It’s Bake Off time, and this week we can just dive straight in without having to worry too much about recapping the whole history of the show and whatnot. It’s still a bit surreal seeing the tent looking exactly the same – I’m pretty sure they even brought the same camera guys and/ or directors, since a lot of the shots look almost identical – but with Noel Fielding’s slightly uncanny ‘professional’ voice over the top instead of soothing, familiar Mel and/ or Sue.
Anyway, slight alternate-universe feelings aside, this week is biscuit week, and that means… well, that the bakers are baking biscuits this week. It’s always interesting seeing the wide range of odd-sounding ingredients that the bakers choose to put in their bakings, some sounding delicious (Flo’s raspberry gin sandwich biscuit sounds like a winner to me) and some I’m not so sure about (Amaretto and coffee just isn’t to my taste, while grains of paradise are just mysterious). Julia, who last week paid homage to her Siberian roots with a Russian doll cake, brought pistachios from Russia in this week; there’s always one who likes a bit of the old homegrown-ingredient thing. Remember Ian from a couple of series back (the one Nadiya won, if I’m remembering right), who always used vegetables from his garden and moulded his bakes using frameworks he’d hammered together himself in his toolshed? I can’t wait until Kate the ‘keen amateur blacksmith’ starts using an anvil to knead her dough – and bread week is next week, so maybe I won’t have to wait too long. There’s an Ian this year, too, and his rhubarb and custard biscuits did sound pretty tasty.
Last week’s comedy standouts, Yan and Chris, were on fire again this week. Yan in particular is absolutely one hundred percent my favourite now for her to-the-gram weighing of biscuit filling and bravado stance that ‘science will take care of it’. (My favourite last year, if anyone’s wondering, was Selasi. He was a truly beautiful man.) Chris, though he *SPOILERS* ended up leaving the competition this week, always seemed like he’d have been more at home presenting Catchphrase or some daytime chat show or something; his banter was… well, forced, let’s be real, but his baking left a lot to be desired.
Who else have we got? There’s nice Irish (I think) Tom, who’s an architect and around whom a bit of camaraderie developed this episode when a few of his fellow contestants pitched in to help him finish on time. As I said last time, it’s nice to see this friendliness early on, but you can bet that they’ll all hate each other before too long, even if they try to claim they all love each other more than they love baking (and they really do all love baking). We’ve got Steven in the mix (ha) as well, and he’s *SPOILERS AGAIN* now claimed the title of Star Baker two-for-two, which is… well, controversial. He’s clearly very good at baking, which is sort of the point of the show, and people like to hate people who are good at things that they go on shows about being good at, so there.
Back to the challenges: we opened with the sandwich biscuit round, which required each baker to make 48 identical biscuits and then sandwich them together into 24 equally identical biscuits with some filling. Stacey’s marshmallow-fluff-filled biccies sounded pretty appealing, and I now want to go make and eat lots of marshmallow fluff, but I don’t think she’s won me over yet (her board game later on, which featured such components as ‘good boy stars’, also failed to do much to raise her in my estimations); Julia came up with something a bit scruffy but well-flavoured, which I think is pretty much what she did last week too. Her biscuits were also a bit wobbly, which is always fun.
The technical (remember, this is where the bakers follow a recipe they haven’t prepared for, then get judged blind) this week was to bake fortune cookies, 12 of them in two different flavours and all filled with a mystical piece of advice (some of which were actually pretty funny). Speaking of advice, the judges always get a chance to offer one pointer to the contestants before they start; Paul’s are always rubbish, but this week’s ‘don’t fold… under the pressure’ has the added distinction of being a terrible pun, which Bake Off‘ll never shy away from. A couple of the bakers managed to assemble pretty decent cookies, but some (poor Flo) clearly didn’t have a fucking clue. As someone (possibly Noel?) put it, they didn’t even have a crack. I mean, I laughed at them, but I would have produced something even worse than whatever the heck Flo turned out. (She didn’t come last, somehow.) That’s the advantage of watching, not competing in: distance confers the ability to judge others as if they’re shit, even when they’re much, much better than you. Happy times! Yan, of course, I can’t throw shade at, because she won the technical and is forever the best.
Finally, there’s the showstopper, which this week had to be both edible and playable. In their little explanatory vignettes, the judges always say something along the lines of ‘sure, it has to be architecturally sound, a wonder of the modern world, constructed to EU safety standards and decorated to Sistine Chapel standards… but it also has to taste good’, just in case we were in any doubt that a show about baking does in fact need to contain high-quality baking. It is kind of easy to forget sometimes, to be fair, especially when challenges such as ‘design and assemble a board game’ seem to have ‘out of biscuits’ just sort of tacked on almost an afterthought.
A few people opted to recreate existing games – I was happy to see Flo give Operation a go, but Hannah was hoping someone might have a pop at Mouse Trap – while others created their own, invariably slightly shite, games. Julia thought she’d be original by creating a Bake Off-themed board, which was immediately foiled by Yan having precisely the same idea; Liam’s multi-functioning ten-in-one, or whatever it was, was an impressive idea, but just wasn’t executed quite perfectly. Then, of course, there’s Steven with his entire bloody chess set. Sure, it had over a hundred pieces, but was it really that impressive? Well, yeah. Annoyingly, it kind of was. I mean, I could probably make a functioning chess set out of biscuit given a few hours, but it probably wouldn’t be half as tasty or as pretty. Just screw up, Steven, you know everyone else in that tent wants you to.
After a commercial break (of which there are far too many and I don’t like it) we get the judging, and then the results. I always feel bad when, during the judging process, the showstoppers get broken up into little bits so that Paul and Prue can put pieces of these beautiful creations into their mouths and masticate. (Prue did actually look a little bit aroused by Steven’s chess set, so you never know.) I hope the leftovers go to a good home; I wouldn’t put it past Noel to get the munchies one night and just sneak into the tent to finish the lot.
As we’ve *SPOILERS*-ed, Chris went home this week while Steven lifted the Star Baker trophy (imaginary trophy) for the second week out of two, because he’s good at baking and thus eminently hateable. We’ll see whether this continues into bread week; I’m expecting riots if it does.