Welcome to desserts week, everyone! It’s one of those times when we all pretend that ‘desserts’ isn’t being spread out to cover four different episodes. The definition is so loose that even Diana’s pastry triangles might make the grade.
The ‘here’s what will happen in this episode’ makes the classic tiers/tears joke, so we’re off to a good start. Other than that, we just get Mel and Sue – standing in Sue-and-Mel order to confuse my friend Hannah – under umbrellas in the rain. While this is at least played for comic effect, you’ll see the poor bakers in similarly damp conditions throughout the rest of the episode, with no obvious reason why they couldn’t simply do the interviews indoors.
Some lovely folk got in touch to confirm that they do, indeed, value and appreciate Blazer Watch. And… here they are! Mary outdoes herself; Mel and Sue return to form; Paul – even in the rain – refuses to don a blazer.
The first challenge is making creme brulee, which seems custom-designed to wreak havoc with my finding-accents-on-my-computer. Well, GBBO bosses, you underestimated how lazy I am. So we’re going to get ‘creme brulee’ throughout this segment, and you can imagine the correct French. Just borrow one of At Home We Have An Aga’s cookbooks, if necessary.
The bakers get out bowls, break eggs, and look important – while, baffingly, Mat wags his finger at the floor.
Incidentally, my biggest surprise this series is how little they’re making of the fact that Mat is a fireman EVEN in a week where fire is mentioned plenty. Could it be because he looks a little like Postman Pat? Could it?
Paul and Mary tell us about creme brulees outside – where it has miraculously stopped raining – and Mary declares that there weren’t such things as blow torches when she has a wee lass. As several people have pointed out, blow torches go back to 1791, so… yup, this adds up.
As with Madeira cake, I’m off the traditionalist opinion that creme brulees should be creme brulee flavoured, and there’s no need to mess around with other additions. That being said, I’m a sucker for coconut and lime at any time.
Then again, I really love liquorice, but the idea of putting it in a creme brulee is anathema to me.
Four or five different bakers tell us that the cream/eggs mixture shouldn’t be too hot, and we’re treated to shots with this finesse:
That’s Ugne’s hair, by the way. She is using some fermented fruit from Africa that is basically Bailey’s, and Mezza immediately threatens to get off her face on it. Anxious Alvin, meanwhile, has been trialling his creme brulees on hospital staff – who have been merrily criticising it, apparently. Colouring Pencils Man gets a bit off with perspective, and it looks like Alvin will be serving his with some red fungi.
He’s also apparently left some edible pansies on the train, and is waiting for them to arrive. How? Is some poor production skivvy been sent off in a taxi to hound the good people of First Great Western until a box of crystallized flowers rematerializes? Or did some bright spark, knowing how often edible pansies would appear in this episode, thoughtfully fling them out a window?
Nadiya is making something she’s tried before “without success”, and then says it was “fun”, with this expression on her face:
The cameraman has borrowed Tamal’s shaking hands, and we get an aptly wobbily shot of him pouring custard into ramikins. The shaking does make it feel like we’re stalkers peering through somebody’s kitchen window – which, given the camera’s propensity to linger behind shrubs, is at least consistent.
“It’s all down to the poaching,” says Paul. Is it? Poaching surely something different you do with eggs? Am I missing something?
Meanwhile, Mary is finding more alcohol to down.
Apparently a bain-marie is used to stop the custard being heated at more than 100 degrees (as that, of course, is as hot as water can get). Wouldn’t putting the oven at 100 degrees have the same effect? I don’t know.
Much talk of made of ‘wobble’, and there are desperate attempts to make this sound euphemistic – most awkwardly in an exchange between Mat and Ugne which, thankfully, Ugne doesn’t seem to hear. She just says “hot hot hot”.
Sue gets Sandy to demonstrate the perfect wobble, and my heart just wishes Nancy were in this clip instead.
The camera pans jerkily towards Mat drinking a cup of tea; Nadiya makes helpful comments to Paul-the-baker (“are they meant to crack?”); At Home We Have An Aga has decided to make tuilles as well as creme brulees, for no clear reason. With dim memories of Hula Hoops presumably in mind, Mel mocks up tuille cuffs – and is sternly chastised by Paul and Mary.
We see various bakers sprinkle sugar on their brulees. While Alvin does this, a background shot makes the eventual judging make much more sense.
In Ugne’s long line of creepy things to say to camera, she turns and says simply “burning flesh!”
Sandy does an impression of David Attenborough that sounds, as always, exactly like Victoria Wood.
Despite my reservations regarding creme brulees having unusual flavours, the spread does look very impressive. Some people have scrambled eggs; some people have runny custard; some are heartily congratulated on their consistency. Tamal does a little victory fist shake that he instantly thinks better of, and it forms a perfect three-second portrayal of embarrassment and regret. Guys… I made an animated GIF! The future is now.
Paul tells Ian that he has issues with his pomegranate – somebody’s been reading their Greek myths – but the harshest criticism is reserved for Sandy. She insists that her runny creme brulees were in the oven for the right length of time. “Was it on?” replies Paul, in the closest thing to wit that he’s ever achieved.
