Are You Bready For Love?: The Great British Bake Off Episode Three
The Debrief: Time for our bakers to prove they’re be the best thing since sliced… well, y’know
Episode three has risen, and there is an air of trepidation in the Marquee of Dreams. Following Marie’s shock departure after her biscuit breakdown, it’s clear that the Curse of Star Baker is still a very real threat this series.
And they’d better hope that ‘trepidation’ is the correct atmosphere for yeast to thrive in, because it’s time for the round they’ve all been dreading. The big one. The one that could dry up their hopes of success like stale ciabatta. The one that’s more likely to get them critiqued by an angry scouser than wearing a Gloria Steinham T-shirt front row at a John Bishop gig.
Hold on to your wheat intolerances – it’s bread week!
Soda thing is…
The first challenge of the week is A WHOLE NEW CATEGORY OF BREAD. What can it be, kale bread? Deconstructed bread? Laverbread made with real lava?
Nope, it’s quick breads. Like bread, only faster! The challenge here is getting a rise out of these bad boys, when they’re all as cheerfully yeast-free as the ladies on the Canesten adverts.
Still hanging on after two weeks of near-doom, Dorret has chosen to bake a bread version of a Waldorf salad – because culturally it’s a salad with a history of always working out so well for people – while Alvin is hoping to come back from the brink with prosciutto, Manchego, basil and balsamic onion.
Lovely Ian, who last week suddenly went from being a vague pinkish blur where a man might be, to Star Baker and the poster boy for stay-at-home dadding (if you won’t do it for the sake of equality, chaps, do it for the ability to entertain a toddler and forage for wild garlic with a stand mixer balanced on your hip), is using pesto for a touch of the exotic. Anyone muttering, ‘I miss Norman,’ should drink now.
Meanwhile, Sandy’s knocking up bacon and onion bread inspired by Ireland, but she’s having trouble finding her competitive side. ‘I ran the 800m at school once, and waited for a friend,’ she says. I’ve been waiting for a friend three times a week since 1997. I’m just THAT generous a sportswoman.
Fashion notes: there is no hint of a let-up in Mary’s jacket game this season, with a neon boucle number we’ll call ‘CHANELLO!’, while Paul has chosen a cornflower blue shirt to bring out his eyes. Sorry, cornflour.
Onto the judging, and anyone hoping to see Paul tear someone apart is going to have to content themselves with hot bread instead – they’ve basically ALL done well!
Mary can’t wait to get her hands on Alvin’s loaded loaf, and even Paul is falling over himself to call it ‘a thing of beauty’. Sandy, Flora, Tamal and Ian have all earned their crust with flavoursome savoury bakes, while Ugne and Paul have triumphed with sweet soda.
There are only a few fails: Mat has overworked his dough, and scrappy survivor Nadiya, owner of the most expressive brows in Berkshire, has baked a misshapen Mexican loaf. ‘It’s split there, because it’s trying to find a place to grow,’ says Paul. We’re ALL just trying to find a place to grow, Paul – piss off and read a self-help blog.
‘It looks very homely,’ Mary tells Dorret, which is the baking world equivalent of telling a friend their outfit looks ‘comfortable’.
Moving from soda to the hard stuff, it’s time for the technical challenge. And after their early success, the bakers are about to get some serious stick – French stick, that is – as they must craft four identical baguettes.
‘The recipe is kind of basic,’ declares Ian, which doesn’t mean it’s really into Michael Kors handbags and Starbucks lattes, but rather that it’s missing most of the actual information. Like how wet the dough should be, how long to knead it for and whether to prove it in the oven, a drawer, or in the residual warmth of one’s own armpit.
Flora’s gone rogue. Not only is she using a glass bowl instead of a Tupperware box, she‘s also ‘pinching her bottom seam’ – which turns out not to be a rambunctious ceilidh move, but a way to make her baguette smooth and seamless on top. Like a nice starchy pair of Spanx.
Once the dough is shaped, it’s time to roll it in a little linen bed called a ‘couche’ for the second prove. ‘A cootch,’ says Paul. ‘A cooshay,’ tries Sandy. Come on, guys! We know this one! ‘Voulez-vous lie in a steamy linen dough bag avec moi, ce soir?’ sang Patti LaBelle, and latterly All Saints.
