The Great British Bake Off: Series 6: Episode 5

Is ‘freefrom’ week a first for Great British Bake Off? I think it might be. What’s not new is Sue and Mel talking nonsensically before the opening titles. A strange joke about rubbing someone down in silver foil, and we’re ready to go.

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And what else is not new? The cameraman is still finding ever more inexplicable ways to obscure the contestants as they walk in.

Would it kill them to have a shot where we can just, y'know, SEE the bakers?
Would it kill them to have a shot where we can just, y’know, SEE the bakers?

Ian, apparently in the belief that pride comes before GOOD stuff, talks about how brilliant he is and, lols, the other bakers hate him.

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All in good fun, we think, until, one-by-one, the other bakers confirm that they want Ian dead. Tamal starts off his day trip to the 1990s by saying he thinks Ian is making the other bakers ‘look a bit pants’ – the first time any of us have heard the word ‘pants’ used in this way since about 1998. And Nadiya turns her ever-exaggerated facial expressions to menacing.

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Easily the least convincing is Alvin, who laughs nervously at the very thought of being menacing.

#BlazerWatch (yes I hashtagged it, what of it?) is a riot of springtime colours. I’m pretty sure Sue is recycling a jacket here, and Mel has gone eye-shriekingly yellow. Mary, as per usjz, comes out on top.

I'm not going to mention Paul until he starts wearing blazers again. One word, though: CUFFS.
I’m not going to mention Paul until he starts wearing blazers again. One word, though: CUFFS.

They’re making ‘sugarfree cakes’. I give that inverted commas because THESE ARE NOT SUGARFREE CAKES. I don’t understand whose dietary requirements these cakes could possibly suit. Loads of them are adding honey or syrup ‘instead’ of sugar. BUT HONEY AND SYRUP ARE MOSTLY SUGAR. There’s something about refined or unrefined sugar, which rather goes over my head, but what these cakes are NOT is sugarfree. ARGH.

Mary (in a lovely little garden – her giardino segreto, perhaps) tells us that sugar is an important ingredient in a cake. Whip out your notebooks, boys and girls, we’re doing some learnings.

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“Also add flour, probably. Where’s my cheque?”

Over with Paul, he’s saying that some of the bakers will use fruit – but that apples and pears should be avoided because (a) Cockneys will get confused, and (b) they don’t carry enough flavour. Instead, he suggests, they should use ‘something more robust, like an orange, like a lemon’. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he suggests sweetening their cakes with a lemon.

As though to spite him, our first baker – Ian – is using pear. He’s also throwing in carrots and honey. Mat, meanwhile, who looks ever increasingly like Postman Pat, is making a fairly traditional carrot cake, and doesn’t even seem to be adding any form of melted sugar as his sugarfree ingredient. Good on you, Mat.

I love me a carrot cake, and Paul’s sounds delish too – pecans and sultanas are also being added. More importantly – is Paul-the-baker the ghost of Paul-Hollywood-past? He seems to get paler every week.

"Man of the worldly mind!" replied the Ghost, "do you believe in me or not?"
“Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do you believe in me or not?”

“A good polenta cake is worth having,” says Mary to Tamal. Interestingly, WordPress thinks ‘polenta’ is a typo, and offers ‘tadpole’ as the only correction.

Alvin is making a pineapple upside-down cake. “It’s simple; classic,” he says, clearly already wracked with anxiety lest it be too boring. “It’s my go-too!” he confides to the camera, then laughs in a moment of unnerving hysteria.

Bless him.
Bless him.

Ugne has decided (possibly realising that these cakes aren’t free from anything at all) to make hers gluten free as well. We get a bizarre moment of Sue saying ‘hello?!’ in astonishment, practically waggling her glasses up and down Eric Morecambe-style. How does Mary Berry feel about it?

Mary Berry Reaction Face says... no.
Mary Berry Reaction Face says… no.

Ugne threatens to use purple icing.

