First of all - fans of the bridge (and which of us is not?) from last year have to put up with these rather paltry steps. They're barely trying. They are not showstoppers.
|This scene also makes it look like they've come from the house.|
Clearly they are allowed nowhere near the house.
Then there is an inexplicable fortune cookie scene with Mel and Sue, the less said about the better. And speaking of comedic misfires, Mel starts singing about 'savoury biscuits' in the line-up, in what doesn't appear to be a pun of any variety (possible musical puns: Sav[oury biscuits] all your love for me? There's no business like [savoury]bis[cuits]ness? It could never really have worked.)
Followers of fashion for the elderly, take note. Mary has exchanged her floral jackets for a side-zipping white bomber jacket (or something like that) while Paul has dispensed with his jacket altogether. Has the era of the blazer ended?
|And Sue was such a trail BLAZER.|
I'll see myself out.
They're making savoury biscuits that have to go with cheese. This stipulation becomes increasingly irrelevant, as quite a few bakers just plonk their biscuits on a cheese board and have done with it, but the intentions were good.
"These are big sunflower seeds!" says Enwezor, in what the editors were obviously hoping would sound like an innuendo to anybody not paying close attention.
"It's one thing making three or four biscuits for a dinner party," says Paul, before going on to say that this challenge was a thousand times more difficult, but - Paul - I have to stop you there. Who makes three biscuits for a dinner party? How much mixture would you have to throw away? Or would you go through all the effort with one tablespoon of each ingredient? This makes no sense. Your dinner parties are a MESS, Paul.
|It's just dawned on me that this is how a Ken doll would age.|
Mary witters on about snap, crackle, and pop, and it's all very endearing, if mostly filler.
|Love the scarf, though.|
I've decided to be kind about Jordan this week, which means not mentioning him in any way.
(He brought in Yorick the Yeast.) (He calls him a friend.) (He uses the word 'passionate'.) Mary Berry Reaction Shot time:
|Oh, I SEE. You're mad.|
Onto lovely Nancy. Despite the fact that she's from Lincolnshire, I remain convinced that she is a Cockney barrowgirl, and a fantastic one at that. She also has the largest family in the world, and feeds them on the set of a budget remake of The Forsyte Saga.
I love how wonderfully unbothered Nancy is by the process, cheerfully confessing in front of Mezza Bezza that she cooks with out-of-date fennel at home. Mary, who leaps at the opportunity to be pally and adorable wherever possible, does so again. Paul notes it in his Black Book.
I had forgotten how much hair Iain had.
|I'm starting to think that he's like one of those images|
that makes a picture of a face whichever way you turn it.
I'm not entirely sure that he isn't hungover. He's using fig and something that sounds like zanzibar, but probably isn't. He says it should bend and snap - as my friend Debs pointed out, this sounds very Legally Blonde.
This week's get-to-know-the-bakers home videos are the usual incisive three seconds, and the theme is 'the bakers like baking'. Truth be told, it might be more revealing if we panned to Luis in his kitchen saying "To be honest, I hate baking. Just don't fancy it."
But it does mean we get this adorable shot of Enwezor.
Mary gives Luis quite a warning look about him using olives in brine, rather than oil, but I'm not sure why. It is never mentioned again, in a move that uses more subtlety than usual. Usually Mary's warning looks are the framework to hang the show on.
And then we turn to Diana. She's the one who made a plain Swiss roll in Week One, flung it on the counter, and essentially said "Enough with your fripperies; this is what a Swiss roll should look like." I admire her for it. This week, she's apparently decided she's not that bothered about biscuits, thankyouverymuch, and is making pastry instead. "Because it's something I make."
I'd love it if she staunchly refused to engage with any of the challenges, and just dumped a Victoria sponge on the table every week. "What's good enough for Queen Victoria is good enough for you," she'd say, tartly.
PUN KLAXON. Paul makes a thyme/time pun. He's slowly cottoning on to the raison d'être of the show. Or should that be RAISIN d'EATre. No, sorry, I was right the first time. Or should that be THYME, &c. &c.
