The Great British Bake Off – week seven

Bake Off

It’s Italian week! The first one ever.  Italians are terrific at food so this week looked likely to be one of the best weeks in Bake Off history.   As always, Dr Oetker was sponsoring proceedings.  The Doc must have forked over a serious wodge of money,  because it is a brand for people who are too lazy to bake properly and prefer the kind of crap that comes in a box and requires little more than a bowl, a load of oil, a whisk and a egg.

So, everyone was to make their own version of cannoli.  A traditional Sicilian dish, comprising tubes of deep fried pastry filled with a sweet ricotto.  18, three different fillings, all identical.  Liam knew exactly what he was doing.  “My cannolis are inspired by me. How I am as a person.”  Calorie dense? Difficult to eat without making a mess?  Liam didn’t elaborate.

Tiramisu and lemon meringue were popular flavours.  Kate chose the alcohol route (Kate love, Bezza’s gone – accept it, and move on) which pleased Noel who nonchalantly swigged Campari from the bottle like a man who had just missed the cut for the Bullingdon Club.

Sophie/Pippa Middleton ignored the ricotto entirely and used mascapone.  Sicilians around, er, Sicily , threw up their hands up in horror at this travesty.  Even Paul was shocked.  Sophie seems like the kind of woman who would own a horse, but perhaps hasn’t read The Godfather.  Good luck, Sophie/Pippa.   RIP, Dobbin.

Everyone complained endlessly about the heat of the day, which is a bit rich considering temperatures in Sicily during summer are around 29°C and they seem to manage.  Stacey sweated like Harvey Weinstein facing Gwyneth Paltrow in court,  but her miraculously heavy mascara, each lash spiked like a conductor’s baton, stayed in place.  She should get in touch with Maybelline.  She might not win Bake Off but she could get £££££££ for an endorsement.  Just saying, Stace.

Due to a technical error (I forgot my Mac wasn’t charging, yes that is technical, no YOU shut up) I missed a bit as I searched for chargers and draft copy etc, but I can report that Steven’s were fabulous – back on form, hurrah! – and Kate’s negroni versions were also well received.  Pippa Middleton’s were pronounced a triumph.  Bad luck Sicily.

The technical challenge was a pizza.  A what? Yes, a pizza. Pizza Margherita.  “Basically it’s bread with a bit of cheese on top,” said Yan.  “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Thin crisp dough, blackened on the outside but folding over in the middle, tomato sauce, mozzarella fior di latte, fresh basil placed on the topping at the last minute.   Prue was very firm about that last point.  Kate sliced open her finger.  “I’m gonna faint.”  There were no rolling pins of course.  The dough had to be hand tossed (not a euphemism).    The wags on Twitter were out in force:

pizza

Poor Kate (she of the mangled finger) shoved her beautiful pizza in the oven and it refused to part company with the flat tool thingy (oh, the Peel, thanks Prue) and the cheese fell off and it looked horrible BUT she put fresh basil on at the last minute.  Liam’s looked amazing.  Pippa Middleton had baked her basil.  Yan’s was raw.  “I like a little droop at the end,” confided Prue, who should have her own 0800 sex bot premium telephone line.  Steven won the challenge.  Steven is BACK IN BUSINESS, people.  I would so like him to win but I think Sophie/Pippa is a real contender too.   And Liam.  I love them all, actually.

Finally, the showstopper.  24 Sfogliatelle.  A spelling mistake, surely.  Nope. “The most complex pastry challenge ever set on Bake Off.” Blimey charlie.  Crunchy, rustling leaves, appaz.  Yan’s were to feature “bacon dust.”  Here’s a thought, bakers and indeed chefs.  What’s wrong with just, you know, bacon? Who wants to pratt around making bloody dust, never mind eat the stuff?

Some of the bakers knew what they were doing, some didn’t.  Kate, on borrowed time, surely? fell into the latter category.  She had never seen sfogliatelle (me neither petal) but “me mam and da went on honeymoon to the Amalfi coast. so I’m going on hearsay.”   Bravo, Kate.  Also I’ve been the Amalfi coast and I’m pretty sure nobody offered me sfogliatelle, but then I was drinking a lot of gin fizzes that summer so my memory may not be entirely reliable.

The dreaded lamination.  Stacey wasn’t happy with hers, neither was Kate.  They were both very worried they’d get booted out this week.  Sophie/Pippa maintained her  calm, “girls, we WILL win this lacrosse match,” head girl persona and Steven and Liam looked quietly confident, notwithstanding Paul trying to wind up Liam.

Kate was sad about her bake.  “What did you want?” asked Noel.  ‘Bigger.  Everyone wants bigger, don’t they?”  Wisely, Noel didn’t answer.   Stacey pronounced hers to be a “disaster.”   Poor love, I bet they still tasted great but as I’ve said all series, the standard this year is insanely good.

Steven’s were outstanding.  Liam’s were marvellous.  There was a lot of talk about lobster tails.  Pippa Middleton’s were also wonderful.  Kate’s were “disappointing to look at, but quite pleasant to taste.” Yan’s had no lamination.  The knife was in Yan’s guts, but Prue wasn’t going to let her off so easily.  “A bit of a mess.”  Gee thanks, Prue.   Stacey’s were a disaster, as she had predicted.  She melted under the fierce gaze of the judges, although her spider’s legs lashes remained defiantly in place.  Seriously, beauty PR types.  Sign her up.

Steven won star baker (rightly).  Yan went.  Yan? Kate and Stacey looked relieved, then horrified at Yan’s booting out.  Everybody hugged.  “I’ve had a wonderful adventure,” she told Prue.  “Everybody loves Yan,” said Prue.  Everybody loves Bake Off.

Bake Off

 

 

 

 

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The Great British Bake Off – Week Six

Great British Bake Off

It’s pastry week! And as on most important matters, I am of the same opinion as culinary goddess Delia Smith, who has no problem with using the shop bought stuff.  Unfortunately for the contestants however, it is Prue, not Delia, who is the judge on Bake Off.  Prue does not seem like a woman familiar with Jus-Rol.

Four individual savoury pies, shortcrust pastry, “beautifully decorated”.   Prue advised us on technique.  “The more you fiddle, the tougher it gets.”  Ain’t dat the truth.

Yan was making something decorated with binary code (science, innit), Steven was doing something about Fleetwood Mac (presumably he was going to slip in a few Class A drugs into the egg wash), Kate was doing something about the Beatles (no mention of a fifth, malevolent Yoko Ono pie),  Stacey was making something about “Love” (actually? Would she model the face of Rowan Atkinson and Billy Nighy on the crusts?) and Julia was making “Pies from the Tree”.  Things you can find in trees, she explained.  Like, er, grapes. “Grapes? On a tree?” queried Prue.  “On my tree, YES,” replied Julia firmly.    Sophie was baking “The Four Seasons”.  Vivaldi’s face? A pastry hotel? A PIZZA PASTRY?  Liam was baking “Standard FC” pies, in honour of Manchester United.  Paul, a Scouser, looked at him beadily.  “A shame you’re leaving this week.”

Kate’s Beatles decorations weren’t going to plan.  “Oh.  I’ve ruined John Lennon.”  She stabbed the pastry with a knife savagely.  “Now he looks like Noel Gallagher.”  It’s what he would have wanted, Kate.

