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TV review: The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Bake Off

Episode 10: From the back-to-basics technical challenge to the charm of all three finalists, Waitrose Weekend’s Alison Hepworth offers 10 reasons why the final of series five of The Great British Bake Off is the best yet  

1 Nancy’s nerve All three finalists were worthy winners, but it was Nancy who kept her head while Richard – fives times star baker – lost his with risks that didn’t pay off in his ‘dangerous’ pain au lait signature bake and a technical challenge that fell flat. Nancy drew on her experience to pip Luis with her delicious and piped – ‘this is the final of Bake Off!’ - tartes au citron.

2 Language barriers It’s been something of a running theme in series five, what with coogan-amann and baclaaarva (scroll down for weeks seven and nine reviews), but those pesky foreign bakes caused more hilarity as Luis, a Stockport-born Spaniard, boldly told judges he was making a ‘pain au white shocolate’ only to be corrected by Paul Hollywood with the correct French words with something of a Merseyside lilt. And ‘pain au lait’ in Richard’s north London accent was indecipherable to Mel. ‘I speak French a bit London,’ he told the Cambridge graduate.

3 Hollywood moment The tests the bakers were set were challenging and ‘the male judge’ (as Nancy hilariously kept calling him) was keen to watch every detail. As a result he was often spotted in the background in his trademark jeans and untucked shirt, leaning to one side, thumbs hooked in his pockets, like Rodeo Man at C&A.

4 Butter bashing and piping bag whirling As if the éclair stair and the ear pencil were not enough, Richard began vigorously hitting his butter with a rolling pin and attractively spinning his piping bag. He didn’t win Bake Off, but he has won over a large slice of Britain’s housewives with his calm capability and modesty, not to mention his amazing patisserie.

5 It’s not the winning… Of course, all three finalists wanted to win, but the final of series five was marked by a lack of fierce competition. They quipped and chatted their way through the tasks, so much so, that by the time Nancy’s name was announced, it was obvious Luis and Richard were genuinely pleased for their rival. How very British! How very Bake Off!

6 Back to basics The technical challenge in the final of a dozen mini scones, Victoria sandwiches and tart au citron was a genius choice, combining basic baking skills with a challenging time limit. To finish them in the two hours was so tough, for the first time Luis’s workbench looked messy.

7 Ukulele-playing baker Those films of the three surviving bakers are revealing aren’t they? We learnt Richard has loved baking since he was a teenager and that Nancy excels at almost anything she puts her mind to. But the most magical thing was seeing lovely Luis playing a ukulele.

8 Contrary Mary While ‘the male judge’ concentrates on listing the things that are not quite right with the bakes, Mary consistently pitches in with a positive comment in which she manages to hide some constructive criticism.

9 Paul’s passion The moment when Richard put his hand up admitting he’d come third in the technical challenge was the moment he lost the competition. And Paul looked devastated that the builder had let himself down a little.

10 Nancy Birtwhistle The champion baker is a wonderful human being. Not only is she an exceptional baker, she’s intentionally and sometimes unintentionally hilarious, she calls a spade a spade and, as we discovered in her video, she did an MBA in her forties after having five children and became so good at training dogs, she went to Crufts. Brilliant!

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Episode 9: The bakers confirm what we have long suspected: leave filo pastry to machines and complex patisserie to the professionals. Waitrose Weekend’s Alison Hepworth reviews the semi-final as Richard breaks his own record and Chetna sadly goes home

And so to the semi-final, Patisserie Week, or what could have been called Layers Week, what with the layers in the baklava and what with the 20 layers in the grilled cake, and what with the layers in the entremet showstoppers. Again and again, the judges counted layer upon layer and commented on exposed layers, neat layers, clearly defined layers. Gripping stuff. And because it was all about layers, of course filo pastry played a star role.

