Well, here we are, at… the end! It’s been fun. I can’t quite believe it’s over, to be honest, but there ya go. It’s such a serious moment that we don’t even get a Classic Hilarious Opening with one of our beloved terrible puns!
What we get instead is a Flashback Emotional Opening talking about how great everyone’s been and all that. The show’s recollection of everyone is as follows:
Kate’s got creative, bold flavours, but sometimes falls short on timing and execution.
Sophie’s basically a jack-of-all-trades who can do everything consistently well except possibly bread.
STEVEN’S SEEMED UNSTOPPABLE THROUGHOUT WITH INCREDIBLE BAKING SKILLS and one time didn’t get the flavours quite right. Hm. I think Hannah’s about to have an aneurysm already.
So anyway, we started with nothin’ now we here, and here is the final, and I’ve got mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s an exciting time, the culmination of ten pretty banging weeks of baking, but on the other, what am I going to do on Tuesdays?! (Answer: catch up on a heck ton of other stuff I still have to watch, so actually it’s basically fine, but I’ll miss it anyway.)
Our first challenge – and, indeed, the final signature of the year – is twelve small loaves of three different kinds (one shaped and one filled and one something else, if I heard correctly). It’s interesting that they seem to be setting Sophie up as Steven’s primary competition, but with the caveat that bread might be her Achilles heel, then opening with a bread challenge. Hm.
So what are our bakers baker-ing? Well, Sophie’s doing a round ‘spelt loaf’, whatever that is, a ciabatta with wild shiitake mushrooms (I like the sound of that; Hannah expressly does not) and some sort of brioche flavoured with orange. I’m vaguely aware of brioche as a thing I’m not mad keen on, and I’m now also aware that it’s hard to make and requires an awful lot of butter, which basically takes a ton of time – time not being something you want to need more of in this game. ‘I’m not sure what the judges will think, but I like it and that’s all that matters,’ says Sophie, who seems to have entirely misunderstood the point of judging.
Between shots of bakers baking things, since it’s the final and all, we get a few little snippets of people’s lives: Sophie’s got an Irish boyfriend who signed her up for it, and look at her now. Isn’t that nice. Steven’s mum says that he’ll always be her star baker; Hannah, despite her usual apoplexy wherever Steven is concerned, is basically okay with this because it’s his mum and he came out of her vagina. (Paul Hollywood, however, only met him ten weeks ago, and to our knowledge has no vagina, and therefore has no excuse.) As for Kate, her dad’s called Barry, which doesn’t surprise me at all.
Steven’s also doing something with spelt, which it turns out is a sort of flour that makes a sort of bread. The thing about doing three different types of loaf, we’re told, is that they all prove and bake at different rates, but still need to end up uniform, which is a pretty tall order. To cope, each baker’s surrounded by at least three timers all ticking down different bread deadlines (or ‘breadlines’) – presumably they get supplied these, otherwise they’ve had to spend a fair bit on timers. Steven’s three types are using spelt flour, rye flour and regular ol’ white flour; I really wish I understood more about what flour actually is, ‘cos I didn’t realise it came in different kinds. See, it’s educational moments like this that I’ll miss about Bake Off. I feel I’ve grown as a person. One of the loaves – the rye one, I think – splits in the oven, which basically means that it turns into a shapeless heap of dough. Poor Steven. He must be devastated.
I somehow managed to pretty much miss what Kate was doing, but one of her loaves has curry in the middle, which sounds good to me. Her sink’s absolutely piled up high with dirty bowls and things; I wonder whether they have to do their own washing up? I guess they might have to if they need a particular utensil to be clean quickly, and I don’t think waiting around for a dishwasher to finish its cycle would be viable on such a tight timeframe. In the absence of anything else smart to say about what Kate was getting up to, here’s a picture of Paul Hollywood next to Game of Thrones’ Night’s King. (Spoilers, sorry.)
On to the judging, and Paul cuts Sophie’s ciabatta horizontally for a better idea of the overall structure. I should have known there’d be a particular way to cut a ciabatta; turns out I’ve been doing it wrong, except when I’ve been filling it with stuff, in which case I’ve been doing it entirely correctly (albeit not deliberately). I think I should enter Bake Off next year. (Hannah disagrees.) Anyway, the ciabatta possesses a good taste, but isn’t very ciabatta-y, however one defines that. Her shaped, plaited loaves are top-notch, though, with a strong, soft crumb.
Steven’s, on the other hand, look a bit of a mess. The rye ones look like nothing more than large, unusually solid turds, and Paul even says that the entire assembly is so not identical that it could be called awful, terrible even. Surely he’s got to change his tune with the flavours and pronounce it still the best thing ever? No! There’s dry dough, causing splits, the rye dough is underproved and ripped and the whole lot is gluey and gloopy… but tastes nice, and the knot-shaped one is apparently perfect. That must be the worst Steven’s ever done at anything (even if one of ’em was still flawless).
Kate’s up last, and hers look really good. They’re nicely textured, and the one with the curry in the middle is ‘spot on’. Overall, it’s pretty darn good, says Paul! Steven might actually have been the worst of the three there, for the first time ever (if only this had happened weeks ago, says Hannah).
