“Will you grab my jugs?” was the headline innuendo of Biscuit Week, but personally I feel that was a little contrived and staged, and Mary agreeing to eat a little bit of carpet was far more devious.
I was quite apprehensive about this challenge, because in last year’s series this was the episode where there was the least melodrama. Admittedly, Alvin did have a little cry when his gingerbread house didn’t get finished in time and Mary (contestant, not Queen) failed at the basic skill of oven-turning-on, but there was no high drama, no shenanigans. Not so for 2016. This year the biscuit showdown was a fantastic dog and pony show in so many ways.
As somebody who once accidentally grilled a pizza, I had quite a mean-spirited level of cynicism going on when Louise announced her gingerbread wedding scene. I can’t have been the only one shouting at the telly that she was at risk of angering the wedding gods and they’d make it rain on her big day if she messed it up – which she subsequently did; in quite the spectacular fashion. In fact, excepting in 2014, when Iain Watters presented the actual rubbish bin which contained his baked Alaska, has there ever been a less worthy creation placed on the sacred gingham.
Whether or not she follows Mel’s suggestion not to get married in that particular church, I genuinely hope it doesn’t rain and next year Louise has the exact kind of wedding day that she would have liked to simulate in baked-goods form, but, like my mother always told me as I was poised to embark on a foolish endeavour with the confidence of a dog running after a ball you’ve only pretended to throw, she has no one to blame but herself.
SIGNATURE BAKE: 24 IDENTICAL ICED BISCUITS
I hate to diss Louise again straight off the mark, having just addressed the abomination that was her showstopper, but she started off as badly as she finished. Her first herd of sheep ended up on the floor, instead of in the oven, and she had to start over (after a very GBBOesque helping hand from Candice). The second/replacement batch had all the uniformity of a child’s farmyard drawing that even the parents are embarrassed to stick on the fridge.
Like Louise, Val’s biscuits also ended up on the floor – but after they were iced and when she had no time to do anything to rectify it. Still, she continued her journey in the tent as a cheery catastrophe, brushing them off as “not high-end of the market”. Never a truer word was spoken.
In general, there were plenty of flora and fauna affairs with Benjamina and Jane both opting for flower style biscuits. Andrew showcased amazingly consistent bumble bees and Kate made lovely butterflies that went down well with both judges – but she looked traumatised through her entire bake after Paul told her upfront that lavender and bergamot were not his favourite flavours and ultimately Mel summed them up as “slightly skincare”. That’s gotta have hurt a little.
Rav somehow managed to produce a Thai green curry, Michael made biscuit beers (a nod to being a student) and Selasi’s racing cars got approval – despite the fact that Paul and Mary were initially as enthusiastic as mud, as they clearly thought he was going to blow their heads right off with a scotch bonnet chilli infusion. As it turns out, they were well received, and Mel got right in there with an awful pun; they were “wheely good”.
Reigning Star Baker, Jane (who incidentally wasted no time at all reminding us of that particular fact less than a minute into the episode), made a complete mess of her piping that knocked the smugness right off her face.
The outstanding baker in this test was Tom – who was on the business end of the rarest of the rare Hollywood Handshakes – for spiced chai frappe latte chino biscuits. He was banging on about his unusual flavour combinations, but in retrospect I can’t help but think he stole a quick glance at the Starbucks menu board for some inspiration.
TECHNICAL CHALLENGE: 12 Viennese Whirls
In one brief test, the nation’s love affair with Selasi cooled down a little (just a little, mind). He delivered the first properly bad bake of the series and came last out of the eleven. It wasn’t like somebody stomped on his whirls, so much as it was like that very angry person got in an articulated lorry drove over his biscuits and then reversed, just to be sure they were flattened. They looked like Viennese pancakes – if such a thing were to exist. Which it doesn’t.
If Candice’s whirls were steaks, they’d have been cooked medium-rare. Benjamina continues her mediocre streak. She’s always there or thereabouts, but hasn’t yet covered herself in glory. I hope her time comes, because I genuinely think has all the potential to sneak up from behind and steal thunder all over the place. She came third in the technical, behind Jane and winner Kate.
SHOWSTOPPER: GINGERBREAD STORY
This was a brilliantly deranged task to watch. Not so much for the group, who by the end collectively had the emotional strength of larvae. You know in meetings and interviews when you ask “tell me about yourself”. Well – imagine that soul-destroying horror question, but having to answer it in a 30cm high perfectly baked gingerbread construction with a minimum of eight separate components.
Walls collapsed, monuments beheaded, steeples broke in two and miniature people were snapped, knifed, stabbed and brutally discarded. It was like the final scene in Breaking Bad but with less crystal meth and more royal icing.
Given Val’s predisposition to calamity, perhaps her multi-city skyline was a tad overly-ambitious. Mere seconds before the final whistle blew the Statue of Liberty’s head snapped right off and it landed, ominously, “Planet of the Apes” style on the base. On the plus side for the lovable basketcase, who inexplicably included family members as some of her required extras, she was told by Paul that her “sister tastes lovely”. Oh-er missus.
Michael created Santa’s Lapland grotto – which he had visited as a child – but the main man looked like he had been possessed by Satan. I’d rather never ever ever get a present again than have that monstrosity climb down my chimney with a ho ho ho.
The punting on the Cam scene that Andrew created had 37 pieces was put together worryingly slowly, and the over-the-top effort reminded me a little of Flora putting macaroons on absolutely everything last year. Enough already. But to his credit, apart from the fact his mini-me, napping on the punt, looked slightly more disfigured than I’m guessing he was gunning for, it was a masterpiece of engineering. Quickly deemed “absolutely brilliant” in appearance by Mary and taste-wise it reminded Paul of his Mum’s ginger biscuits (immediately confirmed as a good thing).
Tom got some praise for his bizarre choice of story – a death-defying mountain climb with his mate Pod (long story short: they went up a mountain and nearly didn’t come back down, but they really did) and he recreated this probably terrifying scenario with a bright and cheery, almost-neon, construction.
Candice won, hands down – her pub scene with a lime jelly pool table, dartboard and ginger cake carpet looked good, tasted good and enabled the two strongest innuendos of the night.
Roll on the bread (pun intended)….and meanwhile try making your own gingerbread monstrosity here
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