It turns out that, like the rest of the nation, not one of the bakers had made their own filo pastry before practising for this task. ‘You read most recipe books and they say “open up your pack of filo”,’ said Luis. ‘There’s probably a reason for that.’Yes, it was a tricky task indeed. Trickier still was deciding on which syllable to place the stress when saying ‘baklava’. ‘The question is, is it bah-kla-va,’ said Paul to Luis of his nonconformist cups.
‘I looked up lots of different bak-laaaar-vas,’ Luis replied. ‘When I initially looked at it it doesn’t look like bak-lovar,’ said Mary. Doesn’t sound like it either…

Unphased by the filo and phonetical difficulties all four bakers really pushed the boat out to produce ba… - shall we just call them sweet Turkish pastries? – with a twist (Chetna’s chocolate filo) or a slant (Luis’s flower cups) or a spin (Nancy’s muesli filling). Or in Richard’s case a masterclass in the classic flavours. He’s clever like that, is Richard.

Watching them labour over this paper-thin pastry confirmed what I have long suspected: not only is it a good idea to use shop-bought filo, it is best to get someone else to make anything with it, notably samosas, strudels and boreks. When it comes to baklava, I agree with Nancy: ‘They weren’t a thing of beauty particularly and I don’t really like it, baklava. At all.’ Yup, don’t try that one at home, folks.

The technical round of a schichttorte (insert your own joke here) was a German cake made with 20 grilled layers of batter. And if you thought that was unorthodox, Mel presented a film of a visit to a bakery in Germany that makes cakes on a spit, in the same way as everyone else roasts pigs. One for series six?

There is no doubt it was a testing challenge, but all that grilling does not make exciting TV. It went something like this: I don’t know whether the grill is hot enough, light, dark, light, dark, light, dark, oh I’ve lost count.

More layers followed in the entremet showstopper - mousse, sponge, blobs, glaze, repeat etc – a challenge so difficult Paul said he had seen it make professionals crumble. I think I heard Luis say ‘flippin’ ’eck’ but nobody crumbled in the tent, so high is the standard this year. Instead, Chetna wasn’t quite as good as the others, so she had to go, and Richard was star baker for a fifth time, breaking his own record from the week before.

Is it breaking Bake Off law – my baking bad? - to admit that I don’t really mind who wins? Richard, Luis and Nancy are all so brilliant and so likeable, I’ll be cheering next week whatever happens. Now that’s really the spirit of Bake Off.

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesday, 8pm
An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Wednesday, 10pm

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Episode 8: Richard was star baker (again) but victory was Nancy’s with an unorthodox and ‘dangerous’ microwave-proving method never seen before in the Bake Off tent, writes Waitrose Weekend’s Alison Hepworth

It was advanced dough week in the tent, the quarterfinal, and things got serious and really really difficult. Would star baker Richard avoid the dough yoyo? Would pragmatic Nancy’s prove make her panic? Would Luis be anything but affable? Would Martha melt under the pressure? Would Chetna crumble?

The bakers expressed concentration by staring hard at their dough as it proved, as it baked or even – perhaps in cheeky tribute to Paul Hollywood’s suntan – as it over-baked. (Surely he’s going to land that elusive endorsement deal with Fake Bake now.)

Paul’s sticky digit of doom was out, ready to test the rise, and the chat was so technical, and I had to use my loaf to understand it. He shared his knowledge with narrowed eyes. Enriched dough contains butter, eggs and sugar - and milk if you use it (I know I do!) – which sit on the yeast, therefore retarding it, he said. It’s very difficult, he said, speculating about over-proving, under-baking, destabilising protein and forcing the rise, destroying the structure, stunted rise, irregular layers, sporadic dough, raw dough. A relentless critic, he dealt blow after blow.

The challenge of the signature bake, a free-form no-tin enriched-dough fruit loaf, was particularly problematic because apparently it needs a long prove. But they had only two and a half hours.
Nancy’s solution? Popping the dough for her Lincolnshire braid in the microwave, something that earned her a long icy stare from one of the judges (I think you know which one). ‘It’s a dangerous thing to do,’ he warned. It was also a miraculous thing as her dough expanded like Violet Beauregard after a forbidden ball of chewing gum and became something of a spectacle. It was a beast of a loaf. Is it going to cook in the middle at that size, wondered Richard. Gosh, said Sue, it’s the size of a Labrador.

