Bake Off 2020 – Biscuit Week: Viking Misfortunes

I really like this Reboot of Watchmen

It’s Biscuit Week and I’ll be honest with you – I’m not sure how much of this was biscuits? Florentines are a a brittle with status, Macaroons are a God Tier being in their own right and then the only real biscuit of the show was the industrial amount of gingerbread that got baked to make ludicrous dinner sets because the producers are frantically running out of ideas for things to make out of biscuits.

Florentines and the Machine

It’s Florentines for the signature bake and let’s be perfectly honest – there is only so different 11 different Florentines can actually taste. They’re literally just nuts, dried fruit and chocolate so it’s no wonder that the judges’ main criteria for the challenge was whether or not the biscuits could produce a snapping and crunching noise loud enough to make every mysophoniac in the country grit their teeth and swear bloody murder.

In the vain attempt to set themselves apart from the crowd we had 4 bakers opting for the Bake Off equivalent of Not-Like-Other-Girls Girls – Mango – the culprits being Dave, Mak-with-a-K-but-no-R, Mark-with-a-K amd Hermine – the latter of which was using he mango as an ode to her upbringing on a pineapple farm. Apparently the trick to sing dried mango is to soak it before using it, or that’s what they told Hermine after she produced a Florentine with the texture of beef jerky, but Mak then got chastised for soaking his mango and therefore making a Florentine with the flexibility of a Russian gymnast – maybe the moral here is to just not used dried mango? We however wont pretend that the texture was the only thing letting Mak down because he proudly announced he was going to decorating them with a peacock feather pattern, this rapidly became Margaret Keane-esque nightmare eyes, unblinkingly staring into your very soul

Mak’s Florentines were quite the mystery – with him at one point opening the oven to a waft of smoke and yet incredibly underdone Florentines – it was no surprise that he was given the deathknell treatment of The Sinister Piccolo Chime. There was however a mango success story for Dave who had a bit of a redemption week on the whole

staying at opposite ends of the tent to Sura may have paid off for him. He did seem to use significantly less Mango than the others and really pulled off the triple chocolate feathering – at least he covered all his bases because as it turns out Paul Hollywood is a dark chocolate purist because of course he is. This didn’t bode well for many of the bakers, most of whom opted for milk chocolate, or Peter and Mark-with-a-K who inexplicably opted for white chocolate despite the entire history of this show pivoting on WHITE CHOCOLATE BEING INHERENITLY EVIL STOP USING IT, and then there was Hermine and Marc-with-a-C who decided to go very modern with their ruby chocolate backing (we’ll get to Rowan using modelling chocolate in a minute). Peter at least manages to claw back some points with probably the most unique concept with his Sticky Toffee Pudding Florentines

As a date lover, I heartily approve. They were well baked and Paul praised him for achieving “the colour of a sticky toffee pudding” which is to say…. brown…? Laura went along similar lines with her salted caramel florentines but ultimately the combination of salted caramel and milk chocolate proved too sickly for Paul’s bitter disposition.

The bakers also very swiftly realised that the only other way to set your Florentines apart from the others was to opt for different shapes – or just making them squares – it was really the only other option. I was slightly perplexed by the use of muffin tins to make them in, especially for Sura who despite making probably the prettiest looking things:

a Florentine that is absolutely not and when you have Linda being told she has lost what it means to be a Florentine just for overly processing her mixture and decorating it with fondant flowers, it was a bit weird that they let this slide. Speaking of gilding the lily with frivolous décor – on to Rowan who was making a florentine that both honoured his great aunt’s love of gardening and his GARGANTUAN collection of *checks notes* 12 waistcoats, one of which is from 17th century France because of course it is, I wonder if someone was beheaded in it? – also, 12 waistcoats doesn’t seem a lot to me? That’s barely enough to get to the final of Bake Off without repeating. In order to do this he has promised to ice and decorate 36 florentines with miniature waistcoats made out of modelling chocolate, this only goes as you would expect:

It does at least provide a good illustration of how my wardrobe has progressed through 2020. On the other end of the spectrum of artistic intent is Lottie who is just pulling a Pollock and flinging chocolate at them and hoping for the best, I mean it pays off as her Florentines earn her a Hollywood Handshake, or rather Paul earns himself a Lottie Handshake and in the grand pantheon of Poorly Aged Things we get this gem:

Please wash your hands Lottie.

