Sophie Cullinane gives the lowdown on everything you might have missed in episode two of the best TV show on earth, The Great British Bake Off
It’s week two of Bake Off and the internet is, rightfully, all aflutter.
Week two brought the onset of the ‘notoriously difficult’ biscuit week, a round so fraught with potential pitfalls that previous contestants have crumbled under the pressure. Incidentally, there’s something unfeasibly cheerful about a piece of confectionery being known as ‘notorious’, isn’t there? It’s as if we’re referring to come cookie criminal.
And then before it even aired, whispers of a scandal hit the Bake Off tent after the Daily Mail reported that episode one's star baker, Marie, was apparently ‘professionally trained’.
It transpired that she'd taken a patisserie course at the École Ritz Escoffier in Paris. A one week course. In 1984. Hmm … we’re not convinced that’s sufficient to make someone a baking expert, now is it?
Moving on, the good news is that not only is Mary Berry wearing a jacket that I actually own, but Mel is also sporting earrings so jolly – rainbow-effect hoops for those who didn’t tune in – that any scorching remarks were forgotten before we’d made it past the opening credits. So onto the biscuits, specifically Italian biscotti, French arlettes and a showstopper of an edible box.
Biscotti too hotty
Ah biscotti, the much-maligned favourite of panicked duty-free shoppers all over the continent. The bakers' offerings could be any size, any shape and contain any flavour but they had to all be identical, have a good snap, and be dry and crunchy. This specific quality means that biscotti are almost inedible unless doused in liberal quantities of coffee or, more traditionally in Italy, booze. But I digress.
Alvin kicked off proceedings by completely ignoring the brief as he included dampness-inducing jackfruit into his mix. Oh Alvin, you rebel. Ian added rosemary into his, much to the dismay of Paul who seemed to think it made as much sense as adding soft, damp, tinned fruit into a biscuit that was being judged on its dryness. Ah.
The rest of the contestants stayed true to form by using various combinations of dried fruit, chocolate and nuts while Nadiya added coconut and fennel into her mix. It was noted that these delicate biscuits require proper cooling before cutting – a fact that prompted a Rolf Harris joke from Mat (we salute you) – otherwise they would crumble and fail to hold their shape. Unfortunately, Marie didn’t have the sufficient patience and her biscuits left the judges unimpressed. Dorret, who proved herself to be a tough cookie last week when her mousse failed to set, unfortunately produced some seriously inedibly tough cookies. But at least she’s consistent.
Elsewhere, the bakes were pretty accomplished with Alvin, Sandy, Mat and Ugne all earning praise from the judges for their flavour combinations – even Ian, who forced Paul to literally eat his words with his triumphant use of rosemary. Take that, Hollywood!
Arlettes be having you
Ah, arlettes! I know them really well! Yeah totally! I love those guys! We’re actually going away together this year! [No one has ever heard of these biscuits. Are they real, or are Mary and Paul just running out of ideas?]
My extensive knowledge on the subject – I Googled it – informs me that arlettes are basically a puff pastry or laminated dough, spiralled to form a circular disc, which produces a rich, buttery biscuit with a crispy texture. Of course.
Tamal (who obviously didn't Google it) was blind-sided by the not-so-helpful instructions asking him to 'make the dough'. Marie then chided in, saying the whole thing looked "a wee bit complicated, for a biscuit.”
The episode claimed its first victim: last week’s star baker, Marie, forgot to put her oven on, which produced what can only be described as raw pastry dough for her finished biscuit. Dorret, on the other hand, made a real turnaround coming out on top of all this biscuity business. And then it was the showstopper challenge where there was everything to play for.
Flapjack in the box
This round began with more innuendo than would seem proper in a pre-watershed programme, thanks to its proclivity for the use of the word ‘box’. Contestants were tasked with building a biscuit box to hold flavoured biscuits that were different to the flavour of the box biscuit. Did I mention biscuit?
Tea was the order of the day, with this round relying heavily on contestants' construction ability. Both Flora and Mat opted for Earl Grey flavouring while Mat attempted to make a fire engine with his concoction. Flora stuck to a rather humble-sounding tea bag shape. You will find no jokes about tea bags here, so if you’re after that kind of smut you should probably look elsewhere.
Nadiya filled her box with fortune cookies, presumably to distract the judges with ominous tropes about their immediate future, whereas Ugne made cottage cheese biscuits housed in a box with marshmallow baby legs on it, which sounded totally normal at the time.
A surprise to no one in the world ever, Ugne’s efforts didn’t really go down that well come judging, with Alvin’s also receiving poor comments because of his biscuits' lack of structure (he failed to build the box). On the other end of the spectrum, Tamal’s chessboard pieces were a roaring success, as were Mat’s fire engine and Sandy’s chest.
But when push came to shove, it was Marie who suffered the curse of the star baker and was told to leave, while Ian was crowned this week’s king. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
So until next time when we’ll see if the amateurs rise to the occasion with bread week.