Who got a battering in the fourth week of Bake Off? The contestants took on Yorkshire puddings, piped pancakes and churros with mixed success in the latest episode...
Our pioneering, intrepid bakers flung themselves headlong into the unknown realms of Batter Week with their usual self-deprecating charm...
The Signature challenge
Jane made it very clear that Yorkshire puddings – this week’s signature bake – was a foodstuff that she was simply unable to make. Val, who hails from Yorkshire, feared that she may never be let back in to Yorkshire afterwards. But they went about their business with gusto, and the eagerness with which viewers waited to watch people mix flour and water together hasn’t been seen in the UK since the 1986 Papier Maché Championships.
Yorkshires, of course, are notoriously unpredictable in their behaviour; they’re a bit like wayward teenagers with wildly oscillating hormones, with virtually no warning of whether they’re going to be perky and ebullient or deflated and sullen. You sensed that between the nine bakers, several hundred “traditional family recipes” had been tried out at home, each one of them claiming to be authentic – but the approaches varied wildly across the kitchen, from Tom’s eight eggs to Andrew’s four. Who was right? Is there even a right way? Andrew made reference to there being “much debate in the Yorkshire pudding community”, which sounds like a thrilling night out if ever we heard one.
With tapas puddings, fusion puddings and panang puddings amongst the bakes, this turned out to be a surprisingly spicy challenge; Val demonstrated touching concern for Mary’s welfare (“I don’t want to blow her head off”) but Jane and Selasi both went for a more traditional roast dinner approach. Right from the start of this week, however, Benjamina looked confident and unassailable; when Paul said that he “loved” the sound of her red onion and bacon filling, it was with such enthusiasm that it almost sounded sarcastic – but no, Paul would never do such a thing. Could this be Benji’s week?
The crucial moment with Yorkshire puddings, of course, is when the batter hits the hot fat and the pockets start to form. Showing enviable skill in the inflation department was Selasi, whose puddings looked like dirigibles from the 1930s, while Tom’s (which used chick pea flour) looked like blinis from a particularly poverty-stricken part of Russia in the early 18th century. When it came to the judging, Selasi, Andrew and Rav managed to please our famously fickle judges, but Tom’s disconsolate discs came a distant last. Despite variable Yorkshires, all our bakers showed awesome cooking skills, with a whole myriad of wonderful flavours. Just like Betty Botter, however, they just needed a better batter.
The Technical Challenge
The technical challenge was lace pancakes, with its terrifyingly vague instruction sheet headed in red with the words “Do Not Confer With The Other Bakers”. This was all about intricate, delicate work (“Like a doily you might find in Carole Middleton’s guest bedroom”) but the way to achieve the gossamer-like objective remained something of a mystery, with so many variables – the quantity of sugar, the consistency of the batter, the heat of the pan. “You gotta have that baker’s intuition,” said Benji with a smile, indicating that she’d found the intuition and had hidden it in her cupboard where the other bakers couldn’t find it.
“This might be the worst thing I’ve ever made,” said Andrew forlornly – and there’s no doubt that this was a tough challenge, with only one test pancake allowed. We watched sweating bakers piping batter into a latticework pattern into a hot pan – an activity so bizarre that you wondered whether Paul Hollywood had just made the whole thing up for a laugh. Benji, with her secret stash of intuition, ended up pipping Candice to first place.
The showstopper, churros, almost felt like another technical challenge; each baker claimed that they knew thecorrect temperature for deep frying them, but their guesses were as wide-ranging as a bunch of amateur weather forecasters. There were some exotic takes on the traditional Spanish formula – Rav with his white chocolate and wasabi, Andrew with his pistachio dust – but this was all about consistency and uniformity. Once again, Benji shone, but Kate knew that she was in trouble. “I’ve had a bad bake,” she said disconsolately, having committed “cakal attraction” with her deep fried bunny rabbit churros. With a melancholy sigh, Kate left the tent to return to her Norfolk home, but star baker Benjamina looks like she’s on an upward incline – just in time for the petrifying problems of Pastry Week.