At Home We Have An Aga (and, let me be clear, I’m very fond of her – the nickname is only in jest, but is too far gone now to be changed) has made at least four tiers to her cake, and joins the putting-in-oven montage that we’ve come to expect. If my oven had three shelves, it wouldn’t have taken five hours to make the Windtorte.

"I am putting them in the oven," she says, accurately.
“I am putting them in the oven,” she says, accurately.

Nadiya is making no-cook blueberry jam for the centre of her cake, which doesn’t only seem to be no-cook but also no-blueberry. It apparently consists entirely of basil seeds (c.f. fig.1) and water.

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Her sweetener is molasses. WHICH IS BASICALLY SUGAR.

At Home We Have An Aga is making madeleines to go around the outside of her cake. The takes me back. BA-DOOM-TISH. But, seriously, she always seems to go the extra mile, but still hasn’t made it to Star Baker contention territory.

It only feels like a moment since cakes-in montage, and we’re ready for cakes-out montage. Despite the tension-building drums, nothing of note happens here. Nothing, that is, except for the case for dismissal growing against medical larcenist Tamal.

To make matters worse, he's injecting blood orange.
To make matters worse, he’s injecting blood orange.

He says it’s 50% one thing, 50% some other thing, and a bit of something else – sweetly corrects his 50%/50% statement, and sighs “Ahhh… maths”. Somewhere, Mr Simpson is eyebrows-raised, hoping for a mention. I’ve got your back, Mr S.

Most of the tent are making mascarpone icing (‘mascarpone’ being another word WordPress can’t cope with; ‘mascara’ this time). I do have a question about Tamal’s (and probably most people’s). Why do they insist on using a food mixer thingummy for EVERYTHING.

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I said this last year, but I don’t own one of these. I can see where it would sometimes be useful, but bakers should be quite capable of making icing or a sponge mix by hand. Is there some sort of covert sponsorship deal going on? Am I going to bring down the BBC? Can I get a refund on the licence fee I paid last week?

Meanwhile, Alvin is spreading honey on his (to me) rather underwhelming-looking upside-down cake. And he’s done. He nervously asks Ian if his cake is too simple, a question which Ian wisely pretends not to hear.

He's got THIRTY MINUTES left.
He’s got THIRTY MINUTES left.

I don’t think there’s any connection with Ugne saying “If we play it safe, it would be boring. We can do boring every day.” But the editing is undoubtedly unfortunate, pitting the tent’s scariest (though also lovely) baker against its most anxious. At least Alv is spending his time well:

"Any clothes need ironing? Any flowerbeds need weeding?"
“Any clothes need ironing? Any flowerbeds need weeding?”

And – OH NOOOS – Ugne’s cake starts to collapse. She blames it on the top layer breaking, but that doesn’t seem to explain why the whole thing is subsiding, oozing whatever bizarre purple concoction she has smothered it in, as well as the top layer of chocolate. She decides the best course of action is to stand in front of an open fridge, prodding it with a spatula.

What you see here is Nadiya getting halfway through an expression of concern, then shrugging and wandering off.
What you see here is Nadiya getting halfway through an expression of concern, then shrugging and wandering off.

The editor cruelly goes between the wonderful looking cakes (Ian’s with flowers embedded all around looks particularly impressive) to Ugne’s mess. She’s raided the garden for some decoration that she has decided (in a moment, we must sympathetically assume, of insanity) might distract from the apocakelypse.

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Here are some prettier ones:

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Tamal does well, as does Paul. Bizarrely, they think Ian’s might look too simple (?!) and ‘pear’s not going to bring anything to a party in a sugarfree cake’. Paul says Mat’s doesn’t look baked, but it turns out it is, and thus ends the shortest emotional rollercoaster in history.

Ugne’s checkerboard doesn’t come out quite as she’d hoped, and I hope this also serves as a warning to anybody who was considering browny-purple as an icing colour choice in future:

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Brilliantly, Mel starts chomping on the accompanying flowers – only to be told that they’re not edible. She subtly spits them out.

