Patisserie Week makes for a high-stakes yet utterly boring Great British Baking Show

Hermine saying, "My face says it all"
This is still nicer than any expression my had during this episode
Screenshot: Netflix

Nine weeks ago, I wrote that based on the quality of this year’s contestants, I truly believed that we were on the precipice of the finest Great British Baking Show season in history. My, how time has flown, as here we are in the semifinal with the three dullest bakers out of the original lot, plus Hermine. It took me three tries and two days to make it through this episode because it was so boring and pointless. Lest you think that’s a harsh summation, I assure you that these were the kindest adjectives I could come up with for this craptacular shitshow that took every ounce of goodwill I had left for its boobish tomfuckery and flushed it straight to hell. After forcing myself to stay awake to see this snoozefest to its infuriating conclusion, I must spend hours of my life recapping it, which I am only doing because I care about the readers. Everyone involved in the show itself can piss off.

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Signature Bake: Savarin

The theme of this year’s semifinal is patisserie, which in Britain refers to pastries. (British pastry is what we call pie, and that happened back in week five.) Savarin, if you’re not familiar with them, are small yeasted cakes that are baked in a mold and drenched with a liquor-spiked syrup. When done correctly they are transcendent pillows of booze-soaked bliss, and if you’re the sort of baker who deserves to be in a televised baking competition, you should have absolutely no problem wi... oh, what’s that, Prue Leith?

Prue explaining that the heatwave will make proving times shorter for the bakes
Screenshot: Netflix

That’s right. Twelve months in a year, and they film this—the show that revolves around butter, chocolate, and ice cream—outdoors in August. They do this to bait me into overreacting, but this week my therapist and I were talking about how I don’t need to engage with things that make me angry. So I won’t.

Everyone’s savarins are perfectly fine. Peter’s gets a handshake, which is nice for him. What for, exactly? Couldn’t tell you. I rewound and rewatched this round like six times, and repeatedly found it more compelling to stare at my cat as he cleaned himself than to focus on whatever was happening on the TV. (He did a very good job, because he’s a very good boy.)


Technical Challenge: Whatever The Fuck This Bullshit Is

An elaborate cornucopia made of pastry, precariously balanced on a smaller pastry
No one asked for this and no one wants it.
Screenshot: Netflix
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They’re actually trying to kill me this week, aren’t they? I am accepting this “pastry” as a thing I cannot change. My therapist is going to be so proud of me when she reads this.


Showstopper Challenge: Cube Cake

I had almost forgotten all about these things, and that’s because cube cakes are utterly fucking ridiculous and no normal human being should ever make one. These are the sort of cakes you want to look at but don’t want to touch, and if you’re making something like that, you’ve obviously missed the entire point of dessert. I mean, seriously, which one of these cakes would you rather eat:

Left: A sagging cube cake. Right: Lupita Nyong'o cake from episode 1
Like I was going to let the season end without bringing this back. AGAIN.
Screenshot: Netflix
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For their showstopper, the bakers need to appease Paul Hollywood with 25 uniform mini cube-shaped cakes with sharp edges and flat sides. Paul says he’s “looking for that precision, that artistic flair... the four bakers are amateurs—I want to see them pushing themselves into that world of professionalism.” What the hell happened to hobbies? You used to be able to be able to just do things because you liked them, without all the pressure of having to go semi-pro on Etsy. It should not be normal to be professional-level anything on a casual basis. You don’t do surgery as a hobby, or at least you shouldn’t. Professionals work their asses off.. Immediately after this episode aired, bakeries across the world surely began getting DMs requesting custom cube cakes from people whose budgets are “in the $25-30 range.”

We all assumed that this week was Hermine’s to lose: patisserie is her forte, she’s consistently been one of the best bakers, and she’s the only interesting person left in the tent. So pardon me for finding it a wee bit curious that Hermine—the same woman who made me almost respect jelly cakes—yes, Hermine, “couldn’t get her cake to work” during practice, has to “make everything up” on the fly, and “forgets how to bake” one episode before the final. Her cake is an insult to the foundations upon which dessert is built, a cake so unbelievably awful that it erases everyone’s memories of her performance thus far. While Paul and Prue mull over who to send home, Noel reminds them that Laura has sucked pretty hard every week, and really has only made it this far because every week someone else managed to suck a little bit worse. They take none of this into consideration, and decide that Hermine needs to go home. The only possible explanation for any of this malarkey is that Hermine has been paid handsomely to take a dive, which if true is a decision I wholeheartedly support. She’s getting famous one way or the other, so why not cash out big and make some bookies extremely happy? Everyone else was making cube cakes while Hermine was making a 4D chess board. We never deserved someone as perfect as her.

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Hermine’s elimination means that the three bakers in next week’s final will be this week’s star baker/handshake-recipient Peter, so-boring-I-forgot-he-was-on-the-show Dave, and... Laura? That’s right, folks, this is the trio that has made the final of The Great British Baking Show, because it’s 2020 and why the hell not. I’m almost as excited about seeing Laura take the crown at next week’s end-of-season carnival as I am about seeing Peter’s gluten-intolerant brother going down a twisty slide in badminton shorts.

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Allison Robicelli is a writer, recipe czar, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Tweet me for recipe help: @Robicellis.

DISCUSSION

Sending Hermine home was so fucking bad and dumb. Yeah, her stuff was awful this week, but so was Laura’s, and Laura has sucked multiple times (as you, and Noel, pointed out). Hermine has been star baker twice. Laura has been bottom 3 basically every time. Plus, from a purely PR perspective, it looks REALLY BAD to send home the only remaining POC (who, again, has been great throughout and been STAR BAKER TWICE and had one bad week) and keep 3 white people, two of whom are clearly not better bakers than Hermine week over week (Peter absolutely deserved to be in the final). Like, even if you could rationalize keeping Lara by the slimmest of margins, no producer said “guys, this is a bad look?” Sheesh.