The Great British Baking Show Recap: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
For a week that was all about parties, this hour could have been more festive. And what about the “anything but beige” showstopper where so many of the treats ended up, if not beige, then at least the same color of golden brown, beige’s annoyingly fake-tanned next-door neighbor? What an odd week, but at least we got Alison doing the conga more than once and a stuffed squirrel in a freezer. The signature challenge was making a sausage roll, a specifically English treat you can find absolutely anywhere. There are high-end versions, of course, but you can’t convince me there is a better sausage roll than the £1.99 ones from Greggs, a bakery chain in every train station in the country by edict of King Gregg IV. It’s basically a giant sausage wrapped in a casing of puff pastry, and you won’t find a heartier or more delicious lunch that you can eat with your hands. The problem is there isn’t much the bakers can do with a classic that we find out is Paul Hollywood’s favorite. That’s ironic because I have a feeling that his nickname at school rugby was probably Sausage Roll, and I would think he might resent it a little bit more. Daddy Dan tries to reinvent it with a filling of pork and prawns (what we call shrimps) and turning it into more of a dumpling than a proper English SR. A few of them add sauces, like Josh adding cranberry sauce to his to make his sausage roll taste a little bit more like Christmas. Tasha adds apricot jam to hers and she wants it to taste like a picnic in the park. Tasha also gets our first PUN ALERT of the week, saying that she is overfilling her dish because “No one likes a small sausage.” Noel gets right in on that train and says, “I can’t wait to get involved in [Daddy] Dan’s sausage,” and Alison replies, “Me too.” I swear to God, at home watching, I said, “Me three,” to an entirely nonresponsive television set. When the sausages come out — and boy, were there some sausages — they are brown on brown on brown, the hallmark of English cuisine. It’s sort of a mixed bag for the bakers. Paul hates Dan’s because it’s not like a traditional sausage roll, but we knew he was going to feel that way before he even took a bite. Josh’s look good and very neat, but Paul says they’re underbaked, and everything is too damn dry. Cristy’s have the dreaded soggy bottom, probably from all the pork grease, but they’re still underbaked, and no one likes them. Tasha pulls one out with her apricot jam. Both judges think they are slightly underbaked, but they can’t get over the flavor and how perfect they are. Paul tells her to pop one back in the oven for ten minutes so old Paul Sausage Roll Hollywood can smash the whole thing in one. But it’s Matty, our delightfully dreamy gym teacher, who gets the most for doing the least. He just made a straight-up sausage roll and gets a handshake from Paul, probably because he was the closest to Greggs in the tent that day. Now we’re at the technical, and (deep breath) we have to get into some serious English culture for Americans to understand the “caterpillar cake” that is at the center of the challenge. As they survey the bakers in the tent, Tasha says, “Everyone knows this cake.” Um, not anyone outside of the British Isles. Calling this thing a “caterpillar cake” is like calling a Rice Krispie Treat a “puffed rice dessert.” It’s really a Colin the Caterpillar, a very specific cake sold at Marks & Spencer (better known as M&S), an English grocery-store chain. At this point, Colin is literally IP, with not only a line of signature cakes but some very delicious gummy sweets as well. This guy has 63,000 followers on Instagram, and there was a huge lawsuit between M&S and Aldi, a German supermarket chain, when the latter decided to launch a Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake that was clearly a rip-off. It was ultimately settled out of court, and Cuthbert is no more. But this cake is at literally every child’s birthday party in the whole country. Whoever is celebrating their big day also gets the first slice, which includes not just a rolled sponge cake covered in chocolate but also the solid chocolate face of this delicious beast. This tradition became a royal edict in 1784 by King Gregg IV, also known as King Gregg the Hungry. It is a delicious cake, but to call the outer coating “ganache” is generous. If anything, it reminds me of one of those cheap, drugstore hollow Easter bunnies; it’s solid and cheap, but in the most delicious way possible. The long and short of it is this is sort of the most genius technical in Baking Show history because it is then basically an episode of the Bon Appétit show where they try to figure out how to make candy bars at home. It’s quite a fiddly and intricate recipe, and it was nice of the judges to give them much more instruction than usual. Cristy screws up rolling her cake into the right shape and has to make it again and is screaming, crying, and slapping the thing together at the last minute once again — this time, she ends up placing a shocking second place in the technical. The only one to top her is Tasha, who modeled the face of her caterpillar after none other than Noel Fielding, and it was glorious. Matty came in third despite the face on his caterpillar looking like it would rob you on a train. Josh and Daddy Dan were the bottom two, but even the worst looked delightful. The showstopper is the aforementioned “anything but beige” buffet, where they have to make at least one savory sharing treat, one sweet sharing treat, and then an unspecified number of other things. As always, Daddy Dan and Tasha are doing the absolute most. Dan is trying to make six dishes — cake pops, chocolate eggs, curry pies, shortbread fossils, a partridge, and a pear tree — that are all dinosaur-themed. Tasha is making a farm display with milkbread pigs, a wagon-wheel tractor, and choux buns made to look like sheep. You know as soon as this starts that they’re both going to end up in trouble due to the clock. Naturally, they’re both running around the tent and sweating. When it comes time to present, they are mostly disappointments. While Tasha’s pigs look tasty, her wagon wheels fall apart as soon as they’re touched, which is not a good sign for baked goods. The choux buns are dubbed “underwhelming,” as is her whole display. Dan is the one whose treats are all beige, including his dino-foot curry pies, which the judges say are too dry. At the end of the judging, Prue says it would have been better to do four things well rather than six all slapdash. Speaking of slapdash, Cristy’s tribute to Willy Wonka looked more like Wilted Wonka. She made cheese twists that looked less like candy canes and more like anemic flamingos. Her tiny lemon meringue pies aren’t baked enough, and her Swiss roll lollipops look like pools of sick. The judges call it “rough and ready,” and that is not a compliment. The two boys did the best. Josh, who had the Grinch’s heart after it grew three sizes at Christmas put into his body at a young age, does another Christmas display, but it looks so neat and delicious that you could see it in a department-store window. There are macaroons that look like snowmen, choux buns made to look like Christmas puddings, and some bread wreath that somehow manages to look both festive and delicious. The judges love it, and Paul uses one of the wreathes as a bracelet, probably so he can eat it off his wrist later. (He doesn’t really, but wouldn’t it be funny?) It’s our Matty who takes home star baker, though, for his sports-inspired display featuring curry cricket ball pies, basketball crème brûlée donuts, green tennis-ball macaroons, and chocolate-and-orange cupcakes that he miraculously turned into a golf course. While the texture of the donuts is a little raw inside, the judges love everything so much that he gets star baker. I think it’s the handshake in the signature that pushed him over the line past Josh, whose showstopper looked much better. Maybe Prue hates Christmas. Seems like she would. Sadly, it’s Cristy, that bluster of a baker, who is given a golden ticket back to London, where she can cry over bakes that turn out all right for the rest of her days off of the television. That leaves Tasha as the only woman standing in the boys’ club. I can’t wait to see how this one turns out, as the remaining four are all stellar.
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