The Spool / Recap
Not all is sweet treats in The Great British Baking Show’s episode 4 dessert week faceoff
Structure proves the undoing of more than one competitor in The Great British Baking Show Season 12 Episode 4.
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Structure proves the undoing of more than one competitor

With a cracking signature, a toffee technical, and a showstopper inspired by Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it’s dessert week on The Great British Baking ShowI know what you’re thinking: isn’t every week dessert week on GBBS? Perhaps. But does every week have a surprise musical interlude?! It’s dessert week in more ways than one on this week’s episode of The Great British Baking Show

This Week’s Signature: Pavlova

First, the bakers must create a pavlova dessert with a crisp outside and pillowy inside. Pavlovas are made with meringues, whipping up egg whites (or aquafaba if you’re vegan like Freya) with sugar and cream of tartar, shaping into a fancy design, tossing it in the oven for a quick bake, often topping it with syrupy, fruity concoctions. It’s a complicated bake and assembly job, a race against time to prevent both cracking and soggy meringues. 

Most of the bakers are opting for fruit pavlovas. I’m intrigued by what I’m calling Crystelle’s “passive-aggressive pavlova,” as her godmother apparently has a good recipe, but never shared it with Crystelle! Nonetheless, she’s tosses kiwi and lime onto her meringue. And of course, I wanna know all about Chigs’s “tongue party” pavlova with passion fruit. 

Overachievers include George, who pulls double baking duty with a lemon curd pavlova topped with spice biscuits, and Jürgen, who also has twice the baking to do, making a Passover-inspired pavlova complete with homemade matza and chocolate pyramids. Lizzie’s also got a holiday on the mind with her Easter-inspired rosemary, lemon, and blueberry pavlova, complete with a purple-colored meringue. 

Most of the bakers crack on fine with the signature. Most, but not all. George attempted to keep his pavlova from breaking by keeping it in the proving drawer while baking his biscuits. Unfortunately, the proving drawer had the opposite effect, leaving his pavlova a cracked mess, much to Paul and Prue’s dismay. Rivaling George and the mess factor is Maggie, whose pavlova lost structure.

Others had more mixed results. While Freya’s looked pretty, the aquafaba meringue turned into slop under her peachy topping. Jürgen’s pavlova was a bit untidy, but the flavors were spot-on, leading Paul to exclaim, “Jürgen’s back!”   The big winner of the signature was Chigs. His pavlova had it all—it looked amazing, had wonderful flavors—thus earning Chigs a Hollywood Handshake! I was on the edge of my seat, saying, “Go on, Paul!” Lo and behold, we have our second Hollywood handshake of the season! Chigs is chuffed for sure at the recognition.

The Great British Baking Show season 12 episode 4 Chigs gets the hollywood
Behold! Chigs earns the sacred handshake. (Netflix)

This week’s Technical: Traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding

Set by Prue, the bakers must make four toffee puddings, tuiles (a nutty, cracker-thin biscuit shaped into a triangle), and complete a custard and caramel sauce. Surprisingly, most of the bakers seem to be novices at making the sticky toffee pudding. Several admit that they’d never made one from scratch, including even traditional baker Maggie. So buckle up, folks, because this technical is gonna get messy. 

Most of the bakers have issues with their sponges. Across the board, they all seem a bit undercooked. And Maggie, poor dear Maggie, didn’t notice that flour was supposed to go into the sponge, so she’s essentially made a pudding that, in Paul’s words, “resembles onion chutney.”

Most of the bakers also fail to make their sauces, either curdling their custard (i.e. bits of scrambled egg ends up in the sauce) or creating a thick caramel. The judges are looking for a “wet caramel,” and only scientist Jürgen seems to know the chemistry behind this tricky sauce. The judging results are as follows: Maggie (9), Amanda (8), George (7), Freya (6), Crystelle (5), Giuseppe (4), Chigs (3), Lizzie (2), and Jürgen (1).  

No surprise that Maggie ended up at the bottom, as she forgot to add flour. She seems dangerously close to the bottom of the bakers. Amanda has also struggled this week, so both will likely have to smash it in the showstopper round. It’s nice to see Chigs placing strongly in the technical. Lizzie thanks the bakers for undercooking their sponges, as her’s was one of the properly baked puddings, placing her in second. And our man Jürgen is back, baby! He’s got the scientific mind to create a sticky toffee technical to beat the rest.

