The Great British Baking Show
We are now more than halfway through season 10 of The Great British Baking Show, and I have to say that things have finally gotten … exciting! But what about Rosie dropping her tart or Michael’s mini breakdowns? Those were just the hor’d’oeurves, henny. Now we’re getting to the whole meal, the meat of the competition.
This is all a direct consequence of last week’s episode, when Paul and Prue finally kicked off two contestants — Helena and Michelle — narrowing the field of bakers to seven. That seems like a lot of people, but it’s really not: Three of these seven people, or about 43 percent, will make it to the finale. A few of the bakers seems like shoe-ins, including Steph, David, and Michael, but there’s also some dark horses: Disney princess Alice, sophisticated toddler Henry, and maybe even Rosie, our stoic kween? Now’s the time to start that betting pool.
After two weeks featuring brand-new themes, the GBBS producers decided to give us a break and return to a well-worn topic: Desserts Week. You may ask yourself: Isn’t every week Desserts Week, and the answer is yes. But you just gotta roll with it. The judges kick off the week with a meringue cake Signature Challenge, in which the bakers are asked to create a tri-layer dessert made with lighter-than-air blocks of meringue and sandwiched together with a filling of their choosing. Prue points out that because the challenge is so simple, the bakers may be tempted to go overboard in an effort to impress the judges who always insist on being impressed.
Alice and Steph decide to play it safe by creating meringue versions of well-known desserts, a Black Forest cake and an Eton Mess, respectively. Steph’s features raspberries, white chocolate cream cheese, and caramelized pistachio spikes as well as pistachios in the cake, while Alice combines sweet cherries with chocolate meringue and mousse.
The rest of the bakers choose more abstract flavor combinations. David’s Spiced Meringue features three separately spiced meringues — cinnamon, clove, and star anise — which Paul suspects might be too much, as do our collective nose hairs. David insists that they’ll work with the blackberries and figs he’s using in between.
Rosie, meanwhile, goes for a raspberry-lime meringue with … chocolate, a combination that doesn’t exactly sound delicious, but, hey, she’s trying. Michael joins the chocolate brigade with a classic combination: dark chocolate and orange plus orange liqueur, which sends a collective, orgasmic shiver through the mothers of Great Britain. Priya also decides to add a liquor to her meringue, opting for amaretto with almond dacquoise and blueberry creme au beurre. (“Blue food is weird,” she says later.) While she discusses all this with the judges, Paul mentions for the second time in as many weeks that though Priya’s flavors are spot-on, she needs to work on her time management skills. Through a strained smile, Priya assures him that she will. Henry — who we should note is wearing Helena’s spider web sheriff badge [sob emoji] — decides to add one more layer than the required three to his Towering Meringue with pistachio meringue, chocolate creme patissiere, raspberry jam, and chocolate work. In the background of all this, Michael prattles on and on about nuts to absolutely no reaction from the other bakers.
With such a simple premise, none of the bakers suffer any serious mishaps, though Rosie ends up having to make her ganache again after getting a grainy result the first time around. Priya finishes on time!
Judging begins and David is up first, and as it turns out all that spice DOESN’T work. The David who won mega praise last week for a simple vanilla custard screams from inside. On to Priya, who learns that blue food really isn’t appealing. Prue says the ashy purple tinge of her bake looks “horrible” and not at all appetizing. Her meringue is also overbaked and heavy on the amaretto. Rosie’s “wonky” meringue tastes great, but the judges find the layer of chocolate ganache on top to be too thick and out of place. Alice has the opposite problem: Her meringue with an edible handle is lovely, but the judges have a hard time picking up the cherry flavor in her gateau dupe even though it’s the exact shade of Dead Joffrey’s face.
Michael, meanwhile, makes the unusual choice of hiding his meringue under a chocolate shell, which has the effect of making his meringue sweat and soften. But his simple flavors, which actually come through in all their orange-chocolate glory, impress Prue and moms everywhere. Steph immediately shows up Michael with her frosted Eton Mess meringue, and Paul and Prue find themselves searching for any way to criticize it. “Too many nuts,” Prue says, which is patently impossible. Henry also passes with flying colors, though his four meringues look pretty janky, but tastes great. So great, in fact, that Paul accuses Henry. This late in the season, Paul?! Absolutely not.
For the third week in a row, Prue sets the Technical Challenge, raising the question: Does Paul even contribute anything to show anymore other than Hollywood Handshakes and Icy Blue Stares™? Prue wants the bakers to make six verrines, or glasses, filled with mango compote, coconut panna cotta, raspberry jelly, coconut and lime streusel, and topped with a sablé biscuit. Alice, the poster child for study abroad programs everywhere, says that sablé is French for sand.
