This week it's Bread Week, which of course means that the intro is filled with various people telling us that it's Paul Hollywood's speciality, and nary a Mary in sight. Maybe she doesn't care about bread. Maybe she's busy shrieking at someone in make-up for having the wrong eyelash curler. It is not for us to know.
As for the bakers in the intro - my eye is on Teary Ruby (note to self: make this a better pun on Ruby Tuesday... Ruby Tearday?) Ruby Tearday seems to be just as angry and sullen as last week, if the 'coming up next' clips are to be trusted.
If this were America's Next Top Model (note to self: try not to alienate 90% of the audience immediately) she'd be the one who'd snap at week eight and have a showdown with Tyra, who would pretend to be motherly and tell her to "own her best self" or something. Since this is the bake off, I presume she'll just quietly leave in week three, and maybe write a passive aggressive column for Marks & Spencer's Your Home magazine.
PUN KLAXON. Remember how the Bake Off got all self-aware about puns last week? Well, this week they don't even introduce the topic, they just start riffing on 'Bohemiam Bapsody' and the like. I'm a bit worried that my klaxon will self-combust in a fit of ironic self-contradiction. But I also enjoy that blazers appear to be contagious. And that Mel seems to be coming up with a ploy to strangle a short person.
|"If I close my eyes, I'm not an accessory to the crime."|
"AccessoRYE to the THYME, more like."
Our first challenge is signature bake breadsticks. Mel solemnly entones "Breadsticks are made all over the world" - which smacks of a BBC researcher hoping to find an interesting fact about breadsticks on Wikipedia, and giving up almost immediately. Which is quite apt, because it's a monumentally uninteresting topic. Bread week always is. I love bread as much as the next man - indeed, unless the next man is Paul Hollywood, I love it rather more. Man cannot live by bread alone, Scripture tells us, but let's not forget that the next words are 'but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' Amen to that, say I, but we don't need to diversify the food bit much. I'd happily eat nothing but bread and cheese all day, everyday. But... that doesn't make it aesthetically interesting in the way that cakes are. So, instead, let's turn to the judges...
Is it a coincidence that Paul and Sue both have their hands in their pockets (although only Paul looks like he's in the middle of a line dance) while Mary and Mel have their hands folded in front of them?
We wander through all the recipes and suchlike, but you don't come here for those sorts of summaries, do you? Breadsticks, I repeat, are not scintillating things (though very pleasant to eat) so it's difficult to get animated over the fact that some people are putting in cardamom and some people orange etc. (Those are made up, by the way. I don't remember what they put in. Well, except for Frances. Just wait for her...)
So, instead, let's look at the VTs this week. Second week is, apparently, Hobbies Week, where the bakers scrabble around to find anything, anything at all, to offer. A question once only required for dating videos and French GCSE coursework, listing your hobbies is apparently a reality show must nowadays. Poor Glenn apparently has no home life, as we see him yet again in his school. Awkward.
|"I sleep in the store cupboard."|
Stranger still is Rob, who claims to be a scientist, but apparently just looms over scientists all day. If staring through a window counts as employment nowadays, then the people at Boswell's owe me rather a lot of money.
And then he claims to be a 'mushroom forager'. This is so clearly not a thing that I can only presume he works for MI5.
My favourite, though, is Ali. I forget what he does (besides panic, of course) but this is apparently a mock-up of something he's creating at work:
I've never claimed to be an expert at graphic design, but I have a feeling that typing EMPOWER YOUTH over the rest of your document - while emphatic - perhaps isn't the way to go. He is similarly held back when it comes to bread, apparently, as he admits that it's not his forte. I just had to capture the looks on Paul and Mary's faces when he said this...
There are a few other highlights during this section... Sue asks somebody whether they're worried that they'll 'retard the yeast', and Mary is very impressed with her. I had my fingers crossed that she'd whip out a housepoint chart or something, but I can wait. FOR NOW.
