Gee thanks, Prue. Even as I was debating reading the spoilers – I have serious problems with the possibility of people knowing anything that I don’t and I’m afraid cannot help myself, I’m the child who systematically searched her parents’ wardrobes/cupboards/attic every year to find out what she was getting for Christmas – the second I went on Twitter and typed in #GBBO, up came the winner’s name.
OR WAS IT THE WINNER? Could Prue’s slip of the finger (trademark Harvey Weinstein et al, no you shut up), actually be a deliberate attempt to drum up publicity for the final? Maybe it was an hilarious Halloween prank? Doubtful.
Still, onwards and upwards. In the tent, Kate, Steven and
Pippa Middleton Sophie. What time would Steven have his breakdown? When would Kate declare whatever she was baking to be a disaster? Would Sophie crumble under pressure at any point?
Side note: I had not particularly liked Sophie until she admitted that she hated baking bread and it was a technique she had yet to master. Sophie, we are kindred spirits.
Her face as they were told to make 12 small loaves was a picture. Bloody Paul. Baking is cakes, everybody knows that, not stupid bread, especially when the best bread ever, Warburtons Medium Sliced White Bread, is available for £1.05 a loaf.
We cut to the family bit. Steven’s were lovely, his sister was disconcertingly attractive, his parents were bursting with pride. Kate’s family all looked exactly the same; long, glossy dark hair (okay, not her Dad, he was going bald, dem’s the breaks, lad) and were full of familial praise for her determination and drive. Sophie’s mother looked nothing like Carole Middleton, her boyfriend was a very handsome Irishman, and we were shown a picture of her during her ballet dancing days where she looked all kinds of fabulous.
Meanwhile, last year’s crew were watching this year’s crew. How bloody lovely is Bake Off? They’re all friends! I could cry with the niceness of it all.
Honestly, it makes you go all
Anyway, back to bread. Sophie’s spelt boules, naan bread and ciabatta. “I wouldn’t call it a ciabatta,” said Paul, with a smirk. What would you call it then? A roller skake? Petrol station? Cat?
Steven’s rye bread something or others were unproved but had a beautiful flavour. He’d baked a chocolate, er, something or other and that was a triumph.
Kate’s offerings looked fabulous (don’t know what they were, I was rootling around the fridge for more wine, don’t come here for accuracy guys, you know how I roll) and Paul loved them/it. “Tastes divine.”
Technical challenge: 12 ginger nuts. Hey, it could be a new Christmas carol for 2017!
*On the twelfth day of Christmas, Prue Leith gave to me, 12… GINGER… NUTS!”
Oh please yourselves. Prue insisted each one had to be intricately decorated, natch. “It looks pretty straightforward,” said Sophie. “Which worries me.” Everyone baked, everyone started sweating as they began to pipe their icing. Sophie was confident, Kate was a mess (“at home, it took me all day to ice 12 biscuits”) and Steven was somewhere in the middle. I joke, but my word it was a difficult task, requiring a lightness of touch and an intensity of concentration beyond anything anyone in Bake Off had done before.
Steven’s were “quite good”, Kate hadn’t finished, Sophie’s were “good but not finished”, so Steven won. Hurrah! Steven is my favourite, although as with every year I have nothing but undiluted admiration for all the bakers.
The showstopper. A five layered, flawlessly baked and decorated…. who the what now? An entremet. Nope, no idea. Oh, this:
Frickin’ nora, this was DIFFICULT. Five hours to bake, chill, assemble, decorate. Nightmare. But these three are superb bakers and knew exactly what they were doing. Sophie chose something that involved honey, lemon and lavender – VILE. Don’t argue with me. Kate was doing something with lychees – BOAK. I remember these being a particularly foul Christmas dessert circa the 70s, usually paired with condensed milk. Seriously, the food was hideous then, no wonder we were all such thin children, there was nothing worth eating. Steven was baking something that involved chocolate, bananas and custard, which might sound nice but reminded me of the messes the nuns at my school made us eat (no leaving the table until you’d finished, think of the starving black babies – yes, they said that – you’ll be caned if you don’t finish it, blah blah THWACK).
Back to the tent. Goodness but these three are talented. No matter what anyone says, they are immensely talented and they should be proud of themselves. I wish I were one quarter as good at baking as they are. Time was up. Sandi and Noel hugged each of the bakers, the crew applauded, and Sandi and Noel teared up with the loveliness of it all. It would have taken a heart of stone not to do the same.
Just in case any viewer was thinking to themselves that the world was actually not a Trump-filled horror and there was hope for us all, Ainsley Harriott was on hand during the ad break to kill the buzz. Why does this man irritate me so much? He’s probably perfectly nice IRL. “Ar bet you carnt wait to getcha noshas around dose, ay?” he burbled to a bunch of bodybuilders who remained unmoved by his theatrical wink. No, me neither. Something to do with the cost of energy, appaz.
Back to Bake Off. All the other bakers were there, refusing to say who they thought would win, and then saying “Kate”, “Sophie” or “Steven”. Even-handed filming there, Channel 4. Blimey, Sophie’s effort looked, to quote Craig Revel Horwood, AM.AZ.ING. To their infinite credit, Steven and Kate looked on admiringly.
Kate’s beautiful butterfly-decorated entremet looked fabulous. “Lovely,’ said Prue. “I love it,” said Paul. Kate looked thrilled, and Sophie whispered to her: “well done.”
Finally, Steven. Wowser. It was extraordinarly beautiful, but Prue was there to harsh Steven’s mellow: “It looks a little unfinished.” To be fair to the judges, the layers weren’t that distinct, and Paul complained he couldn’t differentiate between the textures. Steven had lost it, no question, and he knew it. Stop worrying Steven, you’ll have a cook book out in months and will be a huge success! I guarantee it! Be proud! It was undeniably sad, after 10 weeks of outstanding baking. And over on Twitter, people were broadly in agreement:
Out of the tent emerged the three, to loud cheers from the assembled friends and family. Steven tried to hide his tears, Sophie and Kate said the three of them would be friends for life. They held hands as Sandi, voice cracking with emotion, announced the winner: Sophie.
So Prue had spoiled it for everyone. Except of course she hadn’t, because it was absolutely perfect and props to Channel 4 for delivering a wonderful series. It has been a triumph, because there was no tinkering with the format, and the bakers were allowed to shine. ‘She put her heart and soul into this,” said Steven. “And she earned it. She really earned it.”
I think I’ve got something in my eye.