Once Paul has had a couple of hours to lie down, to recover from his Wildean parry, we’re ready for the technical challenge. Mary advises them all to read the recipe carefully and visualise what they should be creating, and Sue sends M & P off to an inter-generational foam party in Woking – which, against my better judgement, does make me snigger. Not so much their puns on ‘wind’ – they’re making Spanish Wind Torte. They’re really running low on actual real things to bake, aren’t they?
It has Italian meringue and French meringue, I think. In conversation with my bestie Mel about this, we wondered whether every country had its own meringue. “Is there a British meringue, and a Spanish meringue?” queried Mel. “Merengue is the Spanish meringue,” quoth I, wittily.
This is apparently what it should look like. Pay attention to those violets; they will become the only aspect that Mary gives a damn about.
“Have you ever seen a violet?” Sue asks Alvin.
“I think it’s a flower,” he responds. Good luck, matey.
Paul-the-baker, meanwhile, just says “violet violet violet violet” over and over to himself. You might call that speech ultra-violet. Thankyouverymuch.
“It’s the most feminine version of plastering you can imagine, isn’t it?” says At Home We Have An Aga – and, somewhere, Richard from Series Five is yelling “I’M A BUILDER!” at his TV screen.
This dimly reminds me of that awful 100-layer pancake-cake from last year, only it looks a darn sight more appealing. The structural integrity of all the tortes is impressing me. Everybody seems to have made nice meringue layers and sturdy towers. Yes, Sandy put her cake stand in the oven, but what of it? Why wouldn’t she put her cake stand in the oven? Think of it that way.
She’s also decided that the best way to make a disc is to break it in half. I didn’t catch the beginning of this process on my first watch, and thought it had cracked by accident – but, no, she has deliberately sabotaged her own torte.
She doesn’t even give a good reason for it. “It should be slightly… shppsh,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. And then she rams it into the oven tray, like so:
This time it’s apparently not deliberate, but the line between the things she does deliberately and the things she does by accident is so blurred as to be non-existent.
The same could be said of Sue, who gives Alvin an aggressive massage that can’t possibly be pleasant.
Mel makes an awesome “Meringue, m’lord?” joke; Sue points out to Sandy that discs tend to be flat; the whole brass section of the orchestra pomp pomp to their hearts’ content, and the line-up of tortes are ready for inspection.
For some reason, Sandy’s cracked disc doesn’t bother Paul and Mary at all – “interesting lid” is all the comment it gets – and then we spend the next few minutes hearing Mary obsess about the shape, size, and delicacy of the violets, to the exclusion of all other criteria. The word ‘violet’ lost all meaning for me in the middle of this segment. (Incidentally, where did the fondant come for these? Could it have been… shop bought?!) Alvin comes last, followed by Nadiya and Mat. The top three are At Home We Have An Aga, Ugne, and Paul. Even Paul only gets “a good attempt at the flowers” from Mary. She really cares about those flowers. Like, time-to-call-an-intervention cares.
The usual anybody-could-be-in-danger interview with Paul and Mary, and we’re onto a three-tier cheesecake challenge for the showstoppers. They should be sweet, not savoury, says Sue – which is (a) something that should be taken as read, and (b) quickly disregarded by the bakers. For instance, Ian is making ‘spicy and herby’ cheesecakes. NO. NO. NO. This madness must stop.
Rosemary does not belong in a cheesecake, to clarify. Tamal is also going the rosemary route – the FOOL – and has apparently kept some violets from earlier.
Alvin knows what’s up. He’s using lemon, berries, and other cheesecake flavours. Good man. Nadiya has made her flavours from boiled-down fizzy drinks, which is… good, I guess? Paul has stopped listening to people at this stage, and just says “good luck” automatically to every baker when the people around him have stopped talking for a bit.
Paul-the-baker is adding brandy and vodka. Mary dribbles at the thought.
Apparently Sue, Paul, and Mary have never heard the word ‘ombre’, which is baffling. Ugne explains that it is often found in relation to hair dye; Paul makes a joke about Mary’s, and she responds simply with ‘careful’. It’s glorious. She can be stern when she needs to be.
At Home We Have An Aga is making three elderflower cheesecakes – unlike everybody else, as they’re using as many flavours as humanly possible. Being At Home We Have An Aga, she decides to whip together some macarons to enhance her bake. Apparently those ingredients are just lying around.
We haven’t had a lot of Mary Berry Reaction Faces this episode, but she gives a good’un when Mat explains that he wants his cheesecake to ‘explode a little bit’.
We get a montage of bakers taking cheesecakes out of tins, which culminates in Alvin apparently taking an invisible cheesecake out of his.
Cheesecakes are piled on top of one another, some with pernicious bits of plastic wedged in between layers. Sandy opts for covering one in silver foil (why?) and leaving one on the side. Tamal does her best to help her, but…
There are some impressive looking cheesecakes, folks. Ian’s and Tamal’s look lovely. but I refuse to condone the herby/spicy approach to cheesecakes. Not on my watch. And one of Tamal’s layers looks curiously like it’s made of tuna.
Paul gets to his ignore-them-and-they’ll-go-away peak during the backstage pre-elimination discussion.
Star baker – well, it looked like it should be Tamal, to me, but it’s…
And, going home, not very surprisingly after a pretty shoddy week, is…
I will never have the opportunity to decide whether or not she is a Nancy-impersonator.
Hope you’ve enjoyed dessert week – see you next time!