Great British Bake Off 2016: episode two

Great British Bake Off 2016: episode two recap

by Howard Middleton 01 September 2016

Howard Middleton runs through the happenings of Biscuit Week on Bake Off with collapsed gingerbread houses, smashed biscuits and perilous piping making it one of the nerviest episodes yet.

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Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

We interrupt this programme to bring you news of a terrible storm that has wreaked havoc on the country this week. It all started so innocently, when Paul instinctively popped the exemplary Jaffa Cake of last week’s technical challenge into his cuppa. Though it drew the immediate Berry scorn with a look that could freeze your Darjeeling and the chilling comment ‘we don’t do that in the South’, that’s nothing compared to the tragedy of a nation wrenched apart. Not since the EU referendum have we witnessed something so divisive as Dunxit. Now personally speaking, I’m a tolerant man – Mr Hollywood is free to dip his cookie in my cocoa any night of the week – but let’s hope for an uncontroversial episode. Yes, this time it’s… oh crumbs… it’s biscuit week. Now that’s just asking for trouble.

In Sue’s temporary absence, Mel must crack on alone to announce the signature bake of twenty-four identical and elaborately decorated biscuits. Paul taunts the NDBPS (National Dry Biscuit Preservation Society) by saying he wants a mug of tea big enough to dunk the lot.

Drinks are definitely on the menu as Michael serves up malted beer-glass-shaped biscuits flavoured with chocolate and orange. Louise innocently admits that her charming tea-infused Bara Brith-flavoured sheep biscuits will have a softer texture. Mary looks witheringly unimpressed.

Supercool Selasi is turning up the heat with his chilli-packed racing cars. Powering ahead to the finish line, we see him taking the scenic route around the tent, well before the challenge deadline. He passes the time by providing roadside assistance to other bakers.

As the tension mounts, common sense makes its customary exit from the tent – Jane is stretching over her freshly iced almond biscuits to pipe another batch. Louise drops her tray and has to start again. It’s what sheep-shaped biscuit bakers refer to as a flocking nightmare.

Val looks like she’s no longer having fun as her efforts are blighted by the curse of the Bake Off tent. She too drops a tray of her Neapolitan ice cream cornets and is left trying to salvage the required number from a carpet of broken biscuits. Mary, the doyenne of faint-praise damnation, looks at poor Val’s frenzied offering and says, ‘I’m sure you can pipe well.’ Ouch!

Skilful piping from Benjamina transforms her ‘chicken drumstick-shaped’ biscuits into pretty chocolate- and orange-flavoured bouquets. Andrew’s honey-flavoured beehive biscuits look good but are stingingly judged to taste stale. Much to Rav’s surprise, his coconut and lime bunting biscuits remind Paul of a tasty Thai green curry, and he decides that Candice’s double-layered hearts filled with caramel ‘look hideous but taste amazing’. Any flavouring fears about Kate’s lavender and bergamot butterflies are laid to rest as they turn out to be delicately delicious, though Mary describes her decorating prowess as ‘informal icing’.

Tom’s chai frappuccino coffee cups are judged to be the star-bics to rival Starbucks and his name is duly inscribed on the paper cup of fame as he collects the season’s first Hollywood handshake.

Our first historical interlude of the series examines the cultural origins of… biscuit dunking! Well, it turns out that this is not such a Northern no-no after all, but a practice of classical origins; the Ancient Greeks dipped their bakes in alcohol. Surely Mary couldn’t disapprove of that?

Andrew's biscuits looked the part but tasted stale, according to Paul and Mary
Jane's almond biscuits found their way onto the floor, meaning another batch had to be whipped up

Technical challenge

This week’s technical challenge sees more Viennese Whirls than a Strauss compilation album. The bakers must craft and bake perfectly shaped rosettes, then make raspberry jam and buttercream to sandwich the delicate discs. Some of the bakers discover their mixture is too firm to pipe properly – Michael resorts to giving his a blast in the microwave, Selasi encourages pliability by squeezing it in and out of the piping bag and Rav calls upon Mel and her warm hands.

Kate whirls her way to producing a perfect batch and she becomes the Viennese victor, but it looks like a huge blow to Selasi’s confidence as he takes the bottom spot and says the experience has been ‘embarrassing’.

Moving on to the showstopper, it’s all about gingerbread structures that say something about their baker.

Benjamina's Chrysler Building was made in homage to a family holiday in New York
Val's gingerbread masterpiece unfortunately didn't have the structural integrity needed to prevent disintegration

The showstoppers

Tom is recreating a near-death climbing experience he shared with his mate Pod, ably demonstrating the cathartic quality of a little mountain of biscuits. Benjamina recalls a family holiday in New York with her gingerbread Chrysler Building. Louise is looking forward to imminent married bliss with a biscuit church, though she’s ominously populating her perfect wedding churchyard with a few gingerbread gravestones. Selasi is also looking for divine inspiration with his honey-flavoured church, complete with stained glass windows of molten boiled sweets.

As we get close up to some dangerously unsafe structures, Berkshire planning officers are surely closing in. A cyclist falls from the bridge of Andrew’s tasty Cambridge punt scene, but is thankfully unscathed. Rav admits the Ferris wheel of his Christmas fairground has already collapsed in practice. His burnt trees put the local fire service on standby too.

Tragically the heat is on for poor Louise and no church restoration fund can save her bake now. It’s like a Hammer horror film – indeed it couldn’t have been more horrific if someone had actually put a hammer to it. This is Bake Off at its most painful to watch. The steeple cracks, the roof caves in and the less-than-happy biscuit couple are left to contemplate life, death and the fragility of baked goods.

Michael’s childhood memory of a trip to Lapland looks like it’s taken a creative detour through the mind of Stephen King. He admits it’s ‘Santa’s Workshop from Hell’ but Paul says it’s the best tasting gingerbread of all.

Candice built a gingerbread pub, which helped her achieve coveted Star Baker status
Michael's Santa-themed construction looked like a nightmare but tasted the best of all

Kate has crafted an impressive three-flavoured Brownie camp. It’s beautifully piped but too soft, as is Jane’s homage to Hastings.

Candice has built a pub, complete with a sticky carpet of moist gingerbread. It sounds tacky but turns out to be genius. Mary proudly announces, ‘I’ll eat a bit of carpet’, relishing a rug-munching opportunity that doesn’t actually involve a mouthful of damp polypropylene.

Val’s biscuit day goes from bad to worse, as her tableau journey called ‘From Holland to New York via Yorkshire’ reaches a disintegrating destination.

Paul asks whom one of the biscuit characters represents. Val explains it’s her sister Susan just as he bites her head off.

So it’s left to lone Mel to announce this week’s winner and loser, as Candice is given the title of star baker and Louise is given more time to review her wedding plans. Mary unwittingly personifies that biscuit called langues-de-chat when she delivers her verdict on Louise’s disastrous departure: ‘Full marks for carrying it off with a big smile.’ Miaow!