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Great British Bake Off 2017: the final recap

Great British Bake Off 2017: the final recap

by Howard Middleton 01 November 2017

The final three bakers battle it out to see who will be crowned champion of The Great British Bake Off 2017 – Howard Middleton lets us know how they fared.

More from this series:

Waking to a crisp autumn morning, the nation looks forward to a cosy evening of summer memories from a Berkshire tent, blissfully unaware that this year’s Bake Off final is about to be hit by a Himalayan hurricane. A mortified Prue Leith realises that she’s confused her time zones and drops a bombshell from Bhutan by congratulating the winner on Twitter long before the programme has aired. Understanding that few people really want to know the outcome early, surviving copies of the hastily retracted tweet are redacted. (It looks like a six letter name. Poor Kate is likely to struggle.)

For their final signature challenge the trio are baking twelve small loaves – four intricately shaped and four flavoured. Sandi tells us that the remaining four must use ‘an alternative grain like spelt or buckwheat’. There is no buckwheat – all three settle for spelt, which ironically doesn’t seem quite in the spirit of ‘alternative’.

Orange plaited brioches and wild mushroom and shitake ciabattas accompany Sophie’s batch of spelt boules. She admits that bread has been her nemesis and the longer proving time needed for her chosen doughs is a self-inflicted burden.

Kate uses a simple white dough to fold origami-like flowers that bloom beautifully. Her favourite film is apparently Gladiator and this inspires a batch of Roman spelt and honey loaves, which she appropriately names Maximus, Decimus and Aurelius. Noel insists the fourth loaf is called Stuart.

Kate’s final four are filled with a Peshwari-style combination of black chickpea and coconut kala chana, sweetened with jaggery.

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Steven fills four loaves with tasty toasted garlic and Fontina cheese alongside a batch of spelt and rye. Inspired by his boyhood scouting hobby of tying up Winston in knots… sorry, my mistake… tying Winston knots, he skilfully crafts sweet buns of cinnamon sugar and chocolate chips. Sandi tells Steven about a knot called a monkey’s fist and his eyes water with laughter. ‘You’re going to miss me,’ she says. ‘Terribly,’ he replies.

Comic interlude over and Steven is very concerned by splits in his loaves. Paul says they ‘look pretty awful’ and belatedly advises that the garlic and cheese dough needed more water to avoid splitting. Steven looks like someone who’s internally battling with gratitude and pain; he’ll remember that next time… except there isn’t going to be a bloody next time!

Prue adds they’re ‘quite tough’ and Steven’s expression subtly shifts to that seen on so many past contestants’ faces; he can’t quite muster a brave smile and can’t really believe his bad luck. Paul says the rye loaves are ‘massively under-proved’ then launches into a mini master class on what Steven should have done. Steven now looks like a man who wishes he’d stayed in bed this morning.

Fortunately Steven’s Winston knots are far from ropey and Prue declares them ‘delicious’. Paul taps the three batches in succession and summarises – ‘under-proved, under-proved, perfect’.

Sophie’s spelt also suffers from being under-proved but she achieves ‘great structure’ in her brioche. Paul decides her mushroom batch is tasty but adds ‘I wouldn’t call it a ciabatta’.

Paul and Prue love Kate’s curried filling and she gets off to a great start. Prue thinks her spelt loaves needed more salt but are well baked and Paul adds ‘you push it, it springs back, which is a good sign’. It sounds very much like a test of Bake Off resilience. How many bakers have survived to ‘spring back’ after a verbal prodding from Paul? Steven looks like he’s struggling to recover.

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Technical challenge

Prue advises that her technical challenge is ‘all about the bake’, which turns out to be only partly true. Ten ginger biscuits must be made and baked to crisp perfection but they also have to be shaped and iced with what look like embroidery samplers to occupy idle Victorian hands. Five are square and lacy patterned, five oval and floral.

In our last visit of the series to the judge’s private little tent, Prue declares she’s ‘too posh to dunk’ then proceeds to do so. I do love Prue.

Trying to chill her dough, Kate chooses a tray that’s too big to fit in the freezer, then runs out of time and fails to finish icing. Unsurprisingly finishing last, Sophie comes second and Steven’s triumph lets his hopes rise again.

