I know we are only two weeks into series 14 of The Great British Bake Off, but I’ve got to tell you that I am completely in love with it already. Alison Hammond is a pure joy to have in the tent. I love the return to more traditional bakes. And I have a *huge* girl crush on Saku.
It was slightly odd watching Biscuit Week when it aired last night as I already knew the outcome. I was lucky enough to get tickets to the recording of Bake Off Extra Slice on Sunday just gone. And as part of the process, you watch the full episode before the recording of Extra Slice starts. It was such a good day out. You can find out more about getting involved with Bake Off Extra Slice on the Channel 4 website.
**** SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of the outcomes of each of the challenges, this week’s star baker and the second of The Class of 2023 to go home. Please don’t read on if you have yet to watch the biscuit week episode and don’t want to know the outcome! ****
THE SIGNATURE BAKE
First up this week was a marshmallow teacake challenge. More biscuit-ish than biscuit, I’d say. I mean, I love a Waggon Wheel but I’m not 100% sure it’s *truly* a biscuit? Perhaps I’m wrong, though. So I listened with interest as Dana explained what a biscuit is to see what I might learn…”A biscuit is different to cake.” Oh.
Anyhoo, moving on.
Despite not being 100% sure of the biscuity credentials of some of the bakes getting underway in the tent, I knew I could get fully on board with the challenge when Alison told the bakers: “There is nothing stopping you from making your biscuits absolutely massive – like Noel’s head.” In which case, we’re going to need considerably bigger baking trays…
As the cameras roamed the tent tracking the progress of the bakers, we learnt that Saku doesn’t bake biscuits very often. Seemingly once a week is not very often in her world. Can we all move in with Saku, please? 😍
Keith confessed that delicacy is not really his skillset and Dana gave us a real lesson for life by sharing her secret that it is possible to hide *a lot* of stuff with glitter. Icing sugar works a treat for that, too!
Onto the judging and Paul had clearly adopted the iron fist in velvet glove approach to feedback this week, telling Dana: ”They look amazing…bar these broken ones.”
Then there was a disagreement between Paul and Prue over the spiced flavour of Dana’s marshmallow. Paul said it was too pungent but Prue disagreed, saying the flavour of marshmallow deserves to be overridden.
Alison helpfully translated Paul’s comments on Keith’s Waggon Wheels for us as ‘…ugly but nice, then?” There’s that velvet glove again.
Keith didn’t disagree with them, though, reflecting on his Waggon Wheels thus: “The judges aren’t blind. They could see they were a flippin’ mess.” Oh Keith 💕
Nicky’s fear of overpowering her bakes with too much of her rhubarb and ginger jam were completely unfounded as the judges struggled to detect *any* jam. Nicky offered Paul and Prue an explanation, saying: “I think it ran a wee bit.” To which Paul replied: “It ran out of the tent.” Ahem.
Tasha got a Hollywood handshake for her malted chocolate marshmallow biscuits and was clearly over the moon with it. Eyeing up the handshake-worthy treats, Alison reached onto the bench and said: “I’ll have two of those, thanks.” Form an orderly queue behind Alison, everyone…🙃
So all in all, a dazzling round for some. Not so much for others.
This week set by Prue, she told the bakers that the challenge was all about chilling and timing. And that they should use their time wisely. This challenge required the bakers to make a buttercream filling. Time to pray for Matty, everyone.
So, it’s custard creams. Yum!
The biscuits are made using a stamp that has an impression of the intricate custard cream pattern on it. This is one of the reasons the chilling of the dough is key – too warm/soft and that pattern won’t be neat and clear.
As the bakers lifted the cloths off their ingredients and discovered they would be baking a batch of custard creams, Kristy spoke for the nation by commenting: “I’ve never baked one of these, but I have eaten one.”
Nicky told Matty a terrible joke (which he didn’t get), Kristy accidentally used Rowan’s biscuit dough (which passed by in *the* most mild-mannered and uncontroversial manner) and Abbi admitted that she had looked up a custard cream recipe the night before the challenge (which could go one of two ways!).
Up to the gingham altar with the bakes and it was time for the blind judging. It seemed like a good few of the bakers had underestimated the bake time for a custard cream, with the judges remarking that many of them were underbaked and too soft.
Judging one plateful of biscuits, Paul described the texture as “like rubber” and Prue described the look of them as “a bit of a mess.” They were Keith’s. Oh Keith 💕
And it turns out that Googling biscuit recipes the night before the challenge paid off for Abbi as she won this week’s technical – beating Dan into first place. Keith and Saku were at the bottom.