Turns out baguettes might be basic, but it doesn’t make them easy – the bakers are a regular breadbasket of nerves. ‘My heart’s going boom-boom-boom,’ says Tamal (and mine for you, darling), slashing his batons with a teeny bread razor. Only half of them know that to get a proper crusty crust, they need to create steam in the oven. And speaking of steamy, Mat is ‘bearing in mind what my wife says – always leave it in for an extra 10 minutes’. We bet she does.
When judgement rolls round, not many take Paul’s French fancy. Ian comes first by managing to create an exact replica of the ‘artisan’ rolls they do in Pret, while Nadiya and Paul are bottom of the heap with something more akin to a garlic stick from Iceland.
Baguette-me-nots, if you will.
Is it, dough?
Time for a short lesson in Ukrainian baking tradition – as well as blouse and lipstick goals – courtesy of chef and uber-babe Olia Hercules. If these crazy-ornate wedding breads don’t turn up on my Instagram feed before the year is out, I’ll eat my brioche bonnet.
Back in the tent, we’re onto the showstopper round. And because it’s now a government requirement that all Bake Off contestants leave the tent with a basic GNVQ in construction, they’re building things. Out of dough. Again.
Things such as: a bread corset and skirt from Flora, a bread snake from Nadiya and a ‘breadcycle’ from Tamal, at which Mary squeals and claps as though she’s never heard a pun before. You want to come round here love, we’ll knock your pop socks off.
Mat’s going after his Ben Sherman sponsorship deal with another nod to mod – he’s making the Brighton Pavilion. But instead of the usual coachload of confused tourists, it’s going to be filled with curry and flanked by lime pickle breadstick columns. (Incidentally ‘lime pickle breadstick columns’ is a little-known manoeuvre from the Kama Sutra 2: This Time It’s Properly Awkward).
Dorret, who you suspect at this point might be actively trying to see what it’ll take to get herself kicked off, is making a Tracey Emin-inspired unmade bread bed, featuring a raisin and fennel headboard, marzipan-stuffed mattress and an enriched dough duvet. We know what you’re thinking – where are the sugarcraft condoms?? The beetroot blood stains?! IS IT EVEN ART?
‘It just looks like a lot of manhandled bread,’ sighs Sandy, over her ‘vase’ (lump) of ‘flowers’ (longer lumps). No Sandy, it’s fine! The idea of someone’s clammy hands all over our food for five hours is what makes these giant carby Art Attacks so appetising! It’s the same reason we love burritos from vans.
Bready steady dough
It’s time for Paul and Mary to take a walk through the world’s weirdest sculpture park – but the results are seriously impressive. Tamal’s breadcycle is spectacular, Ian’s flowerpot bread is fantastic, and while everyone else was dicking around with twiddly grissini, Alvin has rustled up more glossy plaits than a Disney princess Pinterest board.
At the bottom of the class, Mat’s sag aloo has sagged (ahnoo!) while Ugne has wrecked her brioche by dousing it in truffle oil. But the unlikely hero of the hour? Pesto! Pesto is the besto. Flora’s used it to perfection, and it’s saved Sandy’s floral sculpture from divine breadtribution. Somewhere up there, Normal Norm is twinkling with pride.
(I mean Scotland, he’s not dead.)
But the most praise is lavished, like Lurpack, on Prison Paul’s majestic, slightly mournful lion. 'That is one of the best things I’ve seen in bread, ever' declares Other Paul. It’s the circle of loaf, and it moves us all. Of course, this was filmed before the tragic death of Cecil the Lion, so it can’t technically be a tribute, but we can still watch misty-eyed and pretend.
And then, speaking of trying not to cry, there’s Dorret. Poor, poor Dorret. It’s a shame her buns are raw in the middle. It’s harsh that the judges have no appreciation of modern art. And it’s just plain unfortunate that her name also rhymes with ‘regret’ and can be sung perfectly to Edith Piaf’s classic ballad. Au revoir, pet.
Next week: We’re in custardy! Across the land, rejoice!
Like this? Then you might also be interested in:
Frankly Madeira, I Don't Give A Damn: The Great British Bake Off Episode One
Arlette’s Call The Whole Thing Off: The Great British Bake Off Episode Two
Why The Great British Bake Off Needs Its People Of Colour
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