My arbitrary Ranking of the Florentines:

  1. Lottie’s Art Attack Snack
  2. Peter’s Sticky Toffee Florentines
  3. Dave’s Mango Success Story
  4. Sura’s Was at Least Pretty I Guess?
  5. Mark’s Chunky Nuts
  6. Laura’s Salty Sweets
  7. Marc’s Ruby Backbends
  8. Mak’s All Seeing Eyes
  9. Hermine’s Fruit Confusion
  10. Linda’s Existentialist Florentines
  11. Rowan’s Motheaten Wardrobe.

You Utter Macaroons

Remember the first series of Bakeoff when they had to make macarons and the discourse regarding macarons and macaroons it created? And then this year we just get Matt Lucas shouting “macarooons” at people who pretend to laugh just to get him to leave them in peace? I think it perfectly captures the franchise’s trajectory.

So for the technical challenge the bakers must make 12 macaroons – 6 with a chocolate filling and decoration and 6 with a mango curd pool – personally I am eyeing the mango one up with nothing but fear and suspicion. The main thing the judges are looking for, other than uniformity, is the perfect golden brown outside with a slightly soft middle.

The first thing everyone sets off about doing is making their mango curds so that it has time to set, or if you’re Rowan you make a cup of tea

We do seem to have reached the point in the franchise’s life where everyone is always a very competent a baker – a few years ago and we would have been riddled with mango flavoured scrambled eggs, burnt caramels and piping disasters but this year there is nothing of the sort as everyone flies through the challenge, except for Mark-with-a-K who is taking the tortoise approach to his curd and is still mixing it by the time everyone else has moved on to piping out their macaroon mixtures – some of them having marginally more success than other because they chose to process their coconut flakes down to a finer grain – Linda once again going that step to far and creating a coconut dust and robbing her macaroons of any texture. Rowan dabbles with the idea of a tot of rum but holds back on his artistic license – although it might have also been that he drank all the rum seeing as where this goes for him.

Suspicions are high during the technical, and not just because Sura is on the loose, as Lottie doesn’t even trust that the paper they have given her is rice paper

It was in fact rice paper.

The main area of contention is over the baking time with estimates ranging wildly between 8 and 30 minutes – it was in fact the latter, with some of the bakers watching their macaroons in the desperate hopes that they would see them go that perfect golden colour, meanwhile Lottie begins questioning the very meaning of everything

The end results are at least closer in quality than The Pineapple Upside Down Cakes – the only real discrepancies are in the colour, the care taken in their piping because some of them opted to do it like an adult unlike Rowan

and then there was the fact Sura’s were -fuck-off-massive and in my eyes the true winners of the round and not just because I felt sorry for her as she sat through the judging looking like she was going through her own personal ‘Nam

Peter, letting down the Scottish contingent, produced a slightly pale and wan looking set of Macaroons – you are what you bake. Most of them seemed to need a tad longer in the oven with Hermine, Marc-with-a-C, Lottie, Rowan and Laura all considerably underbaking theirs. The true standouts are Dave, Mark-with-a-K and even Mak-with-a-K-but-no-R pulling up in third seemingly pulling himself out of the precarious position of elimination…

The judges’ final ranking of the macaroons are:

  1. Dave’s Macaroons
  2. Mark’s Tortoise Tactics
  3. Mak’s Surprising Us All, What a King
  4. Linda’s Heavy Blitzing
  5. Hermine’s Tough Cookies
  6. Sura’s SHOULD HAVE WON DAMMIT
  7. Laura’s Underbakes
  8. Lottie’s Lack of Gold
  9. Marc’s Rustic Approach
  10. Peter’s Self Portraits
  11. Rowan’s Potentially Rum Induced Madness

So going into the Showstopper the bakers in particularly precious positions are Mak-with-a-K-but-no-R, possibly Hermine and Rowan being a chaotic mess of near mythic proportions.

Dinner is Served

And now for the regularly scheduled gingerbread content. For this week’s nonsensical showstopper the bakers have to create an edible dinner display based off a meal they once had – the latter part of the specification very swiftly goes out of the window for many of the bakers as they just create something with a cup, a bowl and some cutlery if you’re lucky.

