Thursday, 23 August 2012

Great British Bake Off, Episode 2

This week was bread week. As to be expected with steely eyed Hollywood on the scene, we saw precious little of lovely Mary. "Understand bread, understand baking" intoned Hollywood, with a characteristically expressionless face. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? Him being a bread man and all. I'd like to see Hollywood in a head-to-head bake off with Pierre Hermé and time how long it took him to change his position. I'd wager it wouldn't be long.

Flat breads were on the menu for this week's signature bake and not all the contestants were brimming with confidence. Last week's star baker was nervous about this week's challenges, but her lemon and coriander naans and black cardamom, garlic and parsnip chapatis looked delicious. Victoria might not have the foggiest clue about bread, but she certainly knows her seasonal basics. Sporting another fetching roll neck, Victoria modelled the perfect summer weather staple, especially suitable when eleven hot ovens are on the go all at the same time.

Ryan's nerves were kept under check by his singing (albeit through clenched teeth). The dulcet tones of "if you're happy and you know it clap your hands" helped him keep his head, while all about him were losing their's.

Brendan, who just gets better and better every week, explained how he had been working through a self-set challenge to bake his way through the breads of the world. He has baked 90 of them so far and has several hundred left to go. He baked his flatbreads over "river-washed hot rocks". I expected nothing less from this delightful bread tourist.

Jolly vicar's wife, Sarah-Jane, impressed Hollywood with her beer oatcakes. She gave him a pint of ale to gain a few extra brownie points, which worked a treat. We witnessed him glug the lot in one go, while poor Mary was left with little more than Hollywood's backwash. 

Peter's "very salty" efforts in this round were overshadowed by his revelations of potential stalker tendencies. He had a picture of Mel and Sue from circa the mid '90's on his work bench and revealed that he has been following their careers for years. Sue held the photo up as proof that she "was young once" and Hollywood attempted to join in the jovial banter by adding the misjudged "and good looking". Oh dear.

James, my favourite from last week, didn't disappoint. Sue was "captivated" by his "yeast slapping" and from that moment on, the live tweeters had a field day and a new hashtag was born: #GBBOinnuendo. Those of you still not convinced by the magic of this show's hour long weekly whimsy may change your minds after reading this "Carry On..." style thread. 

The next challenge was the technical round: an eight strand plaited loaf. Mary and Paul exited the tent almost as quickly as they'd entered it, while the worried contestants were left to get on with the "Rapunzel Challenge". They had only two hours (far too short a time in my view) to plate up their plaits.

Stuart had to remake his dough as his bread fell floor bound after it got stuck to his wrist and he was rather too forceful in shaking it off. But his "off the cuff" dough came in useful for practice-plaiting later on, so all was not lost for the 26 year old P.E. teacher after all.

Poor Sarah-Jane looked again to be on the verge of a nervous bake-down, as she explained how she was a "constant source of disappointment" to her daughter for not being able to plait her hair. We saw an entertaining twenty minutes of "Rain Man" counting and confusion. Mel said the challenge was like "the Generation Game gone wrong" as the instructions for "knitting" together the tentacles baffled all but one contestant.

John's plait was a sight to behold. Beautifully glossy and neat, with a tight well-formed and even plait. This 22 year old law graduate who wants to be a patisserie chef in Paris, wowed the judges with his loaf. Poor old stalker-Peter didn't fare quite so well. Hollywood didn't stop at declaring his efforts disastrous, he went further:

"To say it's a disaster would be a humiliation to disaster"

There's something so reassuring and helpful about Hollywood's gently-gently approach to criticism.

The final challenge was the show stopper round. This week, the contestants had to make twelve sweet and twelve savoury bagels. I must admit to feeling rather crestfallen that they didn't have to hide some bread inside some other bread, à la the show stopper cake from last week.

James made the "brave" decision to make savoury sourdough bagels, which, despite Hollywood's raised eyebrows, he pulled off a treat. Go James! Brendan disappointed the judges with his chocolate and vanilla offerings, as "no deviation" Hollywood scoffed that he'd made bread rings not bagels. I thought they looked jolly pretty though, Brendan. 

Ryan's singing couldn't save the day for his over-wet cinnamon and date dough. His sweet bagels might not have puffed up properly, but he did manage to invent a new kind of bread: "flagels"  - half flat bread and half bagel. Perhaps he was aiming to combine two rounds in one, to make the day go quicker.

The tension was palpable at the end of this round, as Hollywood upped the levels of intimidation by sniffing his way round the room on his initial bagel inspections. "Last minute Larry" Cathryn found his sniffing "really unnerving" and I must say, so did I. 

Peter's holes were too small, thus turning his bagels into bread rolls and this mistake put the final nail in his Bake Off coffin. His nervous laughter and rocking suggested he knew he was on shaky ground and he wasn't wrong. Stalker-Peter became the second contestant to be knocked out of the competition, but I'm sure his disappointment was eased by his "Mel and Sue sandwich".

John was voted this week's star baker and Hollywood declared him one to watch as "all past winners of Bake Off have done well on bread week". My money's still on James. But that may only be because he has a sweet face and wears nice jumpers, which he shared the origin of on Twitter. If you want a jumper like James', you can buy it here. Stuart struggled through by the skin of his teeth again and we saw almost as little of Danny and Manisha as we did on episode one. 

In other news, I accidentally caught an episode of Junior Bake Off this week too. Hollywood and Mary Berry judge the baking efforts of tiny children who are put through unimaginable stresses. This week's episode featured the wonderful Michel Roux Jr as a guest judge. I do like him ever so much on Master Chef: The Professionals and he was all smiles and encouragement to the Bake Off kids. Now there's a genuine silver fox if ever I saw one. 

Roll on next week, where we will see the contestants tarting it up!

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