Sophie’s efforts were pronounced “a triumph.”  Never mind a Hollywood handshake, she got a Prue Pat.  Steven’s meatballs were charmlessly described as “upsetting”.  Julia’s efforts? “Not your best work.” Kate’s were “a bit boring.”  Yan’s “looked a bit of a mess.”  Tough crowd.   Oh, there was some good stuff. Liam’s were “wonderful”.  Paul was being nice to Liam for once, so I am prepared to forgive him for saying chor-eet-so.  It’s chor-ith-o you GOON.  Stacey’s pies were said to be very nice.  Bland praise, but Stacey took it as a win.

The technical challenge: Portuguese custard tarts, or pastéis de nata. This is pretty much the only food Portugal is known (I’m not going to say famous) for.  I speak from experience; the daughter almost went to university in Coimbra (she wisely dropped Portuguese, focused entirely on Spanish, and chose Madrid instead, WHAT a city, you must go, the food is amazing) and we made a couple of recces and you can’t move for the damn things.  Oh, there is a vile soup, caldo verde, which is made with potato, shredded kale – God’s sake – and chunks of chouriço.  Bleurgh.   Anyway, this is what pastéis de nata should look like:

Portuguese custard tarts

Hardly Michelin star stuff, let’s face it.

Back to the bakers.  Too many people yammering on about rough-puff.  Remember that fool Kimberley from America on The Apprentice who called herself a rough tough cream puff?

Back to the baking.  Sophie was second, Yan was first.  I’m not sure there’s ever been such an accomplished, knowledgeable bunch of bakers on Bake Off, but there could only be one winner and was no doubting the perfection of Yan’s custard doo-dahs.  This is what science is for, folks.  You can keep your Higgs bosun, your Dolly the cloned sheep and your penicillin.  Custard tarts are where it’s at.   Not even the Hubble Telescope could find a single fault.

Paul and Prue discussed who was good, and who was in trouble.  Kate and Julia.  “Limping through week to week.”  Yikes.  But Paul wasn’t through yet.  “I’m going to throw Stacey in the mix.”  Gee, thanks.

Hand-raised pie with hot water crust pastry was the show-stopper.  This is a horribly difficult challenge.  I liked the look of Liam’s – filled with curried goat, topped with mango and avocado.  Julia didn’t know what to do with her pastry – mould it from the inside, mould it from the outside? “Outside,” whispered Stacey.  “I don’t know!” wailed Julia, and foolishly ignored Stacey’s wise words.  Yan was filling her pie by squeezing a piping bag full of poo coloured pie filling.  “Not the most appetising, I admit.”  It looked like something a very ill Alsatian might leave on the kerb.  Everyone else battled to remove their pastry cases, like a woman in a nightclub desperate for a wee but wearing latex trousers that stubbornly refused to come off.  No that is NOT me circa 1993.  No such problem for Steven, however, who slid his pastry out of its mould like, well, like someone not wearing skin tight latex trousers.  “Air holes,” he confided. If only I’d known.

Stacey had left some baking parchment in her pie.  INSTANT DISQUALIFICATION, STACE.

At this point I was feeling pretty impatient and wanted the judging to take place because, ya know, Dr Foster finale and all that.  Oh well.  BBCiplayer I guess.

Meanwhile time was almost up and Yan was helping Steve get his topping sorted.  Aren’t Bake Off people lovely?  Stacey was sighing heavily in the background. “Absolute. Disaster.”

Sophie’s was great – hurrah! – but with some raw pastry – oh, boo.  Kate’s looked pretty, and Paul loved it.  Stacey’s “certainly looks home-made,” sniffed Prue.  ISN’T THAT THE POINT, PRUE?   Steven’s looked “really moist and attractive” – hurrah!  But “a bit of a let down on the flavour” – oh, boo again. Yan’s was “wonderful”.  Julia came in for some particularly cruel comments from Prue, who by now was going full Maleficent.

Maleficent

“I don’t think the asparagus works. The chicken is dry.  On the other hand…” yes? Would Prue be nice to Jules? “Your pastry is undercooked.” Well smell you, Prue.  Liam’s pie looked fabulous, and his grandma Cynthia was pronounced “a genius” (it was her recipe).

Liam won star baker – go Liam, you young’ un! – and Julia left.  Sandi cried, and so did we.  Lovely, lovely Bake Off.

Next week, Italian stuff.

 

Strictly Come Dancing – Week Two

Strictly Come Dancing

Last week the BBC dancing competition attracted an audience of 9.4 million, compared with the all-time low of 4.8 million for its rival, ITV’s X Factor.  The only surprising statistic is that nearly five million dweebs still watch that rot.

After last week’s marathon viewing, we had the SAME number of slebs but somehow they  managed to squeeze it into two hours.  Exactly the same number of dances, but with 20 minutes chopped off.  How is this possible? Would the unfunny comedy VTs be cut?  One could only hope.

Claudia and Tess dress report: Claudia in rather fetching Bardot dress, Tess in an elastoplast cunningly disguised as a jump suit.  Great hair though, so 6/10.

First up, Chizzy and Pasha, dancing the Foxtrot.  In the preamble, Chizzy produced her sister, and made the relevatory comment: “My family is very important to me.”  More interesting had she said, “I couldn’t give a shit if my family turns up or not,” but perhaps such a remark would make for a difficult Christmas lunch.

She was rubbish.  There was a lot of faffing around a table, which involved Chizzy behaving like a woman unable to decide what to eat at the Holiday Inn breakfast buffet, and then it was just a lot of gapping and hardly any Foxtrot.   The judges were unimpressed.

Next up, him off JLS.  Aston and Janette performed the Salsa to Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber.  I hate this tune with a passion, only because Radio One played it incessantly this summer which meant there was nothing else on in our office, because we’re not allowed to listen to anything else (yes, really, it’s a whole North Korea scene where I work.  Send help.)

Aston was fabulous.  The man is an incredibly talented dancer.  He can’t win, surely – there’s no journey and reality competitions demand one.   Bruno awarded him nine points.  In week two. Unless he gets 10s from here on in, where does Aston go but down?

Susan Calman and Kevin, hurrah!  And dancing the super fun Charleston, what’s more.  They were absolutely delightful.  I mean, it was pretty low on actual Charleston steps and there wasn’t a huge amount of swivel, but  still – it was adorable.  (Also Kevin was very clever with his choreography – the pros don’t always get enough praise for the routines they devise.  End of lecture.)

Brendan and Charlotte danced the Cha Cha to ‘Sugar’ by Maroon 5.  Goodness me that girl has a fabulous figure, but the fringing did more dancing that she did.  Latin clearly not being her thing, she looked deeply embarrassed throughout.  Shirley thought the routine too complicated for Charlotte. Pros’ choreography can make or break the sleb. “She’s very pretty when she stands up,” said Bruno, surprisingly waspish for once.  “We all have a bad day.  Re-group. Come back again and nail it.”  If she gets the opportunity to dance again, that is. She scored 12 points.  Yep, count ’em, it shouldn’t take long.  She should be voted off, although she’ll have stiff competition from Ruth, as both of them dance as well as  close pegs in a stiff breeze.

strictly come dancing

Joe McFadden and Katya danced the Tango to bloody Ed Sheeran (again, endlessly played in the frickin’ office) but after his terrific Jive last week, unfortunately he rather let himself down.  Set, I think, in Narnia – there was a random wardrobe in the middle of the dance floor – he was as about as controlled as Mr Tumnus finding out that the White Witch was about to pop in for tea.

