The contestant who made the best fougasse was Tom, bless him, who had also triumphed in Bread Week. Tom, who is vegetarian, is more at home with plain and hearty than with sweet and delicate, which makes me think that he is something of an old-fashioned vegetarian. I believe he may have mentioned that his family is also vegetarian, and I like to think of them in their Birkenstocks and jumpers hand-knitted from old copies of The Guardian, gathered around a earthenware bowl of farty, I beg your pardon, hearty bean stew accompanied by some of Tom’s excellent bread. I imagine the stew to be the sort of thing Cranks would have served back in the day, when to be a vegetarian was to condemn yourself to a life of primarily brown food and Cranks made vegetarian cuisine by boiling up a few sisal plant hangers with an outworn alpaca sweater, adding an old sandal for flavour.
My imagination, however, did me down a bit in the show-stopper, which involved a three tier cake made with botanicals. Tom had gone for tea – “I love all those herbal teas”. (Of course you do, Tom – all those happy family evenings gathered around the fire playing old-fashioned board games and daringly wondering whether to risk another mug of Pomegranate, Rosehip and Raspberry Rush.*) Paul Hollywood was openly concerned that the flavours wouldn’t come through, and with good reason; I’ve had herbal teas as teas in which the flavours didn’t come through.
However, we were both proved wrong, and in the event Tom’s teas triumphed. Even his decoration was dainty, as around him normally reliable performers ended up face down in the flowerbeds. Clarice’s boiled sponge was dry, Jane’s ambitious plan to make her own flowers and wrap the cake in a chocolate version of a Marimekko tablecloth failed for lack of time and ended up looking like a nursery school end of term extravaganza, and even fabulously piped buttercream roses could not make up for Selasi’s actual sponge falling short. Tom duly triumphed as Star Baker, and I imagine headed home to a big bowl of Special Tofu and as much Camomile Crush as he could drink. And we bid goodbye to lovely, smiley Ravi, the Comeback Kid for whom the timer finally beeped.
*Perhaps I should point out here that I’m a vegetarian herbal tea drinking Guardian reader myself.