Is it sad that the happiest moment of my week was when I realised that I was reviewing Dessert Week on The Great British Bake Off? Probably. But it is very difficult to not get excited about crème brulées, Spanische Windtorte, and a cheesecake tower. That’s three cheesecakes. Three of them.
I also had an additional reason to be excited for Bake Off; it seems the whole nation is waiting for top-of-class, twice star baker, Ian Cumming to flop. Did it happen? No, it didn’t. This has probably caused me and many others irrational irritability since Wednesday evening.
It was a classic Bake Off – stuffed to the brink with creamy disasters, baked triumphs involving a soda sculpture, and some classic Paul Hollywood praise (“I don’t like it; I love it”) and putdowns (“That’s just charred custard”).
This week’s episode kicked off with the Signature Bake task of creating crème brulée with a twist. The task soon turned into a quiet, but heated, middle class war in the tent; Mary was adamant that the crèmes should only be brulée-d under the grill, rather than with a blowtorch. We all gasped in horror at the cruelty of the Queen of Puddings; this was an impossibly delicate task.
Miraculously though, the majority of the contestants managed to bake near-perfect crème brulées. Ugne, Nadiya, and Tamal all received high praise from Hollywood and Berry. Poor Sandy’s was described as soup, prompting Paul to enquire whether the oven was on. This made me feel slightly better about all the times I’ve waited for an hour for my spaghetti to boil before realising the oven switch has been off the whole time. Ian’s ‘Pomegranate two ways crème brulée was just as pretentious as it sounds, and was, of course, perfect.
The Technical Challenge – Spanische Windtorte – prompted a cascade of puns and jokes from Sue and Mel; if any other self-respecting adult made fart jokes, they would probably have a good chance of being disowned by society. In the midst of Bake Off’s pastel décor and plethora of bunting though, it is perfectly acceptable (and even slightly amusing).
This was Ian’s chance to fail; ‘Pfft’, I thought ‘I bet he can’t pull off two types of meringue. That’s a task only our Flora can perfect.’
Despite this, a new hero has emerged from the Union flag bunting: Tamal, quiet and unassuming, appeared to be acing the Showstopper challenge (which is, without a doubt, the best showstopper so far. THREE cheesecakes. I love cheesecake).
Not only did Tamal manage to bake three rosemary and honey cheesecakes which were all ‘perfect’ according to the judges, but he also attempted to lend a helping hand to a struggling Sandy. He is just lovely.However, baking a ‘velvety smooth’ crème brulée, and a ‘perfect’ cheesecake was not enough for Tamal to steal the title of Star Baker from Ian. Apparently. This caused a justified outcry across social media.
So this week: a big YES to Nadiya’s facial expressions (if you haven’t seen the BuzzFeed article displaying all her horrified grimaces, give it a look). Another big YES to the adorable awkwardness between the ‘pun-derfully’ enthusiastic Mel and Sue and the apprehensive judges. A big NO to Yorkshire lad Paul Hollywood attempting to pronounce ‘layer’ with a Southern accent (it’s not ‘laaiiirr’ Paul, come on now). And an even bigger NO to Tamal’s title being wrongfully given to Ian. Again.
Even though this week’s sweet extravaganza was right up my street, I couldn’t help but reminisce about last year’s Bake Off; there’s no doubt that there has been a distinct lack of tantrums and tears this year. Where are the binned Baked Alaskas? Why don’t the bakers breakdown a bit more? I want more tears for fudge’s sake!
Yet, there’s probably a reason that around ten million of us still tune in to a series that can probably be described as nothing more than demure. Each episode follows exactly the same pattern; it’s predictable television that throws up no major surprises. However, it still has us all holding our breaths at the slightest hint of a possible baking disaster, then gasping at the genius designs that some superhuman bakers somehow manage to concoct.
There’s no doubt that Bake Off has perfectly tapped in to our very human, and very British, obsession with success and failure, even on such a superficial level as baking. The show’s formula is comfortably predictable, but I, for one, hope it never changes.
I do, however cruelly, hope that Ian’s gluten free bread experiences a free-from flop next week. Most of all because there seems to be some potential in those sinister blue eyes for him to have a colossal tantrum. I have my fingers crossed.