2017 contestant Steven has been an unstoppable force so far: he was the obvious choice for Star Baker in the first two weeks, and going into the third he announced he was going for the hat-trick: “I hope I haven’t peaked, because I really would like to get Star Baker again. It’s kind of addictive.”
Oh, Steven! You jinxed yourself.
Series eight’s resident overachiever has already made headlines. Based on his picture-perfect creations and Instagram full of fancy bakes, some viewers have cried foul, suggesting he’s surely more of a pro than amateur. At the heart of that mistrust is the British public’s desire to support the underdogs and cut people down when they seem too puffed-up.
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Obviously it would be super boring if Steven spent the whole series at the top of the class, winning Star Baker again and again, while the other contestants simmered with discontent.
Judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood know this. Faced with a choice between Julia Chernogorova and Steven for week three’s Star Baker, they chose to punish the class pet for his dire performance in the Signature Challenge.
To be fair, it was his first misstep. “Not your finest hour, they are pretty bad,” Paul said after trying his Madras Cocktail Tea Cakes. But just when it looked like Steven was out of the running this week, he came a respectable 3rd in the Technical – and then blew everyone away in the Signature Challenge.
For the Showstopper Challenge, Paul and Prue demanded a Coloured Bread Sculpture made with natural flavourings. This was essentially a more complicated version of the old Bread Week challenge which famously led to Cecil the Lion Bread by Paul Jagger, a staggering example of bread-sculpting which led to a very firm Paul Hollywood handshake.
Steven went all-in with a bread handbag. This 3D creation was a chorizo, manchego and cherry bread, with a curried breadstick chain and a chocolate and peppermint handle. He also threw in beetroot and spinach on the bag itself. Steven was back in business.
“Unbelievable”, said bread expert Paul. “I mean wow, wow, wow on the flavours.”
Forget the handshake: Paul was too impressed for that. “Steven, c’mere a second? C’mere,” he said, summoning Steven to the judging table. “Stand next to Prue – I’m going to go and sit down here. That. Is. Ridiculous.”
So Steven has lost his winning streak – but he remains at the front of the pack. In the fight for Bake Off winner, it’ll be (bread) handbags at dawn.
The Great British Bake Off returns on Tuesday at 8pm on Channel 4