Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Great British Bake Off: Series Five: Episode Eight

Many thanks again for filling in for me last week, Elaine! This week I'm back - and what a week it was. I could write the whole thing about Nancy... but I'll try not to ignore everybody else...

It's 'advanced dough' week (whatever that means; no History of Cake this week to fill us in) and we're treated to a velociraptor impressions from Mel and Sue on the flimsiest of premises.

The bakers walk into the tent, and although we see a cursory shot from the undergrowth, the cameraman's heart isn't in it. He - or indeed she - needs fresh pastures and new adventures. He/she has apparently crammed their entire body and camera equipment into the corner of this shelf. It couldn't be said that the shot is effective, but at least it's confusing and unnecessary.

Unforeseen ramekins

Martha laughs cheerfully about having been haunted by eclairs, and hopes that this week things will be "more planned". Surely you know whether or not you've planned, Marth?

"It's important you go in and execute everything," says Nancy, followed by the longest pause known to man, before weakly adding " perfection." Remember her guillotine? Remember her passion for the paraphernalia of the death penalty? It's all back in play.

Guns don't kill people; bakers do

It wouldn't be a GBBO recap without Blazer Watch, would it? Paul is letting the side down (but, as ever, is ready for a line-dance). Sue's jacket looks like it's appeared before, only now it has shrunk in the wash. Mary obviously ran out of clothes, so cut up the jacket of a fortnight ago, repurposing it as a top, and has created her blazer by cutting the back off Paul's shirt.

The signature challenge is a sweet fruit loaf, using enriched dough. And it's a no-tin challenge; they have to be free-form loaves. Because... why not? The initial reactions from the bakers give us our first mention of proving of the episode. Good grief, I'm sick of people talking about proving. The whole series seems to have been one long debate about proving. They might as well call it Fermat's Great British Bake Off. Maths joke, y'all.

Chetters, of course, is running madly around the room.

Hurry! Ovens won't stare at themselves.

Luis explains that he'll be making a series of tear-off buns in the shape of a tree, and he gets an amazing couple of Mary Berry Reaction Faces. I would be thrilled if anybody could turn this sequence into a gif, because she switches from delighted grin into confused Pierrot so quickly that she seems to be modelling for a Janus theatre mask set.

We don't see her face when Luis presents her with the cherry brandy he'll be using, presumably because she was dribbling with anticipation. (Sorry Mary... love you.)

The King of Gilded Olives has discovered green cherries and is thrilled to pieces by it.

A product entirely wasted on the colour blind.

Chetna is inspired by a Croatian bread, which she tries - and repeatedly fails - to pronounce, while Mary looks on like a patient, albeit disappointed, grandmother.

"No threepenny bit for you, my girl."

Amusingly, Sue's voiceover immediately pronounces it entirely differently from Chetna's efforts, and the coloured pencils man calls it quits and just writes 'swirl bread'. It looks, let's face it, like a pile of sausage rolls.

Nancy is making Lincolnshire Plum Braid - a clever pun, as she laboriously explains, upon Lincolnshire Plum Bread. She actually says "it's a play on words" in case, lost in the intricacies of her accent, we miss the quip. Even before she was finished telling us this, you can see that she realises that she is sailing her ship of humour upon an unforgiving sea.

You'd think that this week's show was announcing the dawn of the microwave. It is, apparently, the first time that our Nance has seen one (and now she'll sell you a lovely one for £10, no questions asked). She gets over-excited, and is determined to microwave ALL THE THINGS. She has to be held back from flinging herself bodily into the thing. First of all, she decides to prove her dough in the microwave. Who knew that was a thing? And, Nancy, weren't you aware that you had a PROVING DRAWER?

"I beg your what now."

Since someone tried to prove their dough in a fridge a week or two ago, the microwave isn't a terrible idea - but it comes as no surprise that Paul is pretty suspicious about it. "It's a dangerous thing to do," he says - the Bake Off equivalent of having the emergency services on stand by, and a full step up from "That's brave", which is alarming enough - but Nancy is entirely uncowed by him. "It is!" she bellows, clearly having the time of her life.

Paul is always delighted when people don't do well at bread - the town isn't big enough for two bread bakers - so I'm longing for Nancy's controversial method to succeed. His comments are swiftly followed by two wonderful moments. One is Mary telling Paul that he has "learnt something today" - at which he is visibly angry - and the other is Mel spraying what she believes to be masala directly into her mouth, only to discover it is cooking oil. And, in Microwave Corner...

