Before we get onto the episode, there are a few things I need to clear up. Firstly, I was told off by my friend Hannah for not liking Richard, and I realised that it might well have come across that way. I actually love Richard, but... not the pencil. Hate the sin, love the sinner, and all that. (I should also mention how delightfully long it took Hannah to learn which was Mel and which was Sue - "Mel; Sue" she'd say, pointing left to right. When told this was wrong: "Sue; Mel?", pointing right to left. We got there in the end.)
Secondly, I'm now officially cheering on Luis, as I drew his name in the office sweepstake that somebody suggested we do. That somebody was me.
Thirdly, my friend Meg pointed out that last week Mary did her usual pirate-eating... of a biscuit pirate. How did I miss this?
Fourthly, my friend Rachel lent me Mezza Bezza's autobiography today. Excited.
Right, ready for bread (bready, if you will)? On with the show...
Things kick off with our usual shot of the bakers processing along the lawn, which this week seems like a mix of the animals marching into Noah's Ark and the schoolgirls of Madeleine walking in a crocodile (which, incidentally, meant nothing to me as a child, and always seemed curiously macabre). The cameraman also seems to have hidden in the undergrowth to film this shot.
Mel and Sue make a curiously laboured joke about the word 'rise' - in the world of potential bread puns, this is the one they keep returning to - and then make several references to the 'tropical heat', which (one must presume, given their enormous parkas) is in ironic reference to the coldness of the day. I'm not sure topical jokes about the temperature work well on a programme shown months later.
Blazer watch: they're all back in 'em, except Paul. The colours seem to have run on Mary's, though.
They're making... rye buns! "Above all else, they must be identical," says Mel, in a phrase calculated to bring an inferiority complex to a non-identical twin like myself.
There are some great Reaction Faces from the baker this week, and it kicks off with Norman's stony-faced boredom.
|"All this talkin' is suspiciously... fancy."|
Mel voiceovers that rye is difficult to work with. Kate tells us that rye is difficult to work with. Paul adds, helpfully, that rye is difficult to work with. Mary - rebel that she is - takes a different tack and says that the bakers will probably be adding black treacle, honey, or "even cocoa" to their mixture. I'm not sure that 'cocoa' required the word 'even'.
"The real danger is when they glaze it," says Mary, in the voice of one who has laughed danger in the face. And, again, she's pulling Roger Moore face:
|Mary for first female James Bond, anyone?|
Speaking of dangerous glazing (the name of a fairly unprofitable windows company), the inspection starts off with Martha, who is making date and walnut rye rolls (which sounds delicious) and is going to use an egg wash. If she'd said she was going to bake them by blindfolding herself, spinning around three times, and pointing a blow-torch in the direction she thought the dough might be, Paul couldn't have reacted more strongly. "That's very daring," he says. Is it, though, Paul?
|"And... do you have life insurance?"|
Norman has drawn the consistent-criticism card this year, but it's the opposite of the 'don't-overdo-it' that Frances was told robotically every week in '13. Instead, he will get the 'don't-oversimplify' every week until he leaves. "I'm a traditional baker more than anything," he confides to the camera. "I'm no Heston Blumenthal," he adds, lest anybody had made that mistake. What's nice is that, while poor Frances seemed quite upset by the constant barrage of unwonted criticisms, our Norm doesn't give a fig. Nor would he have anything as fancy as a fig in any of his bakes, thankyouverymuch. I hope he and Diana continue to have a Great British Beige Off, until they are reduced to presenting nothing but piles of flour for the judges.
|"Self-raising flour? Fancy."|
Luis, I love you, your dragon was amazing, and I'm relying on you to bring in fifteen pounds sterling for me in the office sweepstake, but we need to have words.
1.) There's always someone who starts giving their bakes names, and these are staunchly ignored by Mary and Paul. Watch out for that. "This is my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious surprise!" they'll say, and Mary will flintily comment on their "Vanilla tart".
2.) Parsnips? Parsnips? PARSNIPS? Parsnips are the food of darkness and evil. Life is cruel enough without putting parsnips in bread.
Bread week is always an excuse for people to make jokes about flinging dough about being a way to get rid of stress or anger. Cockney barrowgirl Nancy adds 'instead of on the dog!' in a cheerful aside that should ring alarm bells with the RSPCA.
|"And then I threw the cat on the fire!"|
We get plenty of close-ups of bakers kneading dough - and, in case we've forgotten in the past three minutes, Jordan tells us that rye is difficult to work with. I only have one question: is, or is not, rye dough difficult to work with?
"The body of Ryan Gosling!" cries Sue. "Who? Sounds fancy," says Norman.
Jordan is making lemon and poppyseed rolls. "Very much a muffin flavouring," says Sue, showing how keenly she has acquired baking knowledge over the past five years. Richard the Builder, meanwhile, gets in trouble with Paul for referring to an American Pumpernickel. "There is only one Pumpernickel, and that comes from Germany," barks Herr Paul.
Moving on... "There's something called the window pane test," says Martha. "If you can see through your dough, then it's ready." Call me a cynic, but this looks a lot like cheating.
|Yep, I can see through that.|
("Window pane test? Fancy." - Norman.)
