Sue is back (with hair so different from the rest of the episode that it was either very windy or this is filmed long afterwards), a laboured pun has been made on the word roll (PUN KLAXON), and somewhere Paul is looking in a mirror and saying “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, who’s the breadiest of them all?” It must be… Bread Week!
Tbh, I always find bread week a wee bit annoying. Partly because there are very few ways one can be creative with bread without making it substantially worse than regular bread, and partly because Paul suddenly fears the challenge of anybody else in the bread arena, and wildly criticises everything he sets his eyes on.
But, as promised, Candice is wearing red for bread. I’m wondering how distinct her different lipsticks have to be over the series. By the final, will she be donning a shade of ultraviolet?
Blazer Watch, you ask? No? Well, here is is. Some very muted colours this week. And some intriguing turned-up sleeves from Sue.
In the Signature Challenge, they are making chocolate bread (“the bread must contain chocolate”, as Mel helpfully elaborates). I’m going to come in with a hasty ‘no’ at this point, as I don’t think sweet bread is a thing or should be a thing. If I want sweet bread, I’ll have cake. I do not want chocolate bread. I do not want chocolate on my bread. I hope I have made myself clear.
Mary, though, is apparently excited about the challenge, because they haven’t had it before. As the series go on, they will have to come up with increasingly unlikely (and unappetising) challenges. “Pineapple bread,” Mel will announce in Series 9. “METAL BREAD” squawks Sue in Series 12. By Series 15 they’ll be making flatpack furniture while Paul murmurs the word ‘bread’ in the background.
Another downside to bread week is that it’s not the most fun to watch. We learn (grab your notebooks, stat) that yeast is involved, and that people are putting entirely normal and bread-like ingredients into their bread. We’re left to gasp in awe and/or dismay at Candice putting in 250g of butter. Paul Reaction Face time, for a change:
KNEADING DOUGH HELPS DEVELOP GLUTEN PEOPLE. (An object lesson in the importance of punctuation.)
Val apparently kneads her 500 times, and wearily counts to eight before the camera mercifully pans away. I suspect she is the sort who would skip numbers while playing hide and seek.
Rav is making a babka, which he thinks is a Middle Eastern bread. Paul says it’s a Polish cake, and waltzes away. Right over to Benjamina, who thinks she’s making a babka, but is apparently make a couronne. Gosh, it’s intense. Sorry, no, it’s just in one tent. *orders some new sides because mine have split*
Mary tells Paul not to be ‘grumpy’ about it (glorious) and Colouring Pencils Man totally has Benjamina’s back when it comes to the name of it.
Kate is making two types of chocolate dough, because apparently some of her family will get knifey if they don’t get the one they like. She laughs nervously about pleasing everyone.
Over at Tom/Michael’s desk, he’s doing the windowpane test – which someone does most years, but GBBO always tells us about as though it were a fresh new invention. One can imagine GBBO as a caveman, forever trying to impress people with a circular stone or fire.
This year, we skate past the usual prove-in-proving-drawer-or-oven debate, in favour of Andrew’s daring (apparently) decision not to double prove. Look, I had no idea double proving was a necessity, but then I’ve never made bread. Mary is certainly shocked, and Rav treats it with the polite subdued horror that one would the tid-bit that a friend was considering bestiality.
The downside to proving and long oven times is that the bakers don’t have much to do for a while. Not enough screaming and running about and trying to turn demerara into a miniaturised sculpture of Weston-super-Mare. Selasi is really committing to his relaxation schtick.
Val takes a jaunt down memory lane, telling us that she couldn’t afford chocolate as a child. That can be added to the lollipops she couldn’t afford last episode. I’m fully expecting her to continue on this path throughout the series, confiding (by the end) that she couldn’t afford grass or friends or the number seven.
She does advise that you can make your own chocolate spread, instead of buying it. I economise by not having chocolate spread.
Michael (they just said his name! I’m golden) is every one of us who has tried to spread cold butter onto a sandwich:
People fill their doughs, twist them, cut them, and worry about whether they have too little, or too much, filling. Selasi wisely decides not to go for “too much”, suggesting only that he knows what the word “too” means. Andrew, meanwhile, with his SINGLE PROVE – remember that scandal of a paragraph ago? – has little to do but stare into his oven, and perhaps wonder if that butter wouldn’t be better off in the fridge.
Otherwise it might be butter off, amirite.
