“It will all rest on the showstopper,” said Mary Berry as she and Paul Hollywood picked over the pies baked so far. They always say that, but never was it truer. This week’s showstopper saw Ryan move from dead man walking to star baker, er, still baking.
Often the signature bake takes up half the episode, but we barely lingered on the contestants’ Wellingtons. The headlines: Manisha’s pastry was poor, which is problematic generally and here especially; and Sarah-Jane’s refusal to chill her filling to avoid seepage was a sign that she may be doomed.
Blithely ignoring Paul and Mary’s advice – short of slapping Sarah-Jane and tossing her meat in the fridge herself, Mary couldn’t have hinted much more strongly – is an augur of elimination in the Bake Off. Not this week, and maybe not next week, but Sarah-Jane’s beef and gorgonzola prolapse confirmed she’s not a front-runner.
The technical round didn’t affect the result massively because nobody could do it, although this did make for uproarious entertainment as all and sundry failed to get their hot-water-crust pastry to stick to a wooden dolly to form a round, hand-raised meat pie.
Ryan came last by accidentally making a pasty, which meant pressure piled on him in the last task – but even Danny lost her normal, clinical command of her creation as, like everyone else, she watched helplessly as her jelly leaked all over the worktop. Could the stung look on her face as criticism came her way be a glimpse of a fatal weakness?
On to that showstopper, then: three and a half hours to come up with an American pie, the primary quality of which would seem to be emetic sweetness.
James had been on YouTube and seen some hicks cheffing up sweet potato pie, super-old-school. This appealed to the son of the wild Scottish soil, so he served an austere, dark-brown. folky thing: a pie that looked like it should have a beard, a satchel and a self-titled debut album of acoustic songs about wood-cutting.
“Definitely out this week, people,” said Manisha, an arc of crust having left her pie and hit the work surface.
As Manisha tried to jam it back in, Mel Giedroyc loomed. Not following Mel’s advice is very much the key to GBBO success, but when she suggested filling the gaps with bright white meringue, Manisha astonishingly went along with it. The finished product might as well have come with a sign saying: “My pastry snapped HERE, HERE and HERE.”
Was Manisha right? Was she doomed? It certainly didn’t look like it as Ryan ripped up his pastry, redid it, forgot his heat-spreading ceramic balls, then took short cuts with both his filling and his Italian meringue.
Then, magic happened. Paul tasted Ryan’s confection of lime, ginger, a wing and a prayer. “You’ve… absolutely nailed that.”
Incredibly, Ryan was named star baker based purely on his key lime pie – a Bake Off first that was achieved, as Sue Perkins and her cool new hair announced, because it was one of the show’s best ever dishes.
Ryan had stormed from last to first, suddenly harnessing his potential in thrilling, inspiring – nay, Olympic – fashion. His late run was like Christine Ohuruogu in Beijing or Richard Whitehead in London. But with pie.
The unlucky victim of this epic turnaround was Manisha, whose ruptured pastry turned out to be the least of her problems. As Paul cut into her pie, the filling slithered out and tried to attack him. Manisha had to go.