Next on the menu is our final technical: ten ginger biscuits, five oval and five square (the way Sandi said ‘oval’ sort of sounded like she was saying ‘edible’, so at first I thought only half had to be edible and the others would be… decorative, I guess?) and all with some icing on. I mean, it seems fairly simple, but that’s probably cause for concern; this is going to be harder than it sounds.
Oh, yup, that’s some intricate-ass icing. I can’t find a picture, but it’s… seriously complex. Kate doesn’t even finish, in fact – by the time they’ve got an hour left, they’re just getting started on the icing. An hour sounds like a long time to ice some biscuits but when you’ve got ten super difficult patterns at six minutes per biscuit, that’s pretty intense. I’ll be honest, I can’t really tell much difference at all between Sophie and Steven’s efforts, but naturally we couldn’t end the series without Steven getting one more win, so it’s Steven first, Sophie second and Kate third for this one.
And with that, it’s the showstopper, which this year is an entremet (pronounced ‘on-truh-may’ because it’s français, dahling). It’s… broadly a cake, which means our grand finale has been a bread, a biscuit and a cake. Seems fitting! It’s not just any cake, though: it’s a really tricky cake, with many layers that all need to hold together and cut neatly and taste good and also be sufficiently cool to merit winning the greatest baking show on telly. It’s actually a bit of a big ask! There needs to be a sponge layer, and then a ton of other layers which might include jellies or caramels or crispinesses, so it all needs assembling and freezing with enough time left for it to all set and then be beautifully decorated to boot.
Sophie makes a really cool-looking ‘ode to a honey bee’, with a pretty spectacular bee and flower on top, plus a honeycomb made using bubblewrap which is just a really cool idea. It’s got honey blossom sponge, blackberry jelly, set lemon curd, feuilletine (which is something I can’t explain why I know how to spell, because I’ve got no idea what it is) and something lavender-y. It cuts very neatly, so neatly that Prue calls it amazing! The lemon and lavender flavours are a weird tandem, apparently, but holy heck does it work. Paul does this face where he just looks ever so thoughtful for a moment and then announces that he loves it – it’s a bit like what Simon Cowell does when he’s all like ‘I don’t like it…’ except not as dramatic because Paul’s not as stupidly rich. All the layers are perfect, the textures are beautiful… that totally deserved a handshake, but none is forthcoming.
Kate’s next (so Steven’s up last, because of course he is) with a simple but elegant-looking white mirror finish. It’s got yuzu, white chocolate bavarois, sponge, meringue and coconut something-or-other, and again it all cuts really beautifully and neatly. It’s a simple, minimalistic look, with a single layer of red standing out among the white, but the fact that it’s so neat means it really works. Not only that, but the taste is decreed sublime. (I guess the judges must be confused, ‘cos there’s no lime in it. There’s yuzu, which is a different citrus fruit. Maybe on the hierarchy of citrus fruits, yuzu is ‘sub-lime’. Y’know, as opposed to ‘superlime’.)
Finally, it’s Steven, and I have to admit his yin and yang cake is very cool looking on the outside, with a very nice deep galaxy glaze. Unfortunately for him, the glaze hasn’t quite set, and when the cake’s cut the colour on top bleeds through all the layers, which aren’t that distinctive in the first place. He’s got some tasty banana and chocolate flavours, but… well, it’s basically chocolate mousse with banana and nothing much else. Guys, I don’t think Steven’s won. Holy crap. Paul says he missed a trick, which must cause him unbelievable physical pain; it’s a bit like Steven just got disowned.
We end the series outside the tent, where all the other competitors have come back to show their support. It’s Liam and Yan and everyone else, you guys! Yeaahhhh. ‘They can finally join their family and friends’, Noel says as the finalists head outside, making it sound as if they’ve all been trapped in the tent and not left for the last two-and-a-bit months. Sophie and Kate both say they’ve made some real friends and they’ll be happy with whoever wins, because they all deserve it; Steven just says he still hasn’t given up the dream that he’ll be the winner. Meanwhile, Noel and Sandi both seem legit emotional, perhaps because this is their first time and it’s sort of like their babies growing up… and competing in a televised baking competition.
So the winner… is…….
Oh, yeah, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Prue accidentally tweeted a message congratulating the winner several hours early because of time zone confusion. Silly Prue.
IT’S SOPHIE EVERYONE SOPHIE WON
She doesn’t quite seem to believe it! She’s really done it, she’s auditioned and she’s made it on the show and she’s survived every week and she’s the Actual Winner Of The Actual Bake Off. And all she gets to show for it is a fucking cake stand.
Paul gets a bit emotional too, possibly crying over all the money he made from the Channel 4 deal (or the fact that Steven didn’t win, one of the two).
So that’s it! Where’s everyone now, I wonder… oh, look, we get to find out!
Peter’s doing a blog about baking!
Chris learned how to do fortune cookies!
Tom’s training for the London marathon! (He’s hoping to do something in time, according to the captions. I love how sarky these things are.)
James is doing a food tour!
Julia and Yan went on a road trip to see Flo and did car karaoke! (Also Yan became high ruler of the universe, I assume.)
Liam started his final year of uni, and he’s doing a dissertation on the drama of baking!
Stacey still likes pink!
Kate’s doing a ton of stuff!
Steven and Sophie are super good mates and they’re gonna go on holiday to Scandinavia!
And Noel and Sandi are probably off chasing unicorns or something. As for me…
See ya next year.