The material du jour is gingerbread with only two bakers going for some thing else – Rowan promises a rococo-esque lighthouse shaped tea pot with a blinking light on top, conjuring to mind some elaborate, gilded masterpiece and goes on to deliver this piece of Cornish farmwear

in the time everyone else managed to make numerous pieces, he made one (1) conical pot? AND WASN’T SENT HOME? Linda is also waging a gingerbread rebellion with her rosewater shortbread – a much more challenging material given its tendencies to turn to dust the moment you pick it up, she has much more success than anyone and I think manages to produce the most aesthetically pleasing display:

going for something similarly delicate is Laura

She apparently practiced her gingerbread cake stand 15 times only for Paul Hollywood to tell her that moulding a flat biscuit over a plate isn’t exactly moulding AND THAT SHE IS A DIRTY CHEATER. Mak meets a similar fate with his flatpack approach of just making everything square like that episode of The Twilight Zone where everything gradually turns into 2D models

He gets some pointed praise for at least setting out to make something that he can achieve as Paul Hollywood glares at Rowan’s wattle-and-daub teapot with its one sad blinking light bleeping out “please kill me” in Morse code. He does end up the victim of the demoulding and, like many people in the year 2020, has no more spoons to give.

Seemingly the only baker thinking ahead is Sura who makes enough backups to make at least 2 sets of her Ramadan Biscoff Tea Set

Which I would demolish in a second, unfortunately her decorating is slapdash and rushed and doesn’t manage to reach the same delicate refinement of Linda’s but it does at least taste good!

The most elaborate moulding is being done by Dave who is making a Mexican inspired tea set that he weirdly refers to as “Aladdin’s teapot” throughout. His decor is by far and away the most successful, as well as being the most elaborate,

And it’s no wonder he won Star Baker because of it. It was unfortunate for Mark-with-a-K that his and Dave’s looked kind of similar in their dark colours, Mark-with-a-K opting to use edible charcoal for no good reason, and a near lethal amount of coffee that almost took Prue’s larynx to the cleaners, to create an Ethiopian tea set

Most of the making of it was spent humouring Matt Lucas and his soft ball “HUR DUR BREASTS” jokes as he looked at two vaguely domed objects. The set goes down well despite his rushed and unfinished decor which Paul deems “scruffy but at least it looks the part” which I would say is a loaded statement that we could spend a while unpacking if we wanted but we wont because we need to talk about Lottie’s Viking Misfortunes. Odin was not smiling good fortunes upon Lottie – it might be because of the 98% British thing y’know? Props to her for at least attempting the most elaborate design this side of Rowan’s “fully functioning lighthouse”, but it just wasn’t meant to be for her as she loses part of the boat in the demoulding phase and then promptly loses the will to live and ends up with a finished product that at least looks like it’s been under the ground for 1000 years

She could have at least just set it aflame and called it a Viking Funeral – potentially more of a chance of opening the gates of Valhalla. Having more aesthetic success and now fully embracing the Pure Paddington Energy that exudes from himself is Marc-with-a-C and his incredibly cute little breakfast set

Honestly, I would put it up there as one of the best things that has been made on the show – it’s just so complete and fully realised and the fact he managed to pull it off without descending into a a flurry of fondant and chocolate is quite something. But because of his lack of success in the first 2 rounds he was never really a contender for Star Baker.

My Arbitrary Biscuit Dinner Set Ranking:

  1. Paddington Bear’s Breakfast
  2. Dave’s Cultural Melting Pot
  3. Linda’s Munchies in Amsterdam
  4. LAURA IS A DIRT CHEATER HOW DARE SHE
  5. Lottie’s Authentically Bad Viking Crockery
  6. Mark’s Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony™
  7. Peter just mad a Haggis, there’s not much more there
  8. Sura’s Biscoff Ramadan
  9. Hermine’s Turning Japanese
  10. Mak’s IKEA Team Time
  11. Rowan’s Seaside Death Trap

The honour of Star Baker goes to Dave. Then only causing controversy is the fact they chose to eliminate Mak-with-a-K-but-no-R despite him coming third in the technical and while Rowan is RIGHT THERE and was absolutely the bottom of every single challenge – but that’s the privilidge that managing to play up a character on TV grants you, and at least Mak now has the time to retype that novel that he inexplicably wrote on a typewriter

NEXT WEEK:

Marc goes Full Paddington.

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