The Great British Bake Off – Week 3 – Bread Week

It’s Week 3 of Bake Off, which traditionally means it’s time for Bread Week! (No matter which channel we’re on!) This is generally a good week, because we’ve still got ten people left to create the entire spectrum of bread-related things both impressively statuesque (see this post’s featured image, a genuinely ingenious entry a couple of years ago) and hilariously shit; it also tends to be one of the last weeks where I actually know what most of the things being made are. (I mean, we’ve done cakes, biscuits and bread – what’s left?!)

Bread Week often gives rise (har-de-FLIPPING-har) to some of the best puns, and this week was no exception. I don’t think I even need to go into this one; the Radio Times has done a helpful inventory of all the smutty, doughy, delicious innuendos, which may well have surpassed all previous entries. Noel also provided such highlights as… whatever that shirt was – I think it might have been a repurposed duvet cover, and actually I’m now wondering why they admit that each episode takes place over two days but everyone wears the same clothes, giving a hopefully inaccurate impression of un-washedness – and a short bit about drumming on some teacups which (sadly, but not entirely unexpectedly) broke.

The first challenge this week was to make twelve identical teacakes, a word I immediately associate with a chocolatey marshmallowy thing (as does Tom, and apparently quite a lot of the rest of the country) but which in this context means a sort of toasted bread-like thing with fruit. Now we’re down to ten people, it’s a bit easier to keep track of who everyone is and what they’re doing – I’m not going to recap every bake, but Kate’s blueberry, cardamom and cinnamon teacakes sounded delicious, like cinnamon buns. (‘Cinnamon buns is something I would eat and have as a nickname. “Excuse me, are you Cinnamon Buns?” “You bet your sweet ass I am.”‘ – Demetri Martin.) We found out this week that she also bakes for a local homeless charity, and I’m pretty sure she’s also the one who’s an amateur blacksmith. It doesn’t make a difference how many hobbies you have when you forget to turn your hob on, Kate. Too many hobbies, not enough… hob… ies. Ugh.

Liam didn’t know what a teacake was either, so he’s going off a Jamaican spiced bun which is apparently not dissimilar, a move which could go either way. Sounds a bit like ginger cake, which I really like but which is emphatically not a teacake. Paul asks him what kind of texture his cake will have, though, and as if in reassurance he responds ‘Teacake texture’. ‘Which is?’ quips Monsieur Hollywood. Liam’s classic response: ‘very niiiiiice.’ To be fair to the kid, he admitted he doesn’t know what a teacake is, so asking him to describe the texture is a bit unfair. Or is it? This is a show where people are sort of expected to know what things like teacakes are, after all.

We’ve also got an alcoholic bake (probably more than one, actually; booze is a surprisingly common ingredient in baked goods, as it turns out) in the form of James’ port-filled Nordic teacakes. James does in fact know what a teacake is, but is somewhat ambivalent towards them, describing them as the poor cousin of the hot cross bun; nevertheless, he manages to make a pretty decent teacake. His tactical thinking isn’t the best, though, what with making Nordic teacakes specifically to appeal to Danish host Sandi, who isn’t a judge and therefore has no effect on the outcome. The other bake I thought would probably be pretty nice was trainee stuntwoman and former army person Sophie’s tagine-themed teacakes (yeah, that’s a hell of a resumé).

After learning what everyone’s baking (and also learning that Yan rides a little scooter home, because of course she does) we’re treated to the gripping sight of all the bakers waiting for their dough to prove, whatever that is. I mean, I really have no idea what proving is, other than in a Horizon: Zero Dawn context, but evidently you don’t want to do it in the oven. Steven, winner of Star Baker both weeks so far, tried that, with disastrous results, and I did laugh because I’ve seriously been waiting for him to fail. (He redeems himself later, to my disgust, but it was nice to see him sink to regular person level for once.) While the proving was going on, I had a bit of a think about whether I even know what a teacake’s actually supposed to look like. I mean, these adventurous fruity ones are all well and good, but what’s even in a regular one? Alas, I came to no conclusions, because there was then a very brief flurry of extreme excitement while everyone added fruit, and then went immediately back to proving. What are they all trying to prove, eh? Eh? (well, teacakes. they’re trying to prove teacakes.)