But what was Paul’s verdict? ‘What you’ve got here is something that has been under-proved OR the proteins have indeed been damaged,’ he told her. Then he cut into it and discovered it was neither, changing his tune and instead saying it was underdone. Sensing victory, Nancy challenged him, asking: ‘It’s not awful though is it?’ Go Nancy!

Then Mary Berry said it was scrumptious. Microwave 1, Hollywood 0.

During the technical challenge of a povitica, an eastern European cross between a bread and a pastry, the bakers made dough, proved it, made the filling and wrestled a nutty, choccy dough python into a tin and hoped for the best.

Nancy looked at her sunken loaf and observed: ‘Presumably the wow is when you cut into it. Because there is not of lot of wow going on at the moment.’ If Nancy does not win Bake Off, she would make a fine ambassador for the Plain English Campaign. Chetna came top, having made the very same thing earlier in the day, and Martha’s raw-inside disaster placed her in fifth, meaning she had everything to prove (!) going in to the showstopper of 36 doughnuts.

It came as no surprise to learn that Paul knows ‘what a good doughnut should look like and taste like’ having made in his life more than 40,000 doughnuts, or dey do do dat dough don't dey doughnuts, as they’re called where he’s from in Merseyside.

It was Luis and Richard who excelled. Luis’s trick of filling his doughnuts with Bailey’s left a look of pure joy on Mary’s face - one of the best moments of the series so far. And Richard’s doughnuts were ‘cracking’ and ‘professional,’ Paul told him with not even a hint of joy. Sadly it was a challenge too far for Marvellous Martha who came to the end of the Bake Off road.

Advanced dough was a difficult week for the bakers and a difficult watch for the viewers. Let’s hope things lighten up next week.

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesdays, 8pm
An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Wednesdays, 10pm

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Episode 7: The bakers struggle with something that comes naturally to Paul Hollywood – getting a rise. Waitrose Weekend’s Alison Hepworth makes some jokes as poor as the bakers’ pronunciation of a certain Breton pastry

Pastry week in the tent looked very complicated to me. It wasn’t your bog-standard quiche Lorraine but savoury parcels, choux éclairs and a Breton treat no one had heard of called Kouign-amann - or, as Nancy put it, Coogan-a-man.

It also meant that Paul Hollywood was In Charge after Mary’s cake turn last week, prowling round the workbenches like a tanned silverback, putting the wind up the bakers with ominous remarks.

There could be an overload of flavours there, he warned Kate of her samosas. That’s a lot of pastry in those empanadas, he told Luis. He said Chetna’s Indian kachauris were going to ‘fascinating’. You sensed it wasn’t necessarily a compliment.

There is no doubt he enjoys this mischief and by the time of the technical challenge, trumpeted as the first time ‘not one of bakers in the tent has even heard of this challenge’, he was visibly gleeful. The CORRECT way to make this buttery crispy flaky beast, he revealed, was to add sugar only to the final layer of pastry and to let the dough prove enough before baking. What is his reason for ruffling feathers, you ask (humour me on this: joke to follow). It is obvious the Mahogany Tiger (copyright: Sue Perkins) has been baking so long he just can’t help trying to get a rise out of people. Boom boom!

Of course, Mary automatically defers to her fellow judge when Paul is In Charge, but have you noticed how she reserves her most headline-stealing bomber jackets for these occasions? This week’s – red and pink with a delicious flying-bird design - was a masterclass in funky-granny fashion and if it’s not in the Daily Mail this week, I promise you I’ll attempt to bake AND pronounce correctly a dozen Kouign-amann.

