The Great British Baking Show’s bread week is its best week

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For our contestants, bread week is the worst week. For a smart-ass like myself watching at home in sweatpants and a bra, it is the best week. Not only is it nerve-wracking and dramatic, it’s also the week I finally feel as if I know these contestants on a deep, spiritual level. I have fully entered the warm confines of the tent, and all of these people have become my closest, imaginary best friends.

The horror show of bread week, as usual, kicks off with the contestants talking about their lack of confidence in their bread-making abilities. Unlike other weeks when I relentlessly mock contestants for lack of preparation, everyone gets a pass here—bread is a totally different animal than what most home bakers are used to. It’s a balance between precise science and high art, where a million things can go wrong and none of them can be repaired on the fly. Everyone’s a winner just for showing up and not crapping their pants on camera, which is exactly what I, a highly experienced baker, would have probably done.

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Signature Bake: Filled Tear-And-Share Dough

Tear-and-share dough, even when it’s a technical failure, is delicious. Know what else is delicious?

Screenshot: Netflix

Women are supposed to hate getting older because, aside from being ever closer to death, we become less desirable and, therefore, are considered completely irrelevant. Dear young Henry, with his preppy outfits and boyish charm, has awakened the cougar inside of me, she of gnashing teeth and voracious appetite. Though I’ve technically been dead inside since I turned 35, I am born anew! Henry is making his bread with activated charcoal, and for the first time my instincts aren’t telling me to write three paragraphs about why I think activated charcoal is stupid. Instead, all I want to talk about this week’s bio video:

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Screenshot: Netflix

Henry is a good son who bakes lovely cakes for his father, a professional Mitt Romney impersonator who isn’t remotely impressed by his child’s talents. He also spends his free time rollerblading, an activity I haven’t seen anyone do in public since 1998. Henry is adorkable, and my decaying, plaque-filled heart is aflutter.

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Michelle is once again making some Welsh thing I can’t pronounce, and it involves an ungodly amount of cheese. Her bio video says her passion is cheese, which immediately makes her the contestant I have most in common with. Michael’s passion is teaching spin class, an activity I am adamantly never participating in, so no matter how good his chili and chutney star bread is, I know we’ll never be any more than imaginary casual acquaintances.

I BELIEVE IN YOU, STEPH!
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There seems to be a lot of pesto happening in the tent, and a lot of disappointment between the contestants as they all realize they’re not very original. I’m going to pull for Steph’s pesto bread, though, because her bio says she’s working three part time jobs to get by, and of those jobs the one producers thought would be the most interesting on film was… selling shoes. I’d been on the fence about her before, because her baking has been inconsistent and I’m also crazy jealous of her ability to pull off bangs. But for Bread Week, I stand with Steph.

Motorcycle gang member Paul’s bio shows him playing basketball with his two teenage daughters, and I realize the reason he’s always so calm and collected is because competing on this show is the least stressful part of his entire week. Same with Priya, who has two young children, as well a gigantic extended family that keeps dropping by her house and making her cook for them. This is the sort of hardcore training you need to survive on this show, which is why they’re both serious dark horse candidates.

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Two contestants are making cinnamon rolls, which I learn are considered an American thing over in the UK and now I feel really bad for these people. Spooky Helena is making her rolls gigantic, because this woman understands how cinnamon rolls are meant to be enjoyed. Health-conscious David is putting raisins in his cinnamon rolls, and as I despise raisins he is now officially the villain of season 10.

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Alice has the honor of presenting the “This Week in Adorable British Accents” segment, where she teaches us that her baklava bread is actually pronounced bak-LAAAAHHHHHH-vah bread, and henceforth this will be how I pronounce it as well. Her bread is filled with chopped pistachios, which means it’s only a matter of time before Paul Hollywood drops my favorite British pronunciation of all time: “nootz”.

Amelia says she hates cheese. I have nothing funny to say about that, because there is nothing funny about hating cheese.

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Everyone’s finished bakes look beautiful, but beauty won’t matter if they don’t taste good. The first person to experience being ripped apart by Paul Hollywood on Bread Week is Henry, whose chicken and pesto tear-and-share looks like a ring of heaving, multiethnic bosoms. Paul says—and this is an exact quote—“It’s a little bland, I don’t like the flavor, and I don’t know how you managed to do that, because you have all the things in there that should taste amazing.”

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Rosie, who last week pulled a worm out of the eye socket of a horse, was massively stressed out over her Manchego bread. She, of course, nailed it. I never get too deep into writing about Rosie, because she’s going to end up in the top two with Michelle and I’ve got plenty of time to make jokes about horse anatomy.