Luis is quick to witness the unprecedented act (calling her 'our Nance' in the process - love it). Meanwhile, Mezza and Paul are perched awkwardly on a table (blithely ignoring the dozens of chairs immediately available to them) while he explains that microwaves are death traps. If the show were broadcast in 1830 they couldn't be more alarmed about the microwave.

"Tell me more about this electricity, Future Man."
A clever bit of editing sees Paul's warning segue straight into a bowl of fruit spontaneously collapsing. What can't microwaves do??  Double bolt your doors tonight, readers.

Chetna defends her bread against Sue's accusations of messiness, saying "It's my bread!" I think she's missed the point of the show. Martha, meanwhile, advertises her bread by saying "It's like jam on toast, with the jam already inside!" The product nobody was asking for. Bless her heart.

And Luis? Well, he's forgotten to add any fruit to his fruit loaf. It's going well, folks.

We have a nice montage of people opening and shutting proving drawers - except Nance, of course; she's over by the microwave ("This could be my death knell," she announces, and it is to my lasting disappointment that the microwave didn't ping at that point) - and Chetters is the first to put her loaf in the oven. "See you in 50 minutes," she says, suggesting that she's going to climb in there with it.  The camera pans away, so perhaps she did.

It's been a while since we had an arbitrary shot of someone's feet, hasn't it?


Luis takes his beautiful bread tree out of the oven, and Paul starts his menacing amble (can an amble be menacing?) around the tent.

He;s quite rude. Basically he goes from station to station, prodding at finished loaves. Rude.

Sue says that Nancy's loaf is the "size of a labrador".

Richard says that "it's looking a bit wrinkly on the outside". That's quite enough about Mary. A-ha-ha. (Oh, Mary, I love you lots. I should stop being mean.)

Aaaand - they're done! Luis' and Richard's look amazing; Martha's looks rather bizarre. Nancy's is too big to look at in one go. Basically everyone does pretty well, particularly Richard. Mary confides to Chetna that she's not fond of dates, "between you and me". Does she realise that she's being filmed? She also immediately contradicts almost all of Paul's criticisms, for which I love her.

And what of Nancy's labrador loaf? Paul struggles to find something to criticise, but it seems pretty good. "It's not awful, is it?" Nancy squawks, and Paul has to admit that it is not.

What will the technical challenge be? First, Mel requests happy faces:

Remember Smiling Rob?

It's... something unpronounceable. The same unpronounceable thing Chetna was unable to pronounce in the first challenge! Considering they have to get all their recipes approved far in advance, it's a little surprising that they let this happen, but Chetna is giddy with excitement. Remember how much she shrieks with laughter at everyday non-events? Well, this coincidence has her waving her arms in the air, clutching her head, and generally putting on a three-act dumb show of delight.

"I'm really excited" she says, unnecessarily.

Richard says he will 'learn by watching', hastening to add that this is not the same as copying.

Mary, as usual, pretends to be amazed at what Paul says in the here's-one-I-made-earlier segment. His example is pretty neat.

Also a bit hypnotic.

Guess what? It's all about proving. OH, THE PROVING DECISIONS. Nance suggests she might turn to the microwave, in the manner of one discussing secret black market products.

They all stretch out their pastries, which would be my nightmare (since I'm disproportionately useless at the seemingly-simple task of rolling things). Nancy thinks "it probably needs to be the same size as this cloth", although what she's basing that on I can't imagine. The instructions say "as big as you can", not "as big as any arbitrarily-sized piece of fabric you happen to have on your person."

They then spend quite some time experimenting with the best way to spread the walnut filling on the dough...

This dough is NOT the same size as her cloth.
Everybody is finding it pretty much impossible (and this is the point at which I would have a destroyed mess of pastry mixed with walnut mush.) Guess what Nancy's solution is?

"The microwave is the only way forward." - thing she says

She does have the bright thought of using an icing bag, which is immediately copied by Richard (and openly; "what's she done, then?" he asks). Has he copied the microwaving too? We don't know; the good people of GBBO don't show us. More than one microwave shot per segment would raise the rating from PG to 15.

If I never see someone open a proving drawer again, it'll be too soon.

