It’s bread week, otherwise known as the week where Paul gets anxious that other people in the world can bake too, and so is relentlessly critical!
It kicks off, for some reason, with Mel and Sue pretending to… impersonating… no, I’ve got nothing. Not a clue why this happened.
We recap last week’s episode, then scatter in a few clips of contestants gurning nervously at the camera. And then we’re ready to watch them walk down this lacklustre row of steps. It always feels like these steps were something of a mistake. There’s barely a slope, and definitely no need to have these here. The grass is practically flat just off to the left. Was this added exclusively for GBBO?
You asked for Blazer Watch – you get Blazer Watch. (Full disclosure: nobody asked for Blazer Watch.) I’m not seeing much structure in these jackets. Mary’s rocking a lovely neckline and a fun yellow. Paul is in line dance mode, as per, and I can’t remember the last time I saw him don anything even distantly related to a blazer. For shame.
And they’re making – quick breads! Or quickbreads, perhaps, but I’ll stick to quick breads. Although nobody would ever say they were making breads. A full and frank investigation into baking pluralisation should happen asap.
A quick bread, it turns out, is made without yeast, and without a tin. I didn’t realise that bread could be made without yeast. Paul launches into a description of what the non-yeast raising agents do that sounds like somebody who read half a chemistry GCSE textbook once, and is spitting out all the words they can remember from it.
“I quite like rye flour with figs,” says At Home We Have An Aga, apparently rehearsing lines for playing a ninety year old woman in an off-Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace, and Mary croaks about texture. She sounds like needs a hot toddy, stat.
We get some fun facts and figures from At Home We Have An Aga about her flour-to-liquid ratio, which Paul concludes with “So, 100% liquid, then?” Erm, no, Paul, that’s very much not what she said.
Mat is doing a “smoked salt and Mexico cheddar soda bread”. Check out Mary Berry Reaction Face in profile, no less.
Paul quizzes him on the shape (round) and cut or slashed (slice) and the nation falls asleep in its TV dinners.
Nadiya talks about adding cumin and coriander, while the camera pans in on a shot of chopped red onion. Dorret’s uses Waldorf ingredients, which sounds great to me – I love Stilton and walnuts. Apparently forgetting that ‘dispersal’ was an Episode 1 term, she throws it in there too.
At this point, I should say how much I love bread. I basically live for it. I want to eat everything here (except, y’know, for those with meat). Alvin is putting meat in, and the shape of his bread (the architectural excitement that is ‘circular’) for some reason garners him a saucy wink from our Berry:
In case you’ve missed the discussion about flour-to-liquid ratio from 5 mins ago – it’s all back again. It also becomes increasingly clear that Paul (baker) and Paul (judge) know that the town ain’t big enough for the both of them, and the series will not end with them both alive. Paul (baker) has taken to staring in stony silence at Paul (judge) whenever he says anything.
Ugne, apparently deciding that the problem with her garish biscuit basket is that she hadn’t done enough, is making a chocolate quick bread with salted caramel sauce. Now, I love chocolate and salted caramel – I am, after all, a human person – but in bread? Nope nope nope.
Ian has brought wild garlic with him that he picked in the woods himself. Erm, isn’t that illegal? SEND IN THE SWAT TEAM.
Somebody obviously borrowed most of the BBC percussion for a production of The Nutcracker, so GBBO is left with a single kettle drum, which they deploy at 30-second intervals, while some hapless intern shakes a tin of dried lentils out of sheer desperation.
Sandy tells an entirely irrelevant story about having one run the 800 metres and waited for a friend to catch up.
Incidentally, I would argue that I’ve spent a solid 24 hours of my life so far watching GBBO put trays in ovens. I could have written a three-volume novel in that time. The bakers take them all out of the ovens again – SPOILERS! – and vouchsafe to the camera that they hope the bread is cooked. With that coup in the bag, we go to the judging.
Alvin gets “it’s a thing of beauty, my friend” from Paul, which is rather astonishing. Ian has used most of the wild garlic for a floral arrangement. Dorret gets ‘homely’ (ouch); Nadiya is congratulated on the original shape of her loaf (it seems to be… loaf-shaped) and the camera lingers on her face, hoping for extraordinary facial expressions. She often gives great ones, but here mostly looks up and down. Mat has her bested:
You know what’s guaranteed to bring in an international market? A quick play on Paul’s (frankly quite mild) Liverpudlian accent. Cue Mel: ‘overworked’. Bless Mel and Sue. I think their presence makes the show inestimably better, but any single joke or ‘bit’ on its own is undeniably awful.
Apparently bread that ‘just crumbles when you touch it’ is a… good thing? Then again, so is orange that ‘comes up and hits me’, according to Mezza. Paul and Paul have a handshake, that should be a touching moment, but feels like a ceremonial exchange before a deathmatch joust or, y’know, something.
Technical challenge time – four crusty baguettes! I like this challenge. Everybody knows what a baguette is; nobody (except At Home We Have An Aga) would dream of making them. They’re simple and amazing.
In the here’s-one-I-made-earlier tent, Paul babbles about ‘turned bread’ and ‘little Ls’, to the mystification of all, then eats in a manner redolent of That Squirrel from Series 3.
“The recipe is kind of basic,” confides Ian, realising the rudiments of this challenge. Mat continues to be the Face Master:
He’s anxious about disregarding the measurements given in the recipe – as well he should be – but is confident that he can correctly identify a plastic box. He’s already done just as much as that which might garner a Deal or No Deal contestant £250,000. (Is Deal or No Deal still on? Is my joke topical? APPROVE AND VALIDATE ME.)