They don’t seem to mind too much that Alvin’s cake is super dull; instead, he gets tidal waves of compliments from M & P. These are the same people who thought that Ian’s was too simple. Paul-the-baker nods appreciatively. And, in the aftermath-interviews, Ian is NOT CHUFFED.

Technical challenge time! And it might be the least appetising one to date. Gluten-free pittas. Nadiya is all of us:

"...wut?"
“…wut?”

Pittas join the pantheon of GBBO technical bakes that in no way reward the effort required. Just buy them from a shop, people. Even Paul’s array of pre-made pittas look soporifically dull.

I pitta the fool who has to eat these.
I pitta the fool who has to eat these.

It’s the first of many times we’ll see Mary make a pocket in a pitta. If you thought her fixation on violets was ridiculous, wait til you discover how obsessed she is with wearing pittas as gloves.

They’ve all got packets of brown powder but, fear not, this isn’t more of Tamal stealing from work. It’s something that, mixed with water, takes the place of gluten, or something. When I’ve made gluten-free things, I’ve just used gluten-free flour. May I recommend it as a preferred method? Oh, and Tamal, not content with the patois of 1998, rewinds a few years more to describe the mixture as ‘rank’.

I mean, he's not wrong.
I mean, he’s not wrong.

They all seem to be doing surprisingly well with the dough, though. It’s very soggy, but they’ve made admirable-looking doughs – as this shot, taken from under Ugne’s arm, demonstrates:

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Oh, Tamal’s isn’t going so well. Poor old Alv has had pitta once in his life, and recalls it looking like ‘a triangle’. Sue blanches, but womanfully says nothing. Is he thinking of a samosa? Is he saying words at random?

This panning shot, rushing through the flowers, literally made me feel dizzy.

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The bakers and voiceovers are mercifully brief on the topic of proving, and Alvin runs through every conceivable shape for his pitta, before openly copying those around him.

“Grey and dense” says Mat, popping his head up from behind the desk, and making my jokes too obvious. Also, where is his accent from? He sounds like somebody pretending to be Northern, while chewing toffee. And Ockham’s Razor suggests that that’s what he must be.

There is nothing interesting about these pittas, visually at least. We see them wrapped in tea towels (why?), plonked on boards, and eventually lined up on the gingham altar. A last minute blow on hers renders Ugne’s entirely unhygienic.

The judging? Well, friends, AT NO POINT TO MARY OR PAUL EAT ANY OF THEM. It’s so strange. Do they note their colour and shape? Yes. Do they wave them up and down? Yes. Do they shove their hands in them? Hell, yes. But they never taste them. Why? (Also: repetitive mentions of ‘envelope’ spark interest from Postman Mat.) My favourite moment is Mary saying “These are round, aren’t they?” in wonderment, and apparently needing confirmation from Paul’s expertise on this point.

The world’s dullest technical over, and Alvin comes last, followed by Tamal and Ugne. The top three are At Home We Have An Aga, Paul, and Nadiya. I think Nadiya is pleased.

#ChetnaArms
#ChetnaArms

You know what *I* miss, folks? Home videos. We haven’t had one in weeks. They’re really wasting having a fire fighter and an anaesthetist on the squad, not to mention a student. At Home We Have An Aga probably writes on the floor, or something, like Ruby. Ugne is a body-builder, for Heaven’s sake. What do you need, GBBO producers, before you’ll show us awkward three-second clips, filmed in the rain, of people presenting Victoria sponges to their assembled family and colleagues?

Back in the tent, it’s the showstopper challenge: dairy-free ice cream rolls. The very notion. Let’s be honest, they know that ice cream gave them their best ratings last year, and they’re hoping to recapture the magic. To do judges and presenters justice, #bingate is not mentioned, even covertly. Unless it was SO covert that I didn’t spot it.

The bakers are mostly using coconut milk, which comes in BBC-friendly non-brand tins.

