Tudor, right down the fact that the inside looked grey, gritty and ‘orrible. But it tasted great apparently, which is really the main thing.
9. Star Baker this week, was, of course Candice. Just look at this
just like with her gingerbread pub, she might not have come out on top over all three rounds if you’d used a points based system, but sometimes there’s a showstopper on this show so showtopping it can’t be denied. And such was Candice’s peacock. And you can’t even see her surprise blueberries there, all crammed into the middle and ready to tumble out delicately when cut into (possibly at the fourth and fifth time of filming). And so with three Star Bakers under her belt to Andrew and Jane’s one, barring her elimination next week Candice is guaranteed to go into the final with the most Star Baker awards. And therefore not win. I’m only sorry this week that Candice didn’t manage to get off a surefire hamfisted innuendo, like when she told Mel to grab her jugs, or Mary to feel the thickness of a massive sausage like the last two times she won. Come on Candy, step your game up. Sue screaming orgasmically “like a peacock” as she annouces you as the victor just isn’t enough.
10. This week’s episode started, after Sue’s Tuba Explosion, with a shot of Selasi feeding Benjamina some dessert via fork, her liking it, and him celebrating. This should have been taken as an auger that we were all about to witness the end of the world’s most beautiful friendship that we’ve all taken collectively as a nation taken to our hearts, since we found out about it two episodes ago. Houses were divided, ships crashed onto the rocks, and we all held our breaths harder than at any point since that Bottom 2 on one of the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows where they were shagging one another. ALLEGEDLY. Because neither Benjamina nor Selasi did well in the Showstopper with Selasi’s Fruity Tudor Marchpane being underambitious and messy, and Benjamina’s “maze”
well see for yourself. In the end, there was a plot twist – whilst the entire nation surely was expecting Selasi to go home, as overall he was weaker than Benjamina and it was close enough between them this week that you probably could have split the diference either way, it was in fact her who bit the bullet and left the tent. Selasi, in the tradition of men everywhere
stood awkwardly on the edge of the circle, pretending not to see her, his heart breaking, only revealing his real feelings in an interview where he said she was like his little sister. *sniff* They’ll always have Botanics Week man. They’ll always have that. We closed on Benajmian crying (nooo) saying she was going to carry on baking, but with no marzipan, and no Tudors. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of empanadas either Benjamina, it’s no loss.
Next week : Steven recaps a patisserie themed semi-final. At this point I remember that I had Candice, Andrew, and Jane 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Pastries Week, and Selasi 6th. GOOD LUCK MAN, DO IT FOR BENJAMINA!