The Great British Baking Show season 12 episode 4 Jurgen back baby
People keep asking if Jürgen’s back and I haven’t really had an answer, but yeah, I’m thinking I’m back. (Netflix)

This week’s Showstopper: Celebratory Joconde Dessert

Joconde, the French nickname for Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, requires the bakers to create a thin yet expertly decorated sponge wrapped around an inner layer of mousse/cream, then topped with a layer of jelly. It’s a difficult dessert, as it requires designing and baking a sponge, then stuffing it with creams/jelly/mousses that need to be set for the sponge to stand upright.  

The designs are where the bakers’ true identities come out to play. Lizzie’s creating a Liverpool skyscape sponge, topping her joconde with moonshine ganache. Lizzie, drop the recipe for this boozy ganache!

Jürgen’s going to back to the past with a “Passtyme with Good Company” joconde, a musical-themed dessert with actual music notes in the sponge, inspired by the song composed by Henry VIII for Catherine of Aragon. I’m not sure it all worked out for Henry and Catherine, so here’s hoping it fares better for Jürgen. Amanda also looks to the past with her Adam and Eve-inspired sponge, complete with an apple and snake design.

Maggie stays in the basic lane and makes a strawberry-designed sponge. Crystelle makes a pina colada-inspired joconde with no less than 13 sheets of gelatin in its jiggly inner boozy layers! Freya’s going square with her vegan organ and chocolate joconde. Giuseppe turns to his family for inspiration, making a pistachio and fruit joconde inspired by his father’s wedding cake. And George gets back to his overachieving ways with a two-tiered joconde and floral design.  

The joconde that stood out for me was Chigs’s dessert. Sure, he had the familiar black forest flavors. But it’s the design of his sponge that might have you reach for the rewind button. The tiles in his sister’s bathroom inspired his hexagonal design. You can even hear the surprise in host Matt Lucas’s voice as he describes the design, lingering so slightly on “his sister’s bathroom.” From Mona Lisa to Chigs’s sister’s bathroom, GBBS is in a fun, quirky place this season.  

The Great British Baking Show season 12 episode 4 George joconde
George embraces complexity with the cost of excessive peanut flavor. (Netflix)

As the bakers make their jocondes, it’s poor Maggie again who has issues with her sponge. She ends up restarting her’s when the first attempt won’t peel away from the parchment. Amanda also seems to have issues with her joconde not setting, the jelly pooling out of the sponge onto the cake stand. Poor Amanda and Maggie, I fear one of them will be going home this week. 

It’s final judgment time. Jürgen’s fares pretty well with his joconde, Prue stating it’s “a luxurious, creamy, boozy mouthful.” Jürgen even sings a little of the tune “Passtyme with Good Companye.” Jurgen is back, and he’s better than ever y’all!

Next up is Amanda, whose joconde broke, but she laughs it off as being inspired by a crime scene. Not even the joke can save it, though. Giuseppe’s joconde gets a 5-star rating for Paul, as it looks and tastes very professional. Lizzie’s joconde has a pretty design, but the textures were all wrong. George’s showstopper was a bit messy and a bit too peanutty for Paul and Prue. Chigs’s joconde looked amazing. His sponges, despite being inspired by a bathroom, were impressively designed, and his bavarois layer was perfection. Freya’s lost its design, and the orange flavor overpowered everything else in the joconde. Last up is Maggie, who again had a broken joconde. The flavors were there, but alas, the structure was not. 

At the end of the episode, it’s time to crown a Star Baker, and it’s Chigs who earns the title. This amateur baker, in the words of Paul, “smashed it out of the park” this episode. Definitely a well-deserved turn for Chigs! Sadly, but not shockingly, the baker to depart this week is Maggie. She had a bad week, and while she’s had such fun in the tent, nothing can beat delivering a baby. Yes, Maggie, leave on your terms!  

The Great British Baking Show season 12 episode 4 Lizzie Liverpool
Lizzie captures the Liverpool skyline in sugary simplicity. (Netflix)

Predictions and Other Thoughts 

  • I’m predicting the top three bakers that will make it to the finals will be Jurgen, Chigs, and Lizzie. I think Giuseppe has a chance, but Lizzie’s fared better in technicals overall. She just might squeak by to the end. 
  • I predict the next baker to leave will be Amanda. She came pretty close to leaving this week, only managing to stay in because Maggie had some spectacular failures. I also think Freya’s time might be coming to an end, as there’s only so much vegan baking one can do before it fails to impress against traditional non-vegan bakes.