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The Great British Baking Show Episode 4: Batter!

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Allison Robicelli will be recapping each episode, week-by-week. Catch the next one Monday, and tune in to the show on PBS.

This episode brings a brand new, never-before-seen challenge to the tent: batters. Loose concoctions of flour and liquid and other stuff that, for the most part, are never baked. In fact, two of the three challenges don’t use the oven at all, and for a show that’s about baking in ovens, that might as well be a recipe for disaster.

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Signature Round: Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire pudding is one of the five British foods that most Americans have heard of because it's served at the English-themed restaurant in Disney World. Traditionally it's made to accompany roast beef: after you remove the beef from the oven and set it on a platter to rest, you pour the batter into the still-hot pan that’s full of meat drippings, then bake it at high heat until it puffs up wildly. Once the beef has rested and been carved, the pudding is done. It’s a remarkably easy comfort food that’s a Sunday dinner staple in most English homes.

So how will this show make it as difficult as possible? They will demand 24 miniature puddings that are all completely identical. If you’ve ever made a Yorkshire pudding, you know how insane this sounds. If you haven’t, then you’re just going to have to trust me that it’s insane.

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This is one of those rounds where I appreciate traditionalism, because in all honesty there’s few things better than a proper British Sunday dinner. Jane’s filling hers with mushy peas (brilliant!), topping it with thinly sliced roast beef, a touch of horseradish cream, and a spiralized cap of crispy potatoes (more brilliant!). The judges agree and give her the most enthusiastic reaction of this round. The inverse of this is Tom, who won Star Baker last week with seaweed flecked bread, and this week needs to learn to calm the fuck down. He tries an Indian-inspired pudding that replaces wheat flour with finely ground chickpeas. Rule one of baking is that, unless you really know what you’re doing, ingredients are not interchangeable, ESPECIALLY when it comes to flour. The fact that they came out as flat dense patties is not surprising. The other contestants who blew this challenge should be ecstatic that Tom screwed the pooch here, because failing due to a fundamental lack of understanding of ingredients is pretty much unforgivable.

Someone who actually pulls off an Indian-inspired pudding is Turbo-Ginger Andrew. Not only does he continue to wow as a redhead, but he also gets Paul to say, “I like the way you toasted your nuts”, which is the first time Paul mentions nuts (pronounced “nootz”) this season. Yes, I keep track of these things.

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Technical round: Lace Pancakes

This is the second non baking technical on the show, with last week’s dampfnudeln also prepared on the stovetop. None of these people trained for this. This is as extreme of a plot twist as the BBC will allow.

Fun fact: Those fancy patterned pancakes you see people making on YouTube are more legit than we thought! A recipe for them is found in one of history’s oldest printed cookbooks—from 1615, to be precise. They were considered a delicacy to be served on bone china for only the richest members of society. Meanwhile, my asshole kids will shove these things into their mouths using their bare hands wearing nothing but socks and underpants, because no matter how lacy and refined my pancakes are, it will not change the fact that 10 year old boys are feral animals.

Churros: The Easier, Faster Donut
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Churros: The Easier, Faster Donut

Showstopper round: Churros

I thought this was a pretty weak idea for a challenge, until I found out some of the contestants have never had a churro! What the hell do these people eat at amusement parks or bowling alleys?! What snacks are they buying from sketchy men pushing dirty shopping carts on the subway?

The bakers must make 36 identical churros, which can be filled, glazed, served with dipping sauce—whatever. The top only requirement is that they must be sweet. That’s it. Seems pretty easy, but then Andrew’s batter gets stuck in his piping bag, and I start screaming “OH MY GOD USE A BIGGER TIP, YOU PASTY MORON!” We have now reached the point of the season where I will explode into a furious rage over things like pastry tips. I’m proud of myself for holding out as long as I did.

Rav, the hot mess who somehow manages to slip through every week, is the first person to illustrate how frying usually goes wrong: overloading the fryer. When you add cold things to oil, it drops the temperature by a few degrees. The more you add, the lower the temperature gets, the longer the food takes to fry, and the greasier it comes out. The trick is frying only a few at a time, and giving the oil a few minutes to come back up to temperature before adding another batch. Just about everyone makes this mistake, because this isn't the Great British Frying Show.

Let’s check in on Tom, who is very much in danger after a poor showing in technical. He decided to do a “snake in the grass” theme with fennel-flavored churros, because when your head's on the chopping block you should absolutely ignore the top requirement. Paul’s like, “Fennel is savory.” And Tom’s like, “Yeah, but you know, I’m going to make it sweet, because I’m edgy”, and Paul’s like, “DUDE. C’mon!” And Tom’s like, “No, I’m a bad boy with a heart of gold and you’re going to love my snake Paul Hollywood”.

Paul does not like his snake. Don’t ever tell Paul Hollywood what he likes.

But Tom doesn’t go home. The person leaving the tent is...Kate? The woman who has consistently been first runner up and probably should have been Star Baker at least once? Sure, she had a terrible week, but surely this could have been overlooked considering Rav is still on the show.

Star Baker goes to Benjamina, the only person who is more boring that Rav. I actually forgot she was even a contestant until this episode. She did a damn good job, and I’m hoping that she’ll find a way to become interesting next week.

Next Week: PASTRY! They’re going to make filo dough. God help them all.

Tags: pancakes, great british baking show, baking, churros