Hello! It's already time for my favourite part of the week, the Great British Bake Off and its awesome small whatsits and iced yummers. Are you ready to find out what we're baking this time? I'm sure it will be something mad and I am 100 percent here for it. Rolling into GBBO S8:E04 Caramel Week after the break!
Last week Julia Chernogorova and her phallic snail took Star Baker away from frontrunner Steven Carter-Bailey, who had a huge wobble on bread week but redeemed himself at the last moment with a ridiculously good Showstopper.
We lost Flo Atkins, one of my overall favourites thanks to an unwieldy and undercooked Davy Jones Locker. (You'll understand if you saw it)
Onward we roll to...Caramel Week! What? For baking? Hosts Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding do a cute intro but how does caramel fit into baking in a profound way? You couldn't really call it a linchpin of baking, could you? I mean. Let's find out!
Liam Charles is excited, he loves caramel! Sophie Faldo practiced this the most, but not, like, successfully.
I love how the English refuse to say anything that could be considered even vaguely a boast.
We don't waste much time getting into the Signature Challenge, judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith would like 18 identical Millionaire Shortbread Squares, drooooool. I love these! The identical part is the hard bit.
Ooh look at Julia's, she's adding roasted pecans!
I think pecans are my favourite nut, followed closely by Brazil nuts. That's for eating alone, I have several other grading systems for nuts that go in things. I know nobody likes Brazil nuts, but I used to get them in my Christmas stocking as a child, so I've retained a fondness for them. They were the easiest nut to get the most out of a shell in large pieces. They only taste a tiny bit like socks.
Julia is making salted caramel because it showed up in ONE cooking show and now all caramel must be salted and dark chocolate adjacent. We're nothing if not lemmings in the foodie world.
James Hillier is doing a maple-pecan shortbread and that's another food trend I would like to kill with fire: maple everything. I will admit to an astonishingly good maple bacon I bought on sale, but the rest is usually ghastly.
He got this from his time living in Chicago, which is a lovely city!
I was so excited when I saw our Scottish Tom Heatherington chopping up almonds that I almost forgot to take a picture. He knows how to use a knife! That's a Bake Off first, wooooo!! And since he's Scottish, all the pressure is on his base layer.
Tom's been coasting in the middle of the pack so far, let's see where he drifts this time.
There are two methods of square making on the books; we've got bakers making giant trays that will be cut up individually and we've got bunches being baked and layered individually. They've not got oodles of time, so I'm wondering how the latter will fare.
Steven's making giant round treats, they're truly massive.
Unrelated: do they ever post the recipes online? Asking for a redheaded friend.
Sophie's making a jaffa cake-inspired bunch of squares with four layers instead of three.
Her method involving plastic collars and stacking is ingenious, but time-intensive.
With the shortbread in the oven, everyone turns to the caramel, which is notoriously tricky even in controlled conditions without arbitrary timelines. To start with, you have to cook sugar until it turns brown then make sure it doesn't crystallize or burn or.
Stacey Hart's has crystallized already, she's starting over. I like that hers are heart shaped because it's okay to like pretty things, okay??
WAT. Peanut Butter Caramel??? Where has this been all my life??
1 hour left!
It's time to add butter and cream to get this caramel party fully started, there are no shortcuts and there's no foolproof way to make sure you get an edible substance at the end.
Yan Tsou is our resident scientist but I'm worried for her because she's not using a thermometer. She's watching her mixture carefully, waiting for the moment it stops steaming as that will mean the moisture has been driven out. Sounds...super sciency and yet unscientific at the same time.
Kate Lyon has added bay leafs to her caramel for it's Roman meaning but I'm more focused on the fact they will add quite a peppery flavour.
Go suck on a bay leaf, you'll see!
Oh I'm worried for Sophie, her method is impossibly time consuming.
Everyone cools their caramel as quickly as they can, but it's a losing battle against time. Oh no, disaster strikes Tom as he tries to pour his chocolate on his caramel but the caramel hasn't set and it pours right in.
