This year I feel the entire country has been even more excited for Bake Off than ever before; there seemed to be a real buzz around the time of its announcement and everyone couldn’t wait to see what this years batch of bakers would bring to the table. This was mainly due to the fact that after making one banana bread and a sourdough starter, everyone suddenly thinks they’ve become Mary Berry over night and could give old Paul a run for his money. None the less, I think that with the new format of a ‘Bake Off Bubble’ and the extra time quarantine gave the contestants to practise, it really made the bakers bring out their A game and has resulted in one of the most unpredictable but enjoyable seasons of the Bake Off so far (we won’t talk about the now notorious Brownie-Gate), resulting in a final that saw the last 3 pushed to their baking limits.
Firstly, just to clear this up, Hermine was done so dirty in the semis and I’m still fuming she’s not in the final- her dry humour and ability to keep her cool as her showstopper collapsed before her eyes were sorely missed in the final. Poor Hermine, patisserie was supposed to be ‘her thing’; I felt even worse for her since she had been subtly bigging up her patisserie skills for the last months, only for her to come unstuck when faced with a cream horn and ‘chocolate cube’. But she definitely should have got through just down to her ambition and THAT jelly cake in dessert week.
This brings me onto the finalists. Peter has been consistent the entire season; only in dessert week did he nearly topple due to his lacklustre showstopper and signature challenge, which was a bit out of character for him. However, he pulled through in patisserie week, entering the final with a Hollywood handshake and two star bakers. It would’ve been nice though for him to try baking food that wasn’t Christmas themed, especially in spring/summer. I’m surprised no one else was sick of him ALWAYS baking Christmas cakes and making tiny Christmas puddings for every single showstopper.
Dave is nice and all but I have found him a bit annoying this season; he seems to know he’s good and is just fishing for compliments from Prue and Paul about the gooey-ness of his brownies or the moistness of his Fraisier Cake’s sponge. I will never forget week 2 when he was so desperate for star baker, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had murdered the other bakers if that’s what it would take. To be fair to the guy, he has made some good food but messing up choux pastry in the Bake Off final doesn’t really make him winner material.
Laura. Oh dear. She comes across as being such a lovely person, however, her still being in the competition whilst Lottie and Hermine were banished from the tent still gives me sleepless nights. She has got through each week by the skin of her teeth and in a pool of her own tears. This year, Laura’s meltdowns have become a weekly occurrence and I cannot count the amount of times I have seen her leaning into the freezer sobbing over her disastrous showstopper- if any one asks you what 2020 has been like, show them a compilation of Laura’s Bake Off journey. However, on the rare occasion when she has been good, she has been very good; her particular high light being her tart cage in pastry week.
The Final (SPOILERS)
This years final took the same format as always- signature challenge, technical, showstopper. The intro featured a little taster of what was to come with the classic tense music and snippets of what the bakers would be facing; imagine my surprise when within the first minute Laura, true to form, was already head first in the freezer.
The signature saw the bakers making custard slices. Peter and Dave both did very well with their slices and set off on the right foot- Laura did not. Laura has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat so many times to reach the final, only to fall to pieces when she got there. No amount of whimsical music and light hearted banter from Noel and Matt could cover up the pure trauma Laura was going through; the poor girl looked like she had been through hell and back. For the first time, I did feel for her when she presented her custard-less slices to Paul and Prue. If it wasn’t for the guilt tripping montage of her family wishing her luck beforehand, I probably would’ve slated her inability to make a custard slice in the final of the Bake Off (FYI this was due to her using to much yuzu, preventing the gelatine from setting- rookie error) and despite her being completely out of the runnings of winning as a result, I was rooting for her to redeem herself.
The technical was as always extremely over complex and stressful (I miss the good old days of the technical challenges being Victoria Sponges). Peter started off well, was ahead of the game and then didn’t whisk his marshmallow enough, resulting in a set of very undefined and tatty looking walnut whirls. Dave, much to my annoyance, did rather well and came 1st in this technical. Laura true to form crumbled under the pressure of having to make a biscuit, tempered chocolate, ganache and marshmallow and came last.
Now the showstopper; it’s pretty much now a two man race between Dave and Peter, with Laura making up numbers and providing support. I have never seen someone want the Bake Off title as much as Dave- the mix of glee and fake concern in that mans eyes when the judges found something wrong with Peter’s showstopper was slightly disturbing. In true Dave style and an attempt to suck up to Paul and Prue as much as possible, Dave’s showstopper was a demonstration of him reattempting all the bakes he got wrong throughout the season- brownies, babka, a fraisier cake and choux pastry. It would’ve have been amazing if he had perfected them all and shown his progression; but he didn’t, with his choux being as flat as a pancake and babka over baked. It did look appealing though and the fraisier cake and brownies were very impressive, but come on brownies in the Bake Off final is a bit underwhelming.
Peter’s showstopper was a Christmas tree (gasps in surprise) with Battenburg biscuits, a Victoria Sponge, some choux buns and friands. Everything was perfect except for the friands which were ‘too stodgy’ according to Prue; I had to Google what a friand was so I am in no position to judge Peter on his friand-making skills. Laura’s showstopper did seem to be the redemption we were looking for and I feel it summed up Laura’s bake off experience perfectly; a just finished scramble for the finish line that actually looked rather sweet, if just a bit ‘rustic’. It wasn’t the most visually attractive of the showstoppers but definitely displayed the best baking skills and she nailed every single one of her components. I hope she can be proud of that showstopper and feel she finished on a high.
The winner in the end was Peter; it was a close call and I wasn’t quite sure who had done enough out of Dave and Peter to claim that all important cake stand and the title of Bake Off Champion. I am, as I’m sure most people are, very pleased that Peter won; he has been one of the purest contestants in Bake Off history being almost too innocent for this world. He was also not very arrogant and didn’t seem to realise how good he was.
Bake Off 2020 has been very different to previous years but so enjoyable none the less. The introduction of Matt Lucas as the new host with Noel was very successful and the two added some much needed comedic value, especially when Lottie and Laura looked like they wanted the floor to open up and swallow them both (ice cream cakes is all that needs to be said about this). My only complaint is I wish the producers and judges would choose some nice simple challenges that are much more achievable for the home baker to replicate; believe it or not Paul, I do not have the time, energy or willpower to make an elaborate tart surrounded by a cage made of pastry. This year of Bake Off, however, I feel demonstrated the competition at its very best and its so nice to see all the contestants have remained close friends since the end of the competition.