Brian and Amy danced the Cha Cha to ‘Shake Your Groove Thing’ by Peaches and Herb.  It was like watching a man with a metal plate in his knee dance too close to a giant magnet, but he gave it his all and magestically refrained from telling Tess to fuck off when she referred to him as a “cheeky chappy”.  I rather like Brian actually; he’s 56 years old, he’s dancing to make his daughter proud of him, and he wore sequinned flares.  What more can a viewer ask?  I mean, he can’t actually DANCE, but hey, neither can loads of them this year.  That’s what makes it so much fun.

Next up, Gemma and Aljaz danced the Waltz to ‘Un Giorno Per Noi (A Time For Us)’ by Josh Groban.  It was lovely.  She tended to forget to finish off her shaping and got a bit lost after her spins, but the characteristic rise and fall was there, she held her frame and she looked to have grown in confidence.   If she keeps her nerve and improves each week, she could make the final (my tips are always the kiss of death though Gemma, sorry.)

The Rev and Dianne performed the American Smooth to Love Really Hurts Without You by Billy Ocean.  A godawful song from a godawful artist (anyone else remember the horror that was Caribb-ue-an Queen? He wanted to get the Europeans as keen on his song as the Americans, and so mashed up Caribbean and European.  The fool.)

On he came, dressed, inexplicably, as a depressed hobbit on his way to the tip on a Sunday afternoon.  He was about as far from an American Smooth as a European Rough.  Amer-ic-ue-an Smooth (see what I did there.)  I confess I was surprised to learn he’s 56 years old, as his outfits, demeanour, choreography and staging make him seem a good 12 years older, but he’s fun and has a huge fan base, so expect more of this for several weeks.

Ruth and Anton danced the Charleston’ by Bob Wilson and his Varsity Rhythm Boys (me neither).  Apparently inspired by The Great Gatsy.

Yeah, right.

She would have done better had she loosened up with a few drinks (tip for next week, Ruth), but she had some decent swivel going on and didn’t get any steps wrong and that’s as much as anyone can expect.  Well it isn’t, but I’m trying to be kind.  Yes, me being kind.  Believe it.

Simon and Karen performed the Waltz to You’ll Never Walk Alone by Rogers and Hammerstein.  There was a spin where he pushed Karen around the floor like a man wielding a recalcitrant mower across a lumpen piece of waste ground, but it was a special song for him and is one that means a great deal to a great many people, and so let us say no more about it.

Molly and AJ danced the Tango to Tina Turner’s version of Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted To Love’ (a terrible version and I should know, I lived through the 80s, hard though that may be to believe) made even more terrible by the Dave Arch singers’ ear bleeding rendition.   She started off well , good shaping, plenty of attack, but lost her place somewhat towards the end.  Still, decent effort.  Apologies for sounding like a P.E. teacher.  The judging was bizarre: Craig gave her four points, Shirley gave her eight.  Sort yourselves out, you lot.

Jonnie and Oti danced the Jive to Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry.  A super difficult dance at the best of times, surely it would be even tougher for Jonnie, given the emphasis on lower leg kicks and flicks?  Nope.  Energy, bags of attitude, technically spot on.

Debbie and Giovanni danced the Viennese Waltz to She’s Always A Woman by Billy Joel (little known fact – it was originally She’s Always A Hamster, and dedicated to Billy’s childhood pet).  It played to her strengths and there was an interesting discussion on Twitter as we realised she is younger than Madonna (by just under a year) and is not, as many had thought, a well preserved woman approaching 70.

madonna

Perhaps Debbie had over-indulged in the sunbathing when ballet dancing for the Shah of Iran?

Him off EastEnders and Nadiya performed a Quick Step.  It was overly sexy, there was illegal lift in the middle, a lot of general faffing about, and as a result the judges weren’t happy.   Enders chap took it and shrugged.  He’s knows he’s safe.

Finally, Alexandra and Gorka danced the Paso Doble to ‘Ven a Bailar’ by Jennifer Lopez, which the Dave Arch Singers found somewhat challenging.  Dressed as a mermaid forced to find work as a char woman, Alexandra gave it her considerable all.  She was fantastic; totally bossed the choreography-heavy dance, terrific characterisation, faultless footwork.  Every judge awarded her nine points.  I mean, Craig.  CRAIG. Nine points.  In Week Two.

Might she win this thing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great British Bake Off – episode five

Great British Bake Off

We come to pudding week <insert feeble pun here about Prue not being a judge to be trifled with> which is fine with me as I love a good soufflé <something about the bakers’ hopes deflating> but I loathe anything with custard <maybe a reference to a last stand? Needs work> so I was hoping for mainly chocolate-based deliciousness.

Signature challenge: steamed school pudding, served with an accompaniment.  What, like a string quartet? Oh, no.  “A custard, or a compote,” explained Noel.  Bleurgh to all of this.  My school puddings were bloody awful.  Maybe nuns can’t cook?

“We’re avoiding stodge at all costs,” said Steven.  Good luck with that, lad.  Yan was substituting breadcrumbs for a third of her flour.  Who the what now? Kate was making something to do with Mr Darcy.  Wet shirt vanilla sauce? Boiled breeches? We had to wait to find out.  Julia looked puzzled.  “We never had steamed puddings at school,” she confided woefully.  Lucky you, Julia.   Steven was doing something terribly clever with a syringe.  “Marbling,” pronounced Paul, confidently.  “Well, sort of,” replied Steven.

Cut to a dusty old gibber blathering on about puddings in sheeps’ bladders.    Ditch the history shizz, Channel 4.  Nobody cares.

Ad break.  It’s an odd thing that Dr Oetker sponsors Bake Off, given that its products are based entirely on its customers’ inability to cook.   Look at this crap:

Dr Oetker

Back to the judging.  “It’s a little bit dense,” said Paul to James.  “Not the lightest sponge,” said Prue to Sophie.  Steven got a Hollywood Handshake for his lemon and blackcurrant effort.  Yan got one for her mango and something or other pudding.  Liam’s was too stodgy, apparently.  “You’ve over-mixed it.  The gluten is too powerful.” What? Liam looked gutted.  Stacey’s was pronounced “absolutely delicious” and she too got a handshake.  Look Paul, what’s the point of the handshake if you dole them out so easily?

The technical challenge: it  was staggered.  Each contestant was called in one by one, and told what the challenge would be.  Six molten chocolate puddings filled with peanut butter.  One hour, then presented to the judges immediately.  Yikes, this was tricky, not to mention ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS and please can I have the recipe.

One by one the contestants filed into the tent.  Everyone confessed they’d never made anything like this before.  Sophie, who looks more and more like Pippa Middleton every week, burbled on about raising agents, Liam looked horrified, Yan was unperturbed, Julia talked to herself throughout and Kate admitted she’d never made a chocolate pudding “in my life”.   Stacey was my favourite: one glance at the recipe and a nonchalant “Not. A. Clue.”  We were told that the recipe didn’t tell the bakers how long the molten puddings should be in the oven.  Swines!  “I’ve got an inkling it won’t be very long,” said Sophie/Pippa.  “I think about 35 minutes,” said Kate.  “25 minutes,” said Steven.  “10 minutes,” said Yan.  HOW BLOODY LONG, SOMEONE TELL US FOR CHRISSAKE.

