Great British Bake Off 2016: episode four recap

Great British Bake Off 2016: episode four recap

by Howard Middleton 15 September 2016

Amidst the hoo-hah surrounding the future of Bake Off and its eventual departure from the BBC, Howard Middleton wades through the vitriol to bring us the ups and downs of Batter Week.

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Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

Another typical Bake Off week – nail-biting decisions, missed deadlines, frustration, fury and controversial departures. Meanwhile, let’s look at what’s been happening inside the tent.

In a Bake Off first we’re diving into a week devoted to batter. It’s a painful reminder of the time a journalist described a certain baker as having legs the colour of raw batter. I should never have worn those shorts.

We start with a signature challenge of twenty-four identical Yorkshire puddings with a savoury filling. Mary says that once they’re in the oven, Yorkshire puddings are in the lap of the gods. I thought they were in the oven. Val says that her Yorkshires are also in the lap of the gods. Zeus and Aphrodite are furious at a plethora of oily crotch stains.

Andrew’s adding a pinch of mustard powder to the batter of his tasty tapas-style Yorkshires filled with Spanish chicken. Benjamina’s using classic sandwich fillings of red onion, bacon and brie. Her puds just needed a little longer in the oven but her flavours are excellent.

Now I know the pain of seeing myself on TV, realising that my chin has a tendency to disappear into my neck and knowing that millions of viewers would witness this, so I pity poor pouting Candice, who must be discovering she has a face that could challenge a champion gurner as she repeatedly attempts to inhale her mouth. Copious amounts of expensive lipstick still can’t turn this into a flattering look. Candice starts again after producing a batch of Yorkshire biscuits. Second time around, her beef Wellington-inspired puddings with horseradish cream are judged to be beautiful.

Rav and Benjamina
Batter Week flummoxed some Bake Off contestants, but Benjamina excelled in each round
Andrew's tapas-style chicken Yorkshires went down a treat

Jane has been dreading this week and confesses that she can’t make Yorkshires to save her life. Whilst other bakers carefully fill their tins of smoking hot oil, she dribbles the batter haphazardly like Jackson Pollock. Her meat and two veg filling includes a pea purée – it turns out better than expected. Mary says they’re delicious but not a Yorkshire. Paul is ecstatic about the flavour: ‘That tastes un-be-lievable!’

The verdict on Kate’s puds is that they’re too small though her Christmas-dinner-inspired turkey and cranberry filling is good. Mary insightfully comments that it tastes just like a Christmas dinner.

Rav’s taking a risk with his spicy batter that sees another outing for his favourite flavours of coconut and lime, but he’s taking an even bigger risk with a Thai tofu curry filling. Paul is not a tofu fan but is converted – the flavours are fantastic and he asks for another one.

Selasi’s classic Sunday roast includes pork tenderloin, sage, apple sauce and even a bit of crackling. Mel thinks it’s a Bake Off premiere for pork crackling – I’m not so sure. I check James’ four-pig wellington of series three, get prematurely excited by Kimberley’s crispy chicken skin of series four, but have to admit that Mel (or perhaps the team of researchers) is probably right. Anyway, Selasi’s batter balls are uneven in size but taste amazing.

After Tom’s triumph of last week, he’s now suffering the curse of the Star Baker and having a dreadful time. Why is something that has worked perfectly well at home now failing miserably? His chickpea flour Yorkies refuse to rise, producing a deflated batch of blinis. Rice and curried cauliflower must be piled on top instead of having a concave home in which to nestle. Mary says they’re dry and solid but ‘well baked’.

Yorkshire-born Val thinks she’ll never be allowed back in the county with her flat puds but she starts again and produces some decent crispy containers for a beef chilli. Complemented for their beautiful texture, Val breathes a sigh of relief that she’ll still get a warm welcome in Wetwang.

Poor Rav's pancakes contained too much sugar and ended up burning
But Benjamina's lacy delights were deemed perfect by the judges

Technical challenge

This week’s technical challenge demands twelve lacy heart-shaped pancakes. Paul advises the bakers to practise their pattern and they’re allowed one trial run. In the technical review tent, Mary cuts into a lace pancake, squeezes lemon on it and forks it. She playfully squeezes on a little more lemon and teases her pretty plateful but doesn’t actually eat it. I don’t blame her, as she faces the inevitable prospect of nine cold batches to judge. Take a deep breath Mary and cut the crêpe.

Using too much sugar in the batter, Rav’s burnt offerings are destined for the bin, but Benjamina’s deliciously delicate dozen doyleys are judged to be perfect.

Val had some great definition on her churros
Depite Jane's fear of batter, her churros weren't a complete disaster

The showstopper

The ovens are off for this week’s showstopper, as the bakers fry up a big batch of Spanish street food classics – thirty-six churros.

Rav and Tom are risking inconsistency by piping thick batter directly into hot oil – the traditional way – whilst most bakers are piping onto paper, then sliding them into the fryer. Selasi has a new technique – he creates batter baskets on the underside of bun tins, then freezes them before frying. It’s not a great success – his lemon and anise churros with cinnamon and raspberry cream are burnt on the outside and raw in the middle.

Pistachios pop up in Andrew’s window box of churro flowers, Rav’s matcha strands and in Jane’s white chocolate version, providing Mary with an opportunity to demonstrate her very individual pronunciation. I love it when she does this. Last year it was Peter bread, this time it’s pissed-Archie-oh.

Candice is back in the pub again with beer-battered churros encrusted with peanuts. Like a description of a louche old barfly, Mary says the mixture is ‘a little slack’.

Rav’s risky Japanese-inspired flavours include white chocolate and wasabi – Paul’s not impressed and Rav risks a swift exit, as does Tom, whose fennel-flavoured snakes are too dry. Mary tries to be diplomatic: ‘Shall we say, if you’re fond of fennel it’s fine, but it’s difficult to eat and a bit tough?’

Val’s chocolate orange churros are judged to be too doughy but it’s Benjamina’s tropical fruit fries that attract a swarm of smiles – they’re judged to be ‘a great display’.

Kate’s spiced hot cross bunnies with sultana eyes are deemed to be ‘a bit sad’ – she admits they’re ‘road kill’.

Poor bunny battering Kate is batted out of the tent and Rav says he feels guilty. Benjamina had a good feeling about this week and she’s proved right as she rightfully claims the star baker prize. Andrew smiles his best ‘just missed out again’ face. I wonder if any BBC execs can muster the same expression.