This week, the Great British Bake Off went a bit off the rails, with a barely-there theme and a shock double elimination.
To kick things off, let's talk about the theme, Roaring Twenties. Firstly, I think there must have been some miscommunication between the producers, the judges and the contestants because this episode was barely themed. What is a Roaring Twenties theme, you ask? Well, I was expecting to see Gatsby-esque bakes, lavishly decorated with bizarre old-time flavours. Instead, the theme was so thin that there really was no connection between the three tasks. It was a thinly veiled attempt at an innovative theme that fell utterly flat, didn't make sense and didn't work at all. Hopefully, the behind-the-scenes team get it together and return to the popular themes of previous seasons, like patisserie or chocolate week. Anyway, on to the recap!
The Signature Challenge
For this week's signature challenge, the bakers were tasked with creating four baked custard tarts topped with an array of fabulous decorations. Sounds simple enough, but there were definitely a range of challenges associated with this bake: the shortcrust pastry needed to be thin and perfectly baked, the custard had to be just set and the decorations needed to be impressive. While these tarts were fairly popular in the 1920s, custard tarts seemed barely connected to the overarching theme and David was the only contestant to even attempt to bring the theme into his bake, serving up vanilla custard tarts topped with flapper girl cookies.
Of course, there were highs and lows for the contestants throughout this challenge. Michael didn't fill his tarts enough, Helena's wonderfully weird sea monster-themed creations tasted like soap and Priya accidentally ended up boiling her custard instead of baking it, as well as serving up messy, unfinished tarts.
Rosie, however, faced the biggest problems in this challenge: her honey jellies melted everywhere and she accidentally threw one of her tarts on the floor, which meant she only had three tarts to serve to the judges, instead of the required four. While my heart broke watching her devastated face as she realised her custard was strewn across the floor, it was obvious that Rosie was an early frontrunner for elimination this week.
On the other side of the scale, David was one of the only bakers to impress the judges at all. Paul and Prue remarked how beautifully decorated his tarts were and that the custard was absolutely perfect, earning David the second Hollywood handshake of the season. Steph was praised too for her efforts, which looked and apparently tasted lovely.
The Technical Challenge
Even though the judges seemed to determined to avoid overly contrived Technical Challenges this season, it seems that they have completely backtracked on that idea – see last week's cheese curd tarts –and have completely gone in the other direction.
This week's Technical was set by Prue, who seems to delight in the bakers' misery, and required the contestants to produce 18 beignet soufflés, filled with jam and served with a sabayon. What are beignet soufflés? Deep-fried choux pastry, which doesn't sound that difficult. How do these treats fit with the 1920s? Supposedly they were popular at the time. Why were the bakers challenged to produce beignet soufflés? I'm unsure, but possibly just to torture them.
Straightaway, nearly all of the bakers struggled with some aspect of this challenge. Michael, who has impressed so far, very nearly walked out of the tent in tears, panicking over his thin choux pastry. David, who came into this challenge on top, ranked at the bottom of the pile after he served up some sort of churro-beignet hybrid that was both raw and overcooked at the same time. Nearly every single baker split their sabayon, rendering them nearly inedible.
It seemed like this challenge was a repeat of last week's disaster, with none of the contestants really impressing. Helena came out on top, thanks to her perfect sabayon and passable beignet soufflés, which seemed perfect in comparison to some of the other contestants' creations.
I'm not sure why this year's Technical Challenges have been so off the wall, but I'm really not enjoying them. They're pushing the contestants to the brink of total despair and aren't really even challenging their amateur skills. I'm a professional chef and I'm not sure that I could recreate some of these dishes, so I can't imagine how hard it is for the contestants. The Technical Challenge is becoming an outlet for Paul's villainy and Prue's disdain, instead of focusing on the actual skills of the bakers.
The Showstopper Challenge
The judges challenged the bakers to create a Prohibition cake, by which they meant a lavishly decorated two-tier cake inspired by their favourite cocktail. The connection to the theme seemed to get thinner and thinner as the challenges went on, with this one barely making sense at all. Did the producers just pick a theme out of thin air, then forget to decide on the challenges until the very last minute? We'll never know, but that's how it seems.
The bakers were only given four hours to bake, ice, stack and decorate their cakes, which is a very short amount of time for that level of work. Taking a leaf out of the judges' book, the contestants completely ignored the 1920s and ran with the cocktail theme, honing in on flavours like piña colada with decorations to match. Helena, obviously, went her own way, whipping up a blood-red vampire's kiss cake, which doesn't really seem to be a cocktail, but we'll let her away with it because I love her goth aesthetic.
Again, Rosie didn't seem to do too well this round, serving up a mirror glaze cake with ganache thicker than a chocolate bar. Priya's bake also didn't impress, thanks to horrendously thick fondant, bad decoration and overall, a poor concept. Surely Priya or Rosie would be eliminated this week? Priya slipped through by the skin of her teeth this week and didn't measure up again. While I loved Rosie, she didn't impress this week, making her an obvious choice.
Unfortunately, the judges don't seem to abide by any sort of normal rules as instead of eliminating the obviously bad bakers, they sent home gothic Helena and former Star Baker Michelle! Neither deserved to be sent home, especially when there were more obvious choices right in front of Paul and Prue. It seems to me that the judges have decided who they want to succeed and are sticking to that, resulting in proper contenders like Michelle and Helena being sent home. In case you can't tell, I'm very unhappy with this result!
Steph was named Star Baker again, mostly because nobody else actually did well this week. The announcement seemed to pass with a fizzle instead of a bang, mainly because the shock double elimination overshadowed everything else.
Innuendo Of The Week
Thankfully, there was a good innuendo to keep me slightly happy this week amidst the chaos of this episode. The custard tart challenge leant itself well to innuendoes, with Michael giggling while he said "I don't like a very deep tart, I like a shallow tart". Even this good innuendo couldn't save this week's episode, which was a true disappointment.
Is anyone else missing the good old days of BBC's version of The Great British Bake Off?
Tune in next week for our recap of episode six.