In other news, Nancy’s deadpan comments went to another level. Here are a selection from week seven:

‘Four to five ingredients and three and a half hours to work with them. So what’s that all about?’ she asked of the somewhat languid French technical round.

‘They should be even sized. I’ve not got even sized,’ she said of her Coogan-a-mans.

‘I think they’re fairly uniform apart from that one,’ she said of her choux.

‘I like to think I am traditional with a contemporary twist. That’s all right in’t it?’ she remarked, conveniently forgetting the 70s cocktail umbrella and flamingo flourish she added to her European leven cake with a Caribbean twist last week. Although where she’s from in Barton-upon-Humber, maybe they’re all the rage.

Putting it bluntly, Nancy is why we won the war.

Whether she will win the Bake Off battle might just have something to do with Richard, who has rallied after escaping elimination last week. I can’t decide if I was more impressed by his lamb and mint pasties with sweet potato or his homemade chicken steps.

Now I’ve been in Pets At Home so I’m familiar with the array of adventure scratching-posts for intrepid pets, and Atlantis-themed fish tanks, but I’ve never heard of chicken steps.

The perma-pencilled builder brought in the wooden contraption on which to display his showstopper eclairs (as you do). But it was really for his dad, who keeps chickens. A quick Google search revealed that they help the birds hop in and out of a raised coop.

There was more synergy between the worlds of building and baking when he remarked that his dad always used to tell him: ‘Not too thick and not too wet.’

He was probably referring to plaster or concrete, but it suits me to think that like his son, he is a dab hand at choux and that very soon they’ll co-present a programme on the double joy of building and baking, touring the country meeting likeminded pencil-wearing people. Dreamy.

It was sad to see Kate leave the competition because, although her time was probably up, she knew it, making it difficult to watch as she unwisely remade pastry and failed to notice her fryer had turned itself off.

Alison Hepworth is the Waitrose Weekend news editor

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesdays, 8pm
An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Fridays, 9pm

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Episode 6: European cake week passes in a panic of yeast, sugarcraft and the odd ill-advised pink flamingo, as the contestants tackle their toughest test yet. Waitrose Weekend’s Paul Kirkley sorts the guglhupfs from the kugelhopfs.

Having made it past the midway point, the remaining Bake Off half-dozen faced a challenge of continental proportions in the form of (UKIP voters look away now) European cake week.

For the signature challenge, the contestants were tasked with producing a classic Euro creation leavened by yeast - none of your fancy modern British baking powder here, thank you very much.

While Luis opted for an apple and cinnamon kugelhopf and Richard an even more spellcheck-bothering guglhupf (they’re real words – I gugled… I mean Googled them), Kate chanced her arm with an Israeli babka, based on the watertight premise that “Israel is in the Eurovision Song Contest”. Sadly, the resulting pecan, chocolate and sour cherry yeast number was rewarded with the equivalent of nil points from Paul.

Nancy went even further out on a limb, proving she’s better at home economics than geography by knocking up a rum punch savarin all the way from the Caribbean. Perhaps she’s a Eurosceptic. After a wobbly start, the doughty dog-trainer managed to rally – then promptly sabotaged her efforts by covering the finished result in a riot of cocktail umbrellas and a pink flamingo that threatened to turn the Bake Off tent into a tiki bar. And I think we all know how Mary would feel about that.

The technical challenge was a real doozy, her Maryness instructing the bakers to whip up a traditional Swedish princess torta - a feat that involved no fewer than 26 ingredients and an eye-watering 14 separate stages. Chetna and Nancy were both forced to abandon their first efforts – Chetna’s, in particular, was so flat she could have served it up at Pizza Express, while Nancy got in such a flap she claimed she “didn’t know if I was Arthur or Martha”.
Meanwhile, Arthur – sorry, Martha – was having quite a good week, despite juggling Bake Off duties with revising for her AS levels a few days later. (If she failed to remember how to calculate the circumference of a circle, I suppose she could always try to wow them with a recipe for a Victoria sponge instead.)

