Round two of this year’s Great British Bake Off was on a palette knife edge from start to finish.
Biscuit week is always going to be testing, as the bake must be precision timed. Get it right and the treat will snap when broken in two and melt in the mouth. Too little time in the oven will leave you with a soggy offering. Too long and it will burn.
As per week one, the challenges have gone up a gear. The signature bake was to produce 24 identical sandwich biscuits. Paul Hollywood’s description of the challenge as “devilishly difficult” was no exaggeration. Prue Leith’s warning that filings should not be too soft added to the challenge.
After last week’s wobbly start, Stacey Hart, the Jewish ex-teacher from Radlett, needed to assert her baking credibility. Her choice of marshmallow fluff (“my children’s favourite”, she revealed) sandwiched between chocolate biscuits dusted with edible glitter was a safe one. Despite Hollywood’s comment that he wasn’t sure he wanted a metallic taste to his biscuit, she pulled it off. The judges agreed the perfectly formed pile of chocolate cookies looked amazing, were neatly filled, identical and tasted great.
Earning herself a “well done” from Hollywood, Stacey could smile for the first time. “I don’t want to get too excited but that has given me the boost I needed” she grinned.
She, and a couple of the other competitors even had time to help a fraught Tom finish off sandwiching his coffee and amaretto kisses together, suggesting the bakers are already bonding.
Sophie — in the running for last week’s star baker also pulled off her limoncino (Italian lemon liqueur) biscuits — as did Yan, who, scientist to the core, had weighed each piece of biscuit dough and filling to ensure they would be equal.
Hollywood’s demand for two types of fortune cookie in the technical round had almost every baker red-faced and panicking. The Chinese restaurant favourite is not only a difficult biscuit to cook, but the shaping clearly flummoxed many of the bakers. They also were tasked with writing their own fortunes to go inside.
Unsurprisingly, not one of the bakers had made them before. “I almost made them recently but thought they were too much faff” admitted Hart. Her offerings were judged under-baked by Hollywood and Leith. Not as bad as Chris’s mortification at Leith spitting out his unbaked dough. “It did hurt a bit,” he said.
The challenges were nothing compared with the showstopper. If they hadn’t felt like hanging up their pinnies by now, this might have been the tipping point. The task — to make a board game out of biscuits was as much jaw-dropper as showstopper.
The contestants coped admirably, cooking up an array of edible board games, from vintage favourites including snakes and ladders, Coppit and Operation to GBBO-related games dreamed up by Yan and Julia.
Stacey’s game, Get to School, required the three contestants (her three sons) to be the first to circumvent various challenges and make it into school.
Making boards of biscuit clearly required nerves of steel. Many viewers will have watched from behind their hands, shrieking as boards broke and counters cracked. What mattered as much to the judges was how the game tasted. Only a few contestants pulled off the treble of a great-looking game with winning flavour and texture.
Stacey’s looked fabulous but she fell on flavour. Chris also had a bad round and Flo’s awkward Operation left her in the drop-zone with Kate, whose jungle, Leith judged as more like a swamp and not at all pleasant to eat. Once again, Stacey was left wondering if she’d be waving goodbye to her counter.
With Leith and Hollywood raving about his chess game with more than one hundred components, Stephen again shone, as did Sophie, whose board game was judged as neat.
Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding are settling into their roles as presenters, serving up snappy one-liners. Fielding seemed to have taken Mary Berry’s famous brightly-coloured Marks and Spencer bomber jacket as fashion inspiration for his distractingly bright floral jumper.
Nothing, however, could compete with the tension that the bakers experienced this week. This is what GBBO is all about. Eye-coveringly, teeth clenchingly engaging television.
Despite a nail-biting…and biscuit-biting…judges' discussion that had us thinking Stacey's over-ambitious board game woudl see her go home without passing GO it was Chris that was banished from the tent. Steven was Star Baker again. Will it be glitter-sprinkling Stacey's time to shine next week?