Having gone through quite a weird ‘freefrom’ week, we’re back to service as normal with… pastry! And some rather nice pink shirt/blouse/flower matching going on between Mel and Sue. Almost enough to ignore their intro. Were these ever good? I’m starting to doubt it.
First off, thanks to those kind people who identified Mat’s accent for me! Not one I’ve heard before, it seems, though I’ve definitely been to BOTH the Sussexes.
Nadiya is still glowing from being Star Baker last week – though correctly summarises that it is another week. Tamal, my friend, would you like to be Star Baker this week?
In a shock turn of events, it seems he would.
So, #BlazerWatch. Erm, guys. The linedance pose is catching. This is the end of life as we know it.
They’re making frangipane tarts, which is an opportunity for Sue to ‘show off’ her Italian accent. Isn’t a frangipane tart just a Bakewell tart? Have Bakewell got litigious? While Paul mutters something about gluten, Mary knows what the public wants – and gives us the first ‘soggy bottom’ of the series. And doesn’t she look delighted to have done it?
Mel (in the voiceover) and the bakers (in the real world) all pretend that we might not know how to make shortcrust pastry, and earnestly tell us that it should resemble breadcrumbs. Well, quite. Mat leaps miles up in my estimation for scorning a mixer (and the other bakers for using them). He stumbles down a little for having two pineapples and… radishes? on his counter. It doesn’t bode well.
“You don’t want a sticky dough, at the end of the day,” says Paul-the-baker. If you’ve only got dough at the end of the day, Paul, sticky or otherwise, then you’ll probably have failed the challenge.
Alvin isn’t poaching his plums, he is fanning them. Mel gurns and winks and all that sort of thing, but he manfully ignores her. Paul is poaching his pears – is poaching the new proving drawer? – and is apparently making ‘my version of a Christmas frangipane’. Is there a generally-accepted version of a Christmas frangipane? I’ve been missing out.
“How’s it going to look when you’ve finished? What sort of look are we looking at?” says Paul H, not having had our advantages with Colouring Pencil Man (and apparently thus relapsing into gibberish). “The pears will be going in a circular motion,” says Paul-the-baker. An automaton?? This gets better and better.
Tamal is the first baker of the night to wave alcohol under Mary’s nose – he’s using mulled wine.
One of Ian’s guinea fowl started laying eggs. I mean, sure.
Nadiya is keen to tell both camera and judges that her tart will, basically, taste of nothing. Mat, on the other hand, is making a piña colada tart, trumping Tamal’s mulled wine with a massive mason jar of rum. Mary immediately lunges for it.
“It’s a forgiving pastry” – Ian. I’m starting to realise that I don’t need to add much commentary to today’s quotations. Instead, let me remind you of the time my friend and I made a quiche. Bear this in mind when I start mocking the simplicity of the task.
The tent are divided over whether or not to blind bake. Mat says he blind bakes “because he read somewhere once that people do”, or some such. When I make Bakewell tarts, I don’t blind bake, fyi. And I think Mary Berry’s recipe for Bakewell tart says not to.
At Home We Have An Aga and Paul come to blows over having trimmed her pastry before blind baking it; Mel and Mary rather adorably rush to her defence, and he panics and reverts to saying “Thank you very much”, as he does in every silence.
At Home We Have An Aga pre-empts being crowned the Frances of the series by acknowledging that she may care too much about the appearance of her bakes. Well, Frances won, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Someone who should be worried – yes, thank you, that segue was all my own – is Alvin, who is rather behind everyone else, and has a half-baked solution about not putting much frangipane in, or something.
Meanwhile, At Home We Have An Aga is making amaretti biscuits, despite not knowing yet whether or not she’s going to put them anywhere.
Mel starts using a million abbrevs (“ten mins on your frange, obvs”) which led to a flurry of friends texting me to point out the similarities between Mel and myself. Or the sims, if you will. (I assume you won’t.)
The tarts are looking delish. People are glazing, icing, and – yes – scattering amaretti biscuits all over the place. Alvin is… still staring into the oven. Oh dear.
Onto the judging. OH. Paul wants a blind bake. I don’t know what to believe any more. Ian does quite badly, and Nadiya has… a soggy bottom!
Over at Mat’s station – Mary can’t taste enough rum! Oh noooo! I think, Mary my love, that’s what they call immunity.
Mary isn’t happy with the amaretti at At Home We Have An Aga – “just leave them out” and Mary and Paul argue about whether or not it’s bitter and burnt. But worse is to come over at Alvin Corner. His frangipane isn’t baked.
It’s rather heartbreaking. He keeps whispering “I’m so sorry” and I want to give him a hug. After that, Tamal does rather well – which apparently enrages Paul the baker (in a clip which, let’s face it, was probably filmed hours later).
So, quite a few people did surprisingly badly on a more or less simple bake – but the judging was very harsh. And, oh lord, Alvin is talking about the fact that his father was a general in the army and failure wasn’t an option, and I am getting vivid pictures of an eight year old Alvin being sent to his room in disgrace for not whittling the perfect flute or something.
