Lauren Bravo | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 26 August 2015


Gone With The Windtorte: The Great British Bake Off Episode Four

The Debrief: Who’ll be the crème de la crème and who’ll be puddin’ on their coat? Let’s find out

This week we’re a trifle tense, because dessert week has a fraught history. It gifted us the Great Custard Theft of 2013, tore the nation apart last year with the worst thing to happen to Alaska since Sarah Palin, and considering this series so far has involved more elaborate architecture than the average Euro city break, there’s every chance we could be in for some high drama. A pavlova palava. A crème patastrophe.

Oh goody!

A right brû-haha

The signature bake this week is less a bake, more the socially acceptable face of neat custard consumption: a crème brûlée. We all know from our adolescent Amelie phase that the best thing about crème brûlée is cracking the caramel on top with your spoon – but what Paul wants to see most is ‘a delicate little wobble’ in the custard.

(Incidentally, ‘a delicate little wobble’ can also refer to the following: Dorret’s chin at every previous judging; the name of Flora’s prizewinning racehorse; a warning text from Ugne’s personal trainer; the way Mary walks after a bowl of ‘special’ trifle; how Paul’s family refer to his stint in LA.)

Because there weren’t new-fangled blowtorches knocking around in Mary’s day, they’ve got to make it in the traditional fashion – under a grill. Presumably while wearing a crimplene frock, smoking a cigarette for ‘health reasons’ and requiring their husband to approve a bank loan for a new hostess trolley.

Mat is adding lime and coconut to his brûlées and boasting about his reasonably large ramekins (ladies), while Sandy is actively trolling the French by using Pontefract cakes in hers. And Ugne knows the way to the Bezzmeister’s heart: with a fruit so boozily fermented that it can literally get an elephant pissed.

Prison Paul is following up last week’s specially commended lion bread with something a tad less Disney – an ‘adult-themed’ crème brûlée. This seems to boil down to just having almond liqueur in it, which seems disappointing for a man within easy reach of handcuffs.

To achieve the correct level of wobble, they’re gently cooking their brûlées in a bain marie. But as though the very mention of her name is enough to activate The Curse of Marie, suddenly everyone’s forgotten how to use an oven. Alvin’s not turned his grill on, Mat’s caramel is soft, Flora and Sandy’s custard is soup and, the biggest brûllache of all, Paul’s has become an omelette.

‘I’ve done 20 or 30 at home! They didn’t blow up in the oven at home,’ he whines.

Ahhh, at home, at home… the Bake Off equivalent of ‘my other car is a Porsche’. At home I have the lithe honeyed limbs and sultry bone structure of a young Michelle Pfieffer, Paul. It’s just a shame it never translates elsewhere.

But a few bakers have cracked it: Nadiya’s English breakfast brûlée is Paul and Mary’s cup of tea, Ugne’s nailed the little delicate wobble and Tamal has earned his role as the thinking woman’s drop scone with velvety custard and a perfectly tart compote. Oof.

If you liked it then you should’ve put meringue on it

Just to make up for the disappointment of last week’s technical challenge being a foodstuff we’d all actually heard of, this week’s is Mary’s Spanische windtorte. Y’know, Spanish wind cake! Delicious Iberian gas gateau!

Except it’s neither Spanish, nor a cake, nor possibly even a real thing. It’s a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a million layers of stiffly beaten egg white. Nicknamed ‘the fanciest cake in Vienna’, it’s Austrian and features both Swiss and French meringue – add some candied Romanian cabbage and it could have been invented specifically to piss off Nigel Farage.

This challenge is bad news for vegans or those intolerant to the sound of electric whisks clanging against glass, because it involves more eggs than Sunday brunch at a fertility clinic. The bakers must build a kind of meringue hat box, layer by layer, then slather on more meringue, pipe on more meringue, and fill it with cream and fruit. You could say it looks windtorturous – but they’re going at it with gusto.

‘It’s the most feminine version of plastering you could imagine,’ says Flora, wielding a trowel of glossy meringue. WRONG, FLORA! Bugger oeuf! The most feminine version of plastering we can imagine is plastering. Or are you not using your equality because they didn’t have it in Mary’s day?

