Welcome to 1980s Week on The Great British Baking Show, celebrating a decade that more than half the bakers have no memories of because they were toddlers or, in Peter’s case, ten years away from being born. As a person born in 1980, I spent the majority of episode pondering my mortality, which is exactly the sort of emotional experience I want to have while watching a televised baking competition.
This very special coronavirus season of The Great British Baking Show was filmed this past summer, in a PVC tent erected directly beneath the blazing rays of the sun, filled with ovens and professional lighting rigs. This particular episode was filmed on July 31, which was not only the hottest day of the year in the U.K., but the country’s third hottest day on record. There is no air conditioning in the tent, but each of the bakers is given a small electric fan, which is nice. Climate change has come for GBBS so hard that poor Paul Hollywood said he had to “peel his jeans” off, and I was forced to picture every agonizing minute of that.
This is the second week in a row that Lottie is making the same thing as another baker in the signature round, and the second week in a row she decides to use ingredients the judges hate. Last week she kindly altered her cheeseburger bun recipe to appease Paul’s pickle revulsions, and he thanked her by being a complainypants. This week as she’s preparing her full English breakfast quiches, she learns both Paul and Prue hate baked beans, and she alters nothing because these fussy twits don’t deserve any sort of special treatment this week—they can eat their goddamn beans and like it. Then, when they eat the quiche, they can’t taste the beans, and Paul comments, “They don’t add anything to the look, either.” Over the previous six episodes Lottie’s face has made it perfectly clear that she’s over all this shit, and I commend her for not punching Paul square in the face.
Paul finds himself gobsmacked by Hermine’s quiches but fails to give her a handshake. This disappoints me because Hermine is my favorite person in this entire damn tent, but I like to think the slight is because he’s do distracted by what’s going on in his jeans he can’t think about much else. He does honor her quiches by taking them to his dressing room, so they can watch him peel his jeans off before enjoying a bit of quiche for lunch. Hermine will live with that image in her head forever, which honestly is just as good, if not better, than a handshake.
I don’t remember these from my ’80s childhood, though I grew up in New York City, not London. You didn’t want to stick any sort of fingers in your mouth in 1980s NYC, so I can see why they didn’t become iconic on this side of the pond. For breakfast, me and all the other schmucks living in Brooklyn had to survive on lousy babka, knowing full well that it would never be as delicious as anything prepared by the British. That’s what we get for seceding.
This challenge was a momentous occasion for young Peter: his very first time deep frying anything! And he got to share it with millions of people around the world. It’s been a hell of a week here in America, and I’m so grateful that I got to experience a such a beautiful, special moment. He comes in second to Hermine, who is on fire this week. Is she, too, trapped in her own pants by the infernal heat? Probably, but you don’t see her complaining about it, do you?
Paul says Lottie’s doughnuts, which are fried to what I think is the perfect shade of golden brown, are too dark. But again, I’m just a New Yorker who doesn’t know a damn thing about sweets.
The good news: this was filmed the day after the U.K.’s third hottest day on record, so, in a way, things could have been worse. Paul, Prue, and the producers plan these challenges several months in advance, and there’s no way anyone could have predicted that it would be hot on August 1. These people work in television, not at Hogwarts.
The better news: This round is not nearly as disastrous as it should have been! Peter, Marc, Dave, and Hermine (of course) turn out ice cream cakes that are at once delicious and relatively solid. Laura and Lottie do not fare as well, but their position in the bottom two was only because their creations melted, as Paul Hollywood revealed that he knows nothing about ice cream cakes and his opinions are garbage. First he tells Lottie that the outer layers of ice cream cake are not supposed to be made from molded ice cream. This means that Mr. Hollywood, for all his fancy globetrotting, has never once experienced the apotheosis of ice cream cakes: Carvel’s Cookie Puss. I am an authority on this subject: my birthday falls in August, and every single one has been celebrated with a Carvel cake made entirely of molded ice cream and chocolate “Crunchies.” Paul Hollywood’s comments are an affront to my culture and identity, and I demand he apologize to me, Cookie Puss, and, most of all, to Cookie Puss’ cousin, Cookie O’Puss, who has been forced to put up with the English’s bullshit for far too long.
Later, Laura presents a “Death by Chocolate” cake that’s semi-solid, but also more on-theme than anything else that’s been presented this episode. The eighties were all about excess, when chefs wanted people to consume chocolate the same exact way they were consuming cocaine: to the death. One of Laura’s layers is a brownie, and if you remember back during Chocolate Week, Paul asserted that he is an expert when it comes to brownies. And these are the words that came out of Smartypants McGoo’s mouth this week:
“Why would you put a brownie in the freezer? What’s the key element you look for in a brownie? You’ll never get [fudginess] in a million years if you put it in the fridge!”
I’m not sure if I should be aghast that Paul Hollywood—a man who makes his living as a baking “expert”—has completely destroyed his credibility on the telly for all the world to see, or if I should weep for this poor bastard who knows what it feels like to have soupy jeans but doesn’t know the textural joy of a frozen brownie. I shall keep Mr. Hollywood in my thoughts and prayers.
This week, Hermine finally wins Star Baker, which I’m hoping is the first of many wins between now and the final. Her seven-year-old son makes a guest appearance, crashing her postgame interview to say he’s proud of her, and I start crying because my sons are 12 and 13, and neither of them are proud of these recaps. Going home is Lottie, who we learn only packed two sets of clothes to get her through the entire competition, and had spent the majority of July living in borrowed pants. If there was a perfect week for her to go home, it was this one.