If people need proof American traditions have invaded the U.K., they need look no further than this week's theme on The Great British Baking Show. That's not to say that the Brits did not celebrate Halloween in the past; All Hallow's Eve was observed long before over here even existed. However, it was not *the* fall holiday of choice. Until recently, that was Guy Fawkes Day, celebrated on November 5 with giant bonfires. Halloween was kiddie stuff, only children dressed in costume, and the traditions were more like "bobbing for apples." Trick or treating? That was purely American.
But times have changed, and though we've still failed to export Thanksgiving to the U.K. (for obvious reasons), the American tradition of adults wearing costumes and trick or treating and candy has become more of a U.K. staple in the current century. So has the pumpkin tradition, which the country has brought over hook, line, and sinker, despite that particular gourd not being their bag. However, the adoption of Halloween has added a British twist to the festivities that were not originally part of our culture: Halloween bakes.
These new bakes mix the older British traditions of fall fruits with the more recent Halloween "spooky" sensibilities, making this theme a smart one for the show to attempt. (Far better than other countries' bakes anyway.) And besides, it means the contestants all get to show up wearing Halloween-themed outfits, whether kitted out in costume or just a pumpkin print shirt. Let the festivities begin.
This week's Signature Challenge is an homage to that tradition of bobbing for apples with an apple-flavored cake. The contestants can add whatever other additions they like, but the star of the cake must be apples. As always, the Signature is judged on a Pass/Fail metric.
- Sandro Creepy Apple Crumble Cake (Fail): He went too much spice, not enough apple, and wow, Prue hates the skull.
- Abdul Bonfire Cake (Pass): The apple slices inside served to keep his cake moist and infused with apple flavor.
- Janusz Mum's Apple Cake (Fail): It's surprisingly plain and has no apple flavor.
- Dawn Ukrainian Sharlotka (Pass): It collapsed when she put the toffee apples on top, but they saved her by adding the apple flavor.
- Kevin Apple-Bobbing (Fail): It collapsed because it was still too hot when he iced it, and it's a pudding, not a cake.
- Maxy Classic Apple & Walnut Cake (Pass): It's pastry window ready, and the apples are perfect: Handshake Recipient.
- Syabira Witch Apple (Pass): She went "American" with a face, a witch's hat, and a perfect cake inside. Handshake Recipient.
This was a bit of a "you either nailed it, or you failed it" challenge, but not bad for a two-Handshake day.
And here is where the cultural divide shows up, as Paul sets this week's Technical Challenge: S'Mores. While Americans probably look super puzzled about this being the Technical, who hasn't made s'mores? -- the contestants look befuddled. I think the best way to explain the problem is to quote Noel's description of a S'more.
"Your s'mores should have a gooey toasted marshmallow and a creamy dark chocolate ganache sandwiched between two digestive biscuits."
Then they show Paul's examples, and that's not a s'more. At least, it's not a s'more I've ever eaten.
As Kevin says, this is a distinctly American creation, and he, one of the only ones who nodded at hearing the brief, has only seen them in the movies.
Let's go to the results, shall we? Since none of these are s'mores, I don't even know how to judge them.
7. Abdul: These are as close to perfect as anyone got, which means they're all wrong.
6. Maxy: These are close to the right thing, but the biscuit is rubbery
5. Dawn: Paul declares her marshmallow "meringue."
4. Sandro: His chocolate-made arty drips?
3. Kevin: He got the messiness right, which is wrong.
2. Janusz: I suppose he landed the torching part right.
1. Syabira: They are perfectly wrong, which means they win.
On the one hand, it's not as culturally offensive as anything served up during Mexican Week. But on the other, on behalf of Girl Scouts everywhere, I want to apologize on behalf of The Great British Baking Show for this crime against campfires.
Oh, I'm sorry, did I bring up the specter of Mexican Week? Because the showstopper is an edible "Hanging Halloween Piñata Lantern." No one is sure where piñatas originated; some claim it was a Chinese invention. However, we do know in the 14th century, they traveled to Spain and then across the pond when they conquered the New World, where they are today associated with Mexican culture.
Mostly, the show wants these to be hanging cakes, and it's pretty apparent the "piñata" part is not essential, though Paul does take a wack at them. Paul and Prue don't care about the flavor or the decor as long as there are at least two flavors, Halloween spooky things, and it defies gravity. Let's see who lights something up and who is left hanging.
Sandro Dead Disco Ball: The ball is a bit small to hold all the large-sized treats he made, but he did get a few in there, and the visual of the ball itself is a stunner. Unfortunately, everything is practically inedible, either too hard or too spicy.
Janusz Halloween Horror Movie Popcorn: His popcorn box is pretty perfect, and his treats inside are correctly sized. He also put crickets inside his treats, and Prue complains he should have put more because they're too sweet without them.
Maxy Spoooooky Lantern: The top fell in on the lantern, but it is hanging, which filled the brief, and it is delicious. The macaroons inside make up for the lantern fail, even though they're large and dense.
Abdul Witch's Lantern: The lantern is neat as a pin, even if it is a bit underbaked, but it holds up under wacking. The treats inside are well made, and Prue even likes the matcha.
Kevin Arachna-FOMO: Let's not lie; this is a complete mess of a spider; it looks like a little kid made it. It collapses when Prue hits it, but the treats inside are tasty, despite Paul's complaint that "the nuts are hanging out." (Even Prue breaks when he realizes what he just said.)
Dawn A Cat In A Fancy Hat: Hers is the only one that doesn't arrive hanging because she ran out of time, but Paul puts it up for her, and it does stay, to applause. It is a complete mess, even if her idea was sound. Prue can't eat it, it's too hard, and Paul says it has no flavor.
Syabira Itsy Bitsy Spider: It's astonishing in the words of Prue, and I quite agree. She even got it to light up, the only lantern that is a LANTERN. It cracked perfectly and yet stayed hanging. Besides one of her treats having too much truffle, her flavors are loved.
There's no contest today in who should take home Star Baker: Syabira got a handshake, took first in the Technical, and is the only one whose lantern was lit. Even Paul admits no one else comes close. As for who is heading home, Dawn has been here at least a week past her expiration date, and it's time for her to say trick or treat and head to the next tent.