BREAD WEEK (GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW RECAP)

Welcome to bread week, my butter bottomed darlings. Once you get over the shock of Sue’s hair and the “on a roll” and Mel’s loafers joke, settle in with a cup of tea for Paul Hollywood’s hour of dream destroying bread pokery.

All the bakers dread bread week, because Paul is some kind of bread expert with no pity for anyone. He loves ruthlessly poking bread in the middle, searching for any doughiness or vulnerability.  

This week’s signature challenge is to make a chocolate bread, any form of chocolate. They have 2 ½ hours. Which makes me wonder why so many of them are making an enriched dough, which, as Val helpfully explains, retards the yeast and makes it harder to get a good rise. Which makes me think that the job of baking librarian would be an amazing one, helping bakers research recipes and avoid pitfalls like using enriched dough during bread week.  

If I were on bread week with a chocolate challenge, I’d make this bread. It only takes an hour to prove, and if you make a smaller loaf, you can take ten minutes off the baking time. I’d totally win this challenge, guys.

Candice is making some kind of monkey bread dough ball monstrosity with brioche dough that will include chocolate, salted caramel and pecan brittle. Paul questions the amount of butter and eggs she’s including---I think the technical term is a “fuck ton”--and his reaction is not good.

Candice insists she will not be intimidated, but damn, girl, when Paul makes a face like that at the beginning of the signature, when you have some time to change course, maybe listen???

Oh, the soothing kneading montage. Kneading is an essential part of bread making, because it develops the gluten, giving the bread a good structure. It’s like how you to have to hug a child just enough so it doesn’t grow up to become Donald Trump.

Rav is making a wee chocolate, hazelnut and cardamom loaf. Paul mocks the size but come on, Paul, it’s not the size of the loaf that matters. Rav will twirl it and bake it in a loaf tin, like “a babka” he says. OH A BABKA. Paul’s eyes turn to their iciest shade. A BABKA. What’s a babka? Sue asks. A twisty bread. I think it’s middle-eastern. Paul states: NO. IT’S POLISH. IT’S MORE NORMALLY A CAKE. Paul’s not having any of this babka nonsense during bread week, you guys. Not at all. He leaves Rav with a not totally sincere “good luck.” (Seriously, though, if you think you’re making a babka, maybe look it up first? They could really use the Bake Off Librarian right about now.)

Benjamina also thinks she’s making a babka but after she describes it, Paul snottily says, “That’s a couronne.” Which, maybe, but since she’s putting it in a loaf tin it won’t have the crown shape. However, Paul insists she’s just taking a couronne and throwing it in a tin. Paul is in a bad mood, you guys. He could use some kneading. “Don’t be grumpy!” Mary says. But doesn’t a babka or couronne or whatever the hell you’re making usually take longer? “It’s an express babka!” Benjamina insists, and Paul has to be taken away before his head explodes.

Kate is making a cobbled loaf named after her husband’s grandmother who was called Nanny Cobbled. What kind of Mary Poppins shit is that? Anyway, her loaf will be two doughs --cardamom/vanilla and chocolate/orange--cobbled together. Each little cobble will contain white or dark chocolate in an attempt to satisfy all tastes. It is decidedly not a babka or a couronne.

With only 2 ½ hours there’s some discussion about the number of proves. Two would be typical, but do the bakers have time? Andrew is making a chocolate barmbrack, which sounds fairly violent. It’s a variation on a traditional Irish Halloween loaf. He’s only doing one prove! Mary is shocked! Paul is shocked! Everyone is shocked! It’s not a babka or a couronne either.

Mary’s scandalized by Andrew’s “single prove” approach.

Mary’s scandalized by Andrew’s “single prove” approach.

While doughs prove, the bakers relax slightly. Selasi is so relaxed he’s on the floor. The rest are a bit more upright and working on any fillings they might have for their bread.

Selasi so chill.

Selasi so chill.

Val’s making a chocolate spread for her double chocolate cinnamon twist loaf. As a child she didn’t get much chocolate (or ice-cream, as we learned during biscuit week), so she’s making up for it now with her chocolate bread. It’s not a babka or a couronne.

Tom’s bread is called “Tom’s chocolate orange swirl bread” because of course his name is in the bread’s name because Tom is Tom. His bread is Aztec inspired and will have spicy bird’s-eye chili mixed in with dark chocolate for the swirl. Paul, ever a ray of sunshine, says, “You’re great with your flavors a lot of the time, but when you fail you catastrophically fail.” THANKS PAUL. Tom’s bread is not a babka or couronne or possibly even a loaf.

Most bakers have finished their first prove with an hour to go, and they’re knocking their bread back and adding their fillings. Rav is feeling insecure about the size of his loaf but soldiers on. 

