'The Great British Baking Show' Season 4 Episode 2: Biscuit Week

Kate's showstopper entry (Photo: Courtesy of Monika Frise)


Welcome back to another tasty The Great British Baking Show recap! It was crunch time for our eleven bakers as they returned to the tent to test their biscuit-based skills.  But before we get down to the newest trio of challenges, let’s quickly review the results from the last round.

Gardener Jane was named Star Baker for her mastery of drizzle and glaze during cake week. She delighted the judges with her lemon and poppy seed drizzle cake. And though her showing in the technical was far from perfect, Jane redeemed herself in the show stopper with an elegant and shiny mirror glaze cake version of a Jaffa cake. Reverend Lee, on the other hand, failed to stand out in the earlier challenges, but it was his dry and unpleasantly surprising strawberry mirror cake show stopper that sealed his fate. He was sent home with a hug and an assurance from Paul that he was still a talented amateur baker.

Now let’s bring on the biscuits!

During the Showstopper, Benjamina cuts gingerbread shapes with Mel  (Photo: Courtesy of Tom Graham)

In this week’s signature challenge, the judges requested two dozen identical iced biscuits, evenly baked and as crisp and Paul’s hair. Mary said the key to this assignment was to not be too ambitious, but you know there are always going to be overachievers.

The technical round involved following Mary’s recipe for Viennese whirls, a delicate and defined sandwich cookie filled with jam and buttercream. Piping the dough mixture proved to be a mini-challenge in and of itself, but it’s Mel’s fake Austrian accent that may have been the most difficult part of this segment.

The show stopper was a marathon test of creativity, time management, steady hands and stiff icing. The bakers were required to bake and assemble a 3-D gingerbread construction that told a story about themselves. It had to be a minimum of thirty centimeters high and contain at least eight characters or objects.

Highlights: I love a cut-out iced cookie! It reminds me of grade school holiday parties. The bakers created fanciful-shaped biscuits from sheep and bee hives to flower pots and beer mugs. Particular praise was given to Benjamina’s bouquet biscuits, Selasi’s Wheelie Hot biscuits, and Kate’s Bergamot and lavender flavored butterflies. But it was Tom’s chai frappelatteccino biscuits with their great texture, crunch and flavor levels that earned this baker a Paul Hollywood handshake!

In the technical, definition was the crucial element. Kate came in first for her textbook version of a Viennese whirl. Last week’s Star Baker, Jane, followed in second with a biscuit that had “everything right.”

The show stopper was one to those nightmare assignments where a detailed baker can shine. Andrew, who happens to be an aerospace engineer, constructed an enchanting and tasty depiction of his university days punting at Cambridge. Michael’s trip to see Santa in Lapland, though simplistic with messy piping, was declared by Paul to be the best gingerbread of the round. But it was Candice’s replica of her family’s pub that won over the judges with her many skills. From superb flavors to her great attention to detail (sticky ginger cake carpet and jelly pool table top) that elevated her standing in an otherwise lackluster week. So charmed were Paul and Mary that they named gym teacher Candice this week's Star Baker.

Missteps: The signature iced biscuits proved a daunting task for a few contestants. Candice’s complex double layered chocolate and caramel hearts tasted amazing but looked hideous. (Does she remind anyone of Frances or Flora from past seasons, always trying to do too much?) Val’s ice cream cones were declared a good shortbread biscuit, but she was shy of the required 24 count due to last minute spill and her piping needed more finish. Louise took a risk making a Welsh Bara Brith biscuit and while the sheep were adorable, the consistency turned out to be more like a scone than a biscuit.

Selasi found himself in the bottom of the technical challenge ranking this week. His Viennese whirls collapsed and had an oily texture. Louise was close behind with flat, broken and overbaked biscuits.

While some bakers’ show stopper creations were too soft or lacking in spice, the main concern in these gingerbread challenges is the possibility of structural collapse. This time around Val had a partial topple of her Statue of Liberty piece in her overall Holland to New York via Yorkshire story. Per usual her piping was wanting, but Val’s cheery, nearly oblivious outlook keeps her positive and looking forward.

Meanwhile, it was the complete collapse of Louise’s church wedding scene that cemented her fate. She was the contestant chosen to leave the tent this week and reasoned that biscuits just weren’t her thing. Fortunately she has plans to return to Cardiff for her real wedding very soon.

Two episodes down and eight to go! At this point we’re getting to know the contestants a bit better – their strengths, weaknesses and personalities are becoming more apparent. 

Also if you missed Sue this week, no worries. She was apparently absent from the show due to a death in the family. She will return with plenty o’puns for bread week to be sure! Here’s hoping our bakers will rise to the occasion with their crusty creations. Until then feel free to share your thoughts about the competition so far in the comments below.

Carmen Croghan

Carmen Croghan often looks at the state of her British addiction and wonders how it got so out of hand.  Was it the re-runs of Monty Python on PBS, that second British Invasion in the 80’s or the royal pomp and pageantry of Charles and Diana’s wedding? Whatever the culprit, it led her to a college semester abroad in London and over 25 years of wishing she could get back to the UK again.  Until she is able, she fills the void with British telly, some of her favorites being comedies such as The Office, The IT Crowd, Gavin and Stacey, Alan Partridge, Miranda and Green Wing. Her all-time favorite series, however, is Life On Mars. A part-time reference library staffer, she spends an inordinate amount of time watching just about any British series she can track down which she then writes about for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK, I Learned from the BBC.  She is excited to be contributing to Telly Visions and endeavors to share her Anglo-zeal with its readers.

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