Last year the Bake Off had three women in the final. In 2014 it’s all about the men: a new type of strong, gentle, cultured, skilled, fragrant, muscular artisan. The baking, nesting family man. The home-osexual. A role model who’s entirely comfortable with his fiery kitchen flair.
The semi was split into two separate contests. While Richard and Luis tried to out-fancy each other for the last star baker prize before the final, Nancy and Chetna clung on for dear life. Richard and Luis floated through the tasks, their mousses setting, their pastry thin. Nancy and Chetna ran out of time, poked at patisserie with clumsy sausage fingers. One of them put muesli in a baklava.
Talking of which, the signature bake meant making filo, the slimmest and meanest of the pastries. Normally, even Mary Berry slips on some Crocs, puts an overcoat over her pyjamas and buys the packet stuff from Costcutter.
Richard the sensitive north London builder was personally aware of how shocking filo-from-scratch is. “All my friends thought I was mad when I said I was making my own filo! They all use shop-bought.” What a wild night out that was.
Luis overreached, cutting out several stars of filo and staggering them to make a receptacle for his filling. This was controversial, as was the right pronunciation of “baklava”.
“Now these bachh-lavva cups,” said Paul, peering at Luis’ effort. “The question is, is it bachh-lavva?”
Luis defended himself. “I looked up lots of different b’clarvahs,” he said, “and I saw lots like that.”
“It doesn’t look like backle,” said Mary, although possibly her mouth was full of it already. She was out of shot.
Luis, it turned out, had for once not got the knowledge and his baklava was dry, so that was round one to Richard. Chetna didn’t have the layers. A point for Nancy.
Schichttorte! was the challenge in another deathly technical bake. Twenty layers of waffah-thin cake, individually grilled one on top of the other, alternating light and dark. A light one. A dark one. A light one. A dark one. Twenty exactly.
“That’s an hour of watching a grill,” said Paul, whipping the viewers up into a frenzy. “We’re looking for something that screams… consistency.” Yay!
A light one. A dark one. A light one. A dark one. It was less a bake, more a cruel psychological torment. Luis swirled his batter round the pan one-handed like a Parisian crêpier. Chetna crouched by the oven, fretting about the temperature and realising halfway through that her sums didn’t work and she’d never be able to grill, glaze and ice 20 shades of torte.
A light one. A dark one. A light one. A dark one. Paul counted the layers, pointing at them with a sharp knife. Chetna only had 17 and was last. Luis had all 20.
Onto entremets, those layered works of art from the patisserie shop window. Many sponges, mousses and glazes had to be finely mastered all at once. Richard and Luis multitasked elegantly. Nancy and Chetna got frustrated and melted in the heat.
Nancy’s chocolate glaze was too runny and it ran away from her across the worktop. Chetna tried removing her crème cappuccino from its mould but it plop-a-dopped onto the worktop and had to be slammed back into the Iain Watters Memorial Freezer.
While Luis and star baker Richard had made dainty dreams with their big hands, Nancy’s raspberry nonnettes had patchy edges, and her passion-fruit entremets looked like poached eggs with tiny lime ping pong bats on. They tasted good, though, so she’d muddled through.
Mary surveyed Chetna’s teetering cappuccino towers and effectively announced that she’d been found out and would have to go home – by using the adjective you least want to hear when people are scrutinising your entremets.
“They look… bulbous.”
>> Week eight: Nancy becomes dangerously addicted to microwaves