Allison Robicelli will be recapping each episode, week-by-week. Catch the next one Monday, and tune in to the show on PBS.
It’s Tudor week, and the beginning of my investigation into discovering who or what is destroying this show. Is it a nefarious backroom plot concocted by the producers to tank ratings, thereby facilitating their break from the BBC? Is it just Jane being difficult? Prepare to see things you can’t unsee!
Signature round: Shaped Pies
Why don’t we eat meat pies in America? We like pie and we like meat—this should be a staple. We're still trying to get bacon to breed with every damn food out there, while the British have had it down for centuries. You get some hot water pastry, stuff it in a mold, pack it full of meat, and stuff your face. If it was good enough for Henry VIII, it should be good enough for us.
To make this challenging, the contestants not only have to make superlative pies, but they have to make ones that come together in a beautiful design, like a crisp, lardy mosaic. It’s an easy enough task, which is why Andrew goes above and beyond. He brings in gear-shaped molds and a fancy base which will spin them around. Obviously this is all custom-made (who the hell is out there making spinning pie machines for a living?), but it does look cool as hell.
Important to note: baking meat pies means a lot of time just standing around doing nothing. In seasons past, this is where the most magical moments happen—bakers ambling around from station to station, helping each other out, freaking out collectively in adorable ways. This season, they stand quietly and stare into space, avoiding eye contact with each other. Selasi and Benjamina have a brief exchange, and it’s to gossip about poor Andrew. Why, Selasi? You were the one that I actually liked.
Technical round: Jumble Biscuits
In Tudor times, when people baked it was less about taste and more about staving off death. Boy, would those serfs have a good chuckle if they could travel through time and watch Paul and Mary get all nitpicky on a batch of jumbles for looking a bit too pale.
The recipe can be traced all the way back to the War of the Roses—better known to most Americans as that thing most of Game of Thrones was based off of. Of all the parties involved in the conflict, King Richard III stands out for many reasons: Shakespeare wrote a very famous play about him, George RR Martin may have modeled both Tyrion Lannister and Ned Stark after him, AND he was a man who loved a good jumble cookie. In fact, the oldest known mention of these cookies is attributed to his own personal cook.The recipe was discovered when the opposing armies started looting the bodies of all his dead soldiers, and it turned up stuffed in someone's pocket. The two shapes the bakers are tasked with making are significant: the Celtic knot, which symbolizes Trinity and through it protection from God, and the double knot, which symbolizes the rose that flew on his banner.
Showstopper round: Marzipan Centerpiece
Marzipan is like very expensive Play-Doh: it’s made from ground almonds and sugar, can be modeled into many sorts of stunning things, and theoretically should give us a killer showstopper round. Yet, once again, this group makes the idea of watching paint dry far more enticing than watching them do anything.
Benjamina lets herself be inspired by her surroundings and opts for an English garden motif. She makes a marzipan hedge maze that looks like a bunch of earthworms writhing around. Jane’s doing something unnecessarily fussy that involves swans and I don’t care because I hate her and I hate swans. Candice makes a gigantic peacock inspired by the Game of Thrones (though I don't know of any peacocks on the show). And Selasi wows everyone with a design that is chock full o’symbolism: swords, crowns, gold leaf, the wives of Henry VIII. It’s a very ambitious project that ends up looking utterly awful, which truly disappoints me because he’s really nice to look and has been getting me through this snoozefest of a season.
Andrew is doing something with armored knights, but does a terrible job on their lances, which he makes from nuts and golden caramel and end up looking flaccid and sad instead of durable and triumphant.
Candice does a remarkable job with her peacock of lies and wins star baker. Benjamina goes home, and Selasi says he’s bummed because she would laugh at his jokes while everyone else gives him the cold shoulder.
NEXT WEEK: Patisserie. Which probably means there will be more super boring, itty bitty things again.
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