In the end, Nancy recovered her wits enough to triumph, dazzling the judges with a perfect dome of green marzipan that wouldn’t have shamed Sir Christopher Wren himself. Poor Kate’s effort, though, was less dome, more deflated bouncy castle.

The week 6 showstopper was a Hungarian dobos torte that was to prove a stiff test of the bakers’ sugarcraft skills. Luis’ The Cage on Rocky Hill involved recreating a favourite monument near his Manchester home as a towering palace of sugar and caramel. It was so insanely ambitious, Sue wondered if he might not need to seek planning permission – but he pulled it off in style. “Now that,” gasped Mary admiringly, “is what I call a showstopper.” (Then she tasted it and said it was too sweet – but you can’t win ’em all, right?)

Having sailed perilously close to disaster at times, Chetna’s steely nerve saw her justly rewarded with the week’s star baker crown. At the soggy end of the leaderboard, though, there was a lucky escape for Kate and Richard after Paul and Mary sensationally (it says here) failed to agree on which one to send packing, so decided to let them both stay. Which is surely the first time in history either of those two haven’t known what to do with a wooden spoon.

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesdays, 8pm
An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Fridays, 9pm

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Episode 5: Everyone tries to pretend last week never happened – but there are still tears (and, indeed, tiers) before bedtime, writes Waitrose Weekend’s Paul Kirkley. Warning: this review contains haggis.

It's fair to say anyone tuning in to see the dramatic fall-out from Baked Alaskagate was going to feel a bit short-changed: a hand-waving mention of Diana's sudden exit aside, the whole thing was swept under the carpet like a spilled packet of hundreds and thousands. (They don't use a lot of hundreds and thousands on Bake Off, do they? Pity.)

Instead, it was straight into pies and tarts week, and the signature challenge of a family-sized custard tart. At this point, Martha admitted she doesn't really like making pastry, which surely has to be a drawback for a potential Bake Off champ - like a Strictly Come Dancing contestant with a sequin allergy.

According to Mary, it's important to put a lovely shine on a custard tart (note to marketing: possible co-branding opp for Mr Kipling and Mr Sheen?). This helped Luis' tropical Manchester tart - a fruity little number from the Fred Elliott of baking – to win the day, while Martha's lack of confidence in the pastry area led to disaster. "It's hard when you spend two-and-a-half hours making something, for them to hate it," she sniffed, tearfully.

There was redemption on the way in the technical challenge, though. For this, Paul had instructed the contestants to make mini-pear pies - a tricksy little number that required wrapping the fruit in a winding spiral of rough puff pastry straight out of the MC Escher school of cookery.

Richard was soon in trouble: his pears shrugged off their pastry with the shamelessness of a Rihanna selfie - the phrase I'm manfully trying to resist here is 'pear-shaped' - but Martha made a storming comeback to claim first place. And this despite claiming that "mummifying a pear" was "one of the strangest things I've ever done". (Only one of the strangest? She's obviously packed a lot into those 17 years. Perhaps she once embalmed an avocado.)

And Mel made a 'nice pear' joke. Obviously.
For the showstopper, the contestants were tasked with making a pie with a minimum of three tiers. Most plumped for a mix of savoury and sweet - like the world's poshest Cornish pasty - but Luis tried to trump them by representing the four seasons through the medium of fruit. Eat that, Vivaldi. Chetna, meanwhile, decided to make a different kind of pastry for EVERY tier. That's just showing off.

Most bakers stuck to the hot water crust option, which Richard reckoned was strong enough to make a house out of. (If you ever hire Richard to build you an extension, I’d recommend supplying your own materials.)

Norman put patriotism over common sense by filling one of his pies with haggis - talk about braveheart. The judges declared his Pieful Tower "a bit weepy", and he probably lost further marks for appalling punning. Martha's three little pigs pie, meanwhile, had a "bit of a plumbing problem". "It's leaking fat," she said - adding, perhaps unnecessarily, "which is gross."

