“Good luck,” said Paul Hollywood to Victoria, after she announced that the pastry of her tarte tatin would contain peppercorns.
That phrase is, of course, Hollywood code for “this plan is about as sensible as adding powdered glass to your crème anglais”. It was the beginning of a dreadful end for Victoria who, in classic Bake Off nice-but-ruthless fashion, went from front-runner to faller in a short fortnight.
As well as prompting Victoria’s demise, the tatin pushed the other bakers into either fretting or cutting loose. James hammered his butter with abandon before inserting it into the raw pastry whole, like the pros.
Danny broke cover from her previous status as someone who suspiciously hardly ever appears on camera – a hint that she might have many more weeks left to make herself known. “Yes, yes, yes!” she said after a successful post-bake flip.
The flip – tartes tatins are baked with the pastry on top, but presented with it on the potentially soggy bottom – was tremendous spectator sport, as Sarah-Jane wrestled with hers like it was a twenty-pound tench, and nearly everyone else got the dangling middle of their oven gloves stuck underneath the presentation plate.
Brendan’s dystopian whole-apple megalopolis lost a few of its outer districts. Meanwhile, Victoria’s tarte was still in the oven. “Has everybody else brought theirs out?!” she said, eyes darting, skin blanched.
The judges slammed Victoria’s weird, underbaked figgy effort and from then on, every time the camera cut to her it found her features stretched into a stress grimace. The technical bake, a treacle tart, offered some respite: the elephant trap here was the execution of a proper interlocking lattice on the top, which Victoria mastered by making it on greaseproof paper and sliding it onto the tart.
Manisha tried this, but having measured her lattice to the millimetre, when it came to apply it she missed the treacle target, latticed the worktop and had to begin again.
Meanwhile James was slapping his on like a gunslinger; Sarah-Jane and Ryan incurred Mary Berry’s polite wrath by not bothering to weave theirs together; and Stuart had to fight to stop himself dropping an f-bomb – in perhaps the place in all of Britain where swearing would be least appropriate. He couldn’t do a lattice of any kind. Then he under-syruped his filling and had to inject the stuff between the (irregular) gaps.
Manisha came last in the tech bake, followed by Brendan – so Victoria wasn’t a certainty to go. But the announcement of the show-stopper challenge, baking a fruit tart worthy of a patisserie window, made her again look like she’d eaten some iffy egg custard.
John – who I think is cruising to victory – and James both won praise. Lovely Cathryn boosted her confidence with a “Parisian” (said Paul) rectangular tart. Brendan did OK and, crucially, Stuart saved himself with a magnificent raspberry doodah.
Victoria, however, had put black pepper in her pastry and filled it with a mix of lime and tropical fruit that Mary said was a total and utter bloody mess. OK, she didn’t phrase it that way. But that was the gist. Victoria’s demurely suppressed nausea now had a “Queen on a state visit presented with raw turtle for lunch” vibe.
Outside, she announced her own elimination in advance. “I’m going home,” she said with clenched dignity. “I think that’s very clear.” It was.