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21 September 2016

The Great British Bake Off takes on an unsettling, elegiac quality in Pastry Week

“The clue is in the name – bake well, don’t bake badly.”

By Anna Leszkiewicz

“I’m leaving the tent guys, it’s been really great.” So Sue joked after a particularly bad pun on this week’s episode of The Great British Bake Off. Sadly, such once warm, light-hearted moments have taken on an unsettling elegiac quality in recent weeks, now we know Mel and Sue’s days on the show are numbered. (Later, when Mel jokes that “at this stage, it would almost be a blessing” to be smacked in the face by a piping bag full of dough, I wonder if she really is fed up of the juggernaut of BBC TV.)

But this week is Pastry Week – a fan favourite for its notoriously difficult fine filos, dastardly Danishes and challenging choux. To wake the bakers up, we start with breakfast pastries. Particularly tempting offerings include two bacon-topped Danishes from Candice and Benjamina, and Selasi’s Ghanian, pinapple-infused pastries.

So tempting are they that Paul pilfers Selasi’s prepped coconut to snack on – obviously in some weird act of dominance, which Selasi beautifully counters by offering him some offcuts headed for the bin. Tom, struggling at this stage in the competition, offers the horrible-sounding granola-filled pastry (which Mel euphemistically describes as “healthy” in the voice-over), which commit the cardinal sin of being too dry. This provokes a sympathetic nod from Rav, and he is confirmed (in my mind) as the best comforting presence anyone could wish for.

It’s Jane who does the best at this point – and my heart sings when she wells up and says the comments were “better than I dared to hope for”. It’s so obvious how much this means to her.

On to the technical, Bakewell Tarts. “The clue is in the name – bake well, don’t bake badly,” Mel and Sue helpfully inform the candidates, and in doing so ensure that it is a complete and utter shitshow for almost everyone. “Oh, my word, the oven wasn’t on!” Andrew screams in horror about 15 minutes from the end of the challenge – these are the kinds of words you come to The Great British Bake Off to hear. Soggy bottoms and crumpling structures abound, and not a single one looks pretty. “I cannot be the last in the technical for the third week in a row”, says Rav, condemning himself to be last yet again. Meanwhile, Val totally ignores the recipe because she is an anarchist whirlwind that cannot be stopped. Only Jane and Candice produce something close to the brief, and Jane wins round two, too.

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As for the showstoppers, as usual, this is where most of the bakers do their best work. Selasi’s, of course, is helping the other bakers out – which he does once again when he helps Jane assemble her appetisers. Rav’s Chinese prawn tartlets and spiced white chocolate samosas are a surprise hit, while Candice, Benjamina, and Jane cement their status as competition front runners with yet more extremely successful dishes. Only one really fails: Mary actually grimaces when Val’s showstopper touches her lips.

But who cares about all that? What we really want to know is – how on brand was this week’s Bake Off?

Just how Bake Off was the Bake Off this week?

“It’s better to be wetter than it is to be dry.” +12 for a great innuendo

“Tom and Andrew prefer things a little… wetter.” Ok, same theme, but still good. +4

“This is a tip I got off the internet.” Who else thinks Val is deep into the Dark Web? -9, most people on the Bake Off refer to it as “the World Wide Web” or “going on the line”.

“Have you seen any John Carpenter films?” +4

Is a butter-bashing induced shoulder injury the most Bake Off grievance of all time? I think it might be. +25

“You’re the first person we’ve had who’s actually flossed her pastry.” +6

+10 for oven mishaps.

The innuendo  absolutely peaks with Mary holding an enormous sausage of black pudding in both hands. +5

That’s a Bake Off score of +57. Acceptable, if not outstanding.

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