Other highlights of the round included Luis whipping out a spirit level (ask HIM to build you an extension) and Richard finally finding a use for that pencil behind his ear (Nancy borrowed it).

In the end, it was Kate who triumphed as the week's star baker, having wowed Mary and Paul with her rhubarb and custard tart and her rhubarb, prune and pork pie (it's rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb all the way with Kate).

And it was farewell to Norman, whose tarte au citron had been declared "a mess" and who, on top of the haggis, had tried to impress the judges with a lavender - yes lavender - meringue that Mel predicted no-one would ever, ever forget. I don't think she meant it as a compliment.

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesdays, 8pm
An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Fridays, 9pm

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Episode 4: But we thought everyone who makes cake is nice, writes Waitrose Weekend news editor Alison Hepworth as Bake Off is rocked by the mystery of who removed Iain’s ice cream from the freezer

The heat was on in a sweltering tent during desserts week as tempers flared, sauce erupted and Iain flipped his lid. The bearded one, with his lovely languid delivery and laidback attitude, rocked The Great British Bake Off when he binned his ruined baked Alaska and walked out.

Discovering that someone had taken his ice cream from the freezer and left it on the side on the hottest day of the year was too much for him, and I can’t say I blame him.

‘I let the situation get the better of me,’ he later told the judges, noble, contrite and absolutely full of regret as the entire nation surely pointed at the TV shouting: ‘You’d have been OK if you’d let them judge the sponge and the meringue! Norman would have gone!’

Of course, he’d already worked this out and had returned to explain himself (following a chat with the producer, I’d bet. Oh, how I wish they’d filmed that conversation.)

More pressing though was who was responsible and why they (Diana and Nancy) weren’t asked about it in their baked Alaska victory interviews. Iain may well have gate-crashed their freezer space but why had they not moved his ice cream to the luxury chest freezer Luis was sole user of or at least let Iain know?

We may never find out, but what remains is a Britain shaken by Baked Alaskagate, questioning its core beliefs that All People Who Make Cake Are Nice and Bake Off Contestants Do Not Stoop To Big Brother-Style Skulduggery.

So there was nothing just about desserts week, a disappointment compounded by the fact that the phrase I’m trying to riff on is spelt with only one s, so I can’t properly land that joke. Will things ever be the same?

Elsewhere in the tent (although it hardly seems worth mentioning) Kate snatched victory from the jaws of defeat again, panicking about bubbling sauce in puds that turned out to be lovely and viewers (me) struggled to comprehend how sauce that starts on top when it

goes in the oven then comes out on the bottom of a nicely cooked sponge. Pure alchemy.

As it turns out on the day it wasn’t the chemists who triumphed but methodologist Richard, with his handy pencil and pragmatic approach. Have I mentioned I like Richard?

Alison Hepworth is the Waitrose Weekend news editor

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesdays, 8pm
An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Fridays, 9pm

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Episode 3: Clever and creative bakers had to prove themselves with great bakes - and cope with a very self-assured Paul Hollywood in bread week, says Waitrose Weekend news editor Alison Hepworth 

All rise! It was bread week and time for uber baker Paul Hollywood to take centre stage. He imparted his opinion and flaunted his knowledge with the strutting confidence of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, had his character been an expert baker in a pop-up kitchen tent in the Home Counties.

He picked fault as he spotted an unattractive line where glaze ended, unforgiveable gaps between filling and dough and Ciabatta so flat they were – horror of horrors – pitta. He rationed his compliments and tortured with hints that mistakes were about to be made.

An egg wash? ‘That’s very daring,’ he said. ‘I won’t tell you why but good luck.’ Martha was so alarmed, she told Nancy he had said: ‘I’m not going to tell you why but that’s a bad idea.’ *

And then he queried Nancy’s cooking times. ‘I’ve got to keep in the zone otherwise he’ll shake me off balance,’ she told Mary, panicking.

So what is the secret of working with rye flour?