Sophie did spectacularly well. “I saw a lot of nodding,” she smirked triumphantly as she peered over towards the judges.  Steven’s were over-baked, Kate’s were “cracked… quite solid… massively over-baked… pretty dreadful”, which made her puddings sound like a poo produced, with some effort, by a person with constipation. James were “raw… bit of a failure”, Stacey’s had too many air pockets, which is apparently a crime in baking circles, and Liam’s were “excellent”.  Sophie won.  “I’m pleased,” she announced smugly. ” This has put me in a much better position,” she added, in the manner of Winston Churchill circa 1943, viewing successful military manoeuvres .   Kate had a more sanguine attitude to the whole thing.

Great British Bake Off

The showstopper.  An ornamental trifle terrine.  Mousse, jelly and something else.  I missed the final (sponge?) element as the cat was making pre-barfing noises. “Blarf! Hurk! Bleeargh! Blark! Blark! Blark!” and I had to find her, pick her up, run downstairs, open the front door and throw her outside in the 15 second window available before she regurgitated her Waitrose Adult Fish Pouch, the ungrateful bitch.  She used to survive on crapola Go Cat until one of my sisters gave her the good stuff and now she’ll eat nothing else.

Okay, back to the bakers.  Classic flavours, tradition, keep it simple, oh my that looks complicated, trifles galore, and nobody adding any beef with peas:

FRIENDS

Mango lime chilli mouse (WTF), white chocolate bavarois, chocolate skylines of London and Hong Kong, silver leaf on meringue crowns and blimey charlie, these bakers are talented. Nobody, NOBODY, is a failure.  And they’re all lovely.  This is why Bake Off is so good.  Great people, great talent, simple but brilliant formula. That’s all it takes, TV people.  Oooh and later we can all watch the freakin’ MADNESS that is Dr Foster.

Oh no, Liam was close to tears. Sandi comforted him.  This is where the harsh shite that is X Factor gets it so wrong.  People are applauded for their ability to crawl over their dead relatives in order to warble  “Mysterious Girl”,  whereas kindness will always win the day – as Strictly demonstrates week after week.  Yes it’s a competition, but people aren’t mean to one another.   You’re welcome, Simon.

Back to the showstoppers. Sophie and Yan had produced marvels of baking.  Stacey’s was “spot on”.  Kate’s was “very good”, James’ was “too firm” and “not carrying much flavour” (ouch), Julia’s passion fruit jelly looked like something my cat was throwing up on the pavement, Steven’s was bloody outstanding, yet Paul said there was too much gelatine. “I don’t like rubber.”  Your sex life is your own affair, Paul.

Steven looked close to tears at this verdict.  Why? It was AWESOME.

Bake Off

Liam’s was “clumsy” and “the jelly’s not set.”

Star baker was Sophie, leaving the tent was James.  I was right, but there was no pleasure in it.  “My time has come.  Gutting. To be part of this has been really humbling.”  Julia cried her eyes out and it was James who comforted her.  This is the magic of Bake Off.  Lovely programme, lovely people.

Next week, pastry.

 

 

Strictly Come Dancing – episode one

strictly come dancing

Two hours and 20 minutes? Two hours AND 20 MINUTES? Like, for real? People have run marathons in less time.  Quite a lot less time actually,  according to Wikipedia.

I checked the Strictly website just to make sure.  Considering the broadcaster is renowned for recruiting the cream of our universities’ crops,  you’d think they could find someone capable of stringing a cliché-free sentence together.  But you’d be wrong:

“In tonight’s bumper show, our 15 celebrities will show us what two weeks of hard work amounts to, strutting their stuff on the dancefloor for the very first time…. our brand new Head Judge Shirley Ballas will also be… dishing out her observations on all of the couples’ dancefloor debuts. But they can all rest fairly easy tonight — if they can keep the first week jitters at bay, that is — as the public vote doesn’t open until next Saturday. *phew*”

CHRIST.  Kids, don’t bother pratting about with degrees should you wish to join the BBC.  If you’ve read some Jeffrey Archer and/or Dan Brown drivel, have no idea what constitutes wit, use words like “shenanigans” and believe Alan Partridge to be a real person, you’ll be under contract in 20 minutes.

What this meant was all the couples would dance tonight, for the first time, but the voting lines would NOT be open so nobody would be kicked out. That process begins next week, when it’s back to the usual Saturday and Sunday shows.

Anyone up for the Strictly Drinking Game? Knock back a shot when

  • Craig awards anyone two points
  • Celebrities dance to a song choice reflecting their day jobs
  • Tess refers to a celeb’s “journey”
  • A celeb forces their child or eldery relative to visit them in the studio
  • Darcey says “yah”
  • Anyone on Twitter mentions a contestant’s previous “dance training”

And here is our first!

Richard Osman

Well he wasn’t very nice, boys and girls, was he?

On came Tess and Claudia, both looking pretty fabulous for a change, which is no fun at all.  You’d think that after all these years presenting Strictly, Tess could get a dance pro to teach her how not to walk like a body builder with piles, wouldn’t you?

First up, Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz danced the Cha Cha to There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back by Shawn Mendes (it says here).   There was the usual awful, unfunny VT, and because there’s no way they’ll put someone hopeless on first, it was unsurprising to see Gemma giving a pretty decent account of herself.   Craig didn’t think much of it, the other judges were kind, and Gemma looked relieved.

Brian Conley, comedian (I worked with him once and can confirm he wasn’t in the slightest bit funny) danced the Tango with Amy to Temptation by Heaven 17.  Brian had so much spray tan applied there wasn’t an inch visible that wasn’t fully Ronsealed.    He’ll never need an umbrella again.  He wore red shoes, the better to highlight his shonky footwork.  It wasn’t terrible, which is the best I can say about it.  Craig was foul to him, of course.

Alexandra “Okay Dot Com” Burke and Gorka waltzed to (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin.   Her dress put me in mind of a vase of dead daffodils, but actually she was rather good.   “You’re so musical,” (well DURR) Darcey told her.

Next, the ghastly Simon Rimmer.  The man may be lovely in real life but I could not stand Something For The Weekend, enduring he and the equally appalling Tim Lovejoy exchanging “bantz”.   What would he make of the Paso Doble, performed with Karen, to Song 2 by Blur?  Simon danced like a man stamping out a small fire on his patio.  “Sheer determination” said Shirley kindly, who then gave him – and us – a masterclass in how to rotate and proved in 60 seconds that she’s a million times better than doddery Len.

Charlotte Riley and Brendan performed the Foxtrot to Michael Bublé’s The Best Is Yet To Come.  Her top line drooped, she clung to Brendan like a drowning man clings to a log, but, er, her dress was lovely and there was almost a heel turn.