Michael is buttering his spread out bread dough. He’s also using chili and chocolate with the addition of chia seeds, which all adds up to a filling that looks like poo. Sue makes a “manually explored” joke about Michael’s bread pokery because of course she does. His bread is actually a couronne.

Michael's filling.

Michael's filling.

Selasi is making a dark chocolate, cinnamon and orange loaf that will be cut and twisted to expose the filling. It will be glazed with an orange syrup. It’s not a couronne or a babka. 

Jane’s also making a homemade chocolate spread to go with her chocolate and cranberry couronne, which is actually a couronne, and absolutely not a babka. It will also have almond liqueur in it.

Jane's bonkers amount of filling.

Jane's bonkers amount of filling.

Most bakers are rolling, cutting, and twisting their loaves. Candice and Kate are rolling and filling balls. Candice is careful with filling her balls, because “No one likes a small underfilled ball.”

While Andrew waits out his single prove, the rest of the bakers put their loaves in for the second prove. A second prove should improve the texture of the loaf. But all the bakers are running out of time. Tom’s theory is that it’s better to have something baked but under-proved than to serve something that’s raw in the middle. Which I have to say is what I would go for. Nothing more embarrassing than when Paul manhandles the raw dough.

The bakers put their loaves in the oven and hope for the best. You can check a bread’s doneness by checking the temperature, which is news to me. With five minutes to go, the jaunty panic music starts, and everyone applies the finishing touches to their loaves. Candice assembles a team to help her de-tin her loaf. It looks awful. Poor Candice.

Andrew’s one-prove risk pays off, as it passes the poke test and after tasting, Paul says “I love that.” Benjamina’s babka is uncooked “like wallpaper paste.” Selasi’s is a little burnt, according to Mary, and lacking flavor. Val’s loaf color is good but the bottom is raw. Kate’s cobbled loaf looks good, but is underbaked. Jane’s couronne looks good, but again, it’s not baked! Delicious, though, but too big. Candice’s bread has collapsed, and it’s not done, and Paul won’t eat it. Again, too big of a loaf. Michael’s chili was too much, and underbaked. Tom’s loaf is barely a loaf, but being shallow it had time to cook through, and the flavors are good. Excellent! Rav’s wee little loaf is good. Paul loves it. Small was a good choice!

For this week’s technical challenge, Paul’s only advice is “It’s notoriously difficult.” Thanks, Paul! The bakers must make twelve dampfnudel with two sauces. Mel gives a clue, telling them that in German “dampf” means “steam.” So, essentially some kind of German steamed bun. The bakers have two hours.

Andrew’s dampfnudel face.

Andrew’s dampfnudel face.

Paul reveals that it is a steamed bread, like a dumpling, and the key is to NOT lift the lid while steaming. If the lid is lifted, the buns will drop. The bottom should end up caramelized. The flavor, as Mary puts it, should be like an iced bun without the icing.

What the dampfnudel should look like: butts. Little butts.

What the dampfnudel should look like: butts. Little butts.

The bakers forge on, with helpful instructions such as “Make a dampfnudel dough.” Most bakers give the dough a bit of a knead, while Selasi is very emphatic and loud in his kneading. Then a prove for an undetermined amount of time.

With one hour down, they begin making their sauces.  “Make a smooth plum sauce.” Helpful!

Most bakers take out their dough, and try to figure out how to divide the dough into twelve equally sized balls. Sue and Candice have a lot of fun with the maths.

Once the balls are formed, they have a second prove in the poaching liquid. Kate is pretty zen about the whole experience. They’re not given a time on steaming the dumplings, so they make their best guesses. Rav is very stressed out by this technical. Selasi keeps lifting his lid. Candice has some kind of foil situation going on. Val’s balls look delightful. Rav says  “I absolutely hate them.”  

Then, it’s over, and they place their balls on the gingham altar.  

Andrew’s are slightly overcooked, but good. Kate burned hers, and they’re wrinkly and raw. Val’s are cooked, smooth, and taste good. Rav’s are raw dough. Tom’s are under-proved and small but taste good. Benjamina’s are undercooked at the top, and her plum sauce is too thick. Candice’s are slightly underdone. Selasi’s are overcooked on the bottom. Michael’s are raw on the top, good on the bottom. Jane’s are raw, but cooked on the bottom.

Rav, Jane and Kate are in the bottom three, with Candice, Andrew, and Val at the top of the pack. Val’s dumpling experience has paid off! Of course, they are nowhere as good as Paul’s, because Paul wasn’t kneaded enough as a child and has a major inferiority complex.

For the showstopper the bakers are to make a savory plaited centerpiece, using three different flours. Any shape or size. They have four hours. Mary says the showstopper has to be spectacular, and it has to be a whopper of a loaf. Paul intones that the star baker of bread week ALWAYS goes on to the final.

