You know what they say, “A watched oven never heats up.”
Welcome to the final we’ve got fun AND SO MUCH ITALIAN STRESS.
CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER
Chigs, The Novice
He came into the competition with but a year’s baking experience under his belt and seemingly destined to be eliminated in Bread Week but then he donned a pair of glasses, became The Thirst Trap of the Series in that distinctly Nice Man™ way that Bake Off casts so well and along the way picked up 2 Star Baker titles, making him the most eligible bachelor in the tent.
Crystelle, The Piper of Roses, Champion of Miso, First of Her Name
The Aesthetician of the series, she’s never met a bake that she couldn’t pipe half a dozen roses onto. Or put a tablespoon of miso into. Having spent most of the first half of the series like a deer in constant fight or flight mode, Crystelle eventually found her feet in Pastry Week, mostly, we’ll gloss over her Technical Challenge track record. She may very much not be destined to win, but I see a glittering career in the pages of the Waitrose Food magazine ahead of her.
Giuseppe, The Engineer
Is he man or machine? The jury’s still out on that one with his incredibly neat bakes and barely a foot put wrong all series – I’ll forget Free-from Week for you Giuseppe. His MO seemed to be to champion the flavours of Italy – which did mostly mean hazelnuts, oranges and limoncello. He may not be the most exciting baker in the tent but he’s certainly the most reliable.
14 Carrot Gold
Kicking off the Finale is a challenge for the bakers to make the ever divisive Carrot Cake and in this 6000 word essay I shall be defending its honour as a God Tier cake. The stipulations were simple: the cake must contain carrot and be decorated exquisitely and everyone at least managed the carrot part… Some much more so than others.
I was surprised they went for such a seemingly simple challenge in the final – I appreciate it, it feels like a harkening back to the early series of Bake Off. I do also think it stumped the bakers a bit because obviously you have to elevate it to Nouveau Bake Off Standards and if there’s one thing carrot cake truly excels it, it’s being a rather ugly sheet cake with the structural stability of chalk. Nonetheless, everyone attempted to stack their cakes, with Crystelle having the worst time of it and having to ram an ever increasing amount of dowells into her slowly listing cake until it was more rod than cake
the listing situation wasn’t really helped by the fact that sandwiched between each layer of cake was a buttercream barricade that Prue somehow didn’t joylessly criticise for adding too much sweetness
but you’d have to be a special kind of monster to not want an entire bucket of pistachio and mascarpone buttercream icing.
Despite the fact she’d engineered her cake an entire wooden skeleton, her cake very much looked like it was about to make a very slug-like escape off her cake stand
the judges do love her flavours, particularly the cardamom and how well balanced it was against the pistachio icing and orange zest in her sponge. But for someone who has mostly been lauded for her baking aesthetics, this seasick Walnut Whip doesn’t really live up to her legacy.
Giuseppe had structural issues of his own, his mostly being because instead of baking his three cake layers in separate tins, he baked it was one Absolute Unit™ of a cake
and if you’re wondering why he chose to do this on Bake Off, where you have to cool everything down as rapidly as possible – it’s because he really wanted to use his internal heating rod and cake belt, which did make his cake look like it had just won The WWE Championship
it’s a dad’s obligation to use the last ditch kitchen gadgets he gets bought for Christmas at least once, he owed his sons at least that much.
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, the Big Boy of a cake didn’t cool down in time and Giuseppe was forced to ice his cake as it gently steamed away but given that was the case, it somehow looked more structurally sound that Crystelle’s skeletally reinforced cake
granted I think the scattered candied walnuts are hiding a great deal of slowly melting icing but it’s not as bad as it seems it should have been. He gets highly praised for his flavours, particularly his use of fig and walnut jam which did sound rather divine and I’m going to need a supermarket to please start a Giuseppe di BakeOff line of preserves – it’s what the world needs right now.
