Warning: This recap for episodes 9 and 10 of The Great British Baking Show contains spoilers.
The ovens have cooled; the flour has settled. The winner had been building momentum almost from the start, but in the finals of this season’s Great British Baking Show, she doesn’t rest on her laurels. The winner proves definitively that, even under the direst of circumstances — which, on this show, means it was a little warmer than usual — she is unquestionably the best amateur baker in Great Britain.
Nerves are very much in evidence for Patisserie Week. Even the Star Baker, Andrew, narrowly avoids disaster when he is forced to remake his puff pastry. A second in the technical challenge and a “stunning presentation” in Paul’s words for the showstopper round turns it around for him. Sadly, Selasi crumbles under the pressure and is sent home.
And, of course, the overall winner in the finals is Candice. At her worst, she comes in the middle of the pack on the technical: Her buttercream is grainy and she’s strained the seeds out of her jam, turning it into a jelly. But her meringue crown is a marvel of differing textures and her showstopper — a picnic basket full of 48 quiches, scones, sausage rolls, tarts, and a large chocolate cake — is both charming and impeccably baked.
Hot in Herre
On the one hand, the heat makes it easier for the yeast to rise for the technical challenge — a Savarin, which is a variation of the liquor-soaked rum baba. On the other hand, the bakers — already surrounded by hot ovens — are trapped in a sauna. Thankfully, Sue is there to help out.
The heat is a contributing factor, but also it seems like everyone is feeling nervous about being in the semifinals. Jane and Selasi both dump their palmiers as they come out of the oven during the signature bake, and Candice drops a still oozing fondant fancy onto more oozing fondant fancies during the showstopper round.
“Is this the first time you’ve been less than calm?” asks Sue as Selasi paces around the tent. Normally, he’s unflappably cool, making jokes and mugging for the camera. But he’s forced to leave his palmiers in the oven until the last moment (they still come out underdone) and it’s all downhill from there. His Savarin ends up at the bottom of the technical, and Mary pegs the inconsistent coloring on the cake as the result of failing to sift his flour. She points out the same misstep as he’s making his genoese sponge for the last round. He corrects, but the result is still, in Mary’s words, “A little bit basic.” Basic may not mean quite the same thing in Britain as it does here, but it’s close enough.
When you’ve got judges as stoic as Paul and Mary, it’s easy to doubt yourself. It can even take a while to register your own name when it’s called as Star Baker. Even after several moments, it seems like Andrew’s win hasn’t quite registered. Despite his slow reaction time, he is almost certainly “chuffed” at taking the last Star Baker crown before the finale.
In context, it’s clear what Paul Hollywood is referring to when he says the word “mocha.” But if you close your eyes, you might wonder if he is cut off while trying to say “mockery.” As for the Pearly Kings and Queens, they are a working class charitable organization. Given Candice’s pride in her laborer heritage, it is both appropriate and endearing that her final showstopper include a nod that direction.
Exceedingly Filthy British
Jane saying, “My bottom’s cracking!” might have been the dirtiest thing said in a normal episode. But here in the finals, everybody’s operating on an entirely different level. Right out of the gate, Sue gestures to the hosts and judges and says, “Between the four of us, we already have a sponge scepter and several jellied orbs,” which is a reference both to the traditional royal regalia of a scepter and orb and to the contents of the quartet’s swimsuits. Scandalous!
In any other context, “two handshakes” wouldn’t even merit mention. But Paul gives out handshakes like Sizzler hands out their steaks when they haven’t paid the gas bill: rarely. To give out two in a week, much less two in a single round, is nigh unheard of. Both Jane and Candice’s meringues were stellar and set a high benchmark for what a GBBS finals should look like. Not pictured: Andrew’s shocked face as he realizes he’s the only one to not get Paul’s signature seal of approval.
Okay, fine. Here it is.
When Candice is on fire, why even bother? She holds the bowl over her head in the traditional test of meringue stiffness, but it already looks like a victory pose. She routinely adds extra dough to her bakes, turning out pastries that are just as good as her competitors, only at twice the difficulty. She even manages to redeem a previous failure. Back in Botanicals Week, she painted her pastry bag so the meringue she was piping would have a colorful stripe, but it smeared everywhere and the resulting mess was almost her undoing. But this time she nails it, adding color to an already rock-solid structure. As Jane says, “You can’t out-Candice Candice.”
On a Technicality
You want the ultimate technical challenge? Fine. Here it is. The complete instructions for an obscure cake the bakers made once earlier in the competition.
How to Excel in Baking
The contestants’ final bake calls for 12 puff pastry sausage rolls, 12 mini-quiches, 12 scones, 12 fruit custard tarts, and one chocolate celebration cake. Under any circumstances, that’s a considerable challenge, but with only five hours and a single oven in which to do it, it’s nearly impossible without an ironclad schedule. The only thing missing from Andrew’s spreadsheet? A pie chart.
Is there anything better than seeing baby pictures — or in Jane’s case, much younger, but still fully grown pictures — of people you’ve only known as adults? Well, maybe one thing.
Candice’s reaction is so pure and so perfect, it’s hard not to get a little weepy at her joy. And it’s damn near impossible once she says, her own voice choked with tears, “I did it! I’m good! I’m good enough!” Yes you are, Candice. And we’re all better for it.