‘You really have to work that protein to build the gluten up to create the sacks that the air will sit inside,’ said Paul.
‘The real danger is when they glaze it and gets too dark before the middle is done,’ said Mary.

Whaaaaa? Whaaaaa? Having only made one loaf from scratch in my life, the technical aspects of bread week were beyond me, which added to my admiration for the 10 remaining hopefuls.

Imagine being able to make 12 rye rolls all the same size, I thought. Imagine knowing Ciabatta dough requires careful handling. Imagine knowing what the window-pane test is at the age of 17. Imagine having the wisdom and wit to put a fry-up inside a loaf of bread (saves making a sandwich). Imagine having enough patience to tweeze gold leaf on to some olives. Imagine Richard making a pesto pinwheel more than 20 times for his family. Imagine Richard was my husband and baked me a pesto pinwheel every weekend. Yes, imagine that.

Back in the real world, it was interesting to see how the step-change from two weeks of cake shuffled the fortunes of the amateur bakers. Calamity Kate (now Clever Kate) redeemed herself and narrowly missed being star baker after two weeks of incidents, No Nonsense Nancy slipped back after a too-dense Ciabatta and a slightly soggy Stromboli while Latin Luis took the crown with his regal Spanish showstopper.

Impressively Fuzz Faced Iain saved himself with a Moroccan plait-and-dip showstopper, but yet again Nothing Too Fancy Norman was in the doldrums. I am full of admiration for his stoicism and traditional and simple approach but he’s not winning any points for it. ‘For me this is very exotic,’ he said this week of some pesto.

It was sad to see Jordan go after he had once again hogged airtime with his wired witticisms and clever cultural references. But, alas, his sloppy brioche showstopper put paid to his progress. Dough!

Alison Hepworth is the Waitrose Weekend news editor

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesdays, 8pm

An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Fridays, 9pm

* The reason an egg wash spells danger, if you missed it, is the glaze falsely accuses a roll of being ready and often leads to them being removed from the oven too early. #learningthehollywoodway

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Episode 2 : Is this the first time Bake Off banter has involved a Hamlet quote? Alas, we have Jordan to thank for that, writes Alison Hepworth

This week’s Great British Bake Off was - for me - all about the tent’s nerdy baker Jordan. We were shown footage last week of him scooting into work on a teenager’s saddle-so-low-it’s-pointless BMX. He’s 32. And minutes in to episode two, biscuit week, we found out his potent sourdough starter yeast is called Yorick, after the skull in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Presenter Mel Giedroyc clarified, ‘as in, alas poor Yorick I knew him…’ ‘Horatio!’ Jordan quickly boomed, enthusiastically completing her sentence.

Surely this must be the first time the Bard’s tragedy has been used as banter in the GBBO tent. Although someone is missing a trick if they haven’t said, as they wave farewell to Paul Hollywood after a particularly bad pastry challenge: ‘Now cracks a noble tart. Good-night, sweet prince.’ Anyway, I digress too much methinks.

Back to Jordan and his savoury sourdough, Parmesan and chilli biscuits. Of course they were inspired by his love of Mexican food and his obsession with chilli varieties. Later we learnt his monster attack showstopper was of course inspired by his love of Japanese comics.

The producers must be thanking the god of baking – Shortcrustides? - for the unfettered Jordan,  following the departure last week of Claire, who surely should be given her own show judging by her appearance on An Extra Slice on Friday.

When Paul and Mary Berry thought his biscuits were burnt, his response to camera was: ‘I disagree!’ When faced with over-baked bourbons, he panicked, breathing heavy and fingers scrabbling, before shouting: ‘Welded!’ And when he’s being filmed doing something tricky, he slips into talking about himself in the third person, and addressing the thing he is making in the second.

After a dicey first week, he was saved on Wednesday by his showstopper, that laugh-out-loud monster attack bake. A bit of a mess but a very good flavour, said Hollywood, clearly misunderstanding the trademark look of Jordan’s favourite sub genre. But knowing he was lucky to stay, this time Jordan wisely remained silent.

