These last couple weeks have been nothing but bittersweet. You get the highs from a standardly fabulous edition of Bake Off, and then like a bad hangover after the night before you get news that another Bake Off dear has decided to leave. Last week, Mel and Sue decided that a money-grabbing move to Channel 4 wasn’t for them and will leave after this season.
This time, it’s Queen Mary. MARY FRIGGIN BERRY will be staying loyal to the BBC and not continuing with Bake Off after this season ends. The Queen of Bakes, the High Priestess of Puddings, Challenger of Soggy Bottoms. Who will comfort the bakers by saying their shoddy creations look “informal” rather than a pure mess? Whose eyes will light up at the sight of alcohol being the main ingredient in a bake? Who will keep Paul in line about when and when not to dunk? Personally, it’s all very upsetting and look to the next season with a growing sense of dread and reservation, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. Channel 4, you’ve yelled “challenge accepted”, so now it’s time to deliver.
Mourning aside, on to important stuff – this week’s challenges. For the Signature Challenge, the bakers had to create 24 perfect, tasty and dainty breakfast pastries. There had to be two different types, so 12 of each. Try to ignore the urge to say “how hard could that be?” Well in order to get the perfect pastry, a lot (and I do mean a lot) of buttery batter beating is needed. The ideal way to get out this week’s frustrations. The highlights for this week were Candice with her Croque Monsieur-inspired pastry kites and cinnamon and apple rose danishes with vanilla crème; Selasi’s Ghananian pastry tributes of rhubarb, ginger and mango plaits and pineapple and coconut pinwheels; and Andrew’s Mum (pear and chocolate) and Dad’s (spiced date) pastries.
Pastry week is a difficult week, and no one was feeling the pressure like Val and Rav. These two lovable bakers always seem to get by with the skin of their teeth and you could see this week that they knew they were in danger. Even Benjamina seemed like their might be a chance that the Curse of the Star Baker could strike again.
For the Technical Challenge, it was a Bakewell Tart that was threatening to be the downfall of the bakers. If there was any time that a soggy bottom could arise, it’s in this challenge. A deceptively simple-looking challenge, the bakers needed to have the ideal baked, make a jam good enough to please Mary and not have a soggy bottom. And thanks to Andrew, we all learnt that the most important thing in baking is to make sure that your oven is actually turned on! The poor engineer was staring at a cold oven for 15 minutes wondering why his bake wasn’t cooking. Horrible! Rav seemed to be in full “frangipanic” mode as he tried to produce something that could help him stay in the tent. What he ended up with was a tart base that had given up on life so he did end up in last place, despite the fact that Val’s bake had a SOGGY BOTTOM (sound the alarm!). Even Paul looked back at Mary in excitement as he held the first soggy bottom of the series. Jane came in first place with her well-composed tart.
The final challenge, was once again, on the fiddly side. The bakers needed to make 48 fail pastry amuse bouche. What’s an amuse bouche? Your guess is as good and mine. According to people in the know, an amuse bouche is “a little bit of food which is served before the meal to stimulate the appetite.” Fancy stuff! Half must be a savoury version and half must satisfy a sweet tooth. While everyone rolled and rolled their way to victory, they should have taken a leaf out of Candice’s book and used a pasta maker for that perfectly thin sheet of pastry. Genius! Poor Val and Rav seemed to be in panic mode once again as Val’s pastry gave up on life so she only had a bit to work with, and Rav forgot to bake one of his. However, despite the fail, he does have a spot in this week’s highlights. Rav made Chinese-style prawn filo tartlets and a spiced white chocolate and hazelnut samosa (yes please!!). Benjamina made a plantain and spinach samosa and chai pear cups (perfection!), and finally, Candice with her sausage, black pudding and apple rounds and banoffee whisky cups (*insert heart eyes emoji here*).
Star Baker saw return of Biscuit Week winner Candice, who really does seem to be proving herself to be Bake Off winner material. And then the sad bit, as we had to say a fond farewell to Val, who felt that she had given all she could to the competition. So goodbye dear Val, you were the sweetheart of the Bake Off tent. If you start to feel blue, remember these wise words from the gal herself – “it’s better to be wet than it is to be dry”.
In what seems to be a series of firsts as well as woes, next week is Botanical Week! Expect edible flower, real flowers, fake trees and flowers, sugar flowers, flowers on flowers in baked gardens. There’s going to be a lot of flowers, basically.