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14 September 2016

Batter chatter and snakes in the grass: the Bake Off controversies inside the tent

Is adding wasabi to white chocolate a step too far? Will Paul Hollywood enjoy a slice of tofu? And is Batter Week even an appropriate theme for a baking contest?

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The Great British Bake Off has had an eventful week. It’s been what Mary Berry would call “informal” – in plain English, a complete fucking mess. Audiences were horrified to hear that producers were considering a move to a new channel, and on Monday night it was confirmed that the show, as BBC in branding as the Shipping Forecast, is moving to Channel 4, without Mel and Sue.

Of course, none of that scandal makes it through to the tent – the action here was filmed months ago. Instead, as usual, the biggest controversies are in the detail. Is adding wasabi to white chocolate a step too far? Will Paul Hollywood enjoy a slice of tofu? And is Batter Week even an appropriate theme for a baking contest? Yes, that is a serious question.

There isn’t much actual baking in this week’s episode: the three challenges are Yorkshire puddings (definitely baked), lace pancakes (definitely made in a pan, even if “cake” is part of the name), and churros (definitely deep fried). However, as a lifelong supporter of Sweet Dough Week (unquestionably the greatest Bake Off theme, sorry, it’s just a fact) I’m perfectly willing to let this one slide.

The Yorkshire puddings are a mixed bag – Yorkshire-born-and-bred Val is set up to fail from the off, as we learn that her husband intends on disowning her if she mucks it up. But even she does better than Tom, who proudly informs Mary and Paul that he is using chickpea flour (cue Mary’s unconcealed expression of horror). Selasi continues with his (actually quite charming) tactic of spinning ridiculous yarns to justify his mistakes: inconsistency in the size of his Yorkshires is because some are for kids, and some are for adults.

The “lacey pancakes” produce a gender divide – the boys seem to confuse lace with lattice, and produce some horrible grid-like heart-shaped creations, while Jane, Candice and Benjamia come third, second and first respectively.

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Jane, who claims to have never tasted a churro before, smashes the showstopper, almost bursting into tears when Paul praises her. I really enjoy seeing older women in the competition do well, finally validated for a “domestic” skill that many only see as technical and creative when practiced by men. But Benjamina is undeniably the star of the episode, now getting well-deserved appreciation for her near-perfect work.

It’s also the point in the competition where contestant’s bakes start to reflect their personalities. Happily Married Woman Kate produces Yorkshire puddings based around marital compromise (excuse me while I vomit), while Japan Fan Rav goes for white chocolate and wasabi dip for his matcha tea churros, and pub landlord’s daughter Candice happily pours beer into her batter. Non-threatening Tom, who has already nabbed Star Baker once by stealth, has a churro theme of “Snake in the Grass”. But just how traditionally Bake Off was this week’s Batter Chatter?

Just how Bake Off was the Bake Off this week?

The episode began with Mel and Sue singing a variation of 10 Green Bottles with reworked lyrics and a mocking Paul Hollywood accent. +23

Of course, Batter Week is filled with claims of being a “Bake Off first”. +7

For once, though, this phrase does actually mean something. Hardly any baking is required as part of Batter Week! -21

“Your email was very unclear!” +1, just for making me laugh.

Both Mary and Val say “It’s in the lap of the Gods!” when discussing potential rises on Yorkshire puddings. +8, I think they share a Bake Off phrasebook.

Paul rubs his hands together with glee over the difficulty of his technical challenge. +5

Val also describes her lacey pancake as “very Jackson Pollock” (read: messy), a fantastic alternative to “informal”. +8

“Are you a flipper or a tosser?“I’m a tosser all the way Mel.” +9

“I like the way you’ve toasted your nuts.” A great Bake Off, euphemism, but from Paul, not Mel and/or Sue! +5

Sue calls Paul’s jaws “tectonic plates of the earth”. +8

“Paul in tofu shocker!” +3

I think the word “impregnate” was used about three times. +12

Sue refers to “churos that are hardy and suitable for battle environments, like Churos Kemp.” +9

Overall score: +77! Not as Bake Off a Bake Off as usual, thanks to all that bloody batter, but still some heartily Bake Off moments.

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