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‘The Great British Bake Off’ season 14 episode 3 recap: bread dread

It’s Bread Week! Or Dread Week, as it is sometimes nicknamed, because Bread Week is notoriously one of Bake Off’s hardest weeks. This is mostly because Paul is often described as the Bread King. He has high standards, and is even more unpleasant than usual if you don’t meet them.

The episode opens with a cute sketch of Allison learning the ins and outs of being a “Bake Off” host from Noel. I absolutely love the chemistry between these two, it’s quite refreshing having two good hosts for a change.

Now, before I get into the meat of this episode I want to quote something I said in my recap of last year’s notoriously breadless Bread Week: “I want LOAVES. Is that too much to ask?”

Well, past me, you do not need to worry. Because this year’s Bread Week had so many loaves, starting with a classic cottage loaf as the signature challenge. A cottage loaf is essentially a smaller round loaf stacked on top of a larger round loaf. The result looks a bit like a squat snowman. It’s been a challenge before, as a technical in 2017. That was a simple white cottage loaf, however, and this year there are flavors galore. 

While a cottage loaf is traditionally savory, there are a few sweet ones in the tent. Cristy is making a cranberry and walnut loaf, and Saku is making an orange and cinnamon loaf, with the cinnamon coming from her home in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, there are no less than four rosemary and garlic loaves being made by Tasha, Nicky, Abbi and Dan. Abbi and Dan both foraged their ingredients, because of course they did.

Meanwhile, Dana is making a “smoky” loaf with chipotle, smoked cheddar and bacon, seemingly on a mission to prove that she can deliver strong flavors. Josh is making a pizza-flavored cottage loaf. Sticking with the Italian theme, Rowan is making a tomato and olive cottage loaf. It’s inspired by a trip to the Amalfi Coast, which he hated. “To order a sorbet you had to take out a mortgage,” he explains indignantly.

There is then a whole lot of kneading. Most bakers are kneading by hand and remarking on how much of a workout it is. Matty, meanwhile, is kneading in an electric mixer so it can “do the hard work.” As a reminder, this man works out for a living. Dana is also kneading in a mixer, and then suffers a hilarious disaster. She didn’t lock the glass mixing bowl in properly, and it breaks, spraying shards of broken glass all over her station. She is forced to start over, but luckily this didn’t happen too early in the challenge so she’s able to make up for lost time.

Despite the stress of Bread Week, a good amount of it is waiting around, because you need to prove your dough. Proving just means that you’re putting the dough in a warm environment so the yeast has time to rise. The bakers find various ways to pass the time, including tic-tac-toe in a pile of flour and Saku throwing an orange at Allison. Once the dough has risen, it is time to stack the two loaves and there is much hilarity about the size of balls. Of his loaf, Rowan remarks that “they’re quite big balls,” while Paul asks Matty to “tell us the proportion of your ball size.” This conversation goes on longer than it should, confirming that Paul has the sense of humor of a 12-year-old. And then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Noel’s voiceover joins in on these two, saying a cottage loaf requires “perfectly proportioned balls.”

Mercifully, this discussion ends, and the loaves are proved again and baked. Most of this goes smoothly, but Abbi overproves her loaf and it is flat as a pancake. Rowan’s top loaf falls off his bottom loaf, but he manages it using a dowel and a prayer. During judging, nearly everyone has fantastic flavors. There are a few instances of underproving (Saku, Dana) and Rowan’s bake is deemed “monstrous” in appearance (700 grams of flour!) but everything else is good. Nicky’s loaf is too salty, while Cristy’s loaf isn’t salty enough. Tasha, Dan and Josh come out on top of the signature with beautiful and tasty loaves, and Abbi’s loaf is pretty much a failure, with an overpowering garlic flavor and not enough salt. She knows she’s at the bottom of the pack going into the technical.

The technical challenge is a batch of eight Devonshire splits, made in two and a half hours. Now, if you are anything like me, you will be wondering what the hell a Devonshire split is. Luckily, Allison explains that they are small enriched dough buns filled with cream and strawberries. Yum. In the judge’s pavilion, Paul explains that the bake is all about the timing, with two 45 minute proves and a 15 minute bake. Doing the math, that means that the bakers only have 45 minutes to make and knead the dough, shape the rolls before the second prove, cool the rolls entirely after baking and fill them with cream. This is ridiculous.

Dan is clearly aware of the time pressure, so he rushes the early stages. Unfortunately, this comes back to bite him, and he forgets to add sugar to his dough. As a result, his buns prove a lot faster (sugar slows down yeast) but they’re baked funny and the recipe is all off. Poor Dan, this is his first true sign of weakness so far. Noel remarks on the weird look of some of the baker’s Devonshire splits by calling them “wrinkly balls.” STOP IT NOEL! 