I think only one or two bakers are actually ready when the time is up, it's going to be a dicey judging.
First up: Kate, messy as they are, they taste good.
James's shortbread is "unpleasant" and his squares are inconsistent, they're still one thousand times better than anything most could bake, so chin up, fella!
Julia does fine with her bulgy caramel.
Yan's caramel is more like toffee
I don't think I've seen a baker present like this before, they always manage to pull it out, yes? Sophie was massively behind.
They look hideous! But Paul says they taste amazing so that's something.
Steven's massive identical shortbreads have crisp layers, but Paul hates the flavours. The caramel is quite bitter, did it scorch?
I love Stacey's heart-shaped efforts, pleasttastegood pleasetastegood please please. The flavours are too strong, perhaps Noel and Paul should have drank more of her spiced rum.
Alas poor Tom and his tray of shortbread.
Liam has styled his treats as Tetris game pieces, how awesome is that?? I'm dying to know what peanut butter caramel tastes like.
He gets a Hollywood Handshake for that peanut butter caramel, woooo!
Yan puts a lump in our throat when she tells us that she was only scared of disappointing them. "Because it's the best feeling in the world when they like it."
On to the Technical Challenge, this time set by Prue who already told us she doesn't like things to be too sweet (on CARAMEL Week. Honestly) but has asked for 12 Dutch stroopwafels. Holy cow, I spelled that right first attempt! I've also actually eaten these, at the home of a lovely Dutch lady in Michigan.
Essentially, they're a yeasted syrup waffle cookie, lots of tricky elements; Prue chose them because she was hoping no baker knew what they were. Eviiiilllll.
The caramel is thinner and stretchy than in the last challenge.
Nobody's made waffles with yeast before, so they're treating it like bread and giving it a knead before baking.
Here's a query: the bakers are directed to make caramel without telling them what temperature it has to be cooked at and without telling them to do it slowly and also without them knowing what consistency to look for because they've never had this treat before (you hope) and this is supposed to make for riveting television?
During a technical challenge, we've usually got one or two who know what they're doing but here we've got nowt so it's literally 9 people doing everything they can to discreetly peer at their neighbour's bench. They're not even frantic as usual, just confused and moving slowly.
Not a great choice for a challenge.
We've got loads of do-overs, I can't fault anyone for that. The caramel is all going grainy because they don't know they have to cook it slowly: see note above.
Okay, now they've got Noel doing a History Of Stroopwafels like Sue Perkins used to, did they not want to show us grainy caramel any longer? Noel's hair feathering is out of control.
Yan is working on her third batch of caramel, her analytical mind takes us in the right direction: low heat! Since high heat didn't work, she's moving to low while everyone else is still stuck on doing the same thing and expecting different results. No tea, no shade, they just don't know that heat is the critical element.
30 minutes left!
Now we're on to judging, lets see who managed to pull it out. They all look fine, mostly, it's just the caramel that will be the deciding factor.
From less best to least worst, we have:
- 9th - Julia - grainy sugar
- 8th - Yan - overbaked, grainy sugar
- 7th - Steven - grainy sugar
- 6th - Kate - grainy sugar
- 5th - Tom - grainy sugar
- 4th - Sophie - grainy sugar
- 3rd - Liam - grainy sugar
- 2nd - James - grainy sugar
- Stacey wins another technical challenge, woooo! With perfect waffles and grainy sugar
No, Prue, nobody got the caramel right, you, you. Unkind person in that moment.
It's the next day, time for our Showstopper Challenge where Tom, James and Yan really have to step up their game if they want to stick around to bake another day. We've not got anyone clearly in the running for Star Baker but Paul suggests Kate may have a shot so we'll see how today goes for her.
The Showstopper this week is a three-layer caramel cake and my whole body shivered thinking about that much sugar at one time. Not only do they have to be fancy, they also need spun sugar to add a level of difficulty.
