First of all, a big thank you to Ian Dunn for babysitting this blog last week whilst I was on my hols in Cumbria. In order that I didn’t miss out on the GBBO experience, I sampled many cakes and stared out of the window at the perpetual rain quite a lot.
Ian’s description of Sue Perkins as a ‘home counties Elvis’ was a particular moment of genius, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
In the introductory bit to this week’s episode, Mel makes the staggering claim that ‘in baking, literally anything can happen’. Now come on, that’s not strictly true, is it? I’d be very surprised if one of the ovens turned into a sentient being and started presenting the rest of the show, for example.
Anyway, after Manisha’s departure last week, it’s everything to bake for, and the remaining bakers are those who we’re likely to remember after the series has finished, even if they don’t win. The numbers are slowly getting more manageable, unlike some of the dishes.
This week’s first challenge is sponges and the bakers have got to make two batches of six each, with some sauces. Mary is most concerned that they shouldn’t have a gooey middle. She also seems to think that Ryan has gone mental when he says he’s going to use three different raising agents in his chocolate fondant and fig and date brownie batches- quite rightly if you ask me.
Sticky toffee puddings are a popular choice for this task, with Brendan, Sarah-Jane and John all doing them, except of course John is tarting his up by soaking his dates in Lady Grey tea first. Fancy! Brendan says that he prefers to do proper desserts for a dinner party rather than serving his guests a sponge – seeing as he seems to have been cast as a seventies throwback, presumably that means giant gateaux or something involving tinned pineapple rings.
Sarah-Jane, desperate to recover from her disastrous Wellington which looked like a prolapsed stomach last week, is complementing her sticky toffee sponges with her granny’s ‘saucy lemon puddings’ – despite the fact that sauciness isn’t a trait you’d necessarily want to associate with your grandmother.
Danny drops her sponges and two of them are completely destroyed in the process, but that doesn’t stop her efforts being commended. In fact, it’s the two perfectionists who come most unstuck in this task, Kathryn and James. Seeing as the great British public love an underdog, they were presumably quite pleased with this change in fortune.
The technical challenge is something called ‘Queen of Puddings’ – it’s one of Mary Berry’s own recipes so everyone is naturally bricking it. It consists of layers of custard, meringue and jam which should be distinct and – crucially – not merge, so there should be no custard seeping into the jam.
Kathryn doesn’t do too well in this one either, her meringue is too marshmallowy, her jam is too runny, and she is not happy. She still gets third place though, so it can’t be that bad – but you get the impression that anything other than first is bad in her book.
James’s effort appears to be too runny altogether, with separated custard, and he gets the wooden spoon. Dark horse Brendan is the winner. It’s still quite hard to predict anything about this year’s candidates, when there is nobody who has been absolutely consistently bad or good week after week.
The showstopper challenge is strudel. This is apparently so tricky to make that even Mary Berry says that she would buy it rather than be arsed to make it. The trick is to get the pastry really thin without any of the filling seeping out.
We now enter the slapstick section of this week’s episode, as Sarah-Jane gets most carried away with slapping dough around, and somehow seems to end up throwing uber-perfectionist Kathryn’s dough onto the carpet, which promptly takes the opportunity to stick to it.
From someone more machivellian you’d think this was deliberate, but it clearly isn’t, and whilst Kathryn says she’s not cross about it, she clearly is. Meanwhile, John has cut his finger on a magimix and is now bleeding so badly that he can’t carry on with the challenge. It’s high drama this week.
It’s really not Kathryn’s finest hour this episode – her strudel is not only covered in carpet fibre, it also has a haemorrhage, or a haemorrhoid, as she almost calls it. James’s is also leaking, probably due to his decision to fill it full of watery fruit. Sarah-Jane’s strudel pastry isn’t thin enough. Brendan’s done a savoury strudel with an impressive lattice on the top,which apparently tastes wonderful although Paul thinks it is too pale.
Picky, that’s what he is.
So, star baker this week is Brendan, and it’s about time thankfully. He’s been in the shadows for too long. But then, SHOCK! Nobody is going home this week and everyone is staying until next time. This is partly because John didn’t end up being in the showstopper round due to bleeding everywhere, and because the decision about who goes home was just too hard to make (but I think Sarah-Jane, Ryan and James should all be a bit worried).
Next week, then, will presumably be excruciating. Don’t miss it!