Soggy bottoms and big nuts - Great British Bake Off is back
- Credit: BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon
Great British Bake Off, BBC1, Wednesday, 8pm:
I couldn't produce a show-stopping cake to save my life, or rather this would be the only circumstance in which I might try - if someone was holding a revolver to my temple. You've heard of Breaking Bad, my show would be Baking Bad.
Great British Bake Off is back for a sixth series and shows no sign of going stale. Two days of frantic baking, crying, failing, succeeding, rising, flopping and questionable flavour choices are edited expertly into an hour of curiously calm yet tense viewing.
There are 12 new bakers submitting their baked goods for scrutiny from housewife's favourite Paul Hollywood (this year shoehorned into jeans bordering on the obscene) and surrogate Nanna-to-all and fan of booze-soaked pastries, Mary Berry.
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Throughout it all, presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins gad about offering side orders of double entendre and consolation – in other words, it's the same recipe, but somehow it's just as delicious.
Paul has increased his overall number of facial expressions from three to four this series after adding 'borderline shocked' to his canon of 'delighted, bemused and slightly narked' while Mary remains beatific at all times, with a one-size-fits-all expression suitable for occasions ranging from the acknowledgement of a successfully-constructed pie to the news of an impending apocalypse.
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Contestants are from all walks of life - there's a firefighter, a student, a professional musician, an anaesthetist, a stay-at-home mum, a child welfare officer and (hopefully from this day forth a GBBO prerequisite) a Lithuanian female bodybuilder – there's even a humourless prison officer who looks a bit like a terrible e-fit of Paul and has no truck with hilarious gags about files being hidden in cakes: 'You don't joke about security,' he told Sue. I bet the prison staffroom is really missing Mr Giggles.
First off was the Madeira cake challenge and judges were looking for a cracked top, an even glaze and candied fruit that could decimate a filling at 100 paces. They were also looking for contestants to remember to put the oven on: first fail for student Flora, 19.
In true GBBO style, bakers tried to put their own 'spin' on the classic cake, mucking it up with coconut, gin, rum, chocolate, figs, cardamom, rosewater and such – Paul and Mary liked the Madeira cake that was a just a plain Madeira cake the best and hated hipster Stu's marbled mess of chocolate, lime and rum: 'The flavours are all wrong. It's quite bitter,' said Paul. Ouch.
Next was the technical challenge where contestants have to make a cake from 'a pared down recipe', in other words a list of ingredients which could be written in Sanskrit for all the help they offer. This week, it was a walnut sponge filled with buttercream, iced with Italian meringue and topped with caramelised walnuts: Lithuanian Ugne won the day followed by Bracknell nurse Alvin whose excitement led him to shout: 'That caramel is not going to ruin me!' Yeah, caramel, BACK OFF.
As soon as someone exclaims that something will be 'the perfect bake for me!' you know that ruin is just around the corner, and so it came to pass for 53-year-old project accountant Dorret, when it came to the show-stopping Black Forest Gateau challenge.
Her sponge looked like the craterous surface of the Moon, her chocolate mousse was liquid and her cake collapsed like an abandoned ice-cream cone on a hot pavement until it looked like a cherry-topped mudslide or a gaudy cow pat.
You have to go it some to be worse than a kirsch-flavoured cowpat dripping from a plate, but hipster Stu managed it: he introduced beetroot and meringue into his BFG, which was a giant mistake (see what I did there?) and tasted, in the words of Paul, 'a bit raw'.
Tamal's chocolate collar, Ian's chocolate elephant, Flora's pink layers, Alvin's gold leaf, Mat's perfect praline, Nadiya's glossy finish, Sandy's buttery biscuit base, Ugne's chocolate cups, Paul's file-less sponges, Dorret's slop and Marie's 'slighty plain' gateau (that nevertheless helped her secure her Star Baker crown), all were enough to send their creators through to next week.
But Stu's raw beetroot and meringue cake, his 'one nut' walnut cake and his Bob Marley Madeira cake sealed his fate and he was sent back home, where he is probably as I type formulating plans for an 'alternative' artisan bakery where the jam tarts are filled with meat paste and sausage rolls are iced.
On which note, I think Sandy may well be a shoe-in for a job with Stu after she revealed: 'I can be a bit random, I can be making a cake and you'll have a meat pie by the time I've finished.' Sounds like my level of expertise.
* Next week: biscuits, the dowdy and dull sibling of the cake.