The showstopper

For their final creation the bakers are tasked to construct a large entremet containing at least five elements, one of which must be sponge. It’s described as the ‘most unforgiving final showstopper in Bake Off history’, which officially makes this series the most relentless user of superlatives ever, ever, ever.

Steven reveals he was in Sweden when he applied for Bake Off and he takes inspiration from the Scandinavian landscape for a Yin and Yang entremet that represents the contrast of snow-covered hills and dark night sky. It sounds like a model of magnificent minimalism and I dare to hope he’s channelling the spirit of the heaven and hell cake that clinched John Whaite’s victory in series three.

Worryingly though, there seems to be an awful lot going on flavour-wise, with rum-soaked and caramelised bananas, crème brûlée, raspberry coulis, chocolate mousse, honeycomb feuilletine and hazelnut genoise.

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Kate’s entremet is a Japanese-inspired creation of pristine white with vibrant flashes of vermillion. Layers of crisp coconut dacquoise and yuzu zest genoise are covered in a white chocolate and yuzu bavarois. Shards of black sesame tuile are a perfect match for the seed-flecked dice of cubed dragon fruit. Tempered chocolate discs and a butterfly complete the creation.

Prue admires the clean appearance, saying the glaze is ‘as shiny as a bathroom tile’. Flavour wise, Prue describes it as ‘sharp and delicious’ and Paul adds ‘sublime’. Kate informs us that she intends to do a naked cartwheel if she wins.

Sophie’s ‘Ode to the Honey Bee’ includes honey custard, blackberry jelly, orange sponge, lemon set curd, hazelnut feuilletine and a lavender and white chocolate mousse. Prue asks ‘do you think all these things go together?’ which seems a little too late for Sophie to be considering now.

Paul practises saying ‘lavender and lemon’ with increasing degrees of suspicion and rain threatens to dampen proceedings further (along with the friends and families waiting patiently outside) but Sophie is undaunted as she multi-tasks through her recipe. ‘Concurrent activity – the principle of war’ declares Sophie. Sophie is just a little scary.

Steven is coping less well with the pressures of the final and he resorts to pacing around amid bouts of deep breathing. Wielding his trusty spray gun he attempts a velvet-like finish of white chocolate but is disappointed by the results and choked by a sudden inhalation of cocoa butter. With cocktail-stick precision he carries a pair of chocolate spheres and trembles to arrange his balls satisfactorily.

The shimmering galaxy blue mirror glaze looks sensational but there’s disappointment just beneath the surface as Paul’s knife cuts through and drags the soft layers into one another. With competing flavours Prue decides it’s ‘almost too much of a good thing’ and Paul adds ‘I think you missed a trick here’.

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Despite suffering a broken collar in the throes of battle, Sophie’s entremet survives to win the judges’ admiration. Exploiting the principle of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ Sophie essentially recreates her chocolate flower of the quarter-final and pairs it with a pretty bee and honeycomb. Admiring the marbled white chocolate finish the judges agree it’s ‘amazing’. ‘Lemon and lavender has got to be the new taste’ declares Prue and Paul adds ‘I love it’.

As the 2017 champion is announced it’s a bittersweet result. Sophie is of course a wholly deserved winner – a clever, convincingly calm baker with great skill and determination.

But success leaves in its wake disappointment. Steven, who was so clearly the front-runner for the early weeks, suffered the pain of the fickle floured finger of fate and the catastrophe of canvas cookery. Dark horse Kate could have triumphed but had a tricky technical. And in different circumstances perhaps it could have been any of this year’s lovely bunch – Peter, Chris, Tom, Flo, James, Julia, Yan, Liam or Stacey. In the Bake Off tent, the fine line between success and failure is often an overenthusiastic baker, an overambitious showstopper or an overheated proving drawer. I avoided Twitter and half suspected that precise Prue would have used ‘brava’ for a female winner. I was wrong.

Steven’s proud mother hugs him with the love that can never be bettered by clutching a glass cake stand.

And so we sniff a sad farewell to another year of Bake Off. Though a little bird tells me there might just be another couple of Christmas specials with past bakers. Sadly I won’t be back to try again and I’ve no idea who will return or who will win. Prue… step away from that phone… now!

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