This "Patisserie" SemiFinal is Not-So-Sweet in 'The Great British Baking Show' Season 14

Josh's Lemon, Blackberry & Blackcurrant Millefoglie Showstopper from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's SemiFinal

Josh's Lemon, Blackberry & Blackcurrant Millefoglie Showstopper from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's SemiFinal

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In the before times, when The Great British Baking Show's producers were not quite aware of just how much its American audience was into the series, the show hewed to the British fall TV schedule, which kicks off over the final week of August, as the British do not observe Labor Day Weekend, and concludes in the last week of October, just ahead of the double whammy of November's Guy Fawkes (November 5) and Remembrance Day (November 11). I bring this up because it is only a very recent phenomenon for the series to still be running post-Thanksgiving in the first place (another holiday that Brits do not observe), and this is the first time the competition still has another week to go post-holiday.

I'm not sure this creep down the calendar is actually a good thing for the series. It certainly works for Netflix in terms of marketing; the season finale and The Great British Baking Show: Holidays debut in back-to-back weeks, effectively making last year's Christmas and New Year's Specials a grand finale of sorts for the American public. However, it is one thing for the series to present the Grand Final post-Turkey Day to Americans when they're happily lying around the house looking for something (anything) to watch that will not accidentally cause politics to get raised in conversation. It is quite another to still be in the process of sending people home.

Especially in a season like this one, where Paul continues to force through Dan at the expense of anyone and everyone else, and for whatever reason, the show's editors cannot (or will not) hide that from viewers.

Signature Challenge

Dan's Fancy Financiers Signature from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's Semi Final

Dan's Fancy Financiers Signature from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's Semi Final

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It also doesn't help that this week, Alison was out sick ("feeling poorly," as Noel put it), and once again, the show's decision to cast her was thrown into sharp relief. The Signature Challenge is a dozen Financiers, a French almond cake initially called a "visitandine" and still sometimes sold under that name in France. It dates back to the 17th century, but like so many French dishes, it got popularized during the Regency era in the U.K. and renamed after bankers because it looked like a gold bar. Noel does his best to be both jokey and comforting, but it doesn't suit him and never has, and the lack of Alison's mothering touch is apparent when Tasha begins getting distressed over her buttercream, and the best anyone can do is Dan commiserating that his mousse sucks too. As always, the Signature is judged on a Pass/Fail Metric.

  • Matty Pick Me Up Financiers (Pass) Prue stiffly complements his flavors, while Paul tells him that his bars are too thick, and that's why they're dry.
  • Tasha Fancy Fruit & Nut Financiers (Pass) Everyone agrees they taste lovely, but Prue and Paul both fuss her raspberry ones aren't neat enough.
  • Josh Perfect Pudding Financiers (Pass) Paul wants Josh's bars to be too thick like Matty's and is disappointed only one set is too dry, and Prue refuses to complain about flavors.
  • Dan Fancy Financiers (Handshake) The sheer relief in Paul's voice that Dan made something that doesn't suck for the first time in weeks is obvious.

Much like last week, it's hard to tell if "Hollywood Handshake" is because Paul is genuinely impressed or just relieved at not being disappointed. Actually, no, last week, it was evident Matty's Handshake was out of sheer relief someone, anyone, had given Paul a goddamn sausage roll. This one is less obvious, but there is a real sense that after weeks of Paul physically forcing Dan along, despite all evidence to the contrary, this is less "I'm so surprised at how good this is, I'm shaking your hand," and more "I'm so glad you finally gave me something worthy of having kept you, I'm shaking your hand."

Technical Challenge

The Technical Challenge Altar from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's Semi Final

The Technical Challenge Altar from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's Semi Final

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After two weeks of Paul-set Technicals, it's finally Prue's time to shine, and she promises everyone this recipe is so delicious they cannot screw up the flavor. Let's hope she's right since she's asking for something fancy-sounding that's brilliantly simple: a Tarte aux Pommes. Noel gleefully translates for those who never had GCSE French (lol, aka every American watching), an "An Apple Tart." That's practically right on the nose for this week's American holiday that the show doesn't even celebrate — well played, GBBO — well played. 

Good job to Matty, too, who guessed this, or something very much like it, would be this week's challenge because he looked at a calendar and worked out when it would air. Too bad no one else did, and are now busy having PTSD flashbacks to "Pie Week." (Yeah, Tasha called it that! You heard her!) But I think Dan sums it up best after doing everything he can not to screw up, declaring, "I just wanna go to the pub."

