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Great British Bake Off 2018: Biscuit Week

Great British Bake Off 2018: Biscuit Week

by Howard Middleton 29 August 2018

Bake Off is back! Howard Middleton takes a look at what went on in the tent during Biscuit Week, when we got our first look at this year's bakers.

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Can it really be a year since we were last welcomed into the Bake Off tent? Well presenters Noel and Sandi begin by taking us back to that infamous moment when judge Prue Leith mixed up her time zones and accidentally tweeted congratulations to the winner before the final had actually been shown. In homage to Back to the Future it’s a sketch that literally doesn’t really go anywhere.

Prue says that she’s going to be tougher this year and she ‘wants to see more colour’. Judging by her first outfit, she probably just needs a mirror.

The signature bake demands twenty-four ‘regional’ biscuits that mean something to the bakers. Paul explains that ‘we’re starting with biscuits, not cake, this year, which is unusual’. He smiles and waves his hands like a man who’s been on a crash course in enthusiasm. I wonder how long he can keep it up.

Antony’s turmeric and caraway Goosnargh cakes are sandwiched with a mango chilli jam. Prue loves their ‘beautiful texture’ and ‘little modern art’ appearance and Noel notes that the brilliantly bold biscuits match her outfit.

Briony explains that the secret of her super-short shortbread Empire biscuits is to boil her eggs. Paul looks unimpressed, though there’s little new there. He eats his words and as he munches on ‘the best shortbread here today’, Prue claims she’s going to try the ‘egg yolk trick’ too, much to our and Briony’s delight.

Manon emphasises her French roots by occasionally lapsing into subtitles, whilst effortlessly performing a little Gallic roll of her ‘fantastic’ Cornish shortbread into chocolate and hazelnut crumbs.

Paul attempts a little humour as he tries to get a word in with chatty Rahul – ‘Do I need to get comfortable?’ he asks. Humour and enthusiasm Paul - whatever next?

Kim-Joy claims she first discovered the fragrant orange blossom of her York biscuits whilst sniffing a bottle of hair conditioner. Prue drifts into aromatic ecstasy, saying they’re ‘absolutely exquisite’.

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Imelda’s Irish oatmeal biscuits are judged to be ‘delicious’ but Jon’s Welsh Aberffraw creams turn out ‘a tiny bit under-baked’. Paul can’t find the lime in Luke’s Yorkshire gingernuts and Prue tells Rahul the fennel lacks punch in his coconut Pitcaithly Bannock.

Ruby’s masala chai Devon flats with pistachios and dark chocolate sound delicious and she’s miffed by Paul’s judgement that they’re ‘like a dried sponge’. Dan’s lemon and strawberry Shrewsbury have ‘great flavours’ but are ‘tough’.

Topping her Yorkshire perkins with hand-crafted white roses, the seemingly unflappable Karen gets that baking malarkey out of the way and sits down to munch on a bag of crisps. Meanwhile time-strapped Terry suffers one of those all too familiar ‘bad tent days’ and fails to finish the chocolate portraits of twenty-four little lambs on his Lake District shortbread. He admits it’s not his finest hour as Prue struggles to digest his bake – ‘A ribble bib harb’ she splutters and Paul adds it’s ‘a rough old biscuit’. Karen offers Terry a consolatory crisp.

For their first ever technical challenge, Paul sets the bakers on a potentially rocky road as they’re tasked to produce eight Wagon Wheels. Sandi confesses she’s never had a Wagon Wheel and was fifty-five before she tried a Pot Noodle.

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With raspberry jam, marshmallow and sixteen biscuits to make from scratch, then sandwich together and coat in chocolate, the results range from the finest in edible transportation to some sad scrap-yard snacks. Antony, Imelda and Kim-Joy are judged to be on the skids, whilst Ruby, Briony and Manon achieve showroom perfection. The French baker charmingly admits she’d never heard of a ‘Wheelie Wagon’ before today.

Rolling on to the showstopper and the bakers must produce a multi-layered biscuit self-portrait.

Happy holiday memories are a popular theme – Luke works orange zest and cinnamon into Las Vegas, Antony goes for ginger on Kilimanjaro and Karen captures her French holiday home in rosewater and cardamom. Luke’s sin city artwork is a little ‘under-baked’ but Antony manages to achieve a ‘gorgeous balance’, which really isn’t easy on the side of a mountain. Karen’s is faint in flavour but visually strong, despite Paul deciding it look like a cross between Dame Edna and Su Pollard.

Closer to home and Briony recreates Bristol landmarks in a lemon and poppy seed biscuit with gin-flavoured royal icing. Noel thinks there’s a touch of Björk in her self-portrait. Briony says she’s been likened to Michael McIntyre.

Ruby tells us she’s never actually finished the London marathon but she’s hoping to break her incomplete run through the medium of biscuit. Sadly history repeats itself yet again and she’s left with an unfinished selfie that’s judged to be ‘soft and a bit dry’. Biscuit Ruby doesn’t look happy… neither does the real one.

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Imelda’s ‘Seaside in Mayo’ (that’s the Irish county, not the salad dressing) gets a harsh dressing down from the judges – ‘simple’, ‘bland’ and ‘stale’. Jon’s sailing seaside selfie fares a little better; despite its sun of seriously lumpy lemon curd, he achieves a good likeness and a ‘spectacular biscuit’.

Rahul captures his first spring in the UK, surrounding his visage with verdant icing and popping on a pair of boiled sweet specs. Paul asks where his stubble is and Rahul coolly replies that it’s a portrait from ‘seven and a half years ago – I was clean shaven’. Paul laughs and admits it’s ‘fantastic’.

Dan celebrates becoming a new dad in Palm Springs with a ‘delicious’ combination of mango and passion fruit. Kim-Joy asks what the mysteriously bulbous pink object is he’s holding. ‘It’s a baby’ he replies. ‘Oh, I thought it was something else’ she smiles. Kim-Joy isn’t alone, though Paul slaps down any phallic fallacy by saying it looks like ‘a massive prawn’.

Kim-Joy portrays herself at Miyajima in beautifully crafted and super-cute detail, though Prue decides her biscuit ‘could do with a tiny bit more spice’. Manon’s detailed Japanese selfie achieves a perfect balance of green tea and white chocolate. ‘Wow’ exclaims Paul and it’s no surprise she becomes the first star baker of the series.

Terry snaps himself out of the danger zone with an ‘ingenious’ brandy snap mask portrait that’s treated to a ‘delicious’ daubing of Impressionist icing, so poor Imelda is the first to leave. The subtitles are back as delighted Manon phones her equally delighted family in France. Ruby flings herself at Prue and promises to do better next week. Prue looks like she’ll need a stiff drink first.

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