Jesus, there was still another 10 contestants to go.  Good job I’d bought two bottles of rosé.  On came Chizzy Akudolu (medical drama Holby City, appaz) and Pasha,  dancing the Cha Cha to Boogie Fever by The Sylvers.  Chizzy had clearly cast herself as the overweight but jolly lolster of the group, and thus gurned harder than a woman trying to remove her fillings using only her own tongue.   They began with Chizzy dressed as a doctor (drink, everyone) and she was made to perform some sub-comedy moves with the judges, poor woman, but she had rhythm and a feel for the music, which will help her in the coming weeks.  Bruno thought himself very clever to yell “Whizzy Chizzy!” when he should have said “Chizzy, Chizzy, BANG BANG!” according to my mate Sean, who texted me throughout the programme with appropriate bon mots.

The gorgeous Oti was partnered with Jonnie Peacock, waltzing to When I Need You by Luther Vandross (not really, it was Dave Arch and co) and despite being technically deficient, it was rather lovely.  So lovely I’m prepared – just , only just – to forgive him for his man bun.  Cut off your hair, Jonnie.  You know it makes sense.  After all, Jay McGuinness did it and he won the whole thing.

StrictlyStrictly

Joe McFadden (Holby City as well, obviously they don’t have a particularly demanding schedule) and Katya jived to Rockin’ Robin by Michael Jackson.  It was set in a car wash rather than a hospital ward, for a mercy, and the Dave Arch singers didn’t so much murder the song as stab it through the heart, set fire to it and then throw the remains into an industrial mincer, but actually it wasn’t too bad.   Shirley Ballas gave a highly technical judgement and Joe nodded knowledgeably, hoping to give the audience the impression he had the faintest clue what she was talking about.  Craig liked him and awarded him seven points, Shirley immediately went one better and awarded him eight.  Shirley is not to be messed with.

Ooooh, Susan Calman and Kevin.  I love them both.  “We need to get to know each other – but I don’t want to scare him off, so we’ll start with a candle-lit bath.”  They danced the Viennese Waltz to ‘Mad About The Boy’ by Dinah Washington.  She looked absolutely gorgeous – well done, Strictly wardrobe people – nervous as hell and obviously loved every single second.  The judges were impressed and Susan looked as though she’d won the lottery.

“Entertainer and Radio Presenter” (eh?) Debbie McGee was up with the sweating Italian Giovanni, performing a Paso Doble to Be Italian by Fergie.   The woman is 58 years old and as supple as someone 30 years her junior.   She was really, really good although her ballet training, not to mention her crotch, was evident throughout.    She and Giovanni shot to the top of the leader board.

Some dude from East Enders (Davood Ghadami )and the delectable Nadiya danced the Cha Cha to Dedication To My Ex by Lloyd ft. Andre 3000.  He did a lot of standing in a see-through shirt while she danced around him in a “look at me, don’t look at him!” manner, but Darcey thought him wonderful so just goes to show how little I know.

Now it was Ruth Langsford, dancing the waltz with Anton.  In the pre-dance VT, Ruth pretended it was her dearest wish to be partnered with the strangely asexual Anton.  She wasn’t very good but looked to be having a marvellous time and frankly what more can one want?  Of course the ghastly Eamonn Holmes was asked not once, but twice for his opinion, as though what a husband thinks of his wife defines her.  This bollocking neanderthal attitude has no place in today’s society and really gets my goat, as you may have gathered.

Rev Richard Coles and Dianne performed the Cha Cha to There Must Be An Angel by Eurythmics.  He’s a reverend and the song is about angels… geddit? (Drink all of you.)  “Will he be lord of the dance?” queried Tess.  Why she didn’t go the whole hog and ask if the judges planned to crucify him is anybody’s guess.  He was terrible but hilarious.  No dance skills whatsoever.  I loved it, Craig hated it, Darey called him “divine” (geddit again?)

Molly King and AJ jived to Good Golly Miss Molly by Little Richard.  Both of them looked as though they were having the best fun ever at the year 10 school disco.  Her balance was off – heels too high, perhaps? – and she danced on her own rather than ‘with’ AJ, but she had terrific rhythm and I suspect there may be a “journey” which, let’s face it, the Strictly audience wants.

Finally, FINALLY, it was Aston Merrygold and Janette, foxtrotting to It Had To Be You by Harry Connick Jnr.  Up last, so had to be good, yeah?  It was. Super athletic, confident and controlled.  One to watch.  But then we knew that, didn’t we?

So, as Sean texted, who’s on a winning journey, and who’s on a hopeless trek through a swamp ending in being swallowed whole by a crocodile?

We’ll find out next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great British Bake Off – episode 4

Great British Bake Off

Yikes, caramel week.   Beautifully intricate sugar work, salted caramel and chocolate pots, tooth-destroying nut brittle and millionaire’s shortbread. Or third degree burns and a trip to A&E.

Tonight’s blog is brought to you courtesy of the most delicious pink fizz evah

Acquesi

Why I am not sponsored by at least one drinks company remains a mystery.  Help me out, someone.

So, baking.  “The tricky thing about caramel is….pretty much everything,” said Julia.  We hear ya.  The signature challenge was to make 18 identical millionaire’s shortbreads.  Three distinctive layers: shortbread, gooey caramel, and a thin layer of chocolate.    Doubtless some idiot would flavour their offering with bloody cardamom.

All the bakers set to work with their shortbreads and as per usual stared anxiously at their ovens, as if wishing were all it would take to make them perfect. But shortbread is a breeze compared with caramel, which requires the sugar to reach a precise temperature* (Yan chose not to bother with such fripperies, despite being a molecular scientist) and also tends to crystallize the second you turn your back.  There were salted peanut varieties, lime and chilli chocolate varieties, one based on jaffa cakes (YES), one using bay leaves (NO) and one containing rum (WINNER).  Paul swigged from the bottle like a tramp in a park.

Noel was pretty certain he’d uncovered Banksy. Although Yan denied it.

Steven’s orange and macademia efforts looked sensationally good, natch, but Paul didn’t like the flavours or the textures; Prue adored them. “I don’t really like sweet things.”  You don’t say.

Architect Tom had fucked up big style.  Prue put on her Primary school headmistress face and told him: “The textures are all wrong, the flavours aren’t good and you didn’t finish the task.”  Tom slunk off to detention.

Technical challenge time: Stroop Waffles (my mate Sam can’t get through a morning without at least one of these.  How he isn’t the size of a bungalow astounds me.  He knows his food though, so check out his blog here)

stroop waffles

Prue darling, as with puff pastry, this is the kind of thing you BUY, not make.  Still, she was keen to share her stroop expertise. “You have to go low and slow.”  Advice to live by, I think we can all agree.

The tedious history lesson returned – I thought we’d got rid of this tripe, Channel 4? – and then everyone had to present their stroops (not a euphemism).  Prue had abandoned her Primary school headmistress persona and was now behaving like a university vice chancellor who had just been told tuition fees were to be abolished. “Very grainy.  Dry.  Yes grainy again.  Very, very grainy.  Can none of you get caramel right?” The bakers all looked as though they would be joining Tom in detention.

Finally,  the showstopper.  One tier cake, three layers, spun sugar, caramel everything.  “There’s obviously a danger it will be too sweet,” warned Prue, who by this stage had abandoned all pretence of niceness and had gone full on Miss Trunchbull.    Meanwhile James shared his technique for making a particularly delicious cake.  “I dip my nuts.”  I’m sure you do darling.  But perhaps not before the watershed, even if this is on Channel 4.  The temperature in the tent must have been hotter than the sun as everyone had a puce face – even Noel.

