Week five in The Great British Bake Off tent brought more biscuits than you can shake a cigarillo at. Mary demonstrated the difference between a bend and snap, signalling the half-way point of the series. After last week’s sogginess, the contestants thought they were home and dry. Oh, if only.
The bakers entered the tent looking considerably calmer than before. Even Howard admitted to feeling relaxed. Did he have his own sabotage planned? A splintered rolling pin, perhaps?
Enter the traybake for the Signature Challenge. It could be anything, so long as it was, well, baked in a tray. The contestants had a right to be relaxed. The viewers could enjoy their 8pm cup of tea.
“We want some lovely surprises and wonderful finishes,” said Mary.
In true Hollywood style, Paul rattled nerves with his own take on the bake: “The very fact that it’s simple… makes it extremely difficult, because when you’re judging you have to be even more critical.”
Howard chose a relatively simply breakfast traybake: cereal topping, yoghurt and oats. Frances, as always, wanted to do one better than anyone who had ever entered the hallowed Bake Off tent: a Millionaire Banoffee Bonus, laid out like Jenga. We could practically hear Mary pulling her blonde locks out. Substance, substance, SUBSTANCE.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Glenn opted for a tricky apricot and pistachio tiffin, made from bowls of chocolate, marshmallow and biscuit. As Paul eyed up Glenn’s mountain of chocolate, the Devon teacher admitted to marking essay after essay, taking up most of his time. What? There’s something going on outside this tent?
All was well, however, as his creations were labelled “very good”, if not “grotesque”. Rob’s blueberry and orange traybake wasn’t up to scratch, deemed “raw” and “soggy”. Ruby presented her own soggy bottom, proclaiming that she doesn’t “do biscuits”, while Howard’s breakfast bakes were too “stodgy” for Paul.
It was Mel’s turn for a snapshot of baking history, explaining the origins of the Tottenham cake, first created by Quakers. Chelsea fans threw their buns at the telly, while Arsenal supporters lamented their lack of baked treats. Did Arsene Wenger resist purchasing more players for the season to invest in a Gunners bakery? Only time will tell.
Next, “the most delicate technical challenge Mary has ever devised.” Oh, lovely. A tuile: tiny, thin, tricky biscuits, similar to a French roof tile… apparently. For those of you who want to make your own, the recipe is in the latest Bake Off book, Everyday.
Darn those tuiles. Techniques were instantly debated. How much whisking? How thin? Is that too thin? “There’s thin and there’s Alexa Chung,” said Frances.
Tuiles created, it was time to pipe. Could anyone find a piping bag? Turns out, Mary wanted the bakers to... get ready for it... make their own. “I will not be defeated by a sodding French biscuit,” cried Ruby, practically waving a Union Jack.
It is not enough to just make the tuiles, you have to shape them, and fast. They need to immediately be rolled on to a rolling pin or the handle of a spoon to achieve the required shape. Sharp intakes of breath followed, as well as a few yelps of pain as the remaining contestants battled with the hot biscuits. The Berry is a cruel mistress.
Howard came last, Kimberley’s were burned, and Ruby’s were “a bit of a mess”. Miss Style-over-substance managed to brush off her former nickname with a “nice flavour”, while Glenn secured second place, and Christine snatched first with “the crispest of the lot”. Was she happy? Take a guess.
And now, the Showstopper. Considered to be the challenge to save or send bakers, a biscuit tower was demanded. It had to stand up. It had to be 30cm tall. It had to taste good and, unsurprisingly, stop the show.
“You don’t just have to be a baker, you have to be an architect too,” cautioned Paul. Could the contestants handle baking and building? Ever the practical one, Howard made four different tea-flavoured biscuits, channelling them into a Japanese pagoda. People were impressed, he beamed. These people, he explained, were his mum and dad. Family can be one’s harshest critics.
Christine fashioned a Bavarian clock out of 70 identical shortbread bricks. Rob wanted a Dalek, regardless of what it would look or taste like. Had he signed up for his own extermination? Elsewhere, Ruby resorted to covering her pile of biscuits in pink icing with her hands.
We could feel the tent-sion and, with one minute to go, Frances’ tower of biscuit buttons and beads fell dramatically on to the table. As the dust settled, the bakers backed away from the construction.
There were smiles, mostly from Christine, who was awarded star baker of the week. Beca’s treat-covered cake stand was suited to a child’s birthday party, Glenn’s shortbread and macaroon helter-skelter was deemed “impressive”, but Kimberley’s tower had “cracks all the way down”. Howard’s tea tower was artistic, but bland. The broken biscuit tower by Frances was given a firm telling off by Mary, who reiterated the criteria of the task.
This week, it was Rob who was left wishing he’d made a Tardis instead of a Dalek, as he left the Bake Off tent for the final time. We will miss you and your scientific elements.
Week six brings sweet, sweet dough. We are expecting the biggest buns ever seen on the BBC.
The Great British Bake Off is screened on BBC2 every Tuesday, at 8pm.