I’m ten minutes into the episode and I can’t bear hearing the word ‘prove’ anymore. This always happens.
This is a shot that the editing team decide is a keeper:
We get intermittent shots of streams and daffodils, suggesting that we have inadvertently wandered into the mind of William Wordsworth, and then effectively a montage of people taking bread out of ovens – and a shot of Candice apparently taken by somebody lying on the floor.
She is wearing quite the fancy dress, incidentally, looking a fair colleen, as our Irish friends might say.
The fiddles come out, and the final minute is filled with people fanning their bread, scattering nuts, and saying “glaze, glaze, glaze” with the wild-eyed intensity of an insane ceramicist. Adorably, showing just how friendly this competition is, everybody rallies round to help Candice in her hour of need. She is doubtless grateful, but also adds “I hate oven gloves” – though presumably the alternative would be worse.
And there we have it. Suddenly the breads are all revolving in front of us, and we’re ready for some judging.
Paul likes Andrew’s bread DESPITE that single prove. Or single proof. Hmm. Not so good for quite a few of the other bakers, who have an unusually high proportion of underbaked bread. Which Paul invariably calls ‘raw’. Surely it is underbaked rather than raw? Isn’t it only raw when it’s a pile of ingredients? Look, Paul says “less curls” so I have no faith in anything he says, thinks, or feels. (He also tells Candice that hers is “down to the eat”, whatever that means. Whatever it is, it’s not good; she has a little cry and it’s very touching.) (THIS is how unsporty kids feel in your P.E. classes Candice, let me tell you from bitter personal experience.) (This took a turn.) (I’ll stop.)
Rav seems to do the best at this stage, and he adopts a Little Miss Muffet stance under a tree. Still wearing his apron, which doesn’t seem particularly hygienic.
That sun has suddenly disappeared by the rainy Technical Challenge – which is one of the more unpleasant sounding (and, it turns out, looking) bakes they’ve had for a while. Dampfnudel. I forgot to ask my German colleague if anybody actually eats these in Germany, but Benjamina is all of us on hearing the task:
We get our usual collection of bakers telling us that they haven’t heard of it, and haven’t made it before – they have this in common with literally everyone ever – and Candice says she was rather hoping to be making toast. Paul’s defence for assigning this task is that “we’ve never steamed bread before on the Bake Off”. Again, nor has anybody, ever. The camera operator does their best to make the dampfnudel look attractive in panning close-ups, but this only serves to ensure that nobody will ever make these again.
Like all the best breads, it’s served with a spoon. Mary damns it with faint praise by saying it is like an iced bun without icing. Mmm.
Selasi uses those muscles of his to slam the dough against the counter, and the BBC’s Foley artist has a high old time creating unlikely noises to go along with it. He also does something in the line of a fan dance with it.
Oh excellent. There’s an interesting history of dampfnudel saving a town or something that takes Mel off on her hols and allows Germany’s foremost food historian to repeat everything she’s just said in her voiceover.
Apparently dampfnudel is still very important to this community, as proved by a photo from about 1996 and a barbershop quartet singing something that almost all of the audience won’t understand, myself included. That’s quite enough of that. Let’s get back to the tent to see bakers making that noted baked good, plum sauce, and watch Candice attempt to divide 900 by 12 solely with the use of her fingers.
Somebody’s found some timpani, and that’s what accompanies the bakers putting unattractive looking dough balls in saucepans, and looking gloomily into the steam-covered lids. We see but through a glass darkly, y’all. At some point, inexplicably, foil gets added.
Having been told earlier that the bakers shouldn’t lift the lid early, it is with a delicious sense of dramatic irony that we watch every baker do precisely that.
Val. I love you.
Mel makes an excellent ‘rising dampf’ joke – see, she can do it when she needs to – and the unappealing dampfnudel are presented in their pans to the judging eyes of Mezza and Pezza. In short: all of them are hideous. It’s inconceivable that anybody could want to eat these. That German conflict probably ended because both sides developed a common enemy in the dampfnudel.
Rav comes last, followed by Jane. Winning the technical challenge, much to everyone’s surprise and consternation, is Val. She puts it down to the “pure luck that I’m older that everyone else”, showing that she has only the vaguest understanding of how time works.
Aaaand we’re onto the Showstopper Challenge. It’s ‘savoury bread’ (this should be a tautology), and we have to go through another year where we accept the harmless fantasy that a bread centrepiece is now, ever was, or ever could be a thing.