During judging, absolutely everyone has underproved their buns. Shocking, really, when you don’t give people enough time to make something it won’t be made well. Nearly everyone’s Devonshire splits are deemed “too small.” Rowan’s are particularly criticized as being “small, odd and peculiar.” Bit like me, really. The only person who properly proved her buns was Saku, and she takes a well-deserved first. Abbi’s are “like golf balls,” and Dan’s sugar free buns are unsurprisingly terrible. Dan comes last, Rowan is in ninth and Abbi is in eighth. Everyone else has produced something acceptable but underproved.

Going into the showstopper, Abbi is still firmly at the bottom of the pack, closely followed by Rowan. Dan is also in a bit of danger despite a good signature due to coming last in the technical.

The showstopper is another repeat challenge: a plaited (or braided) loaf centerpiece. Loaves! Yay!! The last time we saw this challenge was 2016. Then, both loaves had to be savory. This time, the flavors are completely open but the bakers need to use at least two different kinds of flour.

With a challenge this open, there’s a wide range of bakes. My personal favorites are Rowan baking a rowan tree (lol), Nicky baking a highland cow named Angus and Tasha’s Medusa shaped loaf. Meanwhile, Abbi is using wild garlic again (why, it went so badly last time) to create a plaited tree, and Cristy is honoring her Jewish heritage with a challah and a babka. Unfortunately, her planned shape is quite boring.

The episode then turns to British sports team-themed bread. Matty is making the West Ham football team badge and Josh is making a tiger in honor of the Leicester Tigers rugby team. Dan, meanwhile, has decided to spell out “PIZZA” with pizza-flavored bread. Because why not?

There is intensive plaiting and the whole tent falls silent. Allison remarks on how you can feel the tension in the air. The tent smells of bread dread. Dan, meanwhile, has decided to fill his loaf as well as braid an elaborate lattice pattern, and he’s falling behind fast. Rowan is also falling behind, because he’s just like that.

All the other bakers are moving along quite well. “Angus is risen!” cries Nicky as her loaf comes out of the oven. So true, Nicky. Tasha’s Medusa is a legitimate work of art. Josh’s bread tiger looks good too, but it will never be the Bread Lion of 2015 (#neverforget). On the flip side of the coin, Dan and Rowan barely squeak a showstopper out, and Dan knows that his is probably raw. All Rowan can bring himself to say is “it’s still up. I’ve managed to get it up and keep it up.” And I will resist commenting.

During judging, Dana and Nicky have done well. They’re both in their redemption era, and I love it. Saku’s bread is deemed “disappointing to eat,” but she’s also safe to fight another week. Paul at first says that Matty’s loaf is ugly, then says it’s a work of art. Come on, Paul. Be a little consistent for once. Rowan’s centerpiece looks fantastic, but two out of three of his loaves are very bad. Luckly, his marzipan challah (yum) is quite good. Cristy’s centerpiece is disappointing visually but she’s produced two excellent loaves. Abbi’s loaves taste good, but are technically unsound. Everything is underproved and her centerpiece is a bit dull. It’s better than her other challenges, but unclear if it will be enough to save her. As for Dan, half of his showstopper is raw. Prue is clearly disappointed, and tells Dan he can do a lot better. 

Like last week, it is Tasha and Josh who deliver the best showstoppers. Josh’s tiger is praised as being clever and delicious. Prue tells Tasha that she’s “one hell of a bread baker.” Paul says her showstopper is “stunning.” He adds “you understand bread. And I like that,” which is just on the edge of being creepy. But it’s Paul, so why am I surprised?

It’s clear that Tasha has run away with Star Baker, but for the first time this season, I can’t call who’s going home. Dan had a strong signature but came bottom of the other two challenges. Rowan has been near the bottom of all three challenges, but hasn’t been the worst. Abbi had a terrible signature, a bad technical and a so-so showstopper. So all I can do is wait in suspense for the decision. Tasha gets her second Star Baker in a row (YAY!!!). And going home is Abbi. I honestly think it could have justifiably been Rowan or Dan, but Abbi clearly had the least technical knowledge of bread, which is probably what sent her home. She was also at the bottom going into the showstopper and just didn’t do enough to save herself. I’ll miss her, I thought she would make it quite far. But “Bake Off” can be unpredictable, and all it takes is one bad week to go home.

Next time: Chocolate Week! It’s becoming a more and more popular theme. Can Rowan and Dan get the redemption they so desperately need? Can Tasha win three Star Baker crowns in a row? Can Josh finally be the bride and not the bridesmaid? We’ll just have to wait until next week to find out.

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