I do like seeing them all listening in on what everyone else is doing, trying to work out the optimal time and temperature, especially when they opt to completely ignore conventional wisdom. Flo, bless her heart, apparently just gets a feeling when stuff’s ready, which is sweet but unscientific. (Yan would not approve. Go, science!) Everyone’s teacakes do make it out of the oven in the end, though, looking more like regular old bread rolls than what I’d think of as a teacake, but whatever.

In judgement, we learn once again that the so-called spicy recipes always fail to have enough spice (sorry, Sophie and your tagine cakes), while those which aren’t supposed to be spicy occasionally blow your face off. We also learn that fruit distribution is key; Nice Scottish Tom fails at this, but nevertheless makes ‘the closest thing to a teacake [Paul’s] had so far’, which I guess means that everyone before him just completely failed? Steven, to my delight, does not make good teacakes, but to my immense irritation Prue rather likes the little cocktail thing he did on the side. That wasn’t the challenge, though, was it? It’s not The Great British Bake And Side Dish Off.

The technical challenge is to create a cottage loaf; even I’m fairly sure I know what that might look like, at least until they show what it looks like and I realise that no, that’s not it after all. Paul’s ever-helpful nugget of wisdom is simply ‘we expect perfection’, followed by the best joke of the series being wasted in a throwaway line about a ‘Prue-Paul Drag Race’. (Side note: I’ve caught a couple of episodes of the actual RuPaul show recently and I swear it’s going to change my life.) I do reckon I could probably make a decent cottage loaf, though, especially now I know how to stick your oily, floury fingers in it. Yeah, the sexual tension between Prue and Paul is unreal.

Stacy, who I don’t like all that much but who isn’t as bad as Steven, wins the technical with what doesn’t look like a brilliant loaf to me, while Kate comes last when her balls go wonky. Then we get our showstopper: coloured bread sculptures?!

There are some impressive ideas: Yan’s Basil the Veggie Dragon is the most imaginative as usual; Liam’s ‘Kneadapolitan’ ice cream is a good idea, but the execution might have been a bit lacking. Still, his flavours are good, and that’s enough to keep him safe. I’m glad, I like him. James does a decent, if monochrome owl; I was just thinking I’d have done an owl if I were in this, but obviously more betterer. To be fair, it must be hard to do a bread sculpture with no less than three ‘naturally occurring’ colours. What counts as natural anyway? Is chocolate natural? Liam does use chocolate, but I’m pretty sure it’s in conjunction with dates, so we may never know what the rules specified.

Stacy, winner of the technical, screws up her own flavours, while Steven seems to think he’s in danger of being booted despite being third in the technical and star baker every week up to now. Annoyingly, he then makes a really good bag out of bread; basically, everyone’s just starting to hate the guy, except Paul and Prue who literally want to be eating out of his hands. Seriously, Paul has such a boner for this guy. I think it’s only Prue checking his enthusiasm that prevents Paul handing Star Baker to Steven before even tasting any other entries; Paul claims at the end of the episode that the primary reason Steven didn’t get SB this week was basically to light a fire under him and give him some motivation to do better, which is just really… really irritating to me for reasons I can’t fully explain.

As with the opening round, we get some peculiar flavours in the mix: chilli bread, squid ink – Flo’s Davy Jones turns out to be a bit much. Other squid-ink-user Kate does a bit better with her octopus, which she needed after a pretty poor first day. With the lipstick and whatnot, I suspect she might be aping last year’s winner, Candice, though she doesn’t pout half as much. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Julia, whose snail really, really looks like a willy, as Sandi tries not to point out too obviously. (A willy on the end of a poo.) To be fair, her colours do look the most natural and realistic, and perhaps that’s why she gets awarded Star Baker this week. I’m not totally sure what else she’d have won it for other than to further Paul’s dream of manipulating Steven into becoming the best baker in the universe and/ or his lover, but she ain’t bad, so I won’t complain.

So Julia’s our winner of the breads, and Flo’s our eliminatee. I wasn’t really expecting that, either – thought it might be Liam – but for some reason I had this weird feeling that we’d get an ‘In Memory of Flo’ thing at the end of the episode. Luckily, she is apparently not dead, she’s just not on Bake Off any more. Bye, Flo!

Next week is caramel. I’m hungry already.

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