Actually, to be strictly accurate, it should be GBBO! Part 4, but I missed the last two episodes due to preparations for swimming 10k down the Dart River the first week and chucking my guts up as a result of swimming in the Dart River the second week*. When you’ve spent twelve hours being as sick as a very sick dog, you somehow don’t really fancy a baking show….But last night we were back, and a grand week for it too, since it was, for the first time ever in Bake Off, Batter week! Oh, what larks, Pip!
Batter week was brilliant. The Signature Challenge was Yorkshire puddings. Would I be tempting fate if I said that I’ve never had a problem with Yorkshires? Mine always rise and puff up with a crispy base and rim and a nice squidgy interior to soak up the gravy. Thank you, it’s a knack. Strangely, since to me as a non-meat eater, the obvious partner for Yorkshire pudding is vegetarian sausages and onion gravy, none of the competitors went with sausage and onion gravy as their filling. This was a shame, since it would have pleased Paul Hollywood, who reared back in horror when tofu was mentioned. Tofu, it’s Paul Hollywood cryptonite, apparently, although he managed to choke it down and even said, the ultimate compliment, that he wouldn’t have known it was tofu.
The Technical involved cooking lacey heart shaped pancakes. I make a mean pancake myself too, although I have never tried a lacey heart-shaped one. Like grilled cakes, this was the sort of challenge which is enormous fun to watch but a bugger to do. The poor lads in the pack had faces like men in an underwear shop during this task, totally challenged by a number of concepts to which they had previously never had to pay a moment’s attention. The wonderful Benjamina triumphed yet again on this one, largely by virtue of having a clue what a lacey heart should look like.
And on to the final task, the show-stopper which really should have been entitled the Great British Fry Off, since it involved making churros, those sugary treats the Spanish have for breakfast with big cups of hot chocolate to dip them in. Now that’s the sort of Mediterranean diet that most of us can get behind. This task involved numerous pitfalls, not least the need for the batter to have exactly the right consistency, thick enough to hold the piping ridges but not so thick you couldn’t pipe it. This led to wonderful potential fnarr fnarr comments such as “It’s not quite as stiff as I would like”, but such was the tension in the room as the frying commenced that these passed without comment.
So many things to think of! If too many churros went in at once, the fat would cool and they’d absorb it and be oily. If they were too thick, or too cold, the outside would burn before the inside was cooked. And if they were too thin, they would be all crispy exterior and no fluffy yummy interior. The poor contestants! Yorkshire puddings, knicker-shaped pancakes, and deep-fried Spanish doughnuts! No wonder the tension in the room was greater than that of an ill-sized G string. Benjamina finally won through, largely due to her ability to keep calm and collected right up to the wire, and duly became star baker. Poor Kate was this week’s casualty, retaining her sense of humour to the last, bless her.
Like a litter of puppies, as the series grows up we are getting to know the contestants. Benjamina will clearly go all the way. I am still extremely fond of Andrew, but he is increasingly having to share my affections with Tom, who has rufflable hair and puppydog eyes. Looking back on previous years I seem to make a habit of forming a kindness for the young male contestants, quel surprise. Nice young men who can also make cakes, what’s not to like? I shall keep my eye on Jane, who is smiley and competent and seems to be growing in confidence as the series progresses. And, as my friend Ruth most aptly commented, Stop pouting, Candice**.
*The Dart is normally a very clean river, but on this occasion a heavy thunderstorm the day before had washed down a quantity of what is known in polite circles as effluent, and I forgot the old open water swimming rule, Keep your mouth shut and don’t eat anything, no matter how appetising.
**Which would be an excellent title for a Country and Western song.