Warning: In the event you haven’t gotten around to watching yet, episode three of The Great British Baking Show was so suspenseful I nearly pooped myself. My heart was lodged in my throat, my hands were quivering, I desperately needed someone (Paul Hollywood) to hold me. You will want to watch this with the lights on, and a safety word so your partner will know if they need to slam the laptop shut. Prepare ye...
…it’s Bread Week, bitches.
Yes, bread—that fickle temptress that makes even experienced bakers like me tremble in fear. Even the tiniest mistake in any of the processes will cause the whole shebang will go wrong. Which means we’re in for an absolutely fabulous hour of television!
The First Challenge: Quick Breads
Here in the States, this refers to things like banana bread, pumpkin loaf—essentially, cake that we call bread so we can justify eating it for breakfast. Not so in Britain! Just as last week, when we learned they call cookies “biscuits,” this week we learn they call “gigantic scones” quick bread. I’m wondering if what they call scones across the pond are the equivalent of our American biscuits. We just had to go and make it so difficult by seceding, didn’t we.
Naydia opts to do a Mexican-inspired bread with spices and a warm tomato salsa. Mat has a similar idea, and makes a loaf with smoked salt, jalapeño, and Mexican cheddar. This could be a highly tense and bitchy situation! But of course, it’s not, because this is The Great British Bake-Off, where none of the people are assholes. They have some playful banter, and we root for them both because life is beautiful and everything will be okay as long as we stay within the confines of the tent.
If you recall last week’s episode, Ian became star baker with the help of some magical rosemary that he brought from his tiny village in Cambridgeshire. This week he brings his own double-zero flour, because apparently the flour they have over in Berkshire isn’t good enough for him. He also brought some wild garlic he foraged himself, because he’s trying really hard to make me hate him.
Dorret, who ended last week near the bottom of the pile, attempts to wow the judges with a gorgonzola and nut loaf. Every time Paul says the word “nuts” it sounds like “NOOTZ,” and I enjoy this even more than the British pronunciation of the word “po-TAH-to” (so fancy!). Sadly for Dorret, she worked her cheese in too much and it made the bread crumbly. Also, it looks like a butt.
For the most part, everyone does well and is feeling pretty good about themselves, which we get a split-second to enjoy because they’re about to announce…
Technical Challenge: Baguettes
I am having a panic attack thinking about having to make even one baguette, and these contestants need to make four. In two hours! There’s no room for error, no time for do overs. There’s also a tremendous amount of standing around idly, waiting for the dough to proof, giving the contestants plenty of time to second-guess themselves and begin the slow descent into madness. Baking bread on a gameshow does very similar things to one’s brain as contracting syphilis.
The contestants mix, knead, bake, and sweat, and soon enough our host Sue shouts the warning, “Only two minutes before we release the man gorilla that is Paul Hollywood." Even “London’s most prominent lesbian” knows the magnitude of this man. I mean, his last name is actually Hollywood—it’s not for show. For thousands of years, the Hollywood men have sired sons, so that one day they would forth the sexiest man on the telly and give him a porn star name to match. I bet their family crest features a lot of nootz.
The hallmark of this show has always been its artful balance of kindness alongside constructive criticism. I say *has been" because that’s all about to go straight to hell!
The judges attempt to find a few silver linings at the start—“It’s soft, but the flavor is there,” “It’s underbaked, but fine to eat.” But man can only take so much bad bread before he starts flipping the fuck out. Paul starts smashing people's loaves with his fists, slaughtering people with his comments on weak color and improper crumb. Then they get to Nadiya’s, and on top of Paul’s smackdown, Mary Berry says, “I’m just feeling very sorry for whomever's it is.” Mary Freaking Berry, guys. This is like your grandmother looking you square in the eye and saying, “Of all the children, I don’t really care for you one bit.”
Everyone is sad. But then the directors throw in a shot of some lambs frolicking on the grounds, so we can remember that Great Britain is the cutest place on earth! And then we descend right back into the pits of hell, because whoever is directing this episode is a total dick.
Showstopper Round: 3-D Bread Sculptures
Are you guys scared? Because I’m scared!
The rules: the bread sculpture needs to be made of no less than three types of dough, one of which must be filled, and they have five hours to complete this. They are allowed to bring in their own specialized equipment from home, but are not allowed cocaine or Xanax.
The judges come to Mat, who has been struggling this week. He informs them he will be making a sculpture of the Royal Pavilion, a palace in Brighton that was built to mimic Indian architecture, and will be filling it with saag aloo. Mary’s face twists into a fearful grimace, acknowledging that perhaps, this time, they have all made a terrible mistake.
Prison warden Paul knows he’s in danger of being sent home, so he’s planning a massive lion sculpture, hoping that by going big, he won’t go home. As he has come in last place in nearly every single challenge thus far, I am concerned. It is important to mention here that, with the exception of the technical round, the contestants are told what the challenges will be ahead of time and have a week to practice prior to filming. This means that for the past week, Paul has been living out a full 1980s action movie montage in the kitchen: punching down dough with his fists, crushing nootz with his bare hands.
This knowledge makes their failures even harder to stomach, because they’ve had more than enough time to plan, practice, and troubleshoot. Like Dorret! My God, Dorret, WHAT ARE YOU DOING! She has been at the bottom of nearly every single challenge thus far. So how much work did she put into preparing for this week? NONE. She knew this would be the most difficult challenge of the season, yet she was still like, “Nah, I’m good.” Part of me thinks she’s insane, but another part of me thinks she’s taking a dive. I had noted several times that it seemed odd that she didn’t look like she was about to cry every two minutes, which is her normal. I smell a rosemary-Parmesan-crusted rat!
Our contestants come to the judgement table, and unlike last week, everyone’s project seems to have actually come together, with various degrees of success. Mat’s Indian-inspired sculpture was slightly underbaked, but for the most part he pulled it off. Alvin overcompensated for his utter failure during biscuit week by presenting seven thousand types of bread. Ian, predictably, was fantastic. And just as predictably, Dorret's off-the-cuff creation of “an unmade bed” was a complete disaster.
But who cares about any of that noise, because this episode belongs to Sexwarden Paul and his lion sculpture! Not only did he pull off one of television's greatest comebacks, but Paul Hollywood also says, “That’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen in bread, ever,” and that’s without a bit of hyperbole. And it’s true: The lion is an absolute masterpiece. So kudos to you, Paul! You’ve won the admiration of two of the world’s greatest bakers and a D-list “celebrity chef” from America!
He doesn’t win star baker, however. That title, once again, goes to Ian “I have magical wild garlic in my pants, if you want to taste some” from Cambridgeshire.
This week, we say goodbye to Dorret. The episode comes to an end, my blood pressure returns to normal. Then I notice that PBS has uploaded episode 4 a week early, so I have another recap to write. Give me a few days, guys. I have a lot of emotional recovery to do.
Next episode: Desserts! From what I can see in the preview, there will be a tiered cake involved, meaning you’re all in for another one of my epic rants about how much I hate fondant. My caps lock button is on standby!
Did you watch this week's episode? Tell us what you thought of Paul's bread lion in the comments.