When judging rolls round the windtortes all look impressive, but some have peaked more stiffly than others. Sandy’s done a weird bent lid for no real reason, Nadiya’s is sticky and Mat’s flowers (‘flahs’) aren’t as good as his layers (‘lairs’). But it’s Alvin that comes last with his overbaked box, while Paul places first and laughs for slightly too long under an umbrella.

‘I’ve got one more challenge tomorrow,’ says Alvin, in the rain. ‘It needs to be absolutely perfect for me not to eggs-it.’

Still punning in your hour of darkness – Alvin, that’s true commitment.

Into the (fromage) fray!

While I draft an angry letter to Points Of View about the absence of the boring educational section (I want to LEARN, goddamnit), we’re onto round three.

The showstopper challenge seems deceptively easy: three tiers of baked cheesecake. When is cheesecake ever NOT good, really? I’ve never met a cheesecake I didn’t get on with famously, and that includes a slice I ‘adopted’ after it was abandoned half-eaten by a stranger on a cross-channel ferry.

Paul and Mary can chat about baking times and consistency and pastry vs biscuit bases all they like, but of course we’re really all just wondering the same thing: will it be as delicious as the cheesecake from Momma’s Little Bakery, Chicago? Will it be so good Rachel and Chandler would steal it from an elderly lady and eat it off the floor with spoons? WILL IT?

That’s definitely what we’re all wondering.

Because he is part man, part whimsical folk song, Ian is using rosemary and tarragon to flavour his sweet cheesecakes. ‘That’s quite… adventurous,’ remarks Paul, and not in the good ‘so glad I swiped right’ kind of way. Tamal is also putting rosemary in HIS cheesecake, however, and suddenly it sounds delicious.

Queen of our hearts Nadiya has spent 10 hours reducing cream soda and ginger beer to make syrups for a trio of cheesecakes inspired by fizzy pop (you’ll know it as ‘mixer’, Mary), while Paul ‘too good for Pinterest’ Hollywood tries to claim he’s never heard of ombre. Maybe he’s more of a balayage man.

HANG ON A BUTTER-SQUISHING MINUTE – wasn’t that a heap of shop-bought angel slices on Alvin’s workbench? Did we all see that, or am I hallucinating baked goods again? If it turns out he’s just serving Paul and Mary reconstituted Mr Kipling, this could be a scandal bigger than bingate.

The real worry, though, is Flora. She never got the memo about making three different flavours baked with blood, sweat and pieces of your own soul, and has gone for a nice simple elderflower instead. ‘I’m trying to think if I can make it more exciting, jazz it up a bit,’ she worries with the air of someone asking teacher for extra homework to do in the holidays, then knocks up a bonus batch of macarons. Relax love! Go with the flow, Flo! Norman would have finished his plain cheesecakes and be halfway through an Ian Rankin by now.

It all ends in tiers

Onto the judging, and my god if these cheesecakes aren’t some of the most appetising-looking things ever to appear in the Marquee of Dreams. Give me a heap of sweet cheese over a garibaldi recreation of the Oxo Tower any day.

Tamal’s spiky nut surprise is spectacular, and tastes it. Mat’s chocolate bar stack is a sight to behold. Ian and his herb garden are back on form. And Nadiya – oh, Nadiya. Her levitating fizzy pop can with cascading meringue bubbles WORKS, it actually works! A teetotal triumph.

But for every great bake, there’s a bad one. Alvin’s? Wet and messy. Flora’s? Dry and dull. Paul’s? Dry, dry, dry. More like DESERT week, amirite?

In the end, though, it’s Sandy’s dreams that collapse along with her mascarpone landslide, and we have to wave farewell without every finding out if she was secretly Mel’s mum.

Ta-ra, Random Sand! It seemed to me, you lived your life like a candle in the windtorte.

Which is to say: precarious.  

Next week: Soya can’t eat wheat? Agave you a whole bunch of flours! Watch out, Whole Foods – it’s ‘alternative ingredients’ week.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Are You Bready For Love?: The Great British Bake Off Episode Three

Arlette’s Call The Whole Thing Off: The Great British Bake Off Episode Two

Frankly Madeira, I Don't Give A Damn: The Great British Bake Off Episode One

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Tags: TV We\'re Unashamedly Watching, Great British Bake Off, TV