Bread Week has always held a special place in The Great British Baking Show pantheon. While Mary Berry and now Prue Leith have always been about the cakes and cookies, judge Paul Hollywood is a bread man, through and through. No contestant that fails out in Bread Week can make it to the winner's circle, simply because Paul bars the door. Though it is not precisely a truism that the winner of Bread Week is an auto-shoo-in for the final, it certainly helps get one to the Top Five at least.
This week is all about Paul, which also means it's all about his patented "Hollywood Handshake," which explains the opening. It also explains why this week is the first where the lack of going home and practicing in one's kitchen all week starts to come to the fore for these bakers. It's one thing for the first couple of showstoppers to be a little on the Nailed It! side, especially since this is the first time they've been quarantined in a "Baking Village" and the BakeOff Bubble takes some getting used to. But the pressure this week will take the air out of some rising.
This week's Signature is Soda Bread, two of them, one sweet and one savory. They also have to make butter to go with it. Soda bread is defined as bread made with sodium bicarbonate instead of yeast, so proofing is unnecessary. Due to how fast this rising goes, there's only an hour and 45 minutes for this challenge. As always, the Signature is judged on a pass/fail metric.
- Mark Sausage & Stout Soda Bread (Pass) His stout bread is better than the Sausage one, but the texture is good on both.
- Laura Nana Peg's Nicely Spiced and Cherrylicious Soda Bread (Pass) They look rustic and raw. The spiced bread is underbaked, but the cherry one with the marzipan saves the day.
- Lottie Blueberry Breakfast & Summertime Soda Bread (Pass) Both loaves are well flavored, though the blueberries aren't evenly spread in the breakfast loaf, and the bacon fails to cut through.
- Peter Black Pudding & Ginger Beer Soda Bread (Fail) The kid went gluten-free, and though the loaves look great, they either collapse into glue or come out too cakey.
- Marc Cornish Soda Breads (Pass) Paul loves them, though the cranberry flavor is weak on the sweet bread.
- Rowan Flavours of Italy (Fail) He didn't finish, they didn't rise. Paul grumbles they're underbaked, and the polenta bread is gritty.
- Dave Chilli Chocolate & Cheesy Bacon Soda Bread (Pass) There's not enough flavor, thought Prue says they are good loaves nonetheless.
- Sura Middle Eastern Inspired Sofa Bread (Pass) The flavors are delicious, though Paul says she should have baked at a higher temp because they're just that side of done.
- Linda Cyflym Bara Soda Bread (Fail) Pale and a shade underbaked, but the real problem is the fruit didn't stay inside the bread.
- Hermine My Favourite Flavours Soda Bread (Pass) She made smoked salmon bread, and her fruitcake is boozy as hell. Paul sticks out his hand for the Hollywood Handshake.
Very few fails this week, as two soda breads generally means that at least one came out good enough. Sadly, the Technical will not be so easy. This week is, as always, set by Paul, and it's a doozy: Six Rainbow Colored Bagels. Now listen, bagels are not easy, because they're boiling and baking, and doing those swirly rainbow ones and having them not come out mush colored is a feat all on it's own. At least one baker mutters, "What the hell is a rainbow bagel?"
Paul admits bagels are not British, they're an American invention, as are these rainbow ones. But rainbow-colored bakes, especially bagels, have become a *thing* to honor the NHS since the pandemic started.
The real trick to bagels is time management. You have to prove them, boil them, prove them again, and then bake the water off. That means that those who cannot handle their time are screwed. (Am I looking at Rowan? You bet I'm looking at Rowan.) The truth is that no one here can make bagels, so this winds up being graded on a curve.
10. Rowan: Wrinkly circles of underbaked bread, they're not even bagels.
9. Dave: Flat as pancakes
8. Sura: The dough wasn't twisted, so the colors down't swirl.
7. Hermine: Tough overbaked discs
6. Laura: Too small, but tasty anyway
5. Lottie: Dark-colored and overbaked
4. Peter: They look like hula hoops, and they're flat
3. Mark: Slightly overboiled
2. Marc: Paul compares them to pretzels, but they taste good
1. Linda: They're small, but they are correct in twist and texture, which is as good as it gets.
If this isn't proof Rowan should have gone home last week, I don't know what is. Since everyone should assume the series will not keep him again after this, it's a bit of a toss-up on who's doing well. Hermine got the Handshake but failed hard on the Technical. Linda got first in the Technical but failed in the Signature. Both Marc and Mark got high marks, and which Mar(c)k wins will come down to the Showstopper.
This week's Showstopper is a Large Bread Plaque. Think a first prize given out at a harvest festival or in the U.S, a state fair, but made of bread. The Plaque is to have an image of what the baker is most grateful for. The closest thing anyone has done in this show's history is Paul Jagger's famous Bread Lion head, which several kinds of Bread making a flat image turn 3D. That was also one of the hardest things made on Bread Week, and this is something of an attempt to see if anyone can match it. While some do, several could have used several more practice rounds and it shows.
Hermine's "A Journey Back to France" There's some nitpicking about the design, and the swirl on the outside is not as well defined as one might like, but it is fantastic looking. The Brioche isn't great, but the focaccia is good.
Sura's "Mama's Tomato Vine Harvest Loaf" It's a well-conceived design, and though it's a bit simple, that's the point because it makes it effective. The bread texture is excellent, and the flavor has zing. Matt points out the balls on top have feta interiors when the judges nearly skip tasting them, and Prue loves them.
Laura's "Showstopping Musical Theatre Inspired Bread" The velvet curtains are better than the drama masks, but that's quibbling. The Bread has a flavor punch, but the focaccia bread tastes raw.
Peter's "Edinburgh Cityscape Bread Plaque" He used tons of seeds and crumbs to create his design instead of different breads. The seeds are also all you can taste. Paul is not impressed, and Prue says the bread is chewy.
Lottie's "My House In Bread" It's a bit messy but definitely a house. The flavor is missing on the primary bread, but the paprika accented supplement bread is excellent. Paul says she should have made that the main one instead.
Linda's "'Fruits of our Labour' Black Olive Bread & Tiger Bread" She formed an entire recognizable cow head out of bread. Everything else is a muddled mess. Too bad the Bread is underproved, underbaked, and underflavored.
Mark's "Orchard County Bread with Sweet Apple & Savoury Wild Garlic" The plating is irregular, and the image is basic. Also, the wild garlic is not coming through.
Marc's "The Dharma Wheel Bread Sheaf" one of the most complex in the braiding and abstract in the image, it's a real showstopper. Prue is stunned at how pretty it is. Paul notes there's places where it's underproved, but he's done it so cleverly he cannot complain.
Dave's "Grateful For My Home & Little Family" It's not a great image, and his wife is *very* pregnant looking. The Bread is too dry and overbaked.
Rowan's "Worcestershire Pear Tree" Well, it's finished, which is a start. But it's huge and heavy as hell, and Noel has to help carry it up. Prue shakes her head. Paul is just glad it's done. The refusal to proof it, lest he lose the shape, has made for a terrible, bland bread.
Paul feels the best showstoppers come down to Sura and Marc. In the end, Marc placing ahead in the Technical gives him the edge, and he gets Star Baker. As for who's going home, Paul pretends Peter or Dave might be going, but that's all nonsense. Goodbye Rowan.