Welcome to another week of Bake-Off! It’s bread week, baby, and you know what that means: Paul Hollywood is rubbing his hands and getting ready to scare the life out of the contestants by continuously peering over their shoulders.
Sensibly, the bakers all look rather nervous – but hey, Carole’s wearing her lucky big pants (dubbed her “apple catchers”), so she’s sorted. Less so Rebs and Abdul, who seem to have both taken ill at the same time and are thus missing a week. That’s one way of avoiding Paul.
The first challenge: create pizzas for the judges. Specifically, Matt says, “the kind of pizzas that make Paul and Prue say Mamma Mia!”
Naturally, the debate of ages ensues: to pineapple or not to pineapple? Remarkably, James is taking the plunge: as Prue says, it’s a very brave choice. However, Paul is more concerned with James’ addition of 14% spelt flour to the bread mix. He then goes onto mentally torment the bakers for their kneading techniques.
The food and baking choices, as ever, get wacky very quickly. Maxy has lamb ragu plonked in the middle of her pizza, James is using shower caps to prove his dough and Syabira rapidly abandons her beetroot concoction for a spicy Malaysian prawn sambal base garnished with stinky beans instead. Carole is making Tartiflette and Dawn is going Tex-Mex with a sour cream and guacamole pizza.
Basically, it’s an Italian’s nightmare and even this viewer could not suppress a shudder at the prospect of Janusz’s Full English Breakfast pizza… complete with baked beans.
But hey, Sandro is making a heart-shaped pizza: as always, we love a sensitive guy.
As tempers begin to fray (Maxy’s lamb ragu causes an oil overflow) and the deadline creeps closer, it starts tipping it down in the Bake-Off tent. Symbolic.
Judgement time, and Paul doesn’t hold back. Dawn’s Tex-Mex is bland, Janusz’s Full English is overstuffed but missing flavour, and Kevin’s dough is crushingly pronounced “dead”. However, James’ pineapple and pancetta offering wins over the judges, and Sandro’s sweet’n’spicy camembert-stuffed pizza is “ingenious” – “I’m glowing!” he pronounces, then adds: “It’s probably the foundation on my skin.”
Time for the technical: a dozen pain-au-raisins. But there’s a catch. Paul has specifically said he doesn’t want ‘tails’ on his pastries. For the uninitiated, that’s the tiny end of the pastry that sticks out if the dough hasn’t properly been proved.
Naturally, the bakers start sweating over the unclear instructions: should one melt butter to add to the pastry, or not? And how often should one freeze the dough in between rolling it out?
“I think there probably is a technique, but at the moment I’m just bunging it all together.” Kevin says. You go Kevin: arguably more sensible than Janusz, who is merrily hammering away at his with a rolling pin.
Then it’s time for the crème pat: a super smooth French custard.
“Don’t be scared of it. Treat it with absolute contempt,” Dawn says, whisking hers manically. She’s growing on me.
As the time passes, things start going wrong, because of course they do. Carole’s pain-au-raisins are gooey, Kevin’s crème pat isn’t up to snuff (and that’s before butter starts melting out of his dough in the oven), and the bakers are trying to surgically attach the ‘tails’ to the body of their pastries with industrial amounts of egg wash.
When time is up, it’s almost a relief. Paul and Prue come out and variously condemn the bakers’ offerings as doughy, lacking butter, underproved and irregular.
Carole comes last with a litany of woes – underbaked, too close together, overiced – and unsurprisingly Janusz is first. He’s shaping up to be this season’s Jurgen, and the rest of the bakers hide their envy behind a round of applause.
Just the one challenge left: a Swedish sandwich cake, or Smörgåstårte. Confused? So are the bakers.
As Noel tells us, it’s a savoury celebration cake made up of layers of sliced bread with delicious fillings and topped with savoury decorations. They get more obscure every year.
To make this extravagant bread feast, Dawn is using ancient wheats, Kevin is using emmer flour and James is making milk bread.
And then come the toppings. “I don’t know why they trusted me with a deep fat fryer,” Janusz says, dropping potato slices in with abandon. They’re going alongside fish, pureed mushy peas and piped curry sauce in a fish’n’chips tribute bake… god help us all. It’s second only to Sandro’s offering: bacon and maple syrup cream cheese with a Sloppy Joe, shredded beef and sirloin steak filling.
Naturally things start going wrong. Maxy picks today of all days to make mayonnaise for the first time, while Kevin’s bread hasn’t risen. But it’s Carole who takes the metaphorical biscuit – she’s missed out on making a whole layer of her bread cake.
And… breathe. The final timer has gone, and there haven’t been any major disasters. Praise be!
When the judgement comes, its swift.
“To be honest, I think the idea of fish and chips in a sandwich is disgusting,” Prue says to Janusz. Amen to that, but Paul is chuckling. And Prue’s eventually won over, calling it “ingenious”.
On the other end of the spectrum, Carole’s sandwich cake is called “very Fanny Craddock”, and ends up being too dry. The vegetation on top of Kevin’s cake has wilted – it’s promptly dubbed messy and amusing – but Syabira’s nasi lemak-inspired cake is hailed as astonishing and original.
Afterwards, the mood is downbeat. “Bread week has been an embarrassment, I really think I’m at the bottom of the pile this week,” Dawn says.
But when the time comes… nobody goes home. Yes, you read that right. Because Rebs and Abdul are ill, Prue and Paul are giving everybody a free pass. Whew! And of course, Star Baker this week is Janusz.
And because the pendulum has to swing the other way, two bakers will be going next week. Plus it’s Mexican week. Set your alarms, because next episode is going to be spicy!
The Great British Bake Off airs on Channel 4 on Tuesdays at 8pm