“I’m quite nervous, because it’s bread. And it’s Paul Hollywood.” So said Tom at the beginning of this week’s Bake Off. He was right to worry.
Every year, Bread Week sees irritating man-baby Hollywood inflate his chest and become even more insufferable than usual, and this year was no different. I am amazed at how much Paul swells with pride when Bread Week comes around, not least because it reveals that Mary is better at… literally every other week. All he’s got is bread. The dull middle manager of baked goods.
The signature challenge involved making a chocolate bread, and Paul immediately began swanning around trying to intimidate the contestants: raising eyebrows at the amount of sugar and eggs in Candice’s offering, pointing out how small Rav’s dough is and picking over the precise definition of a “babka”.
“When you fail you catastrophically fail,” he said to Tom, presumably as words of encouragement. Later, he informed Andrew that his single proving tactic is not a “traditional recipe” but “traditional bollocks” (or words to that effect). Gloriously, he had to eat his words on this one.
Paul continued his needless displays of power by refusing to eat Candice’s underdone loaf, pulling at the dough with his fingers like a child. Candice’s response – a small, irritated moan of, “Oh, Paul, do you have to do that?” is basically the same as mine every time I watch this show.
An upside to Bread Week is that it offers Sue more opportunities to ridicule Paul. This week, she mostly went for mocking his ridiculous macho body language with gorilla comparisons: calling him “The Silverback of Sourdough” and “King Kong”. Plus, she introduced the technical challenge with this perfect summation of his white male mediocrity:
“Bakers, for our technical challenge today, we turned to the bread expert, but sadly she wasn’t available so we asked Paul instead if he’d like to contribute a recipe.”
Anyway, the technical challenge itself saw smug Paul inflict a ridiculous German steamed bread on everyone: dampfnudel. “I’ve got no idea what a damp noodle is!” Jane despaired. Paul seemingly chose this just for the joy he gets in aggressively prodding his meaty finger in the little doughy balls afterwards.
The only contestant close to matching Paul’s displays of masculinity is Selasi, who freaks out his peers with some dramatic kneading. Benjamina labelled it “unnecessary”. “He’s trying to intimidate the other bakers,” muttered Andrew, looking as intimidated as you would expect – he is only 12. Meanwhile, Sue and Candice attempt some mental maths. “This is the most painful hour of television you will ever watch,” Sue says. I can’t help but agree.
On congratulating the winner of the technical, Paul went with humble grace: “Overall, I thought it was the one that was closest to mine – still a million miles away, but closest to mine.” In case you didn’t know, Paul Hollywood bakes bread.
The showstoppers this week were a mad mix – from a strange Noah’s Ark with, hilariously, only one of each animal (isn’t twinning the main defining element of the Ark?!) to a basket-hat combo. But how true to form was this week’s episode? A classic example of a perfectly baked, formulaic GBBO classic? Or a diversion from the traditional reciple?
Just how Bake Off was the Bake Off this week?
“I’m more of a bloomers and baps girl.” – Kate said this literally two seconds in. +5
Candice: “No one likes a small underfilled ball.” +2
“We’ve never done anything like this on Bake Off before. It’s notoriously difficult.” They say this literally every week. +19
An interlude including a bunch of men in tuxedos singing a German ditty about steamed bread. +13. Classique.
“Kate! How are your balls?” “I’m just pinching their bottoms.” +5
The technical was steamed bread. This is the Bake Off not the Steam Off. -4
Showstoppers including: a cornmaiden symbol of fertility and a “plaited ark hym”. +16
Mel and Sue play a game of “Guess the Smell”. +6
Sue refers to the bakers as “Vincent Van Doughs”. +9
A Man uses a tape measure. +14
“I used to do this with my pony’s tail!” This is possibly the most jolly-hockey-sticks, my-teeth-are-made-from-ancient-family-marble Bake Off thing ever said. Thanks Kate. +19
Bread shaped like a dick. +9
“It’s not a mess, it’s informal.” A classic entry in the Mary Berry dictionary. +7
Overall score: +120! A delicious, vintage Bake Off for all the family.