Welcome to week five of The Great British Baking Show and, most importantly, my Monday morning GBBS recaps, which help keep the pastry party going all week long. This week’s edition is going to be about 70% recapping, and 30% screaming. I hope you’ll all jump in and scream along with me!
Before we’re invited into the tent this week, we’re treated to a small clip of Michael completely freaking out before the competition has even started. As you may remember from last week, Michael has been edging ever closer to a total nervous breakdown with with every single challenge, and, if you have a soul, it is not fun to watch. If this show was produced here in America, incremental descent into madness would not only be encouraged but actively instigated by the producers, because it makes for “good television.” I’ll tease and crack wise, but I find no joy in watching what is happening to Michael in this tent, and it is souring this season for me. Hopefully, as it’s Roaring Twenties week, there is plenty of booze in the tent, and perhaps someone (looking at you, Noel) can Irish up his coffee a bit to calm his crazy ass down.
Signature Challenge: Custard Tarts
The Roaring Twenties were a decade of post-war excess and massive societal change. It was the decade where jazz corrupted millions of impressionable youth, where prim young women threw off their corsets, chopped off their long, carefully pinned hair, and became rouge-wearing hussies that shaved their legs. It was the decade of the Weimar Republic, which showed the world that behind those steely and serious exteriors, Germans are so damn freaky that they can make even a 21st century lady such as myself blush. It was the decade of the American gangster, of Prohibition, of vice. In Britain, it was apparently a decade of plain-ass custard tarts and good manners, which is disappointing, yet not surprising.
The bakers must make four baked custard tarts, each with exquisite decoration that evokes the 1920s, like the angular geometry of Art Deco, or the severity of German expressionism. Helena decides to go full Dada by unleashing the Kraken, whose head will be exploding through the center of one of the tarts, with its tentacles linking the rest of the tarts together. She is the best contestant on this season and possibly ever. We then do a quick check in on Michael, who is already welling up with tears.
Our favorite sexy schoolboy Henry discovered the Kool-Aid was invented in the 1920s, so he’s making lemon lime tarts, which seems like a tenuous connection to the theme. Henry also does not actually use Kool-Aid in his tarts, so I guess we’re all just doing whatever the hell we want this week.
Priya has come to the tent this week with a massive scowl on her face and “come at me, bro” attitude, which I’m loving. This woman is rage baking today, telling me with her eyes that she had it out with her massive Indian extended family over last week’s mishti fiasco and, while she’s happy to be out of the house, she is in full IDGAF mode and does not care what anyone says about her. Honestly, I’m a little bit turned on.
Now we move onto Rosie, who has been the hardest contestant for me to pin down. We know she’s a vet, we know that she’s immensely talented, but yet somehow over four episodes we still don’t know much about her. This completely changes this week, and I’m not sure if Rosie is just having a bad week or if she is, in reality, a Karen who is demanding to speak with the manager. She is making fancy elderflower jelly domes, which will contain beautiful food coloring flowers thanks to a syringe meant for horses. Noel asks the question none of us have been thinking until now: is this the type of syringe she uses to put horses to sleep? It is. It’s a horse death syringe. She begins to talk about how she’s murdered many, many rabbits. And then, this happens:
It’s at the moment Noel (and I at home) realized that Rosie, perhaps, enjoys killing. He makes a joke about crab herpes, which then produces this magic:
What is so notable about this moment is that The Great British Baking Show is widely considered to be a very dignified affair and, now that this has happened, no one can ever again say that my frequent jokes about sexually transmitted diseases are “disgusting,” “wildly inappropriate,” or “a completely irrelevant thing for you to bring up in an article about chili dogs.” It’s a big day for food writing, my friends.
Rosie drops one of her tarts, and the three that survived weren’t that great. David’s were good enough to get a handshake, and Steph’s are top notch. Everyone else seems to be middling, though Priya’s were somewhat disastrous, and Michael’s were too shallow. Helena’s had a bit too much lavender, but it looked like this so, seriously, who cares:
Technical Challenge: Beignets
If you’ve had beignets in New Orleans, you’ll know them as big, messy affairs. In Great Britain they’re tiny, prissy little things: perfectly round spheres of fried choux pastry, filled with a tiny little spritz of raspberry jam. They seem like a sweet nibble that you’re only supposed to eat one of at a classy Roaring Twenties cocktail soiree, and if you grab a second you must announce to everyone that you are “being a naughty girl,” much to everyone’s bemusement. I want to eat at least two dozen, and would not be allowed to do so without becoming the victim of vicious gossip. I am already angry at these beignets.
You know who’s really angry at the beignets, though? Michael, who nearly goes full Taxi Driver during the challenge where he’s working with a vat of hot oil. He can’t get his choux to come together, begins crying, then fails again in his second attempt and straight-up loses it. Noel tries to talk him down from the ledge, and tells him he needs to go for a walk. Alice is a few feet away laughing over the fact that she’s burnt hers, and Michael looks like he’s going to stab someone. This is not fun to watch and the judges need to send him home. This show is supposed to be about the joy of baking, not the terror.
Michael, incredibly, isn’t the biggest failure in this round: it’s David, who has fallen oh, so far from his round one handshake. Then came Michael, Michelle, Alice, Rosie, Steph, Henry. Seriously struggling Priya came in at number two, and the winner is Helena! Oh my God, this made me so happy. Helena is utter joy to watch on screen, and a constant reminder of how this competition is supposed to be fun and surprising—not sad and scary.
Showstopper Challenged: Cocktail Flavored Cake
As I promised in the intro, there was to be screaming in this recap, and the time for that is nigh. The challenge was to make a tiered cake based on a cocktail, and above you see the cakes of those who will be returning next week. Clockwise from the top left: Rosie’s messy but adequate White Russian cake, Priya’s non-alcoholic piña colada cake, Steph’s pretty good piña colada cake, Alice’s ugly piña colada cake, Michael’s flavorless blackberry bramble cake, and David’s cute and relatively competent Amaretto sour cake. Henry also made a White Russian cake, but I only had six slots for photos so just use your imagination on that one.
When the judges begin discussing the eliminations, they say when you closely examine all three challenges, there are two bakers who are quickly falling away from the rest of the pack. In a sane universe, Priya and Michael—who were also last week’s bottom two—should be going home. We already know how I feel about Michael, and technically he hasn’t been very strong since Bread Week. Priya has been completely unremarkable in every challenge, couldn’t be bothered to put booze in her cocktail cake, plue her “Roaring Twenties design motif” is blatantly Art Nouveau and I am insulted she didn’t think I’d notice.
But they didn’t send them home, now did they?!
Helena and Michelle—two of this season’s best bakers—are sent packing for absolutely no good reason. True, this wasn’t Michelle’s strongest week, but she’s been near the top in every previous challenge, and wasn’t even close to the worst in anything this week. Helena won the damn technical this week! Sure she hasn’t been consistently perfect, but she’s a hell of a lot better than Priya, and a lot more fun to watch than Michael. And I’m sorry, how are they the two that have been slipping towards the bottom?! Rosie dropped an entire tart, messed up badly in every challenge, and is only moving forward on the strength of previous weeks. Even perfect Alice was somewhat a mess this week, but yet these idiots think Michelle and Helena are the ones who weren’t keeping up? They honestly want me to believe that Michelle has been falling behind Henry and Priya?! These women were robbed, and I demand justice. What that justice looks like I don’t know yet, but it better be coming or I’m burning this mother down.
And so, there are seven bakers left going into dessert week. Hoo boy, I am not going to be happy going into dessert week. You can expect a hell of a lot of crab chlamydia talk from here on out.