James is making 6 different kinds of sugarwork, that's going to be tricky, even if he has a shortcut after he dips his nuts. He said that!
Liam is going with a salted caramel drip for his ginger cake, nobody knows what that is so we'll wait and see!
Inexplicably, Kate is using kitchen shears to cut up dried apples for her toffee cake, there's a knife right there, love. I can see it!
Tom has only two caramel accents on his cake, Paul makes a face.
I love how creative Yan is in her designs, but she seriously needs to pick up the pace in her batter ladelling. You haven't got all day, Yan!
Bakes are in! There's a huge variation in size of sponges, I wonder how that will play out in judging. Will size matter? Will bigger be better?
Paul wants to know exactly how Sophie will have time to complete her ambitious four-caramel-cake when she ran into scheduling issues yesterday?
You an always tell mums with boys at home, they stick flowers, hearts and butterflies on everything they can. Stacey's cake is about A Very Hungry Caterpillar but I can't help but notice that she's not got any...caterpillars. Maybe I'm not looking closely enough. Prue is more concerned that Stacey's giant spun sugar whatsit might be too big.
Tom's cakes are bad and flat. He's going to start over and I'd like to take this time to say goodbye to our lone Scot. He's been an excellent competitor and who knows? If Steven hadn't been in his year he may have even garnered a Star Baker.
Oh! Wait! James's cakes have also fallen and he's restarting, perhaps it will be a cage match after all!
Julia cannot get her caramel right and there's just no time.
Wow, Steven's cake will be glorious. I need to look into these freeze-dried raspberries, Kate used them too.
James and Tom manage a better second round of sponges, but Tom's still look at though he's whipped his butter too much.
There are only 30 minutes left, time to make spun sugar! It looks lovely, but everyone is whipping their sugar-covered forks around and I want to hit everyone with a fire hose. You know, gently.
At T-10 minutes, everyone moves to icing their cakes and pouring on caramel and I am hit with the heebie jeebies. There is sugar dripping EVERYWHERE and do you know how hard it is to get that out of a baking rack? Do you??
Five minutes left: decorating intensifies and before we know it, we're done (ha like we're making spun sugar in this heat) and it's time for judging!
Sophie is up first with her elegant cake and silky buttercream.
James has finally got his flavours right but has overmixed his sponge on his simplistic cake.
That's the drip! Liam does well with his cake, the bake and caramel is good.
I hate watching Stacey get bad feedback from Paul, which she always does, this woman can bake! Her chocolate cake is delicious and the finishing save the caramel bits on the side are beautiful.
Julia literally holds her breath until Paul compliments her cake, awww. She wears every emotion on her sleeve and by sleeve I mean face.
Lookit Yan's cake!! Fantastic flavours if slightly overbaked.
Oh, poor Steven, the heat melted his crowny bits. The judges love his mirror glaze, but his cake is so, so wet inside. Stodgy, I believe they call it.
Tom has not redeemed himself.
When Prue does this, we all look down.
It's just a bad cake.Yan and Stacey look heartsick while Tom tries not to cry.
Kate's cake is absolutely beautiful and it is absolutely delicious. She's almost giddy, she's so happy with that review.
So. Where do we stand after all that? I guess Kate is in a good shot for Star Baker, as is Liam, wooo! We know Tom will be going home, you know you're top 9 in Britain, right??
And we have:
Star Baker: Kate Lyon! Woo hoo! Prue wants Kate's apple cake recipe, it may be the best cake she's ever eaten in her whole life.
Going home: Tom.
He is fine with it, he calls it justified for that unfortunate cake at the end so there's no dismay at his departure, just an overall sense of loss at what could have been. Liam's full-on disappointed in what he considers his loss, he thought for sure he would be Star Baker and he was very close. Until next time, everyone, when we feature pudding and an absolutely amazing-looking star spangled cake. Cheers!