Allison Robicelli has been recapping each episode, week-by-week. Catch up on them here, and tune in to the show on PBS. Then take a moment of silence, because we’ve come to the end of this season of The Great British Baking Show.
The judges remind us all what Tamal, Ian, and Nadyia already know: they must be flawless. At this point, no one has a clear lead, and the winner will be decided by these three final challenges. NO PRESSURE, GUYS.
Opening Challenge: Filled Iced Buns
These Scottish teatime favorites aren’t a thing stateside, but I wish they were: oblong sweet yeast bread, filled with luscious cream and whatever else you desire. Like a dessert hoagie!
Nadiya is literally shaking with terror, and the judges seem to enjoy this. She says she’s “breaking with tradition” by making one bun in the classic shape, and one bun… wait for it… round! Mary Berry is blown away by this! Paul is skeptical, and hopes it works out. They call a crackerjack team of mathematicians and scientists to see if this is even possible, or if it could rip apart the fabric of the universe and kill them all. Nadiya finishes long before they can fly any of these people in, though, and fortunately the buns are incredibly good in spite of their roundness. Phew! Really dodged a bullet there, didn’t you Mary Berry?
Ian’s nervous enough that he doesn’t completely mess up this bake, but it still looks pretty craptastic. Eight episodes ago his decorating technique was flawless. Here in the final, the icing on his buns looks like it’s been applied by an epileptic gorilla.
The biggest hurdle Tamal has had to face this season is his piss poor time management skills, and in case we’d forgotten about that, it’s mentioned once again in Mel’s voiceover, by both judges in their commentary, and again when they go to check in with Tamal at his table. They say directly to his face that if he manages his time wisely, he could very likely win this thing.
And of course he fucks this up.
You’re making yeast buns, Tamal! They have to proof twice, then bake, then cool. That means there are technically four fat chunks of time you can be working on other stuff, and you still ended up with pastry cream that didn’t set. Even then, you could have folded your jiggly custard into whipped cream, but there wasn’t enough time for that, either. I just watched you shatter my heart into a thousand pieces, Tamal. Even Ian’s gorilla buns can’t cheer me up.
Technical Challenge: Millefeuilles
Our final recipe comes from Paul: Better known as Napoleons stateside, they were one of the first desserts I ever learned to make, for a French class presentation. Why did I select that recipe? Because I was 11 and this is easy. Then Nadiya, Ian, and Tamal start freaking out in tandem because, just like back in soufflé week, none of them have any idea how to make these things.
Know what? It’s a good thing this is the last episode, because I am done with you guys. Between the three of them, there is failure at every step in this challenge: Tamal’s pastry isn’t laminated well. Nadiya has no idea what the sugar syrup in the recipe is for (to brush the pastry during baking so it caramelizes). Ian doesn’t dilute the fondant into a glaze, turning it into an odd, flat sheet that peels right off the top of the pastry.
At judgement, Tamal comes in third, Ian second, and Nadiya breaks her “Star Baker Tie” with Ian to grab her 4th title.
Nice and easy: Just make a cake—something “classically British,” so naturally we’re all expecting Ian to be putting dead goose feathers or some crap like that in it. Mel asks if he’s been “foraging in the hedgerow.” He says he’s making five simple carrot cakes covered in cream cheese icing, and it feels tremendously awkward, because literally nobody was expecting that. Then he lets us know that he’s brought an enormous cake stand made of sheets of metal he cut and welded himself, and now we all feel like everything is back as it should be.
Instead of focusing on the cakes this go-round, we get treated to little vignettes about the contestants: Tamal’s big sister tells us what an amazing person he is, and how he bakes to destress from the rigors of medical school! Nadiya’s three kids are so freaking adorable I want to slap them, and her husband talks about her in the way anyone would pray their spouse would.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ian’s wife is DONE. Mrs. Ian wants all of us to know the hard truth about the living hell this show has made their lives. Mr. Roadkill apparently doesn’t do that much cooking, but during the competition he “stole her kitchen” during the week to carve up squirrel carcasses, smelt copper, and make tarragon cupcakes. Then when he leaves to film an episode, she has to spend the entire weekend cleaning up the mess.
Now I’m switching to Team Ian. I know it’s futile, but no one really appreciates this guy enough. If it weren’t for him, this entire series of recaps would have been nothing but soft core Paul Hollywood porn, which I know we all enjoy, but would not have helped you guys understand I am a very Serious Writer and that you should all buy copies of my cookbook for yourself and as gifts this holiday season.
The final judgement comes, and everything is lovely. The cakes are beautiful, they taste wonderful, and everyone feels like a winner. They’re not, though, because Ian and Tamal lose and Nadiya is the Great British Baker. She gets the grand prize of a bouquet of flowers and an engraved, decorative plate. Seriously! No one believes me when I tell them there’s not a massive cash prize, or a trip to Tahiti, or a chance to bang Mary Berry. These contestants do this entirely for the love of baking.
And with that, we close out the season being reminded of why this show has stolen our hearts. As Nadiya’s name is announced, Ian and Tamal beam widely and hug her as she cries. Tamal says a close, loving relationship has developed between all the contestants, and they’re proud when they see each other succeed. Nadiya talks about how she knows now that she will never give in to the nagging doubts about herself that have plagued her all her life, because she knows that she can accomplish anything. She proved that to herself.
Now I’m crying. Goddamn you, Great British Baking Show. Ten episodes aren’t nearly enough.