In a break from previous years where a challenge to construct some elaborate building or other invariably means *everyone* bakes gingerbread pieces, this year’s biscuit week technical was an illusion biscuit. A what? A biscuit display that must “look good, taste good, but taste like something else” (thanks Paul!) Which meant we were going to see more than just gingerbread being baked. Huzzah!
Charcuterie seemed to be the design of choice among the bakers, with Matty, Kristy and Rowan all opting to make a cheeseboard-esque biscuit illusion. Rowan explained that he’d gone with his design because he often has charcuterie and wine nights with his university mates. I don’t know about you, but I lived off a diet of tinned meatballs and instant mashed potato when I was a student…
Josh was making a burger and chips, Abbi a dim sum brunch inspired by her love of Chinese food complete with bamboo steamer, Keith a ‘meal deal’ lunch of sandwiches, crisps and an ice-cream, Nicky a steak pie, Tasha chicken katsu, Dana a deep dish pizza, Dan a cheese and onion pie with chips and Saku a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast.
And just when we thought we couldn’t love Saku any more, this exchange happened:
Alison: “Saku is that real onion?”
Saku: “Yeah, that’s real onion.”
Alison: “But you’re not supposed to do real onions, babe, you’re supposed to make it *look* like onions.
Saku: “It’s a side dish.”
Keith’s meal deal included one of those snack size Pringle tubes, which he attempted to make from gingerbread pieces baked over a tin tube. The first batch failed. Spectacularly. Oh Keith 💕
Confessing to feeling a little panicky (you’re not alone, Keith) he soothed our jangling nerves by admitting to having prepared plenty of gingerbread in preparation for this disaster happening. Phew!
With Paul looking on from the sidelines, in went Keith’s second batch of gingerbread Pringle tubes. “I’m desperate for this to happen” he said, while carefully shutting the oven door. So are we, Keith. So are we.
Illusions complete and it was on to the judging. Deep breaths, bakers!
There were some pretty amazing creations presented to the judges, but as we all know, the looks are just half the battle. These masterpieces have to taste great, too.
Prue remarked of Dana’s biscuit illusion that she had never seen such a deep pizza. Dana confessed that neither had she – “It’s the dream”. Maybe for you Dana – I’m a thin and crispy gal, me 🙃
Rowan faired better on the flavours than the looks of his charcuterie board, Matty’s board got a big well done on both the illusion and the taste and texture of his biscuits and Kristy’s board was described as smart and neat.
The judges loved Abbi’s bamboo biscuit steamer basket and Saku’s biscuit rotis but thought Dan’s chips were a little bit burnt – although the rest of his illusion was a triumph. Nicky’s steak pie dinner was described as ‘a good looking thing’ by Paul but Prue thought her shortbread chips looked more like shortbread fingers than chips.
Having nailed his second attempt at the gingerbread Pringle tube (yay!), the judges were more interested in Keith’s bright red but not very tomato-ey looking tomatoes. “I’m not sure I’ve seen many tomatoes like that” said Paul. To which Keith replied: “They’re from the south coast. We have very good growing conditions and you get that redness.”🤣
On judging Josh’s burger and chips biscuit illusion (presented on a gingerbread chopping board, no less), Prue told him: “I think it’s a triumph.” With Paul kicking the compliment up a notch with “I think it’s a *big* triumph.” Seemingly fixated with tomatoes this week, both judges exclaimed: ‘Look at that tomato, that’s clever!” “You can see through it!” said Prue, holding it up for all to see. Including Keith. Oh Keith 💕
With the bakers all back at their benches, and just as we thought the judging was over, out popped Paul from behind the judging table, walked over to Josh’s bench and gave him the first delayed Hollywood handshake in the programme’s history!
Why the delay? Apparently he was so full of biscuits that everything was numb! And then it hit him that Josh deserved a handshake for his illusion biscuits and off he went, saying: “You know what mate, I’ll come to you.” Definitely a Bake Off first! 🙃
And with that, there was the end of all the biscuit baking and it was time for the dreaded fate-learning stools scene. This week’s star baker went to Tasha. And Keith went home. Oh Keith 💕
KEITH, ON LEAVING THE TENT…
“I feel fine.”
“There’s nothing sad about this moment.”
“I don’t know how many hours for the rest of my life I am going to spend banging on about this.”
You crack on, Keith 💕
After another joyous episode, thoughts now turn to week three: bread week. This is one of my favourite weeks, which is odd for a coeliac whose life is devoid of all such wheaty deliciousness. But there we are.
The trailer at the end of this week’s programme suggests they will be making cottage loaves, a bread bun of some description and a plaited showstopper. And chuffin’ ‘eck doesn’t Rowan just want an easy life. Don’t we all, Rowan, don’t we all 🤣
Until next week…
P.S. If a bit of biscuit geekery is your thing, you might enjoy my article The Great Biscuit Debate.