And I always like to illustrate what a lovely programme this is compared to other reality competitions - and this week's illustration is this this lovely moment between Mel and Beca. Beca was almost entirely absent from last week's episode, but I have high hopes of her becoming this year's Cathryn - she's funny, she's a bit silly, and (bonus!) she's Welsh. This shot comes after they have joked that Mary Berry is Beca's body double...
|Can you imagine Alan Sugar doing this?|
And I promised you an update on Frances's breadsticks - which are ginger and chocolate, but more than that, they are in the shape of matches. And she's made a novelty-sized matchbox. Of course she has.
Sadly this is the best angle we see it at, so I can't read the text on top, but I think (and hope and pray) that it says Berry's Matches on top. Frances reminds me a bit of Our Vicar's Wife... in terms of being a bundle of creativity that tips that merry balance into delightfully bonkers (did I ever tell you that Mum built a gypsy caravan out of wood in our back garden? Twice?) (Love you Mum!) Frances is tightrope walking along that line between sweetly ambitious and Holly-obnoxious. (Remember Holly? She was the one who hid a miniature gingerbread house under her croquembouche.) At the moment she is just the right side of awful, because she is so endearingly like a Sunday School teacher gone mad, and just self-aware enough to keep the audience on side.
|Sadly, it turns out to be Baker's Matches. Apt, but not Mary enough.|
And I'm inaugurating the Official Mary Barry Adorable Moment of the Week Award. Sponsorship deal yet to be confirmed, but I've got high hopes that the Andrex puppy will get on board. Well, this week it's Mary playing spillikins with Rob's breadsticks.
|If you print those out, they'll make the world's shortest flipbook.|
One and a half episodes is a bit early to say how I feel about the bakers, but now that I've started to at least recognise each of them, I'm going to go ahead and judge them as people and moral individuals, the way that reality television wants me to. Ahem. You know that I love Beca, Christine, and Una Stubbs, but let's talk about a couple of others.
Well, Rob may not be a euphoric individual, but I feel a great deal of empathy with him - as will many of you - when I saw this moment:
And what about Kimberley? I have a feeling that she might be a bit too cool for this show. She's very beautiful, calm, collected, and - yes - cool. If she gets flour smeared across her face, or trips over an open oven door and flings a tray of buns on the floor, then I think I'll find her easier to like. Not that she's dislikeable, it's just that every moment she is on the screen, I realise how inept and hopeless my life is. That's all.
Judging. Nothing of interest to report - how could there be? - except that apparently I no longer notice when parts of speech are misused. 'Good bake' sounds like perfect English to me now. But there is some hope for me passing my English DPhil, since I'm still not quite on board with "Welcome to yeast!" and "I think the raisin does bring something to the party."
Ruby Tearday does very well and SMILES!
|In other news, a pig has started manning flights to a blue moon.|
And we're onto the technical challenge, which is English muffins. Yummmm. I love them, but I would question whether or not they're worth going to all that effort for... but they're not as absurd as when they made those chocolate marshmallow cake things that cost £1.50 for eight.
And Brend 2.0, whose name I have sadly forgotten - last week I suggested he could be The Brend reimagined by Woody Allen; this week I think he might be The Brend as reimagined by Alan Bennett. It's not just the Northern accent, it's that everything he says sounds like a half-comic, half-mournful segment from Talking Heads. (Ten points, by the way, if you are the only other person in the world who likes both America's Next Top Model and Talking Heads. Never let it be said that my cultural references are limited, or coherent.) Witness, for instance, his way of testing the temperature of his griddle : "I've been putting my face over it, to test the heat coming up." Alan wishes he'd written that line.
Incidentally, while I'm making spurious televisual references, Sue's 'BAKE!' is getting steadily more like Stephen Fry playing General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth.