Over to Diana. She seems to be getting quite disheartened by the whole process, bless her. As with Norm, of course, she's getting the too-simple critique. And this time the cheese she's adding to the dough might slow the proving or the baking or something. Paul, who seems to manhandle Mary every week now, pulls her away before she reveals too much. It's a little intimate.
|"We'll always have Paris."|
Then we get lots of shots of people waiting while their bread proves (in the 'proving drawers' - does anybody in the real world have these?) The bakers lean their heads on their hands, roll their eyes, shift from foot to foot, and generally make violently overacted mime stances of waiting. Norman wanders off to inspect the crockery.
Chetna seems a bit despondent too, although her pine nut rolls sound delish. It only takes a quick word from Paul and she's back to her laughing self. I adore her moments of merriment.
And then, a vision of the queue for the Marks & Spencer cafe every Seniors' Tuesday.
Perhaps the strangest comment from Paul comes when talking to Nancy: "The idea of the crust on top is nice." Where else would one have a crust?
Nancy and Martha have a heart-to-heart about egg washes ("I'm going to do it anyway," says Martha, apparently never having seen the show before) and... what is that cake doing in the background? Where did that come from? Did Series Two Holly sneak in and make it?
I don't feel I have much to say about people cutting dough. And I don't feel equipped to talk about Iain's pet sourdough. Does everyone have pet dough? Am I missing out on a national craze? Is this the new loom bands?
Norman - you make my
|Nancy's props must have been too violent to show this week.|
In musical news, someone in the soundtrack department has found a xylophone.
Alex/Kate shoe-horns in a reference to a marathon she's done. "It's just like a marathon," she says about putting her bread in the oven, in a clear lie - unless her understanding of 'marathon' is vastly different from every accepted definition of it. I imagine she gets this into every conversation. "Would size shoe do you take?" says the shoe salesman. "Oh, this is just like a marathon," says she. "Could you direct me to the post office?" / "This is just like a marathon." "Hi, I'm Tom." / "Funny story: marathon."
|"I've only done one." #Humblebrag|
Basically all the rolls look amazing. I love bread above any other foodstuff, so I'm salivating here. Let's whip through the judging, as nobody does particularly badly. Except that all the warnings about egg-wash and so forth come to fruition. Apparently Martha's glaze "falsely accuses the roll of being ready", according to Paul, who obviously has a deep-seated desire to be Judge Judy. "OBJECTION!" he shrieks, at Diana's flowerpot-shaped rolls.
Norman, of course, is told that his rolls are too simple. Mary uses the word 'scrumptious' again; I forget whose rolls she's eating. And gives the critique "I like that!" to my boy Luis' rolls. That's why they hire the experts.
Have you ever wondered about the history of bread? No? Well, of course you haven't.
Cake: A Secret History may be back, but where are the home videos? Where are families awkwardly gathered together to look at a baker wandering in and out of a room holding a french stick? More importantly: how am I to know what Richard does for a living?
And we're on to the 'nerve-inducing techncial'. Cue lots of bakers looking impressively nervous. We get Jordan biting his lip, Kate blinking a lot, these two...
...and then Iain, not bothered, who doesn't seem to know where he is.
Paul 'The Voice of Bread' Hollywood gives them one instruction: 'Be Patient'. It is delivered with the solemnity of a prophet or Disney wizard.
What are they baking? Ciabatta. Diana seems genuinely never to heard of them, going by her expression.
|"Did you say... pastry triangles?"|
Warning - this is the last time you will hear the word 'ciabatta' pronounced as three syllables. After this it is always chee-a-batt-ah, to the consternation of my half-Italian friend Andrea.
In case you're wondering what a ciabatta is, fear not, Alex/Kate is on hand to give you a full and precise definition: 'kind of long, oblong... bread'.
The most exciting divide in this ciabattle (thankyouverymuch) is whether or not to use the proving drawer for proving. "It's called a proving drawer, so you'd think it was for proving," says Martha, with an incisive logic that is hard to dispute. You wouldn't have thought that this quandary could be eked out to five minutes of screentime, interrupted only, briefly, by this image of a rainy horse.
That is, you wouldn't think that unless you've ever seen bread week before.
"I'm going to stick to my guns," says Alex/Kate, forever and always obsessed with her biceps.
I hear the words 'proving drawer' so often that I've started to believe it's a thing. And then there's a waiting game while they all try to pay heed to Paul's advice to be 'patient'. Mel narrates it, basically documenting people standing around. It's like Russian Roulette, only with no stakes, and nothing happening. "Chetna's flouring!" screams Mel.
And then lots of this:
Doughs are shaped, cut, and generally prepared. There is some anxiety about whether to get oil involved, but it's small fry after proving-gate. The only highlight is Iain somehow saying 'I don't even know how to pick it up' as one syllable.
Finally, the ciabatta are cooked and presented to the judges, with some impressive Italian from Mel along the way. Kate blows on hers, which can't possibly be hygienic.
|Diana still isn't sure what a ciabatta is.|
Paul, as always in bread week, is keen to disparage anybody who was ever made bread before, except him, and laboursomely goes through them all (one of them has, bizarrely, been 'forced into heat' - put in the oven?), while Mary looks oddly disgusted.