I joke about them, but my goodness, I don’t believe Bake Off has ever had such a universally talented bunch of competitors.  Everything looked fabulous. There is boundless talent to spare with this bunch, even from those who were having a complete ‘mare, particularly Stacey. “It’s not as big an erection as I’d hoped.” We’ve all been there, Stace.

Prue, who has a full on crush on Liam (who knows it, and flirts with her), adored his cake.  Stacey was told her icing was too thin.  “It looks slightly slimy.”  Cheers, Prue.  Julia’s effort “ticked all the boxes”.  Yan’s was pronounced “fantastic” by Paul,  but the “sponge is a little bit tough” corrected Prue, who was unstoppable in her disdain. Steven’s red velvet concoction looked great but was judged to be “stodgy”, Tom’s cake was “basic, gluey, under-baked.”   He looked as though he had been called out of detention only to be handed his blazer by his parents and told he would be going to a new school next term.  Kate’s toffee apple bonfire thingy however was “masterful”.   She won Star Baker.

Tom was indeed sent home.  “He really did make a mess of it,” Prue threw after him as he dumped his homework in the bin and defiantly drew a penis on the blackboard.

Prue’s not someone you’d want making a speech at your wedding, is she?

*For a soft pliable caramel suitable for making fudge or praline, you want a boiling point of 112-115 degrees C. For a firmer caramel (good for making sweets), 116-120 degrees C. For nougat and toffee, 132-143 degrees C, and for the real deal, tooth-cracking toffee, 132-143 degrees C.  Although I daresay Paul knows differently.

 

The Great British Bake Off – episode three

Great British Bake Off

Bread week. Who would rise to the occasion and prove to be the best?  Yes, yes I went there. Oh please yourselves.

I hate bread week.  It gives Paul the opportunity to whang on about yeast and kneading and gluten when everyone knows Warburton’s medium sliced white (blue waxed paper variety) is better than any bread you can make at home anyway.

Proceedings kicked off with Sandi making a shockingly bad attempt at a Yorkshire accent – Hovis bread I assume, haha yes very funny how hilarious – and the signature challenge was to bake teacakes.  Paul and Prue spoke sternly to camera about proving, and how the large amount of butter in the dough would necessitate more time to prove than normal.  There was a lot of this stuff but I tuned out and rootled around in the fridge for some wine.

Back to Bake Off.  “James is always trying new things,” Noel informed us.  Is he? What, like 10 denier tights with an open toed sandal?  A three-way with the neighbours? No, turned out it was baking different types of dough. Borrrrrrr-ing.

Liam hadn’t got a clue what he was doing but that was no barrier to putting Paul in his place.   “I’m making stout and ginger and cinnamon teacakes,” he announced.  Oh really.  And what would be the texture of his offering? wondered Paul.  Liam, who clearly hadn’t the faintest idea, was nonetheless resolute in his response.  They would be be “tea cake texture.” “Which is …?” pressed Paul.  “Very nice.”  Ha!  Go Liam.  Julia talked about her unusual technique for kneading as she pummeled her dough viciously.  “I keep saying I LOVE YOU DOUGH!” Julia is mad. Who cares about teacakes anyway? They’re full of dried fruits, which as any fule no are the rabbit droppings of Satan.  Still, everyone tried their best and looked, as always, extremely worried.

James’ were pronounced “perfect”.  Liam’s were pronounced raw, and looked downcast, poor love.  Flo was told she needed more dried fruits in hers.  NO SHE DIDN’T.   Prue chowed down at Stacey’s station.  “It looks like a teacake, it tastes like a teacake…” And what?  Walks like a teacake?  Talks like a teacake? Alas, Prue had ground to a halt in her judgement and instead chewed thoughtfully, like a peaceful sheep in a field.

The technical challenge.  A cottage loaf.  Everyone had to make their dough by hand, no mixers, the swines.   Some of the contestants knew how to make a cottage loaf, a few looked panic-stricken.

cottage loaf

Paul explained to Prue the technique.

cottage loaf

Innit.

Everyone started pulling their doughs (not a euphemism) and wittering on about gluten.  Side note here: Noel is turning out to be an excellent, funny and empathetic host. Well played, Channel 4.  Most contestants seemed to know that you’re supposed to stick your finger up to the second knuckle into the finished dough (again, not a euphemism).   No-one had any idea how long their loaves should take to bake, and by the end all the the contestants were sat on the floor, staring despairingly into their ovens.  “You’ve got five minutes left!” shouted Noel.  Everyone looked aghast.  “Mine is raw!”  “I’m not taking mine out until the last second.” “SERIOUSLY?”

Stacey had baked a superb cottage loaf.  Flo’s needed another 20 minutes in the oven.  “It’s not my fault.  It’s got a mind of its own.”  Liam’s didn’t have enough crust.  James’ loaf had collapsed completely and looked like a pale cowpat.  Prue admired Julia’s “rounded bottom”.  Steven’s effort, again, looked damned good.  Paul was unimpressed by Kate’s effort. “You should have stuck your finger in it,” he advised.  Most people would have responded by sticking their finger up Paul’s nose, but Kate chose instead to look downcast.

The Showstopper.  A colourful bread “structure” using three natural colourings.  Jesus, what the hell is one of those? “I’m going to SMASH this,” declared Liam.    Due to a tragic fluke of inattention, I thought I heard someone say they were making semen bread, but my daughter said no, and perhaps I should stop at one glass of wine.   There were mixed reactions on Twitter to the whole colourful structure shizz (I’m with @AndyGilder):

Twitter

Liam’s looked like My Little Pony poos, but Noel was on hand to comfort him. “I couldn’t boil an egg at your age,” (19).  Yan confided that she had never made a dragon out of bread before, and Flo looked unhappy: “Mine’s a disgrace. I’m going home.”

Judging.  Yan’s dragon was pronounced too small and there was too much garlic.  Liam’s flavours were “fantastic” but his dough was under-proved.  Prue didn’t like any of James’ flavours but loved everything else.   Stacey’s bread was great but her flavours were “wrong”.  Steven’s effort looked “amazing” and tasted “delicately amazing.”  This bloke is going to win.  “Superb,” said Prue.

Flo’s appalling effort was a sort of octopus and treasure chest.  “It’s Tom Jones,” she told Paul and Prue.  Look I know he’s getting on and has had some pretty bad plastic surgery, but really.  That was harsh.  “No, no…. it’s Davy Jones…. Locker,” she corrected herself.  Either way, Prue wasn’t having any of it.  “Not your best effort.”

There was a pink rose that looked like a badly burnt penis from Tom, and a snail from Julia that looked like a cartoon circumcision.

Bake Off

Let’s just look at that again.

Bake Off

Paul, Prue, and all the contestants tried and failed to hide their giggles.

Who would be Star Baker? Blimey, it was Julia, bread knob notwithstanding.  “I didn’t expect that,” she breathed excitedly.  You and me both, Jules.  And it was goodbye to Flo, which was sad because she was absolutely great.  “I met some lovely people but I’m glad to get back to normal life,” she said, holding back the tears.

Next week, no idea.  I missed it because I was still laughing at the dough dicks.

 

 

 

 

 

Strictly Come Dancing – the launch!

Strictly Come Dancing

I love Strictly. The camaraderie, the fun, the sheer joyousness of it all is truly life affirming.  And, of course, the opportunity to poke fun at those who can’t dance.

