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‘Great British Bake Off’ Bread Week Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

The third GBBO of 2020 was flat, despite its rainbow bagels and something called a bread plaque

A plate of rainbow-coloured bagels, red, green, orange, yellow, and blue
Rainbow bagels
Immediate Media/Channel 4

Welcome to the Eater round-up of Great British Bake Off 2020, as Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Matt Lucas, and Noel Fielding return to Channel 4 with the 11th series of cakes, puddings, breads, and inevitable recourse to terrible baking puns. Filmed in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble, producers had originally said that Paul Hollywood’s terrible handshake was cancelled, but somehow, it is still here, as sweaty as ever.

Great British Bake Off 2020 Episode 3 tackled bread, with a signature challenge covering soda bread, a technical challenge covering rainbow bagels, and a showstopper covering something called a bread plaque. Contestant introductions were many, cutaways were rife, and cakes toppled to the floor.. Here, now, is Great British Bake Off 2020 Bread Week, (sort of) as it happened.

Great British Bake Off 2020 Bread Week: The Introduction

An intro in honour of GBBO’s Lazarus this week: the Paul Hollywood handshake. It was supposed to be dead, and then it came back ... The world wept ... The palms sweated. Anyway Noel’s got a disembodied hand in a box, Matt Lucas has got to grasp it, a --very orange-- Paul Hollywood has a tiny hand ... It’s pretty weird. Better than last week’s effort.

Great British Bake Off 2020 Bread Week: Signature Challenge

Bread is hard. It’s one of the realms, along with patisserie, in which there’s often a clear divide between contestants who already love baking bread and are well-practised, and those who have learnt it just for the show and maybe don’t quite have --the knack-- as yet. Bread is also hard because Paul Hollywood is hard for bread, and is often particularly evil in his judging.

It’s soda bread so they’re straight to Irish Mark. Stereotype ahoy.

4:08: Paul’s after growth in a loaf. Sura is putting za’atar in hers; Mark is adding sobrassada, the Balearic spreadable cured sausage. Linda is riffing on Welsh bara brith — each baker has to do a sweet and savoury loaf. Some are not convinced. Some are fondly remembering sweet soda breads of years gone by.

6:44: Rowan, who survived elimination last week by the hems of his waistcoats, is using “salsiccia” but is cagey on which, as that’s just the Italian word for sausage. It looks cured. Marc is going hard on the Cornish ingredients, and going harder on his buttermilk which has exploded all over his face. It doesn’t look familiar to anything whatsoever, so let’s mov—

9:44: Hermine is going for a smoked salmon and cheese soda bread. Lottie thinks sweet soda bread is basically a lie, and no one is disagreeing here. Peter is back on the gluten-free beat with a black pudding bread, and Dave has been watching videos of Paul in his spare time. Weird Dave, weird. The vibe in this challenge is extremely lacking in jeopardy and tension because while bread week as a whole is hard, soda bread isn’t very hard to make, so Bake Off has done what it did last season and suddenly introduced an element entirely divorced from baking as part of the judging! They’re making butter! From scratch!

21:14: Signature challenge tiers

  • Handshake tier: Hermine
  • Really really good tier: Sura
  • Stout and stout tier: Mark
  • A little bit more tier: Marc
  • Marzipan comes whacking through tier: Laura
  • Wasted bacon tier: Lottie
  • A little bit stodgy tier: Peter, Linda
  • Need a bit more FLAVOUR tier: Dave
  • Lemon drizzle cake in a sandstorm tier: Rowan

Great British Bake Off 2020 Bread Week: Technical Challenge

25:02: Rainbow bagels. 2017 Instagram-bait, come on down! Bagels are difficult, so technical challenge: Yes. But rainbows. Paul says it’s for the NHS. Alternative theories abound:

27:12: Lottie’s “what the f*** is all this” energy is something to behold. “Scant, isn’t it” she says to Paul’s parsimonious instructions. Dave tries to make a penis joke about 15 centimetre rectangles and she slaps him down. Rowan’s thinking in inches. Thank god Paul isn’t in here to make a Kneady Sleazy Wheeze.

33:29: Some vintage oven-crouching going on here. Peering, kneeling, squatting. Dave’s are flat. Rowan: “that’s not a bagel.”

36:30: Technical challenge tiers

  • Crumb’s really tasty tier: Linda, Marc
  • Not too bad tier: Mark, Lottie
  • Overbaked tier: Hermine
  • Flat tier: Peter, Sura, Dave, Laura
  • Flat, but worse tier: Rowan

Great British Bake Off 2020 Bread Week: Showstopper Challenge

40:00: This week has been faintly boring. Possibly formulaic. Time for the showstopper to rescue things from the yeasty depths. Marc’s done a pretty good job of it by just casually dropping the fact that he lost his leg a while ago into conversation. Nice one Marc.

50:34: Sorry it’s still boring. Rowan, however, is doing a seriously ambitious tree-trunk design, going for something very stylish but requiring genuine substance for the third week in a row. It hasn’t worked so far and he nearly went home last week. Is this ... The Foolhardy Manoeuvre That Will Surely Backfire as Soon as It Is Mentioned of the Week?

51:50: Rowan: “It’s a bit of a shambles at the moment, but some fine details...” This, indeed, is The Foolhardy Manoeuvre That Will Surely Backfire as Soon as It Is Mentioned of the Week.

56:00: Showstopper challenge tiers

  • “Can I go” tier: Sura
  • Intricate tier: Marc
  • Abstract tier: Hermine
  • Nice bread tier: Lottie, Dave
  • More is needed tier: Linda
  • “Euuhhh Peter” tier: Peter
  • Victorian swags and gilded tassles tier: Laura
  • The bread is okay tier: Mark
  • The Foolhardy Manoeuvre That Will Surely Backfire as Soon as It Is Mentioned of the Week tier: Rowan

Great British Bake Off Bread Week: Results

Star baker: Marc

Going home: Rowan

Running theme: The flattest episode so far, light on drama and coziness alike. Here’s hoping for an upturn next week.