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September 06, 2019
It was crunch time with Biscuit Week for the remaining dozen bakers, starting off with a luxurious chocolate coated signature bake, then a snack with family significance for Paul and an eye-catching showstopper
It’s been 10 years since The Great British Bake Off entered our lives, causing us to care more about genoise sponge and caramel work than we ever thought possible? That fact somehow went amiss last week, when the show’s 10th series delivered an underwhelming premiere. Things improved in this second episode, that revived the tried and trusted Bake Off hallmarks that have turned a baking competition into a global phenomenon over the past decade.
It was biscuit week in the tent and no time was wasted diving into this episode’s signature challenge: decorated chocolate biscuit bars. As any Bake Off fan will know by now, biscuits mean judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith were paying close attention to texture, be it snappy, crumbly or shortbready. The bakers, naturally, displayed admirable creativity when it came to producing this week’s theme – Helena making matcha-flavoured “witch fingers”, while Henry went for an intricate combination of hazelnut shortbread with a coffee and cardamom mousse and hazelnut caramel. Upon getting teased by Hollywood and co-host Noel Fielding about wearing a tie, 20-year-old Henry proudly declared that his sartorial goal is to look “like a prepubescent American schoolboy”. At that point, who knew how his chocolate biscuit bars would turn out, but his witty repartee is certainly baked to perfection.
Time goes by fast during the signature challenge, meaning the bakers, of course, struggled to finish. Participants unite to helped a struggling Priya and Jamie salvage their bakes. The contestants have had a week to get to know one another, and it showed – throughout the episode, they exchanged encouragements and words of support, and later on, when Michael got upset over his showstopper, Priya rushed to comfort him. This is the kind of good-natured solidarity fans of Bake Off have come to crave, and it was good to see it in action once again.
Michelle’s Bakewell-themed signature won over Hollywood and Leith, suggesting that last week’s Star Baker could now be this year’s clear frontrunner. But skilled challengers emerge in Rosie and Alice, whose respective virgin mojito biscuit bars and honeycomb peanut mallow bars were runaway successes. Not doing so great were Helena (whose witches fingers failed to impress Hollywood), Jamie (whose bake wasn’t set, but who demonstrated an admirable sense of humour when confronted by Leith’s judging), and Amelia (whose nougat biscuit bars were a bit “rough and ready” and not cooked properly, said Hollywood).
Moving on to the technical challenge, which this year consisted of fig rolls, a childhood favourite of Hollywood’s. This was announced by Fielding, who forgets he’s supposed to specify the bakers’ rolls must be identical in shape and size – meaning it’s up to co-host Sandi Toksvig to swoop in to fill in the blank, eliciting giggles from the bakers. “It’s a given at this point,” Fielding remarked, almost breaking the fourth wall. This is a lighthearted, fleeting moment, but it’s also a sign that the Fielding-Toksvig pairing (which seemed risky when it was announced after Bake Off’s move from the BBC to Channel 4) is beginning to work.
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Helena, who accidentally made 11 fig rolls instead of the mandatory 12, came bottom of the technical, while Jamie’s egg-washed rolls landed him in 11th position. Alice came first, confirming her status as the rising star of this episode – and with that, we were on to the showstopper challenge, a biscuit sculpture.
For their 3D pieces, the bakers had to demonstrate their construction skills, without compromising on appearances and flavours. Rosie, a veterinary surgeon, set out to craft a chicken out of an impressive 212 biscuits, while Henry aimed to build an organ (the church kind) out of gingerbread and brandy snaps. Jamie went for a biscuit guitar made out of chocolate gingerbread and lemon shortbread, David for a delicate wedding spray, Amelia for a “swimming with dolphins” seascape, and Helena for a spider and her web. Jamie’s biscuits collapsed as he took them out of the oven, pretty much all the bakers mutter to themselves as they rushed to finish on time, all of which made for decently suspenseful television. Ultimately, Rosie’s chicken and David’s wedding spray were hits with the judges, while Henry’s organ and Jamie’s guitar were both deemed underwhelming (this is Bake Off, mind you, so even crafting a church organ out of eggs and flour doesn’t necessarily qualify as a feat). Helena redeemed herself with her flavour, which, as Hollywood pointed out, demonstrated her “massive artistic flair”, but Amelia’s nautical scene was deemed just “OK”.
Hapless youngster Jamie Finn arguably should have been sent packing last week but somehow survived at the expense of man-bunned hipster Dan Chambers. After a second ropy week in a row, it was only right that part-time waiter Jamie should finish his shift in the tent.
High on enthusiasm but low on finesse, he looked horribly out of his depth. With his fresh face, frosted tips and nervous giggle, Jamie almost felt more suited to Junior Bake Off than the mothership contest.
All in all, this was a good episode of Bake Off, which revived many of the show’s beloved features while allowing the personalities of this year’s bakers to shine through. There was sweetness, creativity and a trademark sense of good-natured competition. Let’s hope this series keeps moving in this direction – with perhaps an extra hint of tension as the stakes get higher.
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