By week three on the Great British Bake Off, we are starting to sort the wheat from the chaff, quite literally, as this was bread week.
I realise that I’m supposed to be reviewing their bakes, but if I’m honest I’m far more enthralled by what the contestants all wear each week. All of them, presenters and contestants, seem to be auditioning as children’s TV presenters in the 1990s, except Paul, who seems to think he’s the man in black: either a Johnny Cash lookalike or the bloke who zipwires into your house with a certain brand of chocolates. (The winner of the Norfolk Home Chef of the Year at this weeks EAT Norfolk Food and Drink Awards was an Elvis impersonator. Once again Norfolk is ahead of the game!)
Kim Joy looks like she’s come straight from the pages of one of her boyfriend’s comics, Prue seems to be morphing into Alan Carr progressively each week, Noel had on the most excellent jumper that I’m sure would suit me and which gave him the appearance of a friendly wasp and Terry (potter, painter, gardener, beekeeper, beer maker but not so sure if he’s a baker) was perfectly coiffured under the nose. Dotty Karen won the dress-off this week with her Parisian Sue Pollard party piece complete with beret; Bake Off meets Allo Allo meets Frank Spencer. But enough of the style guide, let’s get back to the baking.
First up we had an array of Chelsea buns. I thought most of them made a decent fist of it, though the judges struggled to muster much enthusiasm. Dan received a Hollywood Handshake for his spiced orange Chelsea buns, but after last week's glad-handing fest, this one appeared limp and half-hearted. Even Dan failed to be moved by the gesture. Terry forgot to put the sugar in his dough (I can’t criticize, I forgot to put the currants in my bread and butter pudding in a pastry exam in 1983), and Rahul, who though far ahead in the popularity stakes, admitted to being frightened by his own mango chutney.
This week’s technical challenge was the easiest and so therefore the most boring we have seen on any series: non-yeast naan bread. It even sounds like a yawn. Garlic naans were the takeaway order of the day and the contestants had an hour to create a basket-full. I’m telling you now, most cooks can knock them out in five minutes, max. Terry, the King of Inconsistency, won the challenge and Ruby was overjoyed that she wasn’t the ‘worst Indian in the room’ when it came to naan-bread making. More of the Indian who WAS the worst in the room later…
The showstopper was the incredibly painstaking business of making Korovai. The judges were throwing another curveball (though not as warped a last week's spinach-topped Gateau Vert) by asking contestants to whip up a traditional Eastern European bread, usually served at celebrations. Three-tiered, intricately decorated, it was basically a sort of Warburtons’ take on a wedding cake.
Kim Joy obviously made kitten bread, complete with a cat wedding ceremony and kitten guests. Terry’s tiers collapsed into one despite his homemade pottery ‘foolproof’ proving apparatus, there was a Welsh disaster involving the least ferocious dragon ever and Manon’s effort was a classic case of style over substance, looking beautiful tasting “like a bath bomb” thanks to heavy-handedness on the orange flower water.
In the end Antony’s creation complete with doves zipwiring (more zipwires) down the Himalayas was not spectacular enough to save him. It really must have tasted bad. Banker Antony went bust and is closed for any further business. His abject misery at leaving the tent was bravely covered with “happy tears” – I will miss his perfectly-groomed facial topiary.
Rahul was awarded Star Baker for the second week running. This is fast becoming the Rahul show, and I’d imagine his book deal is in the bag. I’m sure all bets are already off on him scooping the biggest prize, providing he doesn’t get intimidated by chutney. He cooks to make friends and said this week: “I’m not confident about anything in my life.” R u OK hun?
Rahul is adorable: even his competitors seem to want him to win more than they want to win themselves – he’s the nation’s sweetheart. Bless him. Shall we just say he’s won now so that he doesn’t have to put himself through this stress?