The Great British Bake Off: 6.10. The Final
When a primetime baking show is featured on Channel Four News and Ladbrokes launches an investigation into insider betting then you know it has seeped into the British psyche. This was the Great British Bake Off Final and everybody had a favourite. Tamal had been consistently impressive on flavours but occasionally let his timing go astray. Nicknamed the 'Hedgerow Raider', Ian has been Star Baker three times yet his form has dipped. Nadiya began finishing last in a technical challenge but has improved so dramatically that she was favourite to win.
The signature challenge was typical for the final; 16 filled iced buns comprising two different flavours. That sounded devilishly simple and it was, the enriched dough had to be light and the filling full of flavour topped with a soft icing. Only perfection would suffice now.
Again, timing was the main issue for Tamal and his buns looked a bit shoddy. He managed an impressive Citrus Marmalade yet with time ticking away his crème patisserie was too loose meaning his first set were more like jam sarnies. There was no shine to the icing and Paul Hollywood was not impressed that it was plain, royal icing. As usual the flavours were there for his Apple and Vanilla Cream yet this was a disappointing start.
As he has done before Ian decided to impress by doing something different, in this case two batches of dough. His first were Cardamom and Cinnamon Spiced with an Apple and Cranberry Jam which took longer than usual, only at the judging did he realise he had forgotten the sugar. Oops. His mistake was partly rectified by his Elderflower with Lemon Curd which Mary Berry excitedly deemed a 'sheer joy'.
Nadiya also went for something different, two different shapes. Her round Cardamom and Almond Buns with an Almond Crème Patisserie were unorthodox for the brief but that did not matter. Her Nutmeg and Sour Cherry Jam Fingers looked divine and she showed initiative by incorporating lemon powder to make her jam just sharp enough. The presentation was neat and by simply not making any mistakes you could argue Nadiya was already 1-0 up.
A Raspberry Mille Feuille technical challenge demonstrated just how far each contestant had come during the competition. All three had suffered with pastry before and this was their chance of redemption. Each stage had to be executed perfectly and the instructions were little help. No-one really figured what the sugar syrup was for until applying the finishing touches (bonding the candy stripe icing to the pastry). The real delicacy came in cutting the pastry quick enough before it melted and before it turned brittle. The layering was tricky too; Tamal's looked squashed hence he was last. Ian did not fare much better as his syrup was too thin yet his jam was impressive. Out of all three, Nadiya had improved the most throughout and it was no surprise that she had won another technical, even in the final. 2-0 to Nadiya then and as long as she avoided dropping her showstopper the title was hers.
The final showstopper emphasised perfection as the brief was relatively simple; a multi-tiered classic British Bake with a single flavour. If there was a prize for thinking outside of the box, Tamal would have claimed it for his Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake. This really should not have worked, a fruit cake containing dates, figs, oranges, lemons and prunes yet still with a wow factor. When it came out the sugarwork looked spectacular and he had successfully converted a pudding into a rich cake, no mean feat. Mary raved about it and Paul was surprised he'd managed to finish it on time.
Ian had gone for a relatively simple Colossal Curvy Carrot Cake, only he had jazzed it up with cinnamon, all spice, cloves and star anise. Yes, star anise. He had even gone for five cakes linked by a huge carrot made out of orange icing though in truth this looked a little childish. For someone who usually looks so composed it seemed that the nerves really got to him as he again forgot an ingredient, this time oranges, and needed to recalculate quantities. Having said that, Paul deemed this one of the best carrot cakes he had ever eaten, high praise indeed but was it high enough?
There was always a sentimentality in Nadiya's baking, a sense that she was doing it for her family. Like an X-Factor winner her showstopper had a backstory, this was the wedding cake she was denied in Bangladesh. Nobody could deny her now. Not only did a Lemon Drizzle Cake have a sense of tradition but the gorgeous red roses, white marshmallow fondant and blue sarees even ticked the boxes for the British theme. Of course there was a dreaded silence yet when Paul had finally finished shaking his head he called it 'stunning'. Britain, we have a winner and after a flawless final who could argue Nadiya did not deserve it.