She isn't, though. She tears into the bread with such vigour that I fear for her teeth. Most of the bakers do pretty well, although a couple ciabatta are too flat. No disastrous egg washes. Jordan comes last (apparently oil and flour don't perform the same function; who knew?) while the top three are Martha, Luis, and Alex/Kate. She describes her baking as some sort of metaphysical experience.
The final challenge is a bread centrepiece. Obviously that's not a thing and never has been, but let's go with it. And they are to make filled loaves.
Diana drips water into a jug, amazed by the contrivances of modernity. I firmly believe that she has hitherto only used wells.
Everyone is making a savoury filled loaf except for Jordan, who is making a 'strawberry and raspberry cheesecake brioche'. Obviously there's no such thing as a cheesecake brioche, and that is one of the main reasons I am glad to be alive, so he's onto a losing hand. "I like to take the best parts of different foods and put them together," he says. Jord, if that were true, I'd eat nothing but chocolate cake in Yorkshire puddings with cheese. (Actually...)
|This shouldn't go in bread. I mean, obviously.|
"Tell us all about your loaf," says Mary to Diana, in the tones of one asking after somebody's favourite grandchild. She's making lots of pinwheels, and still sounds curiously unhappy about the whole thing. Take heart, Diana, be bold!
Norman, bless his wonderful heart, is making a loaf with chicken, rosemary-infused olive oil, and pesto. He seems to believe that pesto is at the very forefront of modern invention, and just the sort of daredevil risk calculated to win over the judges. Oh, Norm. Never change.
WAIT. Richard is using pesto too! Word has spread! (His loaf also sounds like the nicest, with walnuts and whatnot too.)
Martha is baking an entire cheese into her loaf. An epoisse cheese, which is apparently so smelly that it's banned on public transport in France. Sure, why not?
As usual, too many bakers to talk about them all at this stage. I do like, however, that the graphics-pencils person has drawn Chetna's loaf in the slightly misshapen way it emerged, rather than the (I presume) even shape she intended.
|Also, 'rolled and filled' is surely part of the challenge anyway?|
And then we come to Nancy. Oh, Nancy. She's essentially just doing a fry-up. While Luis is carefully slicing olives, she's flinging pork bangers into a pan, along with bacon, mushrooms, and so forth. She couldn't be more Eastenders-extra if she tried. Oh, wait, she's using quails' eggs. Now, that is fancy.
It does reinforce the fact that a 'filled loaf' is basically a sandwich.
We head over to Richard - who mentions in passing that he is a builder - and then... oh, the horror, the horror. Jordan's cheesecake brioche. Oh no, no, no.
|So might a cat play with its kill.|
On the other side of the tent: "I'm going for the posh rustic look," says Norman. "If it's homemade, it should look homemade." Seriously, has he ever seen this show before? Everybody else is performing complex twists and plaits, and I'm super-impressed by how none of the dough is falling apart, which is definitely what would happen if I tried any of this stuff. Martha has a mini-crisis of mixing up fig and apricot dough - we've all been there - Luis sprays his dough with insecticide (or something), and our friend the proving drawer rears its head again.
Jordan says that in the past he has struggled to make his showstopper look 'showstoppery' "every single week". Lest we forget, there have been a total of two weeks to date. He's glazing some strawberries, but I imagine that won't be enough to salvage a cheesecake brioche.
Everybody puts their loaves in the ovens (which is perhaps not very surprising), and then they sit on the floor and stare at their ovens. Chetna is becoming the go-to person for repeating the basics of the challenge as though they were philosophical insights.
|"It's filled inside!"|
Also adorable, in a different way, is Diana - who uses the abbreviation 'under scrute'. I love me some abbrevs. And Norman, again: "For me this is very exotic - PESTO."
Martha and Mel have a listen to a loaf. They actually do.
|"Burn the tent, you say?"|
Those of you who bake - you know how you have to just do those annoying fiddly final bits before presenting your bake, like piping icing, sprinkling sugar, gilding the olives... wait, what? Luis, what's happening? Are you trying to make this the most expensive item of food per square inch, with saffron, gold, and a crunchy diamond in the middle for one lucky young scamp?
The judging begins. These showstoppers inevitably don't wow in the way that 3D biscuit models did, but they still look extremely delicious. There were only a couple that I really liked the look of:
|He gives an extreme range of cheery facial expressions. He's fab.|
And then there's the damp raw mess of the cheesecake brioche... oh dear, Jordan.
|If it's any consolation, my Cheesy Yorkshire Chocolate Cake was a mess too.|
Incidentally, nobody has ever eaten a strawberry this menacingly before.
The star baker is:
|This looked like a smile until I freeze-framed it.|
Going home is...
Mary gives a lovely farewell tribute to Jordan. Importantly, Norman lives to fight another day! As do I - so I'll see you next week for Desserts Week. Hope you've enjoyed the recap, especially if you were one of the people from the tent... love you all, honest!