Oh, and they’ve got to have plaits in them.
Things kick off with Kate, who is taking a turn for the pagan with her corn maiden – but it does give Colouring Pencils Man another opportunity to show off his admirable shading.
It does sound delish, with foccaccia and goat’s cheese and other good things. Mel raises the topic of fertility and Kate violently asserts that she doesn’t want any more children. It all gets a bit awkward, and we wander over to see Michael plying Mary with (the prospect of) a Cypriot alcohol akin to white spirit.
Andrew is making a basket; Tom is making Thor’s hammer; Val is making… Noah’s Ark. While I am fully willing to believe that she was a passenger on said ark, her actual construction ambitions only seem to be tangentially related to it. She’s essentially shoving a few animals into a basket. “Yes, it’ll be plaited,” she explains to Paul, with the bright smile and weary patronising tone of an exhausted kindergarten teacher.
Look, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in Colouring Pencil Man’s illustration, but it does end up eerily accurate.
There is quite a sweet moment where Mel queries why there aren’t two giraffes, rather than one (Bible knowledge time: there would actually have been seven giraffes, as there were seven of each animal considered kosher) and Val says “they’ve argued”. One of the doves, she adds, has flown away – which has more of a scriptural precedent.
Selasi tells some anecdote about sitting under a tree that apparently justifies his centrepiece not being a centrepiece. His voice remains like one that Marks and Spencer would use to advertise caramel puddings. Rav, meanwhile, is making something he’s calling pesto but which has seemingly none of the correct ingredients – and is interrupted by Mel and Sue playing ‘guess the smell’, where Mel tries (and fails) to fool Sue with a timer. I remain wholly in love with the fact that these two have the professionalism of two teenage girls putting together a dance routine for the end of year assembly.
Oh good. Lots of close-ups of cooking meat. I suppose that’s the price we pay for bread being appropriately savoury.
We scurry around the tent finding out who can’t plait (Selasi, Val), who can (Kate), and who has decided just to make a basket instead (Andrew). Kate, of course, used to do this to her pony.
Tom refuses to join in Mel’s naughty suggestions about the shape of his dough, because his mum will be watching. I applaud you, Tom, to the extent that I think I’ve finally established that your name is Tom rather than Michael. I’m not promising anything.
The word ‘prove’ has lost all meaning. I want a company to set up that does PR and baking, and it could be called PR.OVEN. And it would be wonderful.
Less wonderful is Val who, in the process of ignoring Mel’s questions about her Noah’s Ark animals, manages to… cut herself on an oven tray? I’m pretty sure she burned herself, and Sue has got entirely the wrong health and safety response in mind.
Paul looms around the tent like some sort of grim reaper, and we get our usual flurry of ovens taking things out of ovens while Val wanders around with her hand still in the air, apparently doing nothing whatsoever. Except look a little like her Statue of Liberty from last week.
After a quick final immersion in daffodils, we’re onto the judging. I don’t think any of them look particularly nice enough to feature in a ‘my favourites’ section. Instead, let’s have a gander at Val’s debacle. (“You can do design,” lies Mary, stroking the bread.)
Most people do pretty well – perhaps something with actually giving them enough time to bake the bread properly – but Selasi is criticised for just dumping a pile of shapeless loaves on the table, and Michael’s is considered a mess. There is not, I am sorry to tell you, enough coriander.
Most heartbreakingly, Candice gets all upset at her quite bad feedback on her underworked dough and appearance, but they do like her flavours. She’s obviously one to take things to heart – as opposed to our Val, who could be told that she was literally on trial for her baking ineptitude and would cheerily, madly, laugh it off. They seem to narrow it down to Val and Candice going home, in their pre-announcement debrief.
Then, rather out of nowhere, the winner is…
Tom – whom Mary describes as having been “consistently in the middle” over the past weeks – which, can I remind you, have only numbered two so far. How consistent can one be twice?
And it’s not Candice or Val heading home – but rather:
So, Tom has won and Michael has gone. Finally I can conclusively remember which name is whose. Sorry it took this, Michael, and all the best! You’ve still got hockey.
Next week – besides the threat of a return of Kate’s pagan doll – we’re on batter week. Who knew that was a thing? In what world is making pancakes a baking challenge? We’ll find out next time – hope you can join me!