It's the battle of the British biscuits
Credit: Courtesy of Love Productions

It’s week two of The Great British Baking Show and that means biscuits — the cookie kind for those unfamiliar with British-isms. (Numpty’s another fun one to try out in conversation sometime!) So let’s head back inside what has to be a stifling hot tent — due to the use of 11 ovens all at one time — and see how our lovely bakers are faring. (Incidentally, for those playing the GBBS drinking game, biscuit week means drink every time you hear the word “crunch.”)

Will Marie, our Star Baker from last week, still lead the pack? Will Nadiya give in to those brimming tears and let them spill over? Will I stop forgetting who Sandy is? Let’s find out…

Now don’t expect anyone to be standing around lamenting on the trials of last week or reflecting on childhood baking traumas. The GBBS doesn’t have time for the sentimental nonsense as some reality TV shows, so we get straight to the cookie-cutting action.

This week’s signature challenge is to create 24 identical biscotti. In addition to being the name of a cookie, the word is also Italian for twice baked. Guess how many times you bake these bad boys? Here’s Mary with some insight: “It’s got to be dry the whole way through, yet you’ve got to be able to get your teeth through it.” Dry and edible. Um, yum?

Like with last week’s Madeira cake, the signature bake gives the contestants the opportunity to add their own flavor to the mix. Learning absolutely nothing from Stu’s run-in with beetroot, Alvin’s adding a fruit no one’s ever heard of to his batter (and by no one, I mean Mrs. Mary Berry, the ultimate baking authority). Jackfuit, anyone? Ever the optimistic ray of sunshine, Mary tells Alvin she’s looking forward to something “quite different she hasn’t tasted before.”

With two hours to concoct the perfect crunch, the bakers get to rolling. Dorret is adding sugar crystals to a biscuit that already has the potential of breaking teeth, while herb-loving Ian is sprinkling in some rosemary.

We’re informed the first bake must be perfectly timed. (Can we pause to appreciate how awesome the inward-sliding oven doors are on this show?) As Tamal takes his biscotti out of the oven, he muses, “They look like really beautiful ciabatta, if only that’s what we were making.” Gotta love those Brits and their self-deprecating sense of humor.

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Don’t you love when a lesson from the kitchen can apply to life generally? Cooling is vital so as to avoid crumbling. Stay cool or crumble, kids.

It’s nearly judgment time. The bakers hasten to glaze with icing, add in forgotten-but-promised ingredients, dunk biscuits in chocolate, and then strategically stack to hide imperfections.

Up step Mary and Paul for some taste-testing. There’s a resounding “crunch” for Mat’s, and praise for Nadiya, who — in perhaps the best facial expression ever captured by camera — manages to express disbelief, joy, and overwhelming gratitude all at once. Still no tears, though. Dorret’s crystallized fruit packs too much punch; as Paul puts it, a trip “down the dentist” might be necessary. Ian’s herb-y inclination pays off as Paul declares the hint of rosemary “fantastic.”

NEXT: Time to get technical

Presenter Mel-or-Sue announces the type of biscuit the bakers must make for the technical challenge. It’s an… [Google possible noises that could be a French word for some sort of fancy cookie]… arlette! It’s a French pastry in the shape of a palm leaf! The cookies are tricky because they have to be wafer thin, and it’s all about the lamination — the layering of butter and dough. At least the instructions are helpful: “Make the dough,” reads a dismayed Tamal.

There’s much wrapping, rolling, chilling, and debating how thin is thin. Nadiya has the answer: A “nervous type of thin,” she says. Indeed.

The judges are looking for a buttery, crisp, sweet treat that melts in the mouth. Most do okay, but Marie finds herself in the bottom spot after an oven mishap leaves her with only four biscuits (“I’m a silly silly”). Dorett (that dark horse!) gulps down her shock as she’s declared the winner of the challenge.

It’s showstopper time! Here’s the deal: 36 biscuits, in a box made of biscuit, but a different biscuit than the biscuits the biscuit box will contain. Got it?

With this challenge, it’s all about precision and architecture. Mary wants animation and technique, but above all she wants a special taste. Piece of cake biscuit, right?

Most bakers opt for a gingerbread box, known more typically for its use in edible houses; it’s a smart choice considering its sturdy structure.

Ian faffs around with some homemade aluminum containers while Ugne sculpts a baby to decorate her biscuit box. “I’m making fondant baby legs that will be climbing into the box.” So disturbing.

Poor Alvin. Having run out of time to allow the pieces of his box to cool before assembling them, he makes the decision to go boxless. He tears up when he tries to explain it to the judges, but he gets an encouraging “absolutely smashing brandy snaps” from Mary as consolation.

Mat makes a freaking fire truck for a box with windows made of crushed, melted, and re-formed boiled candy. Just give him the title of Star Baker already and everyone else can chill out and enjoy a nice cup of tea (and a biscuit?).

The judges describe Marie’s attempt as “plain” with “muddled flavors,” and Ugne’s icing is a little too “over the top and garish” for Mary’s delicate and classy tastes. Mat is on fire with his fire truck. It hurts to watch the judges break it apart, but apparently it tastes as good as it looks.

Time to crown best of show and decide whose televised baking days are done. Turns out, that sprinkling of rosemary made Ian a star (baker). He’s amazed — he’s never even won best baker in his village of 400 houses and here he is, Star Baker on television!

I’m so distracted willing Alvin to stay in the competition that the news Marie is leaving catches me off guard. She was Star Baker only last week! I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Next week everyone gets a little kneady in the tent — it’s bread week.

Episode Recaps

The Great British Baking Show
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