4. Tasha: The crust is completely collapsed and raw
3. Dan: Crust is crumbling, underwhelming flavor
2. Matty: It's the tiniest bit underbaked on the bottom.
1. Josh: One tiny crack in the pastry's the only flaw

I'll give you this: Paul's face when he realized Number 4 was Tasha's after he made fun of it was nearly worth it. He looked like he'd been kicked in the teeth. (He expected it to be Matty's, or maybe he hoped it was Josh's.) But it's also a bad moment for all of us Tasha fans because Matty did well, and Josh won the Technical, should start feeling ill. Paul has been willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone to put Dan in the Final, and yeah, that'll include Tasha. 

Showstopper Challenge

Matty's Taste of Italy Millefoglie Showstopper from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's SemiFinal

Matty's Taste of Italy Millefoglie Showstopper from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's SemiFinal 

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The season's second to last Showstopper Challenge for the season is a Millefoglie, which Noel explains is "the Italian equivalent of a French mille-feuille." That explains it! No, it doesn't, so Paul defines it as a highly decorated pastry with buttery flaky layers. That still doesn't explain it, so let's go to the internet. Mille-feuille translates in English to "a thousand sheets," aka, one of those pastries with tiny thin sheets of pastry stacked on top of each other and pastry cream in between each set of layers. The most recognizable version in America is decorated with white icing and chocolate zebra stripes and called a Napoleon; the version most people see in the U.K. is done with fresh raspberries. 

The difference is that those are square slices. The Italian version is an entire round cake, usually with at least four layers of pastry (full puff pastry, no rough puffing), and super crazy decorated, think like one would decorate a wedding cake. There's a reason Josh says this would usually take a couple of days, not four hours. Meanwhile, in a bit of foreshadowing that feels almost like it's right out of a horror movie, Tasha announces today it's her birthday. Geez, Tasha, why don't you tell us you only have one more day until retirement, and you've bought the house of your dreams by a lake and start showing us pictures while Paul finishes wiring up explosives to take out just your station in the tent?

Josh's Lemon, Blackberry & Blackcurrant Millefoglie: It's hard to fault a showstopper when it appears perfectly formed in the tent like this. But that's Josh for you. He's been the dark horse all season, the one who deserves to win while we've been watching the Dan car crash, blinking in confusion at Matty still being here and rooting for Tasha. I mean, it's so perfect, it's a shame to cut into it, and also, I would like to order one to go, please. Even Paul can't find fault; he would if he could. He even tries it, and Prue shuts him down with an "I rarely disagree with Mr. Hollywood..." that drips with disdain and puts the man in his place.

Dan's Hypersonic Millefoglie Showstopper from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's SemiFinal

Dan's Hypersonic Millefoglie Showstopper from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's SemiFinal

Love Productions

Dan's Hypersonic Millefoglie: There's a reason all the glamour shots of this one show it from the top, and it's because the sides are all but a disaster, with the bottom layer of cream just smooshed out all over the place. Paul points out why: the chocolate is heavier than his cream, and he should have done the layers in reverse. (But wouldn't that just make the cream fall out from a higher level? Discuss.) Anyway, the guitar face is thick as a brick, and it's tough to cut through, but no one mentions that, even though there is talk of it being "a bit rubbery."

Matty's Taste of Italy Millefoglie: To Matty's credit, he did pull this one out, partly because he separated the layers. That was super clever. Even though each layer itself is wobbly, they can't screw each other up, and the fruit decor covers a multitude of sins. I will give Matty this: He finds the easiest path to maximize his talents in every challenge. That's a backhanded compliment, sure, but it's also not nothing, not by a long shot. Prue, of course, starts picking out all the little errors, and she's got lots to choose from because there are a lot of little mistakes. But the overall impression is better than the sum of its parts.

Tasha's Unfinished Mango Mojito’ Millefoglie Showstopper from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's SemiFinal

Tasha's Unfinished Mango Mojito’ Millefoglie Showstopper from The Great British Baking Show Season 14's SemiFinal

Love Productions

Tasha's Mango Mojito Millefoglie: Perhaps, in a way, Tasha's biggest failing is that she's not more like Matty. She takes the most complex road, challenges herself, and does not maximize her skill set to the most significant effect in minimum time. Were she more cunning that way, perhaps this week's outcome would not be as evident as it is before we even get to presenting her bake to Paul and Prue. Instead, what we have is a half-finished piece. The millefoglie itself is done, no small feat in and of itself, but there's barely any decoration, and there's no pretending that this was the plan; Tasha didn't finish. And unlike some contestants who are allowed to present raw dough at Bread Week and make the final, she will not get away with this.

I suppose it is a small consolation prize that Josh gets Star Baker, but only because you know that Paul didn't want to give it to him. Meanwhile, Tasha must comfort herself that she is now part of the Jurgen Club: Those who should have made the final but fell at the last hurdle due to Paul's machinations and inability to allow the process to play out properly. As for The Great British Baking Show, I suppose it has given Americans something new to argue about this holiday season. Or perhaps something to unite over, in that it is far past time to send home Paul Hollywood from the tent.


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Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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