Bless Norman. He's decided ("bravely," Mel says) to make biscuits without any flavour at all. He and Diana are fighting it out for the "in my day all food was beige" award. And then he teaches Sue semaphore, because of course he does.
|Hands up if you're adorable.|
"Martha is just 17" says Sue, and a lifetime living with Beatles fans makes me, reluctantly, mumble "you know what I mean" to myself. Horrifying. What is not horrifying is the recipe Martha is using, which sounds delicious, even if it looks like frothy custard creams:
When I said earlier that the bakers all get home videos about baking, there is one exception, of course. It's Richard the Builder. He gets a video of Being a Builder. He will always get that video. And I'm sick of that ridiculous pencil behind his ear. He'll turn up with a hod next week.
|Look at him, dunking a biscuit, like a BUILDER.|
Nancy has got her husband to make a utensil for her again.
My friends and I were a bit worried about the props that Nancy's husband has been making for her. They definitely fall on the macabre side of things. First a guillotine, and now a torture device. What next - will she hang her croissants from a decorative noose? Will her petit-fours be neatly arranged in an electric chair?
Fans of counting get to hear lots of bakers murmur '36' to themselves, and then the challenge is over. Everyone seems to have done very well, except for Jordan who gets a "My issue is - it's burnt" from Paul. Otherwise, Mary and Paul try and fail to find anything interesting to say about crackers. They don't even address the fact that Diana hasn't made crackers at all (a fact that leads the caption-maker, unwilling to perjure him- or herself, to describe them as 'triangles').
Norman is assured, by Sue, "You could sell those tomorrow!" Because who doesn't want to buy day-old biscuits?
Tangentially, I have high hopes for a Norman/Martha best-friendship. Think of the adventures they'd have!
"Onwards and upwards!" says Diana, leading me to hope that she'll take the John Whaite crown for platitudes this year.
The cake equivalent of Who Do You Think You Are?, but with fewer tears and more costumes and/or puns - is back. As my friend Lloyd says, it's a good opportunity to make a cup of tea. This week it's about ice cream cones, which is marvellously tenuous. But it's fun to watch how long it takes the gentleman in the white coat explain that a twist cone was twisted.
|Someone has stolen Anastasia's ice creams...|
He, like every person in all of these segments for five series, does his best to ignore everything Sue says. And we're onto the technical challenge - florentines! Which apparently makes the tent shriek with laughter. Norman asserts that he's never made them "I don't make much fancy stuff. Mostly bread and pies." He's basically writing my blog post for me.
Paul and Mary sit tête-à-tête, and the conversation reveals what this week's arbitrary marker of distinction will be. Have you noticed that they're always on the hunt for something pretty precise, and seemingly irrelevant (the example par excellence was the pie that, for some reason, had to have distinct layers when cooked)? This week: zig-zags on the bottom. Sure, why not?
|I do admire the set design department for their |
delightfully whole-hearted commitment to twee.
Chetna is a sweetie, but I don't understand her sense of humour. "I've never made a caramel with golden syrup", she says, which she apparently finds hilarious. Oh, Chetna. A comedienne you ain't.
|"Caramel? More like CAN'Tamel!"|
This challenge sounded quite tricky to me - always difficult to tell with the Everything Is Impossible theme of the voiceovers; "BAKERS NEED TO BE REALLY VIGILANT" - but everyone does pretty well. We do get a lengthy montage of people not knowing how long florentines need to be in the oven. This is repeated about eight times by different bakers, while a thunderous kettle drum is played in the background, interspersed with Psycho-esque stabbing sounds. But, truth be told, there isn't much to say in this challenge. How to make a zig-zag is, of course, repeated ad nauseam, with Mel taking on a conspiratorial tone with lovely Martha.
|"Don't tell anyone!" - genuine thing Mel said.|
Mary and Paul use the word 'lacy' a lot, without ever really explaining what they're talking about, and debate the 'classic zig-zagging' until you wonder if the bakers could have just scribbled on a bit of paper to win the challenge. There is so much crunchy-crunchy noise in the background, seemingly unrelated to any moments of actual eating, that it sounds a lot like a sound-effect. Which perhaps it is.
|Mel and Sue say not a word.|
Iain comes last. Oh, Iain. And Richard the Builder comes first. Apparently his florentines were 'the proper size', which feels quite arbitrary - but Mary Knows Best.
And now the final challenge of the day, after we've seen many shots of lakes and lawns, this green and pleasant land, and so forth. Paul asserts that "these bakers are bakers in their hearts", and we get on with the show before having time to think what on earth that could possibly mean.