Guys, I’m sorry. We’re going to have to talk about proving drawers again. I’ve had a happy year, forgetting that they exist and are apparently considered essential to every Happy Home. Some bakers are going renegade, and using the ‘proving setting’ of the ovens. Good lord. I just use an airing cupboard. My oven – prepare to clutch your pearls – doesn’t have a proving setting.
Also… putting plastic in an oven? That feels so wrong.
I’m heartily cheering on Ugne, who points out that literally nobody has a proving drawer or proving setting, and leaves her dough (in its plastic container) on the counter.
“800 divided by 4” calculates Sandy aloud, while somewhere Mr Simpson From The Maths Department holds his head in his hand. She also shrieks with laughter at her ineptitude at French. I really can’t decide where I stand on the all-important Sandy Question.
“My heart is going boom-boom-boom,” says Tamal – and , bizarrely, the sound effects department do nothing with a trombone or tom-tom. Slacking.
The spirit of Chetna lives on:
“I’m not rushing,” says Ugne. Somehow everything she says sounds like a chilling threat to the families of a ransomed victim.
Much as I love baguettes, they don’t look very exciting, and nobody has baguettes that look particularly bad – I was hoping for a tray of liquid, or one inadvisedly smothered in chocolate, but was sorely disappointed. Paul finds mean things to say about plenty of them, of course, but it’s mostly nit-picky and/or incomprehensible. Paul’s nemesis Paul comes last, then Nadiya and Mat. The top three are Tamal (we haven’t seen much of him lately, have we?), At Home We Have An Aga, and Ian – who, I’m noticing, looks oddly like my undergraduate tutor.
At Home We Have An Aga comes up with a fab line about The Hollywood: “He was punching bread and shattering dreams.”
This was considered a necessary establishing shot by somebody who, I assume, has now been fired.
Then Mel and Sue do a ‘bit’ about roll models that makes me miss Bread: A Secret History.
Well, ain’t I in luck. We get to hear about Ukranian wedding bread, or something, from somebody dressed as that woman from the ‘We can do it!’ war posters.
With the mathematic ability of Marie counting her grandchildren, this gal claims that there are seven women helping knead this bread – though there are clearly only five. To be fair, it’s one of the more interesting History of Baking segments, but if you’re expecting it to be a segue into the showstopper, then you’ve obviously never seen this show before. They immediately pretend it hasn’t happened, and announce… 3D bread sculptures. They could have made that segue. They could have done.
Up to three types of dough; one of them needs to be filled (does the spectre of Jordan’s cheesecake brioche mean NOTHING to these people?). One of the trickiest challenges EVER, Paul claims backstage, adding that they have to ‘know their dough’ – which sound like the clumsily forced catchphrase to a 1990s gameshow. Mary asks whether or not the bakers can manage three types of dough – seeming genuinely to want to know the answer.
Tamal is planning to make a bread bicycle – “or breadcycle”, he adds, with the good grace to look ashamed of himself. I’m not sure it deserves the Mary Berry Reaction Face to end all Mary Berry Reactions Faces, but that is what it gets.
The wheels are Chelsea buns, and then I stopped listening, because it already sounds amazing and I want it.
Alvin is making a cornucopia – or what is essentially just a big pile of bread.
Paul’s bake is what we’re all talking about, of course. It’s this pretty phenomenal lion.
Mat is making ‘one of Britain’s most recognisable landmarks’, the Brighton Pavilion. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to pick the Brighton Pavilion out of a line-up (so long as the others in the line were also pavilions, of course). “Good gracious me,” says Mary, gloriously. He’s going to rely on gravity to hold the thing together – much like, he adds wittily, the Brighton Pavilion itself. Hey now, Mat, don’t steal my jokes before I make them. He also makes a rather fab DOUGHverload joke soon. My P45 is doubtless in the post.
Sandy is making a vase of flowers out of bread. Because when you think flowers you think ‘brown’. She even says they’re going to be poppies, even though I don’t think anything red is involved.
Dorret hasn’t practised her bake at all, and looks oddly proud of the fact. She’s also decided that Tracey Emin is a good role model for… anything. Do you think Mezza Bezza is impressed by her lack of practice?
Remember Ugne’s chocolate caramel everything bake before? This time she’s doing truffle-infused brioche bunnies, maple syrup, bacon, cinnamon, and something else. I’m pretty sure she’s required to use everything she nabbed in Dale’s Supermarket Sweep. She makes a haunting joke about blind bunnies.
Dorret’s is going into the oven. Usually disasters are surprises when they come OUT of the oven. This one… well, you could say that the writing was on the wall.
There are some seriously impressive bits of sculptures coming out of ovens. Nothing goes wrong, though, so it’s rather a lacklustre segment. The most excitement is Mat dropping a couple of rolls and then picking them up – which he does combine with a brilliant hair-flip. My highlight, though, is Mel coming up to Alvin’s stand and saying “I’ve never SEEN so much bread! You could open your own bread shop!” She’s not wrong. He’s basically interpreted the challenge as BAKE EVERYTHING.
A few minutes of assembling and panicking and assembling later, and… time’s up!
Even the worst bread sculptures this week are pretty impressive, I have to say. Lots to admire (appearancewise, at least):
–Paul says that Tamal ‘almost’ used different techniques.
–Sue asks Alvin to bring up his ‘bakery’; Mel jokingly offers him help, which he immediately accepts. There is SO much of it.
–“Flower pots can be tricky things to bake in,” says Paul. Why would anyone know this?
Paul (the baker) gets a special commendation for his lion – well done! But star baker, for the second week in a row is…
And, going home, is…
Dorret did feel a bit like she was on borrowed time, and I’m rather relieved that she’s gone. Her expressive eyes always looked so deeply upset when she was criticised that I couldn’t cope with it.
Thanks for being patient with my latest ever GBBO recap! And… see you next time.