Flatbreads: a humble cuisine cooked around the globe, quickly and from basic ingredients. Except on the Bake Off, where naturally they were conceptualised, stuffed with veg, encrusted with seeds and made using bits of chemistry sets.
“For the past two years,” Brendan said casually, “I’ve been pursuing a project of baking breads of the world. So far I’ve achieved 90 of them.”
Brendan was in techy mood all episode, starting with his hot stones: a baking tray full of pebbles with dough draped over them to cook. They were “river-washed”, Brendan confided, and very effective they were too, although their resemblance to those pebble-effect centrepiece gas fires put me off slightly. It could spell disaster for impressionable viewers who are tempted to smother their appliances with yeast, flour and organic sun-dried shiitakes.
“I’m reasonably happy!” said James as he took his tomato, garlic and parmesan creations – made using his own yeast, which had been sniffed deeply and approvingly by Paul Hollywood – from the oven. James always looks charmingly surprised when something goes right, as if instead of baked goods in there, it could easily have been locusts or a traffic cone.
But James’s flatbreads were undercooked, putting him in the also-rans with Victoria (bland), Stuart (insufficiently distinct chorizo) and Peter, whose fennel and Nigella seed naan left this ignoramus curious as to what Nigella seeds are. We weren’t told specifically, but Peter’s naan was too salty. “Very salty,” said Mary Berry. “I mean really really salty.” Peter was forced to try one. He failed to pretend they weren’t all that salty.
Manisha had been seen jemmying her mother’s recipe off a baking tray with a spatula, but she was the first baker to make Paul chuckle: that little laugh of pleased disbelief he does when one of these idiots somehow makes their crazy scheme work. Cathryn got the biggest one: “Spiced mango?! Yee-heh-ees! Get in there!”
Next, a cracking technical bake. “What does this mean?” cried Sarah-Jane. “AO52U3O8?”
An eight-strand plaited loaf, complete with baffling twist-by-fold instructions, was too much for almost everyone. “Look at the state of my tentacles!” said Cathryn, surveying what looked like an HR Geiger face-hugger. Peter resignedly grabbed two strands at a time and flopped them about willy-nilly.
At first it was hard to see why this would be a problem – after all, once the thing was baked, surely it would just look like knobbly bread and nobody would mind the details? Alas, no. Paul and Mary could spot where 6 had gone under 4 instead of over 2 from twelve paces.
Peter’s bluff was soon exposed. Paul was so dismayed he lost his normally firm grip on the English language: “To say it was a disaster would be a humiliation to disaster!” Right.
Finally in bread week, sweet and savoury bagels were another simple staple that proved complex to make. Peter produced bread rolls by mistake, Brendan’s smugly entwined chocolate and vanilla were neither sweet nor bagels, and there was a brief shot of someone hurriedly fashioning the hole in the middle with the handle of a garden trowel.
John nailed it with his fig, walnut and gruyere, adding praise here to his win in the plait-off to become the week’s star baker. Peter had made a total bread pudding of everything and knew he was going home.
WIN A BAKE OFF BOOK!
Each week, readers of these reviews can WIN a copy of the new book The Great British Bake Off: How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers by Linda Collister, a lovely glossy hardback thing normally priced £20.
To enter, follow us @radiotimes and tweet, using the hashtag #gbbort, your best and funniest answer to this question: How do you make a bagel twist?
Entries by 12 noon on Friday 24 August, please.
Last week’s WINNER: Claire Hill, with the answer: “Johnny Depp, liberally drizzled in lemon curd.”
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