The Great British Baking Show Recap: Episode 2

Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
Editor's Note: We're recapping the third season of The Great British Baking Show every Friday after the episode airs on PBS. Need to catch up? You can find season 1 on Netflix and our our episode 1 recap here.
It’s week two, and by now, the 11 bakers in the tent are like old friends. And two episodes in, I’m already picking out favorites. Personally, I’m developing a bit of a crush on Tamal, but Paul is a close second because ohmygod he’s a prison governor with a penchant for sugarcraft. And this week we learn he used to be a Coldstream Guard — a.k.a. the guys in the big, pointy hats. I let out an audible squeal at the news. Seriously, where do they find these bakers?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This week, the theme was biscuits. While I would gladly watch people make American biscuits for an hour (or, forever), these are British biscuits. Which is to say, cookies.

To kick it off, the bakers demonstrate their skills with biscotti. The dense Italian treats are meant to be crunchy but not burnt, a tricky line to walk since they are twice-baked. They come up with a range of biscotti, from sweet to savory, with ingredients like jackfruit, fennel, and rosemary, and we learn what judge Paul Hollywood believes the ideal biscotti to be. He reveals that he would choose cranberry, hazelnut, chocolate, then shows off a sly smile that caused me to let out another squeal.

At judgement time, everyone’s biscotti looks passable — no disasters. Given how often the bakers fret over their creations, it was anyone’s guess going in what would happen. During judgement, however, we get a sense of who's rising to the top this week. We also got some of my favorite praise from the judges: when Mary Berry declares something “just like soldiers,” and Paul’s gift for understatement.

Proving, once again, that this show is British to the core, we never get gushing praise. Instead, Paul declares something he really, really likes as “alright,” or “nice.” To Paul the prison governor, Paul the judge says, “I’d have them again.” The contestants are also excellent at restraint. After having his biscotti declared one of the judges' favorites, Ian simply looks delighted and says, “That was a good result!”

On to the technical challenge, my least favorite part of the show. To me, the super-vague instructions leave a lot up to dumb luck. Here, Marie, last week’s star baker (but already a bit of an under-performer with her biscotti) comes in last. Dorret, who struggled last week, manages to come in first. Nothing terribly exciting, but it’s all build-up for the signature bake: a box made of biscuits filled with 36 biscuits.

Baker Paul warms everyone’s hearts explaining his box is a tribute to his wife, with pink macarons and a Coldstream Guard all its own. And, in case you ever stopped thinking about how British this whole thing is, there are two boxes inspired by tea. The only real disaster is Alvin who doesn't have enough time to actually assemble his box, causing him to choke up during judging.

But, just like last week, taste is more important than presentation, and its Marie and her so-so Russian box and cinnamon shortbread, not Alvin, that gets sent packing. Ian, with his MacGyvered cylindrical shortbread box filled with macarons, takes top spot.

As to what’s coming next, it continues to be anyone’s bouquet of flowers to win (remember there’s no cash prize), though I am afraid the bottom of the pack is becoming more clear. Dorret and Paul, I’d wager, are not long for the tent. But who knows — next week, we learn, is bread, meaning a whole new set of skills will be tested. Let’s just hope it involves more charming stories about prison governors.


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