The Great British Baking Show Episode 7: Desserts!
Allison Robicelli will be recapping each episode, week-by-week. Catch the next one Monday, and tune in to the show on PBS.
Welcome to dessert week which, in my opinion, is way too broad to even be a category. After last week's mildly exciting botanical week, we seem to be back to phoning it in.
Signature round: Roulade
A roulade is a rolled up cake, kind of like a giant Yodel. It's never really caught on in the States even though it's pretty easy to prepare. The base is a springy genoise cake, made primarily of whipped eggs and sugar with only a touch of flour. It's filled with whipped cream or pastry cream or curd or fruit and then rolled into a log. Paul explains that if you put too much filling inside a roulade “you can't get it in your mouth”. Speak for yourself, Mr. Hollywood.
All the contestants, aside from Selasi, opt to do a totally fat-free genoise, which allows the cake to roll cleanly, but sacrifices flavor. Selasi's addition of some melted butter makes all the difference in his final cake, which is by far the best of the lot.
At this point in the competition we're going to get consistently “good bakes” from the contestants. Every person who made it into the tent is a top-notch baker: what sends people home is the stress of being in an unfamiliar kitchen, working under a time limit, and being on television. Those are the variables American televsion producers toy with to make quality reality television, in addition to doing their best to cast totally crazy people who they know will completely implode. This crop is a bunch of relatively competent but utterly dull folks. Candice is wearing heels in the kitchen and hasn't fallen over once. There's a reason that we don't allow people to wear heels in professional kitchens, and it's because we do not need a medical team on standby. The producers must have been hoping for, at the very least, a twisted ankle. But nada. Just a bunch of boring roulades.
Technical round: Marjolaine
I've never heard of marjolaine and neither have the contestants. A marjolaine is a rectangular gateau made from layers of dacquoise, a meringue made with ground hazelnuts that is utterly delicious but a massive pain in the ass to make. It's then layered and frosted with a buttercream that has been mixed with pulverized, caramelized nuts, some ganache, and a bunch of toasted nuts. Mary's sage advice is that multitasking is key, which indeed it is because she's only given them three hours to complete the whole damn thing.
There should be some high drama here. So many components, such vague directions, and, remember, no one has ever heard of this dessert before. Yet mysteriously, they all end up churning out marjolaine cakes that are practically perfect and aesthetically identical to Mary's.
Showstopper Round: Mini Mousse Cakes
I really hope that whoever has been picking these showstopper rounds gets fired. Doing a whole bunch of miniature things is not a show-stopping. In my opinion, something that stops the show has to be at least the size of a toddler. It has to have bells and whistles and explosions and sparklers. Twenty four identical little cakes that taste really good? Who cares? I can't eat these things through my TV. I want to be amazed, to see enormous feats of strength, and they're giving me the dessert buffet at my second cousin's wedding.
Because this was all so uninteresting, I'll spare you the details and give you a quick rundown: Jane made five different mousses, Candice tried to do too much, Andrew had a ferris wheel, Selasi is still hot, and Benjamina is apparently still on the show.
The only person who is still remotely interesting to me is Tom, our two time star baker who at least tries to make things interesting by taking stupid risks and perpetually flouting the rules. Tell him to make something sweet and he'll make something savory. Tell him once again to make something sweet, and under absolutely no circumstances make it savory, and he'll make it barely sweet because nobody puts Tom in a corner. This week he out-Toms himself by making up an entirely different challenge to compete in. Forget mousse cakes! He's going to make little cake sandwiches filled with a “mousse” that is nothing of the sort. It's incredible. It's beautiful. The judges love it. But...it's not mousse cakes, so he goes home.
Now to another curious moment: Tom is not even remotely upset he's going home. In fact, he seems happy that he's going home. And I think I've finally put my finger on the overarching reason why this season is so terrible: the magic of GBBS is the fact that the tent has always seemed like a big happy family where everyone really loves each other, and yet this year, none of these people do. The hugs are forced, there's barely any small talk, you don't get the sense they're going out for beers afterwards or plan to keep in touch. Even the hosts are detached: Mary's been doing spin-offs in America and enjoying a resurgence in popularity, Paul Hollywood has gone completely Hollywood. Mel and Sue are delightful (as if they could ever be anything else), but it's clear that the chemistry that made this show something special is long gone. Something nefarious going on and I've got only a few episodes to figure it out. The game is afoot!
Next Week: The Tudors. This promises to be a very interesting and very difficult challenge, giving me excellent odds of determining who is destroying the show from within. It's Jane, isn't it? I bet it's Jane.
Written by: Allison Robicelli
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