So moving on, dear readers, apparently we can’t have any home videos, but we can have a story about someone who once almost died by falling into an eight-foot pie. Sue is given a brief – and, one assumes, entirely fictitious – history of the event by an out-of-work Bruce Springsteen impersonator.
All of this segment has to be a spoof. I’m starting to think the BBC has been hacked by trolls. The eyebrows of the gentleman in the supposedly genuinely old-timey video from Denby’s Baking Past are, by themselves, enough to suggest foul play.
Back in the tent, the bakers stare nervously around them, and the technical challenge is unveiled. If you thought things were traditional earlier, then… they’re doing flaounes. These are apparently big in Cyprus during Lent, so of course they make perfect sense for Britain in September. Mary hadn’t heard of them, and it’s more than likely that Paul has made the whole thing up. Though he wouldn’t be the first Paul to have a fondness for Cyprus. #BibleJokes
Oh, and they’re cheese-filled. Lent in Cyprus sounds fun. At Home We Have An Aga isn’t so sure. “It just feels wrong. The whole things feels wrong.”
Ian has put his cheese/sultana mix into the proving drawer. Things have gone too far.
Nobody seems to love mastick (or however you spell it), which is grainy and smells like pine trees and/or industrial cleaner. Flaounes are suddenly starting to sound a whole lot less tempting. They’ve also got yeast and everybody’s kneading it, which makes it seem like Paul has sneaked bread into pastry week. At Home We Have An Aga is certainly perplexed, but I’ve shown her perplexed face once already today, so you’re not getting it again.
Everybody is interpreting ‘fold in the corners’ differently, and Tamal informs the others that he hates them. Being, it seems, the anti-Ugne, it just sounds adorable.
The whole thing is over surprisingly quickly (presumably owing to the amount of time we saw Sue stand in a field where a pie was alleged to have been buried), and Paul and Mary come out to judge. They are judging based on qualities that the bakers couldn’t possibly have known needed to be there, like height or where the sesame seeds are. Since we’ve not seen any food pics for a bit, here’s some flaounes – as well as Nadiya’s excellent photocard face.
Mary clearly doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be looking for either, so throws in her usual comments about ‘lovely colour’ and ‘even’. I half expect her to start on the prettiness of the tablecloth. Tamal comes last, followed by Alvin and Paul. The top three are Ian, At Home We Have an Aga, and… Mat! Who looks incredibly surprised. And then salutes.
Tamal is quite witty about having seemed too cocky and being beaten down by the universe. Alvin, on the other hand, is completely dejected.
It’s raining and storming for the final challenge. Things aren’t looking good for Alvin. It’s the first time I can remember them not bothering to say more than one person in the ‘who’s in danger’ bit. Basically, he’s going. Can he make a miraculous comeback with vol-au-vents?
Spoilers: no, probably not.
They’re all making puff pastry, and this feels like a re-do of all the other puff pastry episodes we’ve had in the past – but with the added bonus of Nadiya smashing hers with a rolling pin in a violent frenzy, grimace on face.
Ian is making squid vol-au-vents, which is something that even Beverly Moss never thought of, and he suggests that jet black food is ‘a bit risqué’. I assume he means ‘risky’, right? Because otherwise I don’t know what to think or where to look. Paul is keen to get as ’70s as possible, and is including prawns. At Home We Have An Aga, on the other hand, is being daring and modern, with chocolate pastry. Oh, in the other one she’s got Parma ham. Order is restored.
‘Vol-au-vents’ is very amusing in Mat’s accent, by the way. It’s like one long glottal stop.
There’s a lot of meat and fish going on in the tent, and I always lose interest a bit when that happens. At least, with the vegetarian-friendly recipes, I can fool myself that I might make them one day. Also, this is veering suspiciously into ‘cooking’ territory, and that ain’t baking. No saucepans, please.
Tamal was inspired by an amazing sandwich. Bless him. Tamal for Prime Minister!
Nadiya’s face while rolling is an absolute joy. You lucky things, you get ANOTHER GIF.
She also seems to spend the whole of this section staring balefully at everyone else. It ain’t going so well for our Nadi. At some point she made a second pastry, but I seem to have been looking the other way when that happened. Mel comes over to whisper that she might want to put some filling somewhere (although it’s not really filling if it’s not filling anything, is it?)
Piping bags have been discarded; bakers are cramming filling in by hand. Nadiya has given up putting anything in at all. And I haven’t got a clue what’s going on here:
It’s all been pretty chaotic. Let the judging begin! I can’t say any of them look especially showstoppery, so just the one from At Home We Have An Aga in the Hall of Fame this week:
At the other end of the spectrum… deconstructed vol-au-vents from Nadiya.
But, bless her, they love the filling and she has a full-on cry.
Apparently egg yolk dripping down Mary’s hand is a good thing – though it sounds unsanitary to me – because our Mat is Star Baker.
Going home… well, it’s no surprise (even after Nadiya’s catastrophe), and it’s probably for the best for the sake of his nerves and, more to the point, mine. Your apologies broke my heart. We’ve loved having you, Alvin, you’re fab!
See you all next week :)