The Great British Baking Show recap: Double, double, toil and trouble
Welcome to Roaring Twenties week! I hope you’re all prepared to show a little ankle because this week The Great British Baking Show is taking us back nearly a century to celebrate the baking and styling of the 1920s. In the U.K., it seems like custards and upside-down cakes were all the rage, while in the U.S. we were really focused on expelling alcoholic demons from society and/or participating in black market rum-running. It’s not America if we’re not contradicting our values! In the tent, our bakers are returning after a very tough week. “Dairy” was not a tremendously successful week for anyone really, and in the end, we saw the last of Phil. A 1920s-themed week can be sure to deliver Prue some delicious boozy bakes, but will the era encourage our bakers to serves us Great Gatsby or Great Depression?
Signature Challenge: Custard Pie
Four individual highly decorative, open-topped custard pies.
As Halloween fast approaches and Helena’s powers strengthen, she’s decorating her lemon and lavender pies with a Greek sea creature. I can’t personally make the connection between sea creatures and the 1920s, but who are we to come between Helena and her passions, really? She spends the entirety of the time allotted giggling to herself about testicles — oops, tentacles — and the pure glee is totally infectious. The judges are impressed with the sea creature sculpture but find the flavor of the custard to be a little too heavy on the lavender, rendering it a bit “soapy.”
Henry is making a Kool-Aid cake. A Kool-Aid cake! Apparently Kool-Aid debuted in the states in the ’20s, so he’s making a lemon-lime pie with raspberry curd and if he doesn’t yell “Oh Yeah!” at least once during this episode I may never watch the show again. In the end, his pies are all about the base and not enough about the unfortunately overcooked custard filling. More like “Oh No.”
Rosie is crafting needle-piped elderflower domes to top her blackberry pies. She brought new and unused horse vaccine needles to pipe flowers into the elderflower jelly. That’s all super cool and whatever but Rosie’s main contribution during this round is her extremely casual disdain for rabbits (“They just want to die”) and when Noel thinks he’s telling a hilarious joke about crabs with herpes, she kindly waits for him to walk away before correcting to the camera, “They get chlamydia, not herpes.” The more you know, Rosie! But then, as if haunted by the ghost of some terribly vindictive bunny, Rosie loses one of her perfectly purple tarts to the gravitational pull of the earth. It makes a very impressive splat on the tent floor, but unfortunately the quality of the splat will not be factored into Prue and Paul’s evaluation. Instead, they focused on a slightly unfinished decoration and the slightly damp matcha crust.
Michelle’s blueberry and white chocolate creme brûlée pies will be topped with edible flowers. They’re very lovely looking but both judges want more blueberry flavor. Prue inexplicably declares that she thinks blueberries, in general, don’t have much flavor, which is perplexing and I think most people would disagree.
Fresh off her win as star baker, Steph is putting a spin on the classic tarte au citron with her zesty citrus custard pies decorated with fresh fruit and torched Italian meringue. In the judging, Prue and Paul say the word beautiful over and over again, loving both the decorations and the bright citrus flavor.
David’s custard pies will put all of the emphasis on style with flapper girl biscuit decorations. He’s mysteriously decided not to flavor his custard which seems like a weird move for Week 5, and that choice is thrown into particularly hard light when his custards take a long while to set. I was completely certain the judges were going to want more from him than flavorless custards and pretty cookies, but they are completely and utterly enamored. Prue calls them “exquisite” and Paul extends his hand for the season’s second handshake. I personally think he may have gotten away with something.
Does Michael seem particularly on edge to anyone else? It’s almost as if just before the cameras started rolling, Paul whispered in his ear, “Helena will put a curse on you If your custards don’t set,” and now he’s just swimming in fear. Pressing on anyway, he’s making mango and lime custard pies in a ginger short crust, topped with mango gelée discs, meringue, honeycomb, and candied lime peel. At the judging, Michael’s preference for a “shallow tart” works against him as that winds up being Paul’s biggest complaint.
Priya’s lemon and raspberry pies are decorated with sliced fresh fruit. Paul starts off the judging by saying, “Oh dear” and while he is sometimes unnecessarily dramatic (see: last week’s technical judging) he’s not entirely wrong this time. Priya ran out of time again and has presented to the judges hastily decorated boiled custard pies in too-thick pastry. Paul does like the flavors, though.
Alice’s custard pies feature this recapper’s absolute least favorite flavor combination: orange and chocolate. Prue asks, “Is there booze in there?” but Paul points out that she’s really just tasting the orange extract. Sorry to disappoint, Prue. Meanwhile, I’m having a nightmare that someone is going to sneak up behind me and crack a chocolate orange over my head. *Shivers*
Should you make this at home? Yes! Make it with lots of lemon and berries and decorate it with crabs and bunnies for Rosie!
Technical Challenge: Beignet Soufflé
18 fried choux balls filled with smooth raspberry jam and served with a sabayon.