Alice’s bakLAAAAHvah bread is beyond gorgeous, tastes great, but is just a little dry. Amelia’s looks like something you’d see at a PTA meeting, and is so spicy that Prue starts gagging after tasting it. Last week I said that Amelia is probably going home in this episode, and it looks like I’m going to be on track with my picks.

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David’s cinnamon rolls look beautiful, but still—raisins. Helena, Michelle, Priya and Phil do extremely well, but none of them compare to Michael’s absolutely gorgeous Keralan star bread tear-and-share, which is so delicious he gets a handshake from Paul Hollywood! The first handshake of the entire year, given out in the first round of Bread Week! I can’t believe it! And I can’t wait to make this bread at home because it both looks and sounds unreal.


Technical Challenge: Hamburger Baps

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I know I’m supposed to be talking about bread but I can’t because every time I type the word “hamburger bap” I start laughing for a solid two minutes. Bap is a perfectly cromulent word to describe a small roll, but it sounds ridiculous, and even though it’s damn hard to make a good one of these everyone keeps saying “bap” and I can’t take any of this seriously. Host and resident pervert Noel Fielding makes a ton of double entendres throughout the entire round, before flat out calling them tiny buttocks before the judging starts. Paul does a ton of finger poking of these tiny buttocks, then eats one with a fork, and you know what? I’m just going to tell you that Henry wins and we’re moving on.


Showstopper Challenge: Display of “artistically scored loaves”

The showstoppers must have a cohesive theme and can be made of any number of breads, but at least two of them must be impressively sized. Though flavor and texture are paramount, this challenge is all about the scoring—those cuts on the top of a loaf—which involves steady hands, a sharp razor, and utmost precision. Also complicating things for our contestants is Noel, who appears to be high and is cavorting around the tent being a huge distraction.

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It’s become highly predictable that, during Bread Week, at least one baker will attempt to do something stupid and fail in spectacular fashion. This year that distinction goes to David who says he needs to “go big or home”, which is the dumbest possible thing a person who is firmly in the middle of the pack to do during The Great British Baking Show’s most difficult round. He chooses to make a trio of large, colorful African masks, which is a… brave choice.

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Priya intends to go tropical with a big flamingo; Steph a hand-tied bouquet of flowers; Michael a Mediterranean campfire; Rosie, the veterinarian, a wild jungle safari. Michelle makes a hedgehog, and you should know that the hedgehog is Welsh. Halloween-loving Helena is doing something creepy with bread worms, and she better stick around because I want to see how far she starts pushing the envelope once she starts building some confidence. It’s a short jump from bread worms to a trifle filled with maggots and broken glass.

Call me, Alice!
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Alice is shooting the moon with her ode to travel: a beetroot and walnut Union Jack, a carrot and coriander compass, and a rye, garlic and rosemary globe. I’m randomly overcome with emotion about how much I love Alice. She’s in every way the opposite of me, but I think that if we ever met we’d the bestest best friends of all time. This is inspiring me to write Michelle/Alice fanfiction, which I will hide behind a paywall.

My darling Henry, who knows what a big deal this challenge is, has decided to make fougasse—a style of bread that is not meant to be scored—which could possibly result in disaster. And it does! He also decided to bake everything on top of parchment paper, which is not as non-stick as everyone assumes, and ends up baking itself into the bottom of his bread. I am terrified, because he cannot go home before I get my #HornyForHenry hashtag to trend.

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Paul Hollywood judging Bread Week is BDE the likes of which I’ve never seen before. He’s ripping things apart with his bare hands like an animal, smacking loaves against the table, manhandling the bread like Rocky with a slab of beef. Paul is not here just to judge the bread, but to defend the honor of bread itself, and it’s magnificent. I’m left not knowing whether anyone actually did well, because in Paul Hollywood’s World of Bread there’s only two types of people: middling, and failure.

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The biggest disasters this week: David’s African masks, Henry’s paper-filled fougasse, and Amelia’s smorgasboard of raw bread. That poor girl has been such a mess during every single episode that I’m almost relieved when she goes home. She cries, and I feel bad, but it’s been obvious she’s been a nervous wreck who has barely been holding herself together during her three episode arc. I hope she’s proud of the work she did, and I hope she’s happy she went home right before Dairy Week, which sounds like it’s going to be terrifying.

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About the author

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is the staff writer for The Takeout, a former professional baker, the host of The Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, and a nascent birding enthusiast.