Last week our new eager bakers took on cakes. There were soggy bottoms, salty disasters, tears and many a bleeding finger before Toby was shown the door.
This week, bread was on the menu. And Paul Hollywood marked his territory like a silver-furred Rottweiler from the off. The phrase “Welcome to yeast” had never sounded more threatening.
While poor Mary suffered from a sore throat, Paul was given all the more airtime… “As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the hardest things to master,” he declared gleefully, before adding “I’ll be on them like a rash”. Okay, Paul. Enough with the fighting talk.
Meanwhile Mel and Sue, our welcome light relief from Hollywood’s impenetrable stare, were coming up with bread puns. Mel’s Bohemian Bapsody was the winner - obviously.
36 breadsticks were our first challenge. If the bakers, or any viewers at home were confused, Sue suggested they take inspiration from one of Paul’s spiky “hair shards”, which apparently snap under pressure. We’ll trust her on that one.
Soon the timers were ticking and satellite scientist (and last week’s star baker) Rob opted for grissini studded with caraway seeds and kalamata olives, declaring to the delight of pun-spotters the country over: “I’ve got a thin stick”.
Frances decided to make giant matchsticks: ginger breadsticks dipped in chocolate which would sit in a giant hand-crafted matchbox. Snappy-ness of breadstick aside, that gal certainly deserves points for creativity.
Howard went all Morrocan and Ali admitted that “bread isn’t my forte” to a glare from Paul while Mel realised that Beca and Mary were sporting the very same stripey t-shirt, which was obviously very confusing for everyone in the tent.
There was no time to correct their sartorial faux pas though as kneading commenced. There was stiff dough and slapping techniques all over the place. We didn’t know where to look.
Mark waved his lengthy dough around in a threatening manner, before stating calmly: “I have hit people in the face with dough”.
There were drops of sweat on noses as Mel told the bakers that they only had an hour left. Would they have “unacceptably thick” sticks? Or lengths that bent under the pressure of Paul’s probing hands? Only time would tell…
When it came to the taste test Ali’s breadsticks got a thumbs up while Glen’s were deemed irregular but tasty. Sadly Paul wasn’t convinced by Frances’ breadsticks, but he was impressed by her box which seemed only fair. Kimberley’s were called “perfect” while last week’s blubber Ruby got a full set of compliments with not only a “great snap” but a “perfect bake”, too.
Lucy’s simple creations were “boring” according to king of bread Paul - “that’s the way the breadstick snaps” she said. And Howard was called “very powerful” with his flavours, but he did have a soggy stick. (That’s the new soggy bottom, by the way…)
Next up, English muffins - and the judges were sent on their way so the bakers could descend into chaos on their tod. “You know, I love the feel as I touch that” said Mary as she caressed Paul’s muffin from the adjacent gazebo.
For most of the bakers, muffins, their enriched dough and desired crumb structure were “a journey into the unknown”. Ali struggled to knead his - “I need to go to the gym more” - Mark said his only previous experience was at a certain high-street fast food joint. And then came the ultimate question: what size of cutter should they choose?
Size decided on, Howard tested the heat of his hotplate with his face (Don’t try this at home, chaps) before disaster stuck. “Oh no. Has that been leaned on?” Howard cried, gazing at his horribly disfigured uncooked muffin.
Then Sue clasped her face in her hands. “Howard I need to break something to you… I think that’s my elbow. I think that’s my elbow on your muffin. I think I’ve elbowed your muffin.”
Sue's elbow imprint earned Howard 10th place, just beating Lucy and Beca's uncooked creations. Our top three in the technical bake were Ruby in third, Frances in second and Kimberley in first.
Finally, it was decorative loaf time. It has to be memorable, said Mel and Sue. It’s all about personality. They knead proof that the competitors are worthy of their place in the tent. (All puns intended.)
Ruby certainly went memorable, shaping a white chocolate and orange bread into a peacock while Rob got his toolkit out (tape measure, infra red thermometer, hairdryer and all) to fashion a bready tribute to Paul the Psychic Octopus and Ali made a ying and yang bread that came to him in a dream. One side was paneer and chicken tikka, the other white chocolate and apricot. Once baked they were quite hard to tell apart, but that was nothing a quick sniff couldn’t solve.
Elsewhere there were Iranian rose petals, roasted garlic and bread inspired by Pablo Picasso himself. But while her fellow competitors worried about feathers, plaits and missing eyes, Lucy was determined to keep it simple with a tomato and garlic loaf… in the shape of a tomato, which the observant among us recognised as round. The shape many loaves come in as standard.
Out of the oven, Mark’s eight-strand plait sunk and Beca’s bread stuck to the tray while nearby Kimberley serenely scattered petals on her peace bread.
Peace bread which Paul called “delicious.” It was also declared that Glenn had a good moist dough while Deborah and Beca’s were undercooked. Christine had “a nice loaf” while Howard’s smiling sun was brutally butchered before being called “lovely”. Frances’ sailor's knot impressed while Mark's loaf was dubbed "bland" and Rob’s Octopus was deemed “lost a bit in translation"
But at the end of the battle with bread, it was Ruby’s "beautiful" plumage that won her star baker while Lucy and her “tomato shaped” loaf were sent packing.
Next week we’ve got trifles, wizard's hats, petit four. You won't want to miss it.