Chetna bakes her dough long before everyone else, which startles Sue immensely. However, Chetna knows what's up. People are too busy being beguiled by piping bags, and don't copy her. Martha, instead, takes her coiled-up dough out of the tin and makes it longer. Ooooh dear.

Nancy, apropos of nothing, makes royal icing. Diana wanders across the background with a tray of pastry triangles.

They start to come out of the ovens. "It's a funny looking thing," says Nancy, and it's hard to argue with her.

Cue lots of fanning with baking sheets, and Nancy using her royal icing with some sense that it's all gone horribly wrong for her.

And the results? Well, they're all raw except for Chetna's. Martha's is the rawest of all, and she comes last. Chetna, of course, comes first. Mary calls Richard's loaf drunk. Takes a beetle to know a beetle... The best thing, of course, is Nancy's ecstatic reaction to coming third. Apparently, had she come last, she wouldn't have admitted to it.

What a woman.

This, in turn, is nothing compared to Chetna's adorable glee at coming first. She's such a sweetie.

We move onto the final challenge, and it becomes clear that Martha and Nancy are in the bottom two. I don't know how to cope with that. And the final challenge is... doughnuts! As with eclairs last week, this doesn't seem super difficult. But I guess that gives more room for the showstopperiness to come through.

Paul brags about making 30,000 doughnuts in his life. If anything, it comes across as a little creepy.

Luis has grated hundreds of limes, but I have a theory that lime makes everything better. Test that theory if you dare. He tells Mary that he's making cocktail doughnuts, and this is her instant reaction:

That lady loves her alcs.
At this point Our Vicar's Wife, previously worried that I would be sued for slander, emails me to say that I can get away with my teasing. She's so excited about cocktail-themed doughnuts. I am a bit, too.

Nancy: "I've learned that if you say something's in something, you've got to be able to taste it." I have been annoyed time and again by Paul saying that he thinks orange (for instance) would be horrible in a baked product, and then complaining when he can't taste the orange. But that's what you wanted in the first place, Paul. Make up your doughnut-addled mind.

Chetna has apparently exhausted the world's supply of mangos, and is now putting potatoes (could it really have been potatoes??) in her doughnuts. And one of her doughnuts is braided. So not even doughnut-shaped.

Martha is making a cronut, but obviously isn't allowed to call it that.

And, inevitably, return of the flipping proving drawers.

Richard is making fair-inspired doughnuts: toffee apple (sure) and rhubarb-and-custard (what? Does Richard imagine that fairs are replete with people chomping on rhubarb? We all know fairs are filled with candy floss and crying children. Make crying children doughnuts, Rich, if anything.) He's making heart-shaped doughnuts, and says his wife loves them. Awwwwww. Shout out to Sarah Burr, who has been a very kind supporter of these recaps!

Also, general applause for 'doughnuts' rather than the insidious 'donuts'.

Nancy - as if she were not already queen of my heart - is making a bunch of doughnuts with Paul's face on. She talks about piercing blue eyes &c. &c. and he staunchly refuses to engage at all. He does reference her 'male judge' comment but, Paul, we've all moved on since then. And, lord knows, this programme would never repeat a joke. It's not in its nature.

Mel takes away the empties from Mary's coffee break.

Nancy tries to teach us the name for making the doughnuts into balls - 'key', apparently - but loses heart halfway through. She knows that her role is not bothering about anything. Like moments later when she's picking up her dough and saying "very very delicate" as the dough collapses out of any recognisable shape.

Richard (were you aware?) is a builder. Builders love doughnuts, apparently.

Marth has OVER-PROVED. She's pretty distraught. Mel gives the dubious advice just to put more filling in, and hope they get bigger that way.

"Mary will probably hate it," says Luis, of his Irish-cream-filled straws. Has he met this woman?

Nancy starts icing her Paul faces.

Uncanny, no?
Also: horrible flashbacks to Death Becomes Her.

Aaaand... it's over! Surprisingly little to say about this whole process. Only a bizarre close-up of a vocal duck separates us from the judging.

My favourites end up being almost all of them...

Richard does pretty well, and they certainly love the flavours - although not so much the presentation.

Nancy's doughnuts are a bit too dry and overdone, but otherwise ok - and Paul, again, refuses to acknowledge that his face is all over the tree. "They look all right to me," she says. Love her.