Lastly we have Chigs whose dislike of carrot cake has put a spanner in the works of this completely one-sided relationship of ours. His aversion to the stuff did mean he had absolutely just used the first recipe he came across and I’m 90% sure it’s Mary Berry’s, NOBODY TELL PRUE. Instead he had focused all of his energy falling down a YouTube rabbithole involving endless tutorials on how to make teeny, tiny baby carrots
I would like this wee little root vegetable to know I will protect it with my life. Also, the carrot is cute.
Chigs’s carrot truncation did rather put Giuseppe’s fig whittling to shame
you can’t be good at everything.
Chigs was also keeping the torch burning for Pineapple Jam, a substance I have extreme misgivings about, I just… don’t trust it and I’m not sure his addition of Star Anise to it was exactly going to warm me to the concept, but the judges really loved it, as they did the decoration which was very Dad’s Junk Drawer That We Do Not Open to me
the issue comes in that he had used 900 grams of carrots to make his cake which had made the whole thing intimidatingly solid and rubbery
You want carrots? I’LL GIVE YOU CARROTS!
An Unofficial Carrot Cake Ranking
- Crystelle’s Seasick Walnut Whip
- Chigs’s Extra Carrot-y Carrot Cake ft. Baby Carrots
- Giuseppe’s Professional Wrestler: The Carroty Kid
It really was a much of a muchness between the three of them.
For their last technical challenge, Paul set them the task making a batch of 12 Belgian Buns and because it was the final the instructions were obviously super helpful
I was surprised by how well this technical actually went, especially given Paul Hollywood’s special brand of passive aggressive vagueness and the fact none of them seem to have ever encountered a Belgian Bun before. Clearly they haven’t been to enough subpar breakfast buffets in their lives. It did help that they all managed to deduce that it was an enriched dough and word very quickly spread around the tent that the buns were meant to look something like a cinnamon roll – how they achieved that shape was up to the bakers alone.
Chigs was the only one to make an error in rolling his buns up, going the wrong way and ending up with some very tall pre-baked buns
and once he realised his mistake he steadfastly refused to look at them like they were a couple that had fallen out while clothes shopping and were now having a very frosty lunch in Starbucks
Personally I rather appreciated seeing my disappointingly small HRT tits rendered in dough
Crystelle and Giuseppe both managed for a more correctly shaped bun. Giuseppe however was very concerned about underbaking his buns and so, despite the visibly burning edges, he kept them in for another few minutes
so when they inevitably came out of the oven on the bad side of crozzled, the only solution was to go ham on the icing
which they do praise once they finished choking down his bone dry buns.
And so with Giuseppe semi-accidentally cremating his buns and Chigs creating Belgian Nubbins – the win was in Crystelle’s sights and the fact her Belgian Buns looked normal meant she clinched it
not sure the outcome would have been the same had Paul known that she spent the entire challenge only referring to him as “That Man”.
An Official Belgian Bun Ranking
- Crystelle Largely By Giuseppe and Chigs’s Magnitude of Failure
- Chigs’s Belgian Nubbins
- Giuseppe’s Burnt Buns
Mad as a Hatter
For their final showstopper and seeing the series out, Crystelle, Giuseppe and Chigs were challenged to make a display themed around The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party featuring both sweet and savoury bakes that showcased four different baking disciplines – quite what these disciplines are is up for debate, they could have just as easily said “bake four things guys.” and sounded a lot less pretentious. Giuseppe was playing particularly fast and loose with the very concept of baking with one of his elements being a Panna Cotta and in the dying seconds of the challenge someone clearly whispered “mate… it’s a baking competition, we’re going to need to see you bake.” and he had to whip up a batch of emergency gingersnaps to balance on top of his Drink Me bottles of Panna Cottas
it’s honestly impressive that he even got the gingersnaps made considering he was having to contend with the fact his oven hadn’t been closed properly thus activating the safety mechanism, meaning it never heated up and he was delayed quite considerably. I do suppose it somewhat helped that his Panna Cottas didn’t need any time in the oven BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT A BAKED GOOD GIUSEPPE.