Behind-the-scenes, Prue says she’s looking for straight, even layers, precise measurements, and that the bakers must chill each layer before adding the next. Henry immediately ignores the advice about measurements while Steph and Rosie admit that they’ve never made a panna cotta before. Did you know “panna cotta” means “cooked cream?” Two can play at that game, Alice! Speaking of panna cotta, Priya fails to cool hers for long enough, so her raspberry jam drops right through the panna cotta, a bad look. As the bakers bring their verrines to the judging table they walk like a slow-moving pod of whales to keep their sablés from toppling into their glasses.
For the first time in two weeks, all the Technical bakes immediately pass the eye test, with none of them looking too tragic. Priya, Rosie, and Michael get dinged for the fruit parts of their verrines not being totally set. Steph’s sable is overbaked, though everything beneath it is perfect, and Henry’s sable is too thick and his layers are wavy. (This. Is. Why. We. Measure.) David and Alice both get perfect marks.
Priya, Michael, and Rosie come in 7th, 6th, and 5th place, which are no longer respectable standings now that we’re down to just seven bakers. Steph takes 3rd, David takes 2nd, and Alice, queen of Biscuits Week, takes 1st place. David, meanwhile, dies a little inside: This is the FOURTH time he’s gotten second place in the Technical and he’s still never been crowned Star Baker. Always the bridesmaid …
Day two arrives and it’s Michael’s birthday. Sandi asks Michael how old he is now. “26!” he says to which Sandi says, “Fantastic age,” in a tone that is in no way convincing. It’s all downhill from here, Michael.
The judges have asked the bakers to make celebratory bombes, the best example of which is a Baked Alaska. But none of the bakers would be stupid enough to include frozen elements, right? Wrong. David has decided to add a lemon and shiso leaf sorbet to his bombe because he is thirsty for Star Baker-ship. At Michael’s station, the Black Forest gateau theme comes roaring back in the form of a bombe with cherry jelly, chocolate and almond mousse, and cherry cheesecake. After her somewhat successful Black Gateau meringue cake, Alice decides to make a tiramisu bombe with loads of espresso and spiced rum.
Priya and Rosie, who are in a race to the bottom, both go for tropical flavors: Priya with a Summer Fruit Bombe with chocolate mousse and Rosie with Ruby Bombe featuring honey cake, mango, lemon, hibiscus, and salted white chocolate. It’s … a lot. Steph and Henry both go for much warmer flavors in the form of a cinnamon, apple, and honey bombe for Henry and a mirror-glazed bombe with coffee bavarois and light and airy jaconde sponge soaked with amaretto for Steph. Somewhere, Priya’s husband smiles.
Then the real fun begins: As with any challenge involving molds — bombes are built in bowls, frozen, and then turned out — a lot can go very wrong, very fast. And while nothing goes wrong for anyone, tell me your heart didn’t start racing when some of the bakers, and especially Alice, couldn’t get their bombes out. Don’t lie, it’s exciting! This is the baking drama we crave!
Even better, the lack of disasters means all the judging will actually come down to presentation and flavor, with no excuses for a missing chunk of cake or whatever. Steph goes first and despite her telling the judges that the mirror glaze wouldn’t work out, it totally works out and the judges have nothing but good things to say, which totally overwhelms Steph. Listen to some Lizzo, Steph. Get yo’self some confidence! Next Rosie presents her stunningly red Ruby Bombe, and despite it looking good the judges find it lacking, calling it “clumsy.” Next, David impresses Prue with his lemony sorbet, but neither judge can really taste the grassy shiso leaf and David’s jello is rubbery. For the second time this season, Paul employs his “so rubbery that if I dropped it, it would bounce back and hit me in the face” dad joke. The man really is phoning it in these days.
Michael manages to pull off his Black Forest Gateau bombe, but he gets dinged for a runny cheesecake and the bombe’s “gaudy” decoration. When Alice presents her tiramisu bombe, the judges are immediately taken with its appearance, which includes a dusting of cocoa. In all, Paul and Prue use the word “beautiful” four times. Like Steph, Alice is in disbelief that she did a good job and walks back to her station in a catatonic state.
Priya and Henry are the last two to receive their judgements, and while Priya gets some praise for her summer fruit bombe’s decoration and the beautifully baked sponge, the judges complain that the chocolate mousse is too sweet and the raspberry mousse isn’t sweet enough. Sure. But it’s Henry who receives the most damning criticism of the evening. Not only is his bombe bland with the apple and honey masked by cinnamon, but his cake is … stodgy. Henry hangs his head like a no-longer-sophisticated toddler.
After making a show of deliberating, Noel and Sandi announce that Steph is Star Baker for the third week in a row. Alice came so close! Then they announce who’s leaving: Priya. Unlike last week’s double elimination, no one seems surprised by Priya’s departure. She was always baking on borrowed time and the judges seemed to have decided that Priya was on her way out from the start of the episode.
In her post-elimination interview, Priya finally delivers a little substance (and style), saying that she left her job the year before and felt a bit lost. So she decided to do what she liked to do and bake, which brought her to GBBS. The lesson: “If you just start with the things that you really enjoy, you can’t go wrong.” No need for a quippy conclusion. That is some solid, wonderful advice.