Thankfully Len Goodman has been put out the pasture and is currently boring the 127 viewers who bother to tune in with a televisual crime against humanity named Len Goodman’s Partners in Rhyme.   But hey, don’t take my word for it:

Len Goodman

Tough crowd.

Anyway, who do we want to win? Not Simon bloody Rimmer, presenter of Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, a banter-filled bag of bollocks.  The Rev?  He might win it, what with his direct line to the big man upstairs. The teeny tiny one from that group that didn’t win X Factor?  Or the gobby one with the great voice who did win it and came back as a guest judge yelling “OKAY DOT COM!” in Louis’s face?

Ooh and there’s a new judge! Shirley Ballas!

Alan Patridge

The show kicked off with Anton singing (why God, why?) but mercifully only for one line, in case everyone changed channels.

“What does it take to lift that glitter ball?” queried Tess.  A forklift truck? Two blokes and a wheelbarrow? Shirl supplied the answer: “A love of dance and a great work ethic.” Oh.

First up, Gemma Atkinson. Nope, not a clue.  Oh, Hollyoaks, appaz.  Debbie McGee! She deserves to win, if only for having been married to Paul Daniels.  I’m pretty certain she had her own ballet company (failed) at one point so I assume she knows her way around a dance floor.  Some woman called Chizzy from Holby boasted that she could do the splits, and then Ruth Langsford, another woman who deserves to win on the basis of being married to the Neanderthal Eamonn Holmes.  What would he say about her competing on Strictly, wondered Tess.  “He’d say I think I’m a lot better at dancing than I actually am.”  So that’s nice.

Gemma bagged Aljaž, Debbie landed Giovanni, Chizzy looked thrilled to get Pasha and Ruth’s hopes of making her husband “horribly jealous” crumbled when she got Anton.

The three new professional dancers were introduced – they were all absolutely stunning – to the caterwauling of  Dave Arch as he mangled Beyonce’s Single Ladies. Swings and roundabouts, folks.

Ashton hoped for a small dancer, and got Janette.  “You’re adorable together,” patronised Tess, looking at them fondly as a mother might at her daughter’s Sylvanian Family figures.

sylvanian family

Rev Richard Coles got one of the new pros, a chap called Davood (Eastenders, don’t watch it, soz) looked delighted to be paired with the statuesque Nadia, Simon Rimmer found himself with Karen and declared he would bring “nice food” to rehearsals.  Since  the sveltve Karen probably hasn’t eaten solid food since 2009, I doubt she will care, but she smiled bravely at the prospect nonetheless.

On came Shania Twain, who lip synched to a terrible ditty entitled “Life’s About To Get Good”, moving only one arm feebly throughout.  Perhaps the vast quantity of botox on her face had leaked to her legs.   She was followed by the fabulous Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba, who gave us their sensational jive and immediately intimidated every contestant.

There was a tribute to the late Sir Bruce Forysth, beginning with a montage of his Strictly appearances, and ending with a beautiful ballroom routine to “Fly Me To The Moon”.    Tess filled up with tears and Claudia helped her out when she got too choked to speak.  It was all rather lovely.

Charlotte of breakfast telly fame (I don’t watch the ITV version because I can’t stand Piers Morgan) got Brendan, Mollie King got AJ which looks to be a very promising pairing, and the peerless Susan Calman was matched with Kevin, and cried with delight.  “I feel like I’ve won the Lottery!” she sobbed.  Alexandra Burke was put with Gorka Marquez.  “I’m so nervous I’m SWEATING!” she squeaked, clutching Tess damply.

Rita Ora, wearing a pair of baggy silk trackie pants designed to make her look as chunky as possible, warbled “Let’s Be Lonely Together” whilst some unlikely street dancing took place behind her.  The whole thing resembled a fantastically cheap H&M commercial, but she looked pretty pleased with herself, so what would I know?

Finally, “Holby City’s Joe McFadden!” (two Holby City people? Are they paid very badly?) was matched with Katya Jones, Johnny Peacock “you’re a fast runner, but are you a quick thinker?” got Oti Mabuse, lucky chap, and Brian Conley “He’s got funny bones but can he move them?” (well yes, obvs Tess, you’ve just watched him walk towards you, who writes these scripts for God’s sake?)  paired up with of the newbies, Amy.

Group dance, hurrah! The pros were wonderful, the celebs were pretty awful, but every single one of them was grinning in a I-can’t-believe-my-luck-I’m-on-Strictly kinda fashion.  On one brief showing, Chizzy has some moves, Debbie knows her stuff, the Rev will be great comic value and Charlotte has all the animation and rhythm of a rock.

So, that’s it, the Strictly Class of 2017.    Bring it on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great British Bake Off – episode two

The Great British Bake Off

“The old Bake Off can’t come to the phone right now.  Why?  Oh, ’cause it’s dead!”  But the new Bake Off is alive folks, so your writer got the rosé out of the fridge and fired up her Mac, ready to see if Noel and Sandy had managed to relax into their new roles.

Yes, as it turned out.  This week’s theme was biscuits.  There would be three biscuit-based challenges, all of them hideously difficult.  First up, the signature challenge: 24 sandwich biscuits, equally sized, equally coloured.  Paul took on the role of Confucius, the better to explain his requirements: ““If you combine a hard biscuit with a soft interior, it’ll go all over your lap.”  He sounded as though he was ordered a very specific kind of exotic dancer.

Quite a few recipes sounded vile – bloody cardamom, for GOD’S SAKE – but Tom’s coffee and amaretto doo-dahs appealed, and Sophie was making biscuits with lemoncino, Graham Norton/Chris was using whisky, Flo was using gin.  Hey gang, Bezza’s left the building, there’s no point ladelling the booze into everything now.   Rulers were produced, thicknesses measured, suddenly we were watching a woman sand a table, then we were back to biscuits.   Everyone peered worriedly into their ovens. “I want them more golden,” wailed someone (bear with me, I still haven’t learned who’s who) and there was a lot of very professional looking icing going on.

Prue, dressed in acid yellow and bright blue, told Sophie her biscuits were “beautifully tart”.   Tom’s biscuits were “a triumph”.  See, I know what’s good people, stick with me.

The technical challenge.  Fortune cookies, some almond, some orange. Inexplicably, nobody raced off to the nearest Chinese restaurant, but instead poured over the skimpy recipe and tried to work out what they had to bake.  “You can’t put all of them into the oven at the same time,” Paul informed Prue.  “And the killer thing is, the snap.”   It is? Perhaps Paul is secretly a fan of Legally Blonde.

Legally Blonde

What would they write for the fortunes? “A goateed smuggo will tell you he’s not getting any lemon.”  Not everyone could get the folding stuff right, fretting over their batter which had to be shaped over the bottom of a glass (look, you have to watch it, it’s impossible to describe).  Chris’s efforts looked like cornish pasties made for a family of Borrowers.  The stress levels were palpable.  Flo and Liam were close to tears.

The judging was painful.  Prue gagged and then spat out the feeble wodge that was  Chris’s underdone wad.  “Raw batter’s not much fun.”  Thanks, Prue.  The fortunes, however, were witty. “I’ve made a right mess of this” and “You will get bored writing fortunes” and “Today you will mostly poo candyfloss”.    Sophie came second, Yan came first.  Hurrah for Yan and, er, science!

