The Great British Bake Off – week four review

A meringue that could hold open a door, and crème caramel plop-a-dopping all over the shop - so long to another baking maverick...

This week: desserts. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was puddings most weeks on GBBO – beef pies, toad in the hole and the humble pasta bake are grossly under-represented – but this meant things specifically fluffier, froofier and sweeter.


First, the torte. Essentially this is a sponge with various refinements to make it unnecessarily hard to bake. Normal wheat flour is banned, forcing bakers to use alternatives such as crushed nuts, and the whole thing is normally in layers, with various gooey nom-creams in between.

Replacing the flour was no concern for a confident Brendan, who has a gift for making banal announcements sound like lines from Round the Horne. “I have a number of friends who are gluten-intolerant,” he twinkled, and we saw footage of him pottering to a neighbour’s house, foisting a cake on them through a patio door, then floating off again.

Stuart got the Hollywood Encouragement of Death. “I hope you can pull it off mate,” said the silver enforcer as Stu explained he was going to cook several thin sponges, rather than a big one for slicing. He was also not going to ice his sides, leaving his layering exposed. Mary Berry looked suitably disgusted.

Ryan was on his own crazy path as usual, struggling to marry up his separately baked layers and flavouring his opera torte with green tea. Because everyone loves a green cake, don’t they?

But Stuart stayed ahead in the race to the bottom, admitting to using “scraps of torte to form the final layer” of a messy slab that resembled a supermarket Black Forest gateau somebody else has already eaten.

Brendan’s clementine and chestnut fancy was described by Paul as a bit “seventies”. Sue Perkins made a flares gag, but Hollywood might have meant the 1770s – Brendan’s confection would have been deemed a little de trop for the court of Louis XVI. Yet he was on his way to winning star baker of the week.

Crème caramel was a particularly funny technical bake because, simple as it looks, almost nobody had a clue how to make it. Did “eggs” mean eggs, or just whites? Should the bain-marie water be hot or cold? (Brendan: “I went for… luke warm.”)

“Plop a dops!” exclaimed Stuart. He’d found a way round his urge to swear when things go wrong – as once again they had, because like Manisha, he’d gone for yolks only. When their ramekins were flipped, there was an ignominious plop-a-dop, when a pert wobble was desired.

As usual, though, Ryan had found his own unique way to nause up a bake, producing scrambled egg with sugar water. So there was all to play for among the stragglers in the showstopper bake.

At six hours, the layered meringue was the longest test in GBBO history, edging out the series one finale, where contestants had to construct a functional rowing machine from brandy snaps and ganache.

Ryan was, according to Sue in a significant bit of narration, “yet again making last minute changes”. But Stuart’s last-minute changes involved blowtorching his enormous meringue pill so that it looked like plane wreckage.

Paul observed that the result could prop open a door, and that was that. As far as talented but wildly unreliable experimental bakers go, sadly there’s now just Ryan – and, on her day, Manisha – left.


Each week, readers of these reviews can WIN a copy of the new Bake Off book, How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers by Linda Collister, normally priced £20.

To enter, follow us @radiotimes and tweet, using the hashtag #gbbort, your best and funniest answer to this question: What do you shout when your crème caramel won’t wobble?

Entries by 12 noon on Friday 7 September, please.

Last week’s WINNER: Maddalena Dalton, with the answer: “A small, well-formed bottom and a soft centre.”


Terms and conditions: promoter is Immediate Media; UK entrants 16yrs + only; winner picked from all @RadioTimes followers who submit an answer before 12 noon BST, 07/09/12.