The Great British Bake Off: 8.04 Caramel Week
This week's The Great British Bake Off was perhaps the most mouth watering episode yet in a series that seems to be so much more challenging than the quaint tasks of years gone by. And the gloves were off with new judge Prue, who has obviously been letting the new contestants sink in before she unleashed some harsh criticism in a very tough technical challenge.
But to be honest, it wasn't what was being said this week but what was appearing on our screen; lashing of mouth watering caramel that would make any good person salivate (except Prue it seems who for a judge on a bakery show doesn't have that much of a sweet tooth). It was an episode that required the consumption of millionaire's shortbread to get that true 'surround taste' feel and thank god I did as that was the theme of the signature challenge; make 18 of them in fact.
Naturally the contestants went for variations on a classic, some with mixed results. There were plenty of nuts in the shortbread as James went for Windy City millionaire shortbreads based on his time in Chicago, while last week's Star Baker Julia delivered pecan salted caramel millionaire shortbreads. Steven did well with his orange macadamia nut millionaire shortbreads but Yan less so with her 'Lil' Red's ginger and nuts' millionaire shortbreads.
Sophie's jaffa millionaire shortbreads looked amazing, while Kate delivered on her salted bay caramel millionaire shortbreads. Stacey tried her hand at rum salted caramel millionaire shortbreads but the rum was too strong (sorry Stacey, Mary isn't there anymore!) Unfortunately Tom suffered from time, not even getting his stem ginger caramel millionaire shortbreads out of the tin and onto display. But it was Liam who truly shone with his Tetris-inspired salted peanut butter millionaire shortbreads that got the Paul Hollywood handshake of approval.
The technical challenge was ultimately a thing of horror; not a single contestant was able to make a decent caramel filling to their stroopwafels, leading Prue to exclaim ""Did none of you get the caramel right?" with the air of a disappointed headmistress, though Stacey emerged as the best of a bad bunch, followed by James second and Liam third. At the other end of the scale Julia came ninth, Yan eighth and Steven seventh.
But at least there was a ray of light as The Great British Bake Off brought back THE HISTORICAL BIT! Noel travelled to the Dutch town of Gouda where stroopwafels originated and visited a factory where 25,000 were made a day. Sadly, I didn't have any stroopwafels to eat while I watched this segment, though I still had the delicious taste of millionaire's shortbread in my mouth so it wasn't all a disaster.
And then came the showstopper - the caramel cake. There were some great-looking bakes here; Stacey seemed to do well with her chocolate and coffee caramel cake complete with elaborate sugar sculpture (leading to the only innuendo this week - failing to keep an erection on her sculpture - after the filth of bread week). Sadly, it all started to melt and her cake glaze was slimy, putting her out of the running for star baker. Yan redeemed herself with a delicious-looking animals of the rainforest caramel cake, complete with praline forest floor, honeycomb rocks, a river of caramel, spun-sugar trees and a tiger-themed orange and chocolate sponge
Doing well were James with his nutty caramel cake and Kate with her poppy seed caramel cake, while Sophie's bird's nest caramel cake had some impressive moments with its caramel-filled crafted eggs. Steven attempted to win the day again with his impressive looking caramel crown cake, which was impressively constructed and full of colour, but failed in the taste stakes. And there was Liam, with white layered ginger caramel cake, that post-Paul handshake, would surely have won him star baker if it wasn't for that pesky Kate.
With her phenomenal tasting and impressive looking sticky toffee apple caramel cake, Kate won star baker. Yes, it probably should have been Liam, but when Prue was asking Kate for the recipe and exclaiming that it was THE BEST CAKE SHE HAD EVER TASTED, it's probably hard to argue her victory.
Sadly, it was disaster upon disaster for Tom. With his failure in the signature challenge and middling performance in technical, he needed a big win to survive. But with one cringeworthy moment after another - his cakes came out flat, his spun sugar work resulted in no spun sugar and there was almost no caramel in his caramel cake (the clue was in the title), he was sent home. Yes it was sad, but it would have been wrong for anyone else to go after that weekend of disasters.
Caramel week was possibly the most delicious-sounding, mouth watering and sickly week the show has ever done and one of the most brutal too. But it was a lot of fun too and next week's deserts theme will have a lot to live up to...