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The Great British Baking Show Episode 5: Pastry!

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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.

With the Battle of the Batters behind them, our intrepid bakers head into the tent for Pastry Week: three challenges that will demonstrate their mastery at making difficult, tedious doughs from scratch. Keeping in the theme, this was an extremely tedious hour of television. I don’t know if it’s just me, but we’re about halfway through this season and yet I feel absolutely nothing towards these contestants. Last year we were given a gift with a ragtag bunch of zany loons who were quirky and interesting, who made us fully buy into the “everyone’s a winner!” ethos that makes GBBS so wonderful to watch. This year? They could all go home tomorrow and I wouldn’t care.

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How to Make Puff Pastry, Step by Step
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How to Make Puff Pastry, Step by Step

Signature Round: Breakfast Pastry

The overarching theme to this challenge is to make a laminated dough which, if you’re not used to making it, is a massive pain in the ass. It's a lot of rolling, chilling, resting, and standing around waiting. And that’s really what we get here—a lot of waiting, a bit of grumbling. The only person bringing a smile to my face is Val, our flitty, crazy grandma who grew up in poverty and makes me want to hug her every time she comes up on the screen. I feel like everything she does is an utter disaster, yet I’d still eat the hell out of her soggy bottoms, because you can really feel the love in there.

Other than Val, this challenge is an extended sequence of the bakers working out basic multiplication problems, some play-by-plays on using a ruler, and some shots of Tom and Rav literally staring at each other while intermittently chatting about an electric timer.

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Bakewell Tart with Rhubarb-Hibiscus Jam
Bakewell Tart with Rhubarb-Hibiscus Jam

Technical Round: Bakewell Tart

Bakewell tarts are one of those British classics that is utterly brilliant in it’s simplicity: buttery shortcrust pastry filled with raspberry jam and almond frangipane, baked until golden and then finished with a light wisp of icing. It’s honestly a crime they haven’t taken off here in the colonies. In fact, they’re such a staple that Val takes off and starts baking the one she makes from memory every single week, not stopping to see if there was a recipe to be followed. Of course, there was, and she realized her mistake a moment too late. There’s not enough time for Bakewell 2.0 to cook all the way through, and the queen of soggy bottoms outdoes herself once again.

How soggy was Val’s bottom? Let’s look over to Supergenius Andrew, who spends oodles of time staring through the oven door, moaning how it’s taking forever to cook, and then realizes that he never turned the damn thing on in the first place. It elicits a lot of gasps, but he manages to place in front of both Val and Rav, whose only saving grace so far is that he’s not as boring as Benjamina, which isn’t saying much.

The winner of the Bakewell challenge is Jane, who’s the opposite of Val. Val’s the grandma who gives you too much sugar and occasionally drops an adorable swear word in traffic and never, never misses one of your dance recitals. Jane is the grandma who does water aerobics and tai chi and has that room of furniture you can’t sit on. She does make a lovely tart, though.

11 Ways to Get Your Fill of Flaky Doughs
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11 Ways to Get Your Fill of Flaky Doughs

Showstopper Round: Filo Amuse Bouche

What we need here is a challenge that’s totally over the top, a “go big or go home” event where limits are pushed and things get more extreme than a skateboarding anthropomorphic dog chugging Mountain Dew. But what we get is a room of Britain's most boring people making bite-sized appetizers with homemade filo dough.

Coming clean: I’ve never made filo dough by hand. No desire to. It’s one of those things that people like making either because they can, or because they’re 110 years old and living on some Mediterranean island where they can wow tourists with their inhuman dough stretching skills. Maybe an associate producer on holiday thought that the wonder of seeing an elderly Greek man make paper-thin pastry would translate well to the screen. That associate producer was WRONG. The most exciting thing to happen this round is absolutely nothing.

Then comes the insult to injury: Val goes home, on account of being a walking disaster this week. During the wrap Paul pretty much admits she was the only watchable part of the show this season, and you can slowly watch the terror unfold behind his eyes as he realized it’s his job to wring television gold from the remainder of these assclowns with five episodes to go.

NEXT WEEK: Botanical. Everybody cross their fingers that Tom finally has his long overdue emotional breakdown!