The looks on their faces. This challenge requires the bakers to know how to make choux pastry from memory, which is a real challenge for some. Michael and David both start their choux over after one failed attempt. On the second go, David produces a very dense mixture and Michael’s very loose batter dissolves into the oil for a second time. Michael slips into a very real panic, but Noel coos encouragement to him and he manages to get 18 little baby jelly doughnuts onto the gingham table.
David’s very tough and tiny beignets land him in last place with Michael’s dark and raw beignets right behind. Priya redeems herself from the signature with a second-place win, and Helena’s perfect beignets earn her a very exciting first place. Everyone in the tent, bakers, judges, and hosts, are excited for her to win this challenge and there are lots of very big smiles and hugs. Leaving the tent, she approaches Noel and Sandi and says, “Screw the handshake, I want a hug please!” Dang right, girl.
Should you make this at home? You could, or you could book a vacation to New Orleans for the real deal.
Show Stopper Challenge: Prohibition Era Cake
1920s-themed two-tier cake inspired by a favorite cocktail flavor and designed as a visual spectacle of the era.
#RealMenCry #ManTears #Michael is making a strong return to the tent for the show stopper challenge. He’s making a blackberry bramble cake with an ombre effect buttercream frosting. Helena’s “Vampire’s Kiss” cake is inspired by the 1922 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and features a blood-red sponge, flavored with raspberry liqueur and decorated with green buttercream and black isomalt bat wings.
David confesses that he’s not much of a drinker, so he is making his closest approximation to an Amaretto Sour, which he admits he has never had. His cake will be comprised of amaretto-soaked lemon sponges and frosted with an aromatic bitters buttercream.
What is it with Piña Coladas on this show? Any time the assignment at hand involves a cocktail inspiration (and even sometimes when it doesn’t), we get several bakers who claim to love Piña Coladas. Today, we have four. Michelle is dedicating her cake to her sister in memory of one spectacular hen-do party in Liverpool. Her Piña Colada cake will be decorated with 1920s impressionist style painting and a modern geode effect. Alice’s Piña Colada cake is inspired by the pineapple upside down cake craze of the ’20s and will be decorated with art deco modeling icing. Steph’s Piña Colada cake is also inspired by the upside-down style but is making use of tinned pineapple which is both more authentic to the era and supposedly turns out a better curd. Priya’s Piña Colada cake is really only Piña Colada-ish in that it doesn’t feature any real alcohol, but hopes to make up for it with a passion fruit sponge and a royal icing stained glass inspired floral design.
Henry’s Big Lebowski cake (my words, not his) takes inspiration from the classic White Russian cocktail with coffee sponge drizzled with coffee liqueur and frosted with Italian meringue coffee buttercream. He’s hoping geometric chocolate decorations will really tie the cake together. Not to be outdone, Rosie is also honoring The Dude (again, my words, not hers) with a White Russian cake. Her coffee liqueur sponges will be sandwiched around vodka swiss meringue buttercream and frosted with a dark chocolate ganache. Prue suggests that she has quite a lot on her plate and we all just hope that she is not out of her element.
After a rough first day, Michael managed to produce a perfectly delightful blackberry cake. Paul and Prue want a little bit more from the flavors but like the design quite a lot. Helena’s vampire cake disappoints the judges on a few levels, first in the messy piping work, and then with a slightly bland cake. Prue and Paul find Henry’s White Russian cake to be beautiful and dry. Prue finds Rosie’s White Russian cake to be “interesting looking” but she and Paul agree that a too-thick ganache is what keeps it from perfection. But that’s just, like, their opinion, man.
David’s Amaretto Sour cake has sunken into itself a little bit. Prue finds it “nice and lemony” but Paul finds the buttercream “grainy.” Alice’s Piña Colada cake is “messy” and “clumsy” but tastes delicious. Priya’s decoration looks rushed, but Prue loves the delicate flavor. Michelle’s Piña Colada cake is nicely decorated but Prue points out that the painting and the geode styles are a bit mismatched. Inside, Paul does not like the coconut shavings and finds the texture a bit dry. Steph’s Piña Colada cake is nicely decorated and paul loves the lime sponges. Paul seems genuinely surprised and impressed and calls it “clever”.
Should you make this at home? Sure, who doesn’t love boozy cake? (Besides David and Priya, I guess.)
This week’s star baker is Steph again! After two very sound challenges in day one, Steph managed to separate from the Piña Colada pack with her very well-balanced cake.
And then the bad news. For some reason, the judges have decided that this is the right time to say goodbye to two bakers. I simply have to disagree and say that any of the last three weeks would have been better. They had plenty of opportunities earlier in the season to weed out two contestants at once, at times when it would have felt like a much more obvious choice. However, here we are being forced to say goodbye to Michelle and Helena. I could have sworn Michelle was going to be a sleeper hit and make it to the last few rounds but the judges just didn’t think she pulled this week together. And despite all of the dark magic, Helena’s stellar technical round was not enough to save her from soapy tarts and anemic cake.