Muffins give Sue and Mel a chance to reel off the 'Do you know the muffin man?' rhyme, and this out-of-work actor to get his Equity card.
|Available for panto.|
Back to muffins. Alan Bennett's Brend (I really ought to research their actual names - like, y'know, reading my own recap from last week) suffers from Sue's carelessness, and she leaves an elbow imprint in one of his muffins... Since everyone seems to have stopped hacking at themselves with knives, this is given a fair bit of fanfare. (Could this outbreak of self-stabbing last week have been canny contestants trying to make sure they got some notice from the camera, among the dozens of competitors?)
Bezza and Paul step forward to do the judging, and I'm impressed by pretty much all of the muffins, which do look pretty uniform across the board. Oddly Mary doesn't seem to eat any of them - at least we don't see her doing so on screen; I know, I was waiting for a Pirate Shot - and a woman I only vaguely recognise comes last. Frances is second, and Kimberley comes top. No tripping over in sight. Hmm.
I've not addressed the difference between English muffins and American muffins, have I? Well, always leave the audience wanting more.
Showstopper challenge! In the lead-up chat-around-the-tea-table, Mel says "Every baker goes into the final needing to do well" - Paul looks suspicious, and my pun klaxon is being judiciously oiled, but... turns out the needing/kneading pun was inadvertent. Klaxon back away. FOR NOW.
There isn't really anything very 'showstopper' about bread, is there? Some bakers are bravely going to decorate their loaves, which I can't imagine working, but while it exists only in the form of the garish faux-notebook of the BBC graphics department, Ruby Tearday's peacock bread is looking quite fancy. "We've never had a peacock!" notes Mary, adroitly.
Even better, though, is Rob's creation. He's going to be making a loaf honouring (for honouring is the word) Paul the Psychic Octopus. Remember him? He may be eternally dour during the judging, but he's clearly got an adorable, geeky side. (By 'he' I mean Rob, by the way, not Paul the Psychic Octopus. He, sadly, is dead. I bet he didn't see that coming. Ba-doom-tish. Sorry.) The graphics department lose their head completely, and draw a nauseous hippo at a street carnival:
To do Mary justice, she is entirely unflappable, and simply enquires whether the tentacles will be attached before or after baking. She's not quite so sanguine in the next chat. The inspiration for Ali's yin/yang bread came to him in a dream, apparently. Let's pause a moment to enjoy the face Mary makes in response to this information:
As far as "I have a dream" speeches go, I can't imagine it'll have quite the same legacy as some.
Let's fast forward to a few of the most memorable results - which aren't quite in the same league as the cakes, when it comes to appearance. You can almost feel the cameraman's anxiety at finding an angle which makes them look like something other than bread rolls after a particularly glittery afternoon at a children's nursery.
|If you see any peacocks that in any way resemble this,|
contact the RSPB. Do not approach.
Paul H comes over all Simon Cowell, telling Alan Bennett's Brend, about his orange/oregano bread, that "You're great with your flavours normally... and you've done it again!" Next week he'll start saying "You're not not not... not not not in. Not."
And the octopus looks awful. Coloured decorations on bread = unpleasant. A nice idea, but children with colouring pencils couldn't have made this look less edible.
The edit has already prepared us for Lucy's loaf being heavily criticised for being uncreative, but I should mention that darling Christine (who pops into the programme for about five seconds this week, perhaps on the way to the post office) seemed to provide an equally non-showstopper sort of bread. That's not to say that Lucy shouldn't be penalised for essentially sticking a bog-standard loaf on the table, but she's not alone.
Incidentally, it is only during this critique that I learn Lucy's name. And I have a feeling that I won't need to know it in a few minutes' time...
So, let's see who came top and bottom of bread week, shall we? Results after the jump....
Star Baker is... the delightfully shocked Ruby Tearday, who'll need a name change:
And going home, as every moment of the programme augured, is Lucy:
To add insult to injury, she didn't even get a hair ruffle from Mary.
Next week: dessert! Back to baking that actually looks attractive as well as tasting great, and lots of potential for things to fall over. Hope you've enjoyed this week's recap - see you next week!