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It always seems like anything they’re thinking of making might turn out to be scrambled eggs if things go wrong. Every recipe is one false step away from being scrambled eggs. It’s a humbling thought.

Alvin is using a Filipino ingredient that Paul compares to suncream – and Mary, getting her own back for the hair-dye comment of last week, suggests it’s what he’s been using for years. That man does love a tan. Alvin’s looks unappealingly luminous in the BBC Colouring Pencils evocation of it.

Solvent Green?
Soylent Green?

Mel gets the green stuff on her tongue because of course she does. Bless her. Paul-the-baker is making a dessert island – geddit? Dessert/desert? Geddit? [wipes eyes]. A few people are going tropical, indeed, with pineapples and mangoes all over the place.

Oh, hark, they’ve found a xylophone.

Ugne is making a peanut butter ice cream *gag* with grape jam *gag* and the whole thing sounds revolting. Her ‘I need this to work today’ is followed by a laugh, but I think we can all still agree that it’s the horse’s-head-in-bed of comments.

Ian’s doing a… dessert island. It’s the joke that just keeps on giving.

Nadiya says of her mousse that she’s putting it in the freezer, because leaving it out will make it too runny. Could THIS be the #bingate reference I’ve been waiting for?

Apparently forgetting his – now, how to put this nicely – horrendous piping on the biscuit box, Paul-the-baker is making wobbly palm trees and… shuttlecocks?… to decorate his sponge roll.

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My friend Adam plays a GBBO drinking game which includes drinking when bakers stare into ovens. He was in my house when this episode was on, and we didn’t happen to have any alcohol in, otherwise this montage would have left him unconscious.

Oh no no no.
Oh no no no.

Alvin is a bit fraught, and we get a shot of Paul-the-baker staring in consternation at him, in silence, before reluctantly saying “D’you want a hand, Alvin?” He looks and sounds precisely like Phil Mitchell at this point.

To give him credit, he does then lend a hand.
To give him credit, he does then lend a hand.

I’ve also skimmed (or at least semi-skimmed #hahaha #ohnohedidnt) over the final section of the challenge, as it’s mostly people taking things in and out of ovens, or in and out of freezers. It does include Sue pointing out the flaws in Ugne’s jam placement, suggesting that she’s picked up quite a bit in her years on the show.

The less said about Paul-the-baker’s fondant sunbather, the better. Let’s not sully ourselves, people.

Ian has a mini breakdown, and can’t remember the word ‘marzipan’. In this strange tent of savoury and sweet being entirely interchangeable, his suggestion of ‘parmesan’ wouldn’t actually be that scandalous. (And, oh, WordPress spellchecker, I do mean parmesan, and not partisan.)

And, just like that, we’re finished. Here are a couple of the beauties:

This doesn't show off the lovely bunting properly. Everybody loves bunting.
This doesn’t show off the lovely bunting properly. Everybody loves bunting.
This is truly spectacular. Well done, Nadi!
This is truly spectacular. Well done, Nadi!

Highlights:

  • Mary says she’d be proud if she’d managed to make Tamal’s.
  • Mat didn’t realise that a Swiss roll and an ice cream roll were different things.
  • Nadiya’s is undeniably wonderful, but it’s curious that Mary congratulated her chocolate ice cream for ‘masking’ the coconut.
  • Alvin continues to call Paul ‘sir’. I don’t really like it.
  • Ugne’s is a mess, but tastes good, and (bless her) she has a little cry.

Mary, Paul, Mel, and Sue debrief while the bakers loll about in deck chairs, each and every one of them looking grumpy – I know I would be after a day like that. Then we’re ready for them to unveil Star Baker…

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Hearty cheers all round! Fans of the adorable will enjoy Nadiya talking about how her kids will be proud of her.

And going home…

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She whispers something to Sue – could it be “I won’t forget this”? – and definitely looks like she’s strangling her… but, I jest, she was a sweetie really.

See you next week!

