If Oprah watches The Great British Baking Show, she must be extra happy right now because it’s Bread Week. But that’s not all! Thanks to PBS, we’re treated to a double dose of GBBS this week, so we’ll also be talking desserts. Before we start at the Signature Bake, the bread-and-butter of the competition, if you will, we have to set our drinking game word of the first episode: crust! Now let’s get rolling. (And no, the bread puns will not cease throughout this recap.)
Inside the tent, Mary tells the bakers they’ll be making quick breads — breads that use baking powder instead of yeast to rise — and she’d like them to make two different kids, without tins, in two and a half hours. As the bakers begin to work, the judges make the rounds quizzing the contestants on their choice of breads. The most delicious-sounding are Mat and Nadiya’s Mexican quick breads and Tamal’s goat-cheese-infused bread (key words include: “big chunks of cheese”). Then there’s Ian adding in garlic from his herb garden. Classic Ian. Dorret’s making walnut-and-Stilton soda bread… sounds worrisome. Judge Paul, however, is more concerned with Baker Paul’s ratio of flour to buttermilk, which could create a bitter bread.
Ian leaves his bread in the oven until the very last minute, which pays off. Paul claims his bake is a “work of magic.” Unfortunately, Dorret’s is on the tight side, but Mat’s has a lovely crust. The most notable bake, however, is Paul! Mr. Hollywood declares, “It’s excellent” before he has another piece.
There’s no time for wheat-ing around, let’s get straight to the Technical Challenge. The bakers are told to make four identical crusty baguettes in two and half hours. Right away, proofing proves difficult for the bakers. There are too many options: Do they use the proofing drawer? The oven? Or leave the bread out at room temperature? And how long do they proof for? Guess that’s why they call it a challenge.
In no time at all, the judges are stepping up to give some biting feedback. Some baguettes look more like ciabattas — not really a problem in my eyes, but apparently it’s not what the judges are looking for. Some are under-proofed, some need more crisping, and some are a variety of shapes. Nadiya’s seem to fail on every front and even get a “I just feel very sorry for whoever’s these are” from Mary. Eek. It’s a brutal judging, or as Flora puts it afterward, “Paul Hollywood was punching bread, shattering dreams in there.” But Ian gets the win.
We’re on a roll here, so let’s move right on to the Showstoppers! This week it’s 3-D structures made out of bread. Get excited! There should be three types of dough, one of which needs to be filled. The bakers have five hours to complete the task. “If they don’t come prepared, they’re going to come unstuck,” says Paul, trying to get in on the pun fun.
Tamal is making a bicycle out of bread. Mary looks absolutely delighted by this idea, but Paul — and even more worrisome, Tamal — is having trouble picturing how it will stand upright. Alvin’s making a Thanksgiving cornucopia because he has relatives in the States. (I immediately thought Hunger Games and weapons, but that’s just me.) Paul’s making a lion, Nadiya a (unintentionally exploding) snake, Flora a skirt and corset, and Ian-the-fond-gardener is piecing together a potted plant. And Dorret’s creating an un-made bed — a bed made of bread! I wish I had a little more faith that the best invention ever would actually be a success…
…and it’s not. When we get to judging, Mary’s unimpressed and Paul doesn’t think it’s worthy of five hours of work. Plus, it’s raw in the middle. Dorret is crumbling.
Despite looking like a bike with flat tires, Tamal’s creation is a success, so he can ride off into the sunset happily. Paul’s predator is also well-received. Bread-god Paul Hollywood gives high praise: “It’s one of the best things I’ve seen in bread, ever.” Then adds, “I wouldn’t have attempted anything like that.” It has teeth, claws, a mane, and it’s packed with flavor. Gotta be the Star Baker, right?
Well no, he’s not, but he does get a special commendation and a round of applause for creating the best bread sculpture Paul Hollywood has ever seen. As it turns out, Herb Man Ian is dubbed Star Baker this episode. Dorret is toast in this competition. It’s the end of her BBC baking days and my terrible bread puns… but not the end of this recap…
NEXT: Who’s ready for dessert?