The Hollywood handshake that had become so ubiquitous at the beginning of this series of The Great British Bake Off was but a distant memory in Tuesday night’s semi-final.
After eight fervent weeks in the pressure cooker that is the Bake Off tent, just four bakers remained – Ruby, Briony, Rahul and Kim-Joy – and judge Paul Hollywood decided there would be no more Mr Nice Guy as he warned the semi-finalists that he’d be taking a tough love approach in Patisserie Week.
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It all began when Ruby revealed that she wouldn’t be freezing her raspberries. “Just to pre-warn you,” Hollywood growled, “the judging is going to be quite brutal.”
And he wasn’t bluffing.
Hollywood compared the chocolate on Briony’s cake to “a pair of incontinence pants” and didn’t hold back when criticising Kim-Joy’s pastries, simply declaring: “I don’t like the look of them.”
Unglazed fruit, it turns out, is a capital offence, and both Ruby and Rahul felt Hollywood’s wrath for this crime. “You can’t put that in a shop window, it’s not finished,” he told Rahul of his French tartlet. “To glaze them at the end of this would have taken you a minute, if that. If that! And after five hours, you couldn’t do it.”
Rahul actually had it the worst. Of his eclairs, Paul announced: “I don’t like the flavours. It’s boring. It really is boring.”
And his mille-feuille? “It looks hideous.”
All things considered, the bakers were remarkably dry-eyed in the semi-finals – apart from one very wobbly moment where Kim-Joy genuinely considered quitting the show because she couldn’t make a chocolate mousse.
In the end, it was Ruby who felt the least of Paul’s wrath and ended up Star Baker for the second week running, while Briony fell at the final hurdle (incontinence and baking never were likely to be a favourable comparison).
Next week’s the final and Mr Hollywood’s last chance to fling insults. Maybe the bakers should plug their ears with some spare dough.
The Great British Bake Off 2018 final airs on Tuesday 30th October at 8pm on Channel 4