Even with the delay and his ever increasing rage
he still served up a complete display
it’s not the most visually exciting display we’ve ever seen and I think he would have been better served by making the profiterole caterpillar the centrepiece and not the massive beige mushroom. Although I can’t blame him for not wanting to make a pea and asparagus filled profiterole the star of your Bake Off Crescendo. And while the mushroom loomed in all its beige glory, it did have a nice cut-through
and according to Paul “tasted Italian.” – do with that information as you please.
The panna cottas are the clear highlights for Paul and Prue but I’ll be keeping an eye out for that Fig and Orange Muffin recipe.
In terms of visuals, Crystelle’s display was the clear winner
I really want to know how she went about obtaining all of this and how much space she had in her hotel room.
It does come as a great surprise that neither piped roses nor miso featured anywhere in this display, instead she had gone for a batch of emotionally varied sunflower cakes flavoured with chai
the judges love them and its a nice call back to her Chai Mini Rolls from the first week and largely seemed to redeem her of her carrot cake sins.
As a further call back, this time to her star baker winning pie, she made a series of little hat-shaped pies filled with her Goan chickpea curry
they’re really cute and I’m sure she almost regrets not just making a big one of them her centrepiece and not this cursed focaccia clock…
the first sign of trouble was the fact she just fully baptised the poor thing in olive oil
and then once that was over with proceeded to just cover it in yet more oil
all the while gleefully chatting about how much she learned in bread week about how “the more oil you apply to your focaccia the better it is” and whoever told her that was LYING
it’s a truly, science-defying texture because despite cooking (in an oven with an allegedly closed door) it’s basically raw and nothing has justified Prue Leith as a judge more than the moment she pulled this face
before just flinging Crystelle’s focaccia down in utter disgust
it’s so incredibly rude and I love it.
Lastly we have Chigs who seemed to get on quite swimmingly with the challenge, or at least he managed to cook everything and switch his oven on. He slightly ran out of time when it came to decorating his Cheshire Cat Cake with it lacking its iconic smile, the solution apparently being to give two giant hippo tusks instead
but I did like the Natalia Gordienko vibe of it when they cut the cake
everything about that music video lives rent-free in my head.
The cake goes down very well, it’s well baked and it seems that finally Chigs has managed some orange-flavoured success! I knew he had it in him, citrus be damned! His flavour woes were instead reserved for his
Jammy Sandwich Biscuits Playing Card Biscuit
they could at least taste the fact they were filled with strawberry jam, it was the elderflower and black pepper that were lost in the mix, but they looked pretty smart in their little stands!
The last of his sweet offerings were a forest of lemon and lime filled brioche mushrooms that were at once not phallic enough to make everyone giggle but still phallic enough to look like a fertility symbol from Iron Age Britain
my personal highlight of the episode was Paul pawing at them saying “I’m particularly interested in these.” – of all his bakes, I think these could have been the most questionable but as it turns out, they really liked them, something about brioche with lemon and lime just… doesn’t seem right to me.
And that’s it, that’s all any of them could do – it’s been a really great series with a strong mix of wonderfully charismatic bakers, genuinely lovely people and extremely talented bakers. But alas, only one can win and it really could have gone any way given how this finale panned out. I think Crystelle was set to clinch it up until that focaccia was brought kicking and screaming into existence. And while I think narratively, I’d have loved Chigs to win it as the newbie baker defying the odds, after Giuseppe’s segment about his father, himself a baker, and how much this would mean to him as he goes through some health difficulties, as well as Giuseppe’s incredible track record, I’m thrilled that Giuseppe was crowned our Bake Off 2021 Champion
We have no choice to stan The Nicest Continental Father™.
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On to the Montage!
And that really is that! A Huge well done to all three of the finalists, I think it was the most exciting Bake Off finale we’ve had in years!
And so, We have our winner, Giuseppe!
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