And then there were four. I was nearly certain that Patisserie Week, The Great British Baking Show’s semifinal, would be so boring and predictable, I’d probably be able to write this recap without even seeing the episode—we’re really just killing time until Steph wins next week, and we all know it. But it wasn’t! For a show that’s essentially televised Valium—in a good way—this episode was, if you can believe it, marginally exciting. Quelle surprise!
Signature Bake: Elegant, beautifully decorated domed tartlets
Domed tartlets are beautiful, dainty little things can drive you absolutely wild with violent and savage hunger. Related: This is the first episode without Henry. I knew what we had couldn’t last forever, but I didn’t expect to miss my tasty little nugget of Grade-A Prime Cougarbait so damn much. The bakers decide to pay tribute to Henry by wearing ties—much in the way that darling boy paid tribute to our queen, lord, and savior Helena—but then take them off after less than a minute because there’s no time for sentimentality when there are domes to be made.
The judges want the bakers to make eight identical domed tarts that have a pastry crust base, and a utterly ludicrous number mousses, jellies, glazes and French words I don’t understand on the top. I don’t know what sort of situation would have to arise for a home baker to consider making these tarts, and honestly, I can’t think of seven people I like nearly enough to make these for. I have a few people I’d be willing to make doughnuts or pavlova for, but domed tartlets imply an intimacy I don’t think I’m comfortable with.
All season long, all Rosie has wanted to do is focus on making every challenge far more difficult than it needs to be, and all Noel has wanted to do is talk to Rosie about animal castrations. This week we learned that when she’s not killing rabbits, Rosie’s lopping the balls off baby pigs. These interactions have been, without question, the best part of season 10, and I would like someone to give them a spinoff series post haste. I will start a GoFundMe to to produce this myself if necessary. It’s very difficult to care about a woman’s domed tart when you know she is the one who holds the answers to your many, many animal testicle questions.
David is making a domed tart based on a popular liqueur spritz that most certainly does not include Aperol, which obviously did not pony up the cash to be mentioned on this show. Prue says the tarts are stunning, with a completely unique appearance that would compel her to buy one if she saw them in a shop window. Paul complains that they don’t look professional enough because David didn’t chop his hazelnuts small enough, because Paul is being a stupid, whiny git. He says flavors and textures of David’s seven different elements were excellent, but its appearance is garbage, just like Prue’s opinions. Every time Paul Hollywood opens his mouth I just want to slap it right off of him, and the fact that I’m the kind of gal that likes that sort of thing is why I’m never going to be able to quit this show.
Whatever Steph made was essentially perfect, except it was a little soft because it needed more time in the freezer. They should have just given her the title three weeks ago and leaned into the fact that this show has become a battle for second place. My pick for the silver is still Alice, who once again makes something completely spectacular and isn’t given nearly enough praise for it.
Technical Challenge: Gâteau St-Honoré
Here’s the shocking twist nobody saw coming: Prue made a perfect and sane choice for the technical challenge, and it made for great television! Gâteau St-Honoré is a classic pastry that’s one of my favorites, because it’s constructed like a greatest hits list of French patisserie: buttery puff pastry, airy pâte à choux, luscious crème Chantilly, cloud-like crème Chiboust, and sweet caramel. Those are all elements that every serious baker should know how to create, so it makes this a good challenge.
This is why when Rosie realizes she’s messed up, she does not just shrug it off and and feign ignorance. Rosie knows she may not win the title of Greatest Baker in Britian, but damnit she is going to make it out of this round with her head held high. When her puff pastry goes wrong, she makes it a second time. When her choux goes wrong, she tries again, and she fails. But does she give up? Never! Rosie is a goddamn champion who pulls herself out of the gutter, gets right back up on that castrated horse, makes her choux pastry a third time, and comes away as the grand gâteau St-Honoré champion! This is exactly what the technical challenge is supposed to be all about, and I am so happy Rosie delivered it for all of us. She’s brought a bit of psychotic magic to the show this year, and I hope the producers consider an all-veterinarian season of The Great British Baking Show.
If that thrill ride wasn’t enough, this was also the round where Paul Hollywood made the joke about diabetes that made the internet really angry last week. We reported about it, and we then reported that the “joke” was being cut from further broadcasts. But we were all lied to! Personally, I am not a fan of diabetes jokes, because they imply that a person who has diabetes deserves it, as if they brought it upon themselves. It’s also just lazy joke writing, especially on a show that’s literally about cooking things with sugar, and I expect better. He could have quite easily used this opportunity to make a joke about diarrhea, but instead he went for the low-hanging fruit.
Showstopper Challenge: Some Fancy Box Thing
The bakers have to make a sugar box case for some fancy pastry thing, and the only person who follows that directive is Rosie, whose “Time for Family” showstopper is a salute to ignoring her husband for nine weeks in a row. Paul and Prue find it simplistic, boring, and dry, which is as good of a metaphor for marriage as I’ve ever heard.
David decides to put a cake in his positively stunning box, which Paul doesn’t think is fancy enough. Steph also puts a cake in her “antique glass” box, but it’s opera cake which is fancy AF, plus it’s got a shiny mirror glaze and perfect macarons and pretty much perfect in every way, because she’s Steph. Finally, there’s Alice, who uses her beautiful cake to remind us that the oceans are dying and humanity is doomed, so in the grand scheme of things this show is bullshit and nothing actually matters anymore. She also uses fresh raspberries, which Prue loves.
Alice is, for the first time, awarded Star Baker, which I’m pretty sure is a consolation prize. This was by no means her strongest week, but she’s deserved the title more than a few times, and if Steph wasn’t on this show Alice could have very well could have won this whole thing quite easily. Alas, Steph on a bad day is still better than 99% of the bakers that have ever appeared on this show, and better than most of the professionals I have known in my life, myself included. Still, I’m glad Alice got some well deserved recognition before next week’s final, which she will lose.
Finally, we say goodbye to Rosie, who has sacrificed her marriage and the lives of countless rabbits to entertain us week after week. I hope she brings the horse with the worm in its eye socket as her guest to the final. I’ve been dying to meet that guy.