Let’s all close our eyes, go back in time, and enjoy this two-for-one recap special! (Yes, okay, technically the final aired last week.) Now open your eyes again—you’ll need them to read. And if you haven't watched yet, tune in on PBS.
Round One: Cream Horns
There are times in your life where a situation occurs that makes you think of so many potential jokes, you can’t possibly select just one. Today is that day for Sue Perkins, who must introduce a challenge of thick, buttery horns filled with oodles of luscious cream. Her intro: “Absolutely nothing fun to say about that.” It’s like having a closet of clothes, but nothing to wear.
Mary Berry says “It’s important to fill right to the bottom so you enjoy to the last mouthful,” and after that I don’t care about anything else that happens in this challenge. I’m done. I’m only watching the rest of the series because I love you guys—otherwise I’d be walking away right now at it’s apex of perfection.
Everyone is lost.
Round Two: Mokatines
Has anyone actually ever heard of these Mary Berry recipes? I Google it, and all I see is the other (and lesser, in my opinion) recaps of this show, and the usual Mary and Tamal Tumblrs. Everyone is lost.
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Regardless of its basis in reality, it looks good. It’s a square of genoise split in two, filled with American buttercream, topped with French buttercream, rolled in nuts and glazed with fondant. Technically not too hard, but appearances count and the contestants have been given something like 15 minutes to do this. Right now they’re just flat out screwing with these people.
Contestant Paul says he has never made a genoise and I have no idea how he could have even been allowed on this show. You’ve literally had months to learn everything you could about pastry, dude. I don’t know how you decided this wasn’t a good technique to learn, but you thought that knowing how to make a four foot tall lion out of bread was a basic skill.
His first attempt at genoise is terrible. His second attempt is also terrible. He comes in last, while Nadiya wins this round. She’s come a long way for the early weeks, hasn’t she? I bet she’s been reading Mary Berry’s books, Paul.
Showstopper: Religieuse a l’ancienne
This name translates into “old nun.” Because a million years ago, some French guy was like “Know what would be cool? If I took this batch of eclairs and stacked them into the shape of an old-ass nun.” So here we are.
If you ever wondered how many tiers of pastry it takes to make a nun, the answer is three. Each layer will be supported by a cookie base, with the eclairs affixed to it with hard caramel. Traditionally, the cream-filled nun is meant as a party centerpiece. For this reason, the show introduces a major twist to this challenge: The Old Nuns won’t be judged immediately. They will have to stand two hours before Paul and Mary take a crack at them, to test if the eclairs become soggy or the tower sags.
Tamal wisely decides to make his eclairs out of strong flour (bread flour to us Yanks), which will allow the eclairs to hold a firmer shape. He fills them with a passionfruit cream.
Ian is making… oh goddamnit he’s also making passionfruit! Seriously Tamal! This is the third week in a row someone has pulled this shit! Stop being a wimp and start taking people out with a rolling pin!
(Side note: To fully understand the love for Tamal in my house: My husband watched as he stirred his caramel to glue the eclairs together and blurted out “It’s going to crystalize! Don’t stir, you idiot!” Then our 9-year-old turned around and screamed “HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT ABOUT TAMAL!” and refused to make contact with his father for the rest of the evening. Tamal brings people together, but can also tear them apart.)
Nadiya, a candy fanatic, decided to make a bubblegum-flavored filling, which sounds disgusting. The judges try it, and it is disgusting! Yet she is still crowned Star Baker, since she excelled in the first two challenges, and her third, despite the cream, was a “good bake.”
Today, we say goodbye to contestant Paul. The bottom of his nun collapsed, his first two challenges were a disaster, and the worst part, at least to me, is that he used banana extract in his eclairs. It tastes like floor polish, not bananas.
First Challenge: Chocolate Tart
Here’s another challenge that should be a softball, so of course Flora tries to make additional items that nobody asks for. For the second time, she adds macarons and does them poorly.
Ian, predictably, has smuggled homegrown herbs into the tent: This time it’s bay leaf, which he’s infusing into his caramel. Paul Hollywood hates it. I think Paul should be grateful that Ian at least went back to bringing stuff from his garden and not more dead animals he’s collected from the side of the road.
Nadiya goes straight for my heart and makes a chocolate peanut butter tart. Is there really anything better than chocolate and peanut butter together? Mary Berry thinks so, mentioning she hates peanut butter. Paul loves it, giving Nadiya the coveted handshake he reserves for only the greatest of efforts.
Tamal is doing an American recipe he found, and makes “New York Pie”: a chocolate oat crust filled with baked Mississippi mud filling, topped with raspberry coulis and pecan praline. As a born and raised New Yorker, I have never once seen that pie. Is this like us thinking all Londoners live off tea and crumpets and spotted dick? Come to think of it, why hasn’t there been a spotted dick challenge? Or what about an entire episode? I should get a consulting job on this show.
Paul should be grateful that Ian went back to bringing stuff from his garden and not more dead animals he’s collected from the side of the road.
TECHNICAL: Chocolate Soufflé
NOBODY knows how to make a soufflé! How the hell did none of you, in all the years you’ve spent learning how to bake at this level, attempt a soufflé?!?! Here’s what you do when you learn you’ve been selected to be a contestant:
Buy all of Mary Berry’s books, and make every goddamn recipe, including the many soufflés.
Watch the last few seasons of the show, where they have made soufflés.
LEARN TO MAKE A SOUFFLÉ.
The producers should just throw the four of them out of the tent and make the rest of the show an extended action montage of Paul Hollywood working out without a shirt.
Everyone’s soufflés suck, but Flora wins because hers sucked the least.
SHOWSTOPPER: Chocolate Centerpiece
Our contestants somehow know how to make these, but not genoise or soufflés.
Ian, of course, is making something ridiculously complicated: A water well, made of perfectly tempered chocolate set into his homemade molds, set over a glass cylinder full of melted white chocolate. And the well is functional! Paul and Mary are able to turn the chocolate crank to lower a bucket, which scoops up the white chocolate for them to dip the mandatory biscuit component in.
Ian may drive me nuts, but this is terribly impressive. The judges complain, though, that they didn’t see enough work, because when you take away all the sketching, engineering, tempering and metal fabrication, it really wasn’t all that complicated, now was it?
This challenge should, in theory, be Flora’s to lose: For once, you’re actually supposed to make seven thousand different components. Her design is a chocolate carousel, which sounds like it will look like a hot mess. She makes cookies! She makes Rice Krispies treats! She makes cakes and tuiles and chocolate cigars, and is out-Floraing herself. It doesn’t look completely perfect, but it also doesn’t look like a disaster! Unfortunately, she spent too much time freaking out over the aesthetics, and every single element tastes like total garbage.
Nadiya builds a peacock made almost entirely of candy melts, which are not made of chocolate. They’re not even a little chocolate—they’re sugar, hydrogenated palm oil (that’s the bad one), milk powder, and emulsifiers. I have no idea how she’s getting away with this, but she does, and wins Star Baker to boot. Listen, I love the woman, but that’s a bullshit call.
We say goodbye to poor Flora, who never learned to concentrate on the task at hand without making a billion superfluous flourishes, despite the fact that the judges told her to cut it out every single episode. Nadiya, Tamal, and Ian move into the final, I and head into my final recap.
This moment is bittersweet, isn’t it? I’m going to miss you guys. I won’t miss Flora, though, because she annoyed me.
Allison Robicelli is a cookbook author, humorist, host of the Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, occasional TV personality, restauranteur (Oaxaca Taqueria & Rip's Malt Shop in NYC), wife, mother, and all around good time.
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