14 thoughts on “The Great British Bake Off: Series 6: Episode 5

  • September 7, 2015 at 12:23 am
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    Oh brilliant. I should be turning out my light to go to sleep instead I’m chortling. Nadihya is my favourite so glad she got star baker.

  • September 7, 2015 at 1:16 am
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    Solyent

  • September 7, 2015 at 8:01 am
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    Yaye! I was so happy to wake up this morning and see this!

    Seriously though, Simon. Get yourself a KitchenAid mixer. I mean it. It will change your life. Yes, you can make a sponge without one. Of course you can. But why would you want to?? ;)

    Also – proper homemade delicousy gluteny pittas are heavenly. But not those grey hocky pucks.

  • September 7, 2015 at 8:42 am
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    I loved Parmesan/marzipan. But srsly, do Paul and Mary not watch the BBC’s food programmes? the Hairy bikers and Rick Stein, if not Rachel Khoo as well, have all cooked with pandan and discussed it at length (Alvin’s green thing). And grape jelly (not jam, Paul, whoever heard of grape jam) is The Classic pairing with peanut butter in the traditional American PB&J sandwich. Not something Ugne made up. I feel this deserves a clarifying voiceover. And I am missing Awkward Moments in Baking History, or Sue Goes to the Cake Shop, this series…

  • September 7, 2015 at 8:54 am
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    Absolutely loving your recaps Simon! It’s always a joy to see them appear on the blog. Keep up the great work!

    I have to stop you when you put “‘Mat” and “Northern” anywhere near the same sentence though – he’s from Sussex and works in Greenwich, though you may yet be right about the toffee…

  • September 7, 2015 at 6:58 pm
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    Enjoyed reading your post about the latest UK episode – thank you!
    Finally located your review of the episode we (in the US) saw last night, and enjoyed that post as well.
    For your U.S. readers’ sanity, thought I’d explain…
    The Great British Bake Off = “The Great British Baking Show” (yes, pbs renamed it)
    Series 5 = Series 1 (shown in U.S. in early 2015)
    Series 4 = Series 2 (shown in U.S. Sept 2015) on my station they
    showed the promenading piece at the end
    In their infinite wisdom (?), American public broadcasting services (pbs) is airing seasons chronologically backwards.
    see http://www.pbs.org/food/features/great-british-baking-show-season-2-meet-bakers/
    If that doesn’t give food for thought…
    del

  • September 7, 2015 at 7:10 pm
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    I loved the little ‘Lucia’ nod in ‘giardino segreto’!

  • September 7, 2015 at 8:06 pm
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    Wonderful recap of the most exciting show on the BBC. But why are they allowed to use pre-made fondant icing……? Obviously not a question you can answer, Simon but this scandal cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. (or did I miss something).

    • September 7, 2015 at 9:49 pm
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      Xanthe, I too worry about the sorts of things they are allowed to bring in pre-made. In fact, I’m not even sure about the bunting being right.

    • September 7, 2015 at 10:40 pm
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      So true! Somewhere out there Enwezor from series 5 will have been shaking his fist at the screen…

  • September 9, 2015 at 2:38 pm
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    Thanks for the recaps Simon, really funny. Nadihya is my favourite so I’m glad she won. Keep up the good work, we love it!

  • September 9, 2015 at 3:46 pm
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    How this cheers me up – forcing myself to do something tedious – I reward myself with Simon’s GBBO review. Purple icing, second only to grey icing (even on an elephant) – what could possibly be nastier? Ah – a Pontefract cake in any sort of pudding – that would do it! Thank you Simon.

  • September 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm
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    Just thought I’d tell you where Mat’s accent is from since you were wondering. He’s from a town in East Sussex called Uckfield, near Tunbridge Wells. I’m from round there and it’s a very common accent in Kent/Sussex, I’m surprised how few people actually recognise it elsewhere!
    Really enjoying the recaps, into my third year of reading them!

  • September 10, 2015 at 7:45 pm
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    And now we know why Alvin calls Paul ‘Sir’. That aside to the camera was a pretty sobering moment.

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