The showstopper challenge: a 3D biscuit scene! It's my belief that this challenge was chosen entirely in order to make references to Richard being A Builder. But it is exciting nonetheless.
Early in the day, signs aren't looking good for Enwezor. Mary asserts that she doesn't want to see anything non-homemade, and almost immediately we are informed that he is using shop-bought fondant. We get a couple of exceptional Mary Berry Reaction Faces.
|If this isn't the cover of a book soon, I want to know why not.|
Also, he isn't making a structure so much as... a pile of biscuits. Does he not remember Christine from last year? (She's still at it, by the way.)
Martha is making a ski resort out of biscuits, which is further insight into the life she leads (that 'supermarket' she works in is Fortnum & Mason, isn't it?) She's also made her structure before at home, which shows greater preparation than that demonstrated by 80% of previous contestants, who cheerfully say that they hadn't dreamt of giving it a go beforehand, following the 'practising is cheating' mantra of Flanders & Swann.
Many of the bakers are making different types of biscuits, including brandy snaps, tuiles, and other extremely difficult things. As I said last week, they're very impressive bakers this year. And there's a wide range of ideas - from Wild West scenes to dragons to 'Zulu Boats at Dawn', of all things. And the guy with the virtual crayons has fun with this one:
|At what point do you think they gave up trying to make it look like food?|
Chetna is making a fairground and beach scene - you might remember that I have a fondness for merry-go-round imagery - and my favourite moment is when Mary asks what the central pillar will be made of: "biscuits!" says Chetna, as though talking to a confused child.
I can't escape from an editing eye, and noticing that 'tuile' has been misspelled in this image...
|I DEMAND A REFUND FOR MY TV LICENCE|
"This is going to go in the oven," Chetna helpfully says of her biscuits.
"Bakers must keep a CONSTANT EYE on the clock," says Voice of Doom Mel, in a piece of advice that, if followed, would mean the bakers achieved nothing at all.
First baking disaster is Jordan's biscuits, which won't come off the tin.
This is very similar to what happened with the gluten-free almond/ginger cake I made for my Bake Off party. But, since I was not set a structural challenge by Paul and Mary, I chopped up what I could rescue, and mixed it with raspberries and Greek yoghurt, in a new spin on Eton mess. (I'd have been walked out that tent faster then I could throw away burnt pieces of backing parchment.)
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the fondant that Enwezor DID NOT MAKE HIMSELF.
In quite a poignant moment, Diana realises that she isn't using flavours as exotic as her fellow bakers. She describes the rest of the tent as "young people", which - presumably - includes folk like Norman. Well, everything's relative.
"Once I drew a dinosaur for my daughter," shares Enwezor. "It was so bad that she cried." Touching. His fondant is not the only luminous thing in the tent, however. Despite the sanction against anything non-homemade, everyone has suspiciously-matching day-glo icing bags.
|The world's least menacing mugging.|
Mel finds her comments falling on death ears when the Pride of Belfast ignores everything she has to say, grunting 'uh-huh' every now and then in an effort to make her go away. I love that they decide to leave that in.
We get the usual montage of people saying that time is running out (it's like 2003 Muse, amirite) and the challenge is over. And, it's fair to say, there are some pretty astonishingly good creations. Here are some of my favourites, although there are a lot of highlights.
It's a bit heartbreaking that they're snapping apart these fantastic structures. A few criticisms here and there - 'a bit lopsided'; 'overdone' - but generally an exceptional standard. A bit of debating (including the excellent neologism 'Iain has phoenixed himself') later, and they've decided the winner...
|ENOUGH WITH THE PENCIL, RICHARD|
...and the loser, yet again the second person the camera shows after they pause...
My friends and I gave a bit of a cheer at this point. Not because we disliked Enwezor - he seemed nice - but because the idea of a life without Norman was too bleak to contemplate. I do agree that he wasn't on top form, though; it's a bit of a stretch to call it a 'biscuit structure' when they're just piled in a row. For my money, Luis should have won, but I'll cope with it going to Richard the Builder, especially given the self-control M & P showed in not mentioning his profession as much as I'd expected.
Hope you've enjoyed this - let me know who your money is on, and I'll see you next week!