Elsewhere in the tent, the tricky Florentine technical challenge caused angst, as the bakers sunk to the floor in front of their ovens, then bobbed up between workbenches like meerkats to see what the others were doing.

I’d have put money on Diana doing well in this with her WI pedigree and 60 years of experience, but hers were a little small and chewy, said the judges, and she was placed mid-table. It was heartbreaking to see her start worrying about her traditional approach and absence of what she called ‘different flavours’.

‘I think this last fortnight has proved that I am a bit old-fashioned,’ she said. Really? We’ve all seen your cool trainers, Diana, and there are about a million hipsters in Shoreditch desperate to make what they call retro bakes even half as well.

At the inevitable crunch time, Richard was star baker and it was bye bye to dad-of-four Enwezor. He’d trimmed his Florentines, brought in shop-bought fondant and his gingerbread was too soft. He’d made just one mistake too many. I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Or bends.

Alison Hepworth is the Waitrose Weekend news editor

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesdays, 8pm

An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Fridays, 9pm

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Episode 1: Builder Richard was the swiss roll challenge’s swirling dervish… he’ll heat up the Mumsnet discussion boards

Twelve minutes. That’s the amount of time it took for the cracks to show on the new series of The Great British Bake Off (BBC1, Wednesday). Not in the demeanours of 12 new contestants, who were suitably frisky, raring to go, intent and in tent, which has this year moved to the royal county of Berkshire, but in the very first challenge of a swiss roll for which the sponge should be baked just enough to remain moist so it rolls without cracking.

Engineer Iain took a knife to his. Scoring it, he said, would ease the roll. Queen Mary Berry looked on eagerly, having stated that although she’d been baking for ‘a really long time’ she was ‘still learning and do you know I learn from our bakers?’

Sadly not on this occasion as Iain’s roll folded where he had scored, transforming his sponge into a mini flatpack futon. As an engineer, he should know better.

‘Your theory of putting all those cuts across… I don’t it think helps one little bit,’ said Queen Mary, who is always right. Iain admitted he might have to raise his game.

lain

What they were looking for in this very first test of series five was a lovely spiral, a tight swirl, a very tight roll, a proportional spiral and a lovely Catherine wheel. It was difficult to miss the point and yet Enwezor replied: ‘Yes, you should see some layers.’ Layers? Who said anything about layers? Queen Mary looked aghast.

Martha

It was builder Richard who was swirling dervish of the day, setting the bar high with his clever coiling, strawberry and pistachio flavours, builder’s issue pencil behind his ear and adorable pink floral inspired by his daughters. Now there’s a man who’ll heat up the Mumsnet discussion boards.

But at the age of 17, Martha was marvellous, scoring highly in all three challenges. She’s the youngest contestant yet and as well as studying for her A levels, she works at in her local Waitrose!

Other contestants of note were Nancy, who was as dry as Kate’s bakes and the well-deserved star baker. And then there was Norman – lovely Norman! – who arrived with a swiss-roll themed pottery skateboard serving dish and some rods to dislodge mini bakes from a tray, not to mention entertaining stories of days gone by.

Queen Mary said his bake was ‘bold and fat and big’. ‘It’s for men,’ he replied, adding some context to his opening statement: ‘I’ve been aware of Mary Berry for quite some time so I’m quite looking forward to her having taste my wares, if you like.’ We watch with interest!

After all three challenges it was Claire’s bakes that had gone from bad to worse. It took just 20 minutes from her beaming face to emit those first desperate tears of the series and say the words we will hear again and again over 10 bake-filled episodes: ‘I don’t know why I am crying over cake.’

It’s OK Claire, we know why. It just wasn’t your day.

Claire
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Alison Hepworth is the Waitrose Weekend news editor

The Great British Bake Off, BBC One, Wednesdays, 8pm
An Extra Slice, BBC Two, Fridays, 9pm

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