Finally, the showstopper challenge which was hideously complicated.  A biscuit board game.  “You must be able to play your board game, and eat your board game,” Noel informed the competitors.

BOARD GAMES

Remember those rainy days of your childhood, playing the classic game of Drain Pipes and Ladders? No, me neither.   Kate was making what looked like “Jumanji” but was called “Jungle” so she couldn’t be sued by Tristar.   Flo was making “Pick My Bones”,  which sounded like something played at a 1950s swingers party, and Julia was making something called ” A British Baking Game” so she couldn’t be sued by Bezza, Love Productions or Channel 4.   Alas, nobody was making Mousetrap, which to be fair is understandable, if disappointing

Mousetrap

Chris explained the rules to his Great British Sail Off game, while Prue and Paul’s faces assumed the stoic expressions of a couple who have arrived at a Christmas party, only to be cornered by Uncle Colin who believes they should have turned off two miles before the A634 and taken the fourth left onto B276 which would have shaved at least four minutes off their journey.

The ads.  I vote the latest Admiral Car Insurance one the worst in history.  Look at us!  A WOMAN admiral!  A stupid man! This is bound to win us a whole bunch of Cannes Lions!

The bakers had produced the most amazing inventions; Prue loved anything that was iced in acidic lemon, the better to match the eye-watering hue of her jacket.  However she didn’t love much else.  The Jumanji board game “looks like a swamp” and “eating it is not going to be a huge pleasure.”   Stacey got the full pursed lips treatment and looked distraught.  But Steven nailed it with his 100 element board; he is my favourite to win (which is the kiss of death if my track record for I’m A Celebrity is anything to go by).   It was outstanding, and he won Star Baker for the second week.

GBBO

(Photo courtesy of the Great British Bake Off)

Poor Chris went back to his day job of being Graham Norton’s double in his younger years (it’s a niche market).  Flo told us “I’ve let meself down terrible…. but you’re not gerring rid of me.”  Good.  Flo is fabulous.

Next week, bread.

The Great British Bake Off – Channel 4 Launch

Great British Bake Off

Ever since Channel 4 spunked £75 million on Love Production’s Great British Bake Off, there have been dark mutterings about how ad breaks would ruin the programme, and nobody but Mel and Sue could possibly present it.  And how would we cope without Bezza’s crinkly-eyed look of delight as she declared “The lemon is really coming through”?

On tonight’s showing, we’ll all cope just fine, actually.  There was some unfunny business with a hot air balloon at the start, but otherwise it was business as usual, kicking off with Cake Week, where everyone was baking, er, cakes.    The signature challenge was a “fruity cake”.  Some bloke called James produced a bunch (is it a bunch?) of rhubarb.  “That looks like proper rhubarb out of a garden,” said Prue to James. What else would it look like, for God’s sake? Flamingo legs out of a hanging basket?  Up your game, Prue.  St Mary of Berry would never have uttered something so obvious.

There were so many contestants at this stage it’s hard to keep up.  One memorable candidate for the Bake Off crown however was Yan, a biomedical scientist and footballer who had to write “turn the oven on” on her hand as a reminder.  AND THEN DIDN’T.  This bodes ill for biomedical science, folks.

There was a Scouse nana, who Paul loved, obvs, another Scouser (ditto), a dipshit with a spreadsheet called Chris who looked like Graham Norton’s younger brother, and er, lots of others.   One chap’s cake wasn’t fully baked.  A girl scampered around asking to borrow a small sieve.  Cut to the ads, which were uniformly terrible as they tried to make baking-related jokes, apart from PG Tips who got it wrong entirely and gave us a spoof of MasterChef.  Sack your agency, tea people.

Tasting.  “Bit boring.” “Not light as air.”  “The shine on the toffee is perfect.”  A Hollywood Handshake.  “It looks a bit rustic…. but nothing that a lot of custard wouldn’t help.” I like Prue!  I thought she’d be her usual acid drop self but no, she was sympathetic and smiling.  Another Hollywood Handshake.  This was all going too well.

Technical challenge: 12 chocolate mini rolls.  As always, I wonder what is the point of this round when you could nip down to the nearest Londis, blow a couple of quid, dump the wrappers in the bin, shimmy up to the gingham altar and announce “try finding fault with THESE puppies then, Hollywood!”  All the bakers looked puzzled about the inclusion of peppermint essence, as well they might.

Everyone sweated over their mini rolls, some of them looking fabulous, some of them looking like something unfortunate you might tread in on the pavement.  Noel and Sandi stood together, TV’s oddest couple, stars of an unlikely Disney film when a velociraptor makes friends with a pigeon.

The rolls were laid out to be judged.  Paul fingered them unhappily.  Prue was equally unimpressed. “For me,” she declared sadly, “there’s too much peppermint.” THERE SHOULDN’T BE ANY PEPPERMINT IN THE FIRST PLACE PRUE.

The show-stopper.  An illusion cake.  Yep, who wants a cake to look like a cake?  Sophie boasted that her champagne bottle cake looked so like a champagne bottle that when she made one for a friend’s birthday and took it to the party venue she was told by the bouncer she wasn’t allowed to bring in her own alcohol.   Nobody likes a show off, Soph.

Scouse nana Flo was baking a cake that looked like a melon.  “I don’t like melon meself,” she confided.  I love Flo.  Stacey wasn’t happy with her red velvet sponges, binned them and started again, poor love.  Steven was making a cake like a BLT sandwich.  Yan was making a cake she called banana ramen.

No not that.

Bananarama

But a chicken katsu fillet and mango salmon roe made with liquefied agar jelly. Berrlimey.

Kate was making a glacier mint glass terrarium housing buttercream houseplants which is not a sentence I ever thought I’d type.  She had designed the moulds herself, as had Peter.  The wealth of imagination and skill on offer was, frankly, breathtaking.

“A work of art,” said Paul of Yan’s effort, and indeed it was.  “Cake’s slightly too dry though.” The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

Graham Norton, I mean Chris, produced his pork pie cake.  “It’s too dense,” grumbled Paul.  Flo presented her water melon cake.  It looked astoundingly good, and all the other bakers looked thrilled for her.  “I love you Flo,” grinned Paul.  Peter’s bread cake (it’s a thing) wasn’t particularly successful,  Neither was Stacey’s black clutch bag cake, which looked burnt seaweed but apparently tasted delicious.  Sophie could not have looked more smug as her champagne bottle cake was presented.   The judges dug in.  Prue’s jaw worked in a circular motion for a considerable amount of time. “Surprisingly dry,” she coughed, witheringly.  Sophie resembled a sunken souffle.  Hubris, darling.

Steven’s BLT sandwich cake was stunning.  “It’s perfect.  The colour, the texture, the illusion… it’s all there.” The rest of the tent murmured their approval.   Bake Off contestants are lovely.  He was declared Star Baker.

Up came a pile of pancakes covered in whipped cream and berries from 19 year old Liam.  “I want to come to yours for breakfast,” innuendo-ed Prue.  “Anytime,” grinned Liam.  Filth! The spirit of Mel and Sue lives on.

Peter, who’d had a complete ‘mare of a couple of days, went home.   Noel gave him a great big hug.  Everybody cried a bit, including your writer.

Next week, biscuits.