Bad jokes, wild pronunciations, and a double elimination make this week’s episode one for the book.
This week’s episode of The Great British Baking Show opens with Matt and Noel, clad in sombreros and ponchos, making a joke about not making any jokes – in their words, “not even Juan” joke – about Mexican Week in the tent. More words on that opening later. Buckle up folks, because Mexican Week is going to be a bumpy ride.
After last week’s episode, which ended without an elimination, the stress is on the bakers this week. It seems most of the bakers are on an even footing in that none of them have much experience in Mexican cuisine, either in making it or eating it. That is except for Dawn if you count her pizza from last week as “Mexican.” That and Syabira proudly exclaims that she loves Mexican food, so perhaps she’ll also have an edge? This week could prove to be a major disruption in the tent, as nearly everyone is essentially starting at the same point.
Their Signature challenge is to create 12 individual pan dulces in 2 ½ hours. Translated to “sweet bread,” Paul and Prue are looking for enriched dough in this signature challenge.
The judges are also looking for bread, not cake, so it’s going to require more proving time to ensure their sweet treats end up with the right texture. With hundreds of variations, the bakers have a lot of inspiration to pull from.
Most bakers opt to create conchas, an enriched dough roll with a sweet craquelin top.
There are some fun choices among the Signature bakes, such as Janusz’s “cacti” decorated conchas and Syabira’s corn on the cob (featuring a corn and coconut custard). Bless Carole, as she struggled with the pronunciation of whatever roll she was making (rolls de … denise?). I rewatched her scene twice and I, like Paul, was very confused when she described her bake. Separating themselves from the concha crowd are Adbul’s besos with coconut and raspberry, and Kevin’s borrachitos with star anise and rum butter toppings.
At the end of the signature, the judges make their rounds. The strongest of the bunch were Syabira (the judges loved the clever design and flavors), Sandro (they loved the flavors, even if the dough was underproved), and Janusz (looked evenly baked and had a nice craquelin top, but lacked strong flavors). Bakers at the bottom were Carole (her “denise” rolls were not identical), Dawn (her ganache filling burst through her conchas), and Rebs (her conchas were a bit burnt and lacked sufficient rise).
Next up is the technical, set by Paul Hollywood. His advice to the bakers: get the flavor combinations right. He’s tasked the bakers with creating 8 identical Mexican tacos in 2 hours. The bakers have to make their own corn tortillas, using not a press but a casserole dish to flatten their dough into a circle. They also have to marinate and cook steak, cook refried beans, and make both pico de gallo and guacamole. While savory challenges are always a fun twist in the tent, this seems a bit odd in that there really isn’t any baking, aside from some lightly pan-toasted tortillas.
As the technical progresses, viewers are taken on a wild journey of pronunciations of Mexican food in the tent. Pico de gallo becomes pico de gah-lo, nacho becomes natch-o, taco becomes tak-o, just to drop a few. Most bakers have never had pico de gallo, although Dawn seems to know it’s similar to salsa. And those who have had guacamole are split on the chunky vs smooth, although Sandro says the aim is to have a little bit of both (this is the correct answer). And poor Carole peels her avocado like it’s an apple. Pronunciations and avocado peeling aside, the bakers make passable tacos, although I’d like a word with Sandro, who puts his guac on the bottom of the tortilla.
Paul and Prue return to judge the tacos, and they rank the bakers as follows: Carole (10), Rebs (9), James (8), Janusz (7), Abdul (6), Dawn (5), Kevin (4), Sandro (3), Syabira (2), and Maxy (1). Maxy’s taco had a nicely sized tortilla, with just the right amount of filling per tortilla. Syabira’s tacos also had a decent amount of filling, with a bit of color on the toasted tortillas. Sandro got closer to the top spot this week, and while his steak was “spot on,” his tortilla was a bit dry. Sitting at the bottom of the bakers are Carole (her tortillas were too thick), Rebs (tortillas too small), and James (also had tiny tortillas).
Last up is the Showstopper, and it’s the classic tres leches cake. Well, classic with a twist – the judges want to see 4 layers of milk-soaked sponges, all fantastically decorated. The sponges can contain any combination of flavors, but the judges are looking for bold choices. They have 4 hours to create their bakes, which will be a bit complicated, as they’ll need to bake their sponges, then soak in their milk mixtures, then build their cakes. Too much milk and they risk some wonky leans; too dry, and their cakes will lack that quintessential moist quality of the tres leches.
The bakers get on with baking and soaking their sponges, allowing time for their cakes to set in the fridge. The moment of truth arrives at assembly time, as the bakers pull their cakes out of the fridge and layer up on the cake stands. Rebs has some leakage from her sponge, and her attempts to cover it with icing remain futile. Syabira’s sweetcorn cakes are too dry, which causes her to tear up. Sandro, on the other hand, is the picture of confidence, even enlisting Noel to help decorate his cake with splatters of icing.
At the judges’ table, Paul and Prue dive into the bakes. The bakers that come out strong are Janusz (his Mexican fruit-inspired cake had a lovely pink icing decoration, even if the cake was a bit dry), Maxy (had excellent piping with decor and colors, and her chocolate sponges worked perfectly with the buttercream frosting), and Sandro (his cake had professional level decor, and while his top layer had too many flavors, his bottom layer was a “triumph”). Bakers at the bottom were James (his cake had too many conflicting flavors, and his sponges were unevenly soaked), Carole (her icing may have been vibrantly colored, but her sponges were unevenly soaked, and she had too much chile), and Rebs (her sponges were leaking, and she overdid it on the flavors, causing Prue and Paul to cough).
At the end of the episode, it’s Maxy who’s again crowned Star Baker. Paul and Prue say she was the most consistent in all the challenges. Maxy’s shocked, but pleased that she’s won Star Baker a second time. Sadly, it’s a double-elimination, and it’s James and Rebs who are going home. Poor Rebs is sobbing, and James is cracking jokes.
Predictions and Other Thoughts:
What does my man Sandro have to do to get Star Baker?! Next week is going to be his week. And I still think he’s going to round out the top three, joining Janusz and Maxy.
I had predicted James would leave earlier, I was surprised that it was his name called and not Carole’s. I really thought this week was going to be her week to go. And sadly it wasn’t that surprising that Rebs was also eliminated. She had some not-so-great bakes in previous weeks.
While we’re on the topic of not-so-great moments, that offensive cold open. Nearly broke my cringe-level scale. To put it in analogy GBBO staff will understand: reductive Mexican stereotypes like ponchos, sombreros, and jokes involving Mexican names are the “soggy bottoms” of comedy. I found it offensive as both a Mexican-American and a comedian!
In case you missed it, Prue also admitted that her mother forced her to drown a litter of kittens when she was a child.