Kate’s making a corn maiden harvest loaf that will utilize a four string plait and an eight string herringbone plait. Her loaves include spelt flour, cheddar, onion, and rye.  

Michael’s loaf is cypriot inspired (Cypriot refers to something of, from, or related to the country of Cyprus in Greece). His loaf will include olives, coriander and sun-dried tomatoes. There’s also some kind of 99% proof alcohol involved that Mary looks very excited about.

Candice’s loaf includes two types of rye and a kamut loaf, which is a hearty type of grain.

Kneading is important for these plaited loaves. If they’re going to hold their shapes and stand up to the twisting and shaping, they’ll need to be strong enough to do so.  

Andrew’s making a two-piece harvest basket, using rye flour and  including the flavors of pesto, orange and cardamom.  

Tom is making a gigantic two piece centerpiece. One will be a serpent, and the other piece will be Thor’s hammer. One loaf will include ale and seaweed, which is an interesting choice.

Tom's "hammer"

Tom's "hammer"

Val is making Noah’s ark, out of plaits, which, Val, that’s a bit ambitious. She’s ignoring the whole “two by two” for the animals, and has ludicrous explanations for where the second animal of each pair has gone. She’s using white, whole wheat, and spelt flours for her adorable hymn inspired showstopper bake.

Selasi’s showstopper has some kind of story to go with it that neither I nor the judges buy as being convincing or well thought out. He’s using spelt flour as well and his flavors include chilies, dried beef, and sun dried tomatoes. 

Benjamin’s loaf includes a walnut pesto with feta. Rav is also making a pesto with different spices for his diwali loaf. He also has a coconut chutney which inspires Mel and Sue to play a rousing game of “Guess the smell” which has a rather anti-climactic end when Sue ends up sniffing the timer. Jane’s loaf has chorizo and pesto in it.

With two hours left, they need to fill, plait and shape their loaves and get them back in for a second prove.

Many of the bakers struggle with their plaiting, except for Kate, who used to plait her pony’s tail, because of course she did. Tom’s hammer is very “male” to use Mel’s word. Except for Kate, the bakers have two loaves and one oven, which does not seem like a promising combination. Everyone’s worried about their loaves being cooked through, which they should be.

At the five minute mark Val manages to injure herself, which doesn’t bode well for the success of her ark. The bakers assemble their showstoppers in a frenzy until finally Sue announces “Bakers let’s put this challenge to bread, time is up.”

Tension is high as the judging begins. Jane’s loaf is beautiful with good textures. Baked beautifully. Delicious flavors. Good plaiting. A splendid loaf to start with. Val’s ark is hard to distinguish the elements. It’s not a mess, it’s informal. The flavor is good, but there’s some raw dough. The ark is salty, which Val tries to pass off as intentional. The idea was good, but not executed to a high standard. Tom’s plaiting is excellent and the proving is good. The texture is spot on. The seaweed loaf is liked by both judges. Andrew’s basket does look a centerpiece, and the plait is defined on the handle. The basket is too gappy. The flavor on all three are well done.

Benjamina’s heart is well designed and a good color. “Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous,” says Paul. Rav’s diwali centerpiece has some heat on the first loaf, but the other two weren’t as good. Selasi’s tree and “star” aren’t well formed. The texture is close and the flavor isn’t there, except on the third loaf. Paul starts off Michael’s judging by sipping the alcohol and pulling a face. His loaf is a mess and not properly plaited. His flavors are off. Poor baby Michael! Kate’s corn maiden is well plaited and the effect is superb. The textures and flavors are absolutely gorgeous. A fantastic loaf! Mary wants to come to Kate’s next picnic. Candice’s loaf could use some work. The top plait has gone messy. Paul can’t taste the olives, and it’s quite close textured. Her bottom loaf is tasty, the top is a mess. “Ta da everybody!” last week’s star baker says cynically.

The judges retire to make their decisions. Tom, Kate and Andrew are in the running for star baker. Val, Michael and Candice are in trouble of going. Mel and Sue say, “The curse of the star baker! Keep talking about it like it’s a real thing!” 

Sue announces star baker this week. She puns, “This was the stuff of legends, a sight for Thor eyes, yes, it’s hammer time!” Tom, with his phallic bake, has won star baker--which means we’ll see him in the final, according to Paul.

Tom can hardly believe he’s star baker.

Tom can hardly believe he’s star baker.

Mel tells us that this week Michael is the one who will be leaving, even though Candice was convinced it was her. Poor baby Michael! His bake was so personal and it failed! Paul is very sweet about it, saying they’ll meet in Cyprus for a beer. 

Next week we’ll batter up for batter week, a first for the Great British Baking Show. Until then, may your dough always be baked and may someone in your life love you as much as tumblr loves Selasi.