Martha's haven't risen, as she knew. Paul congratulates her chocolate icing for not falling off - as the chocolate shatters and falls.

Chetna's are complimented, except for having "more of a ganache than a mousse". The horrors.

Luis' gets this wonderful moment, when Mary takes a sip from the straw and realises that they're choc full of alcohol. "Oh-hoh!" she cries.

"How naughty!"

"Why are we bothering with the doughnuts?" she says, going in for more. And she likes them more than Paul does... quelle surprise.

Star baker could have been almost anybody, really, and I was a bit surprised that it was someone who came fourth in the technical challenge - but also delighted that it's my favourite, Richard!

But going home is...

Very sad to see Martha go, but I'd have been even more heartbroken if Nancy had gone. Still, I thought Martha would win. As Sue says, "You are 17, and you are brilliant. You are going to rule the world, my darling."

See you next week for the semi-finals! I can't wait to see what Nancy does with patisserie. I can only presume she'll just throw all the ingredients in the microwave and hope for the best.


  1. S - thank you. You have us crying with laughter every week. It was definitely a bonanza Mary Berry Reaction Face episode, wasn't it? Love it.

    1. Thanks Ben! She had so many wonderful faces this week, I wonder if she does it deliberately...

  2. "she switches from delighted grin into confused Pierrot so quickly that she seems to be modelling for a Janus theatre mask set." Best (bit of a) sentence EVER.

  3. Wonderful Simon. I love Nancy as well. In fact, I love ALL if them. Whomis going to go next week?

    1. I've loved the last six or seven so much - can't bear the idea of anybody leaving now!

  4. Such accurate observation - and so funny! I think you 'proved' your point...what's not to love about GBBO? ;-)

    1. Thanks so much Angela! Apparently its success has baffled some critics, like AA Gill. More fool him, I say!

  5. what a brilliant write up!!!! I was laughing out loud while reading this.... will have to go back and read all your previous weeks observations!!!!! well done

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Chetna! I hope you enjoy the other recaps :) And keep being so wonderful on the show!

  6. "It's looking a bit wrinkly on the outside". That's quite enough about Mary.

    Oh, you brave thing! Does Mary read this? Or do Mary's people read it? Does Mary have people?

    Love the Janus mask bit too.

    Is this week's word cronut?

    P.S. Richard to win!

    1. I forgot to add the word... bad Simon... but hope to soon!
      Mary hasn't sued me yet.. :/

  7. Mary is opening my daughter's school's Christmas Fair... just sayin'

    1. So jealous! Also annoyed that she gave a talk at St Aldate's in Oxford while I was in Norfolk...

  8. Katie friend of Lizzie26 September 2014 at 18:15

    Absolutely love your blogs Simon. You really make me giggle. Have to say that my hubby and I shed a few tears when Martha was sent home, so I needed to read your words to cheer me up again! Keep doing what you're doing, Sir.

  9. Sad to she her go too she is amazing for that age but think pressure had started getting to her last few shows ,much closer than last year any of four left could win

    1. She was astonishing for any age, but especially so young!

  10. Just love your blog Simon, the highlight of the week. I'm dreading the end of GBBO because that will mean no more of your lovely comments. Please can you find another programme to write about to keep us going over the forthcoming dark winter nights.

    1. Thanks Helen!
      It takes so much time that I think I can only cope with one series to recap per year, but I'll be back as long as they do GBBO :) I'll stick to books for the rest of the time!

  11. Watching Martha get eliminated was awful, but she is brilliant and can be very proud of how well she has done. I just hope Nancy rebounds because if I simply couldn't bear watching her get eliminated next week. Great recap- love the reaction shots of Mary.
    Perfect Custard

    1. Thanks!
      And I can't decide who is my favourite between Nancy and Richard, but I love 'em both and want them both in the final...

  12. Oh, dear, Simon, you are a genius. Crying with laughter again over this week's recap. The only problem is I spend far too much time during the show trying to second guess what you will include in the review! Think I spotted quite a few this week ...

  13. Thank you, thank you, Simon what a happy start to my day. If there has to be a winner my money's on Richard but they're all winners for giving millions of people such a jolly mid-week treat.

  14. Do you think you could keep making these up once the show has finished? Just an idea. :-) They are so much fun.


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