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‘Great British Bake Off’ Pastry Week Was a Return to the Showstopper Ambition People Love

The fifth GBBO of 2020 shattered pastry and dreams alike, but it felt more like the show the world knows

A triangular pastry lattice cage on Great British Bake Off Pastry Week 2020
An uncaged caged tart
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 5 tackled pastry, with a signature challenge covering Cornish pasties, a technical challenge covering chocolate èclairs, and a showstopper covering caged tarts. It got flaky, it got soggy, and it got burnt. That’s the pastry — but here, now, is Great British Bake Off 2020 Chocolate Week, (sort of) as it happened.

Great British Bake Off 2020 Pastry Week: The Introduction

An introduction of another kind: read esteemed colleague Madeleine Davies’ meditation on how Great British Bake Off has lost its soothing quality, claimed by the inchoate chaos of 2020.

Great British Bake Off 2020 Pastry Week: Signature Challenge

01:35: Linda and Hermine kick things off by declaring that they absolutely love Pastry Week. Boy, it would be quite the jape if one of them went home after saying they absolutely love Pastry Week, wouldn’t it everybody! Real Greek drama stuff. A real peripeteia moment. Wouldn’t happen on Bake Off though, would it... ... ... ... ...

02:10: Peter reflects on going halfway, while Mark and Linda discuss the main travails of pastry: soggy bottoms, the GBBO classic line, and elegance. Personalised Cornish pasties are up for the signature, but they can be “any shape they like.” Cornwall — I am truly sorry.

3:43: Prue and Paul drop the worst thing about GBBO on the contestants: pasties is one of the challenges where baking is sort of irrelevant and they have to be able to cook. Gregg Wallace is actually lurking in the corner thinking he’s filming Masterchef. It’s still not very clear why these are being referred to as Cornish pasties when they are ... Not that ... But there we go. It’s the tale of two pastries: half the bakers are using puff; a few shortcrust; and Hermine is doing a sort of hybrid which sounds like it’s going to be a winner.

6:20: Mark has fallen into the inevitable trap. He’s doing aloo gobi pasties. This is a trap for two reasons. One: Prue and Paul can absolutely not tolerate any kind of spice, they have the most pallid palates on this earth. Two: the line between the pasty and the samosa is already thin in this weirdly anarchic approach to what foods are. Prue, meanwhile tells Lottie she is “always original,” which is Prue-speak for “I absolutely hate what you are doing, will definitely judge it badly, and want you to leave my sight, but have to be polite for the sake of this particular segment of the programme.”

8:55: Linda is doing pasties in the shape of a samosa with a karma symbol on top ha ha ha ha ha ha no problems here pasties in the shape of a samosa yes absolutely nothing going wrong here at all what even is pastry taxonomy what even are cooking methods pasties In The Shape Of A samosa.

09:55: Remember the thing when Prue said “the bakers need to be able to cook.” Dave just described birdseye chillis as mild.

Signature tiers

  • He’s from Cornwall so he had to get it right or be exiled tier: Marc
  • Nailed it tier: Mark, Hermine, Laura
  • Eat your words Prue tier: Lottie
  • A bit dry tier: Peter, Dave
  • It’s not a pasty, it’s a samosa tier: Linda

Great British Bake Off 2020 Pastry Week: Technical Challenge

20:17: Raspberry and salted caramel éclairs! Those flavours are separate, to be clear. Choux pastry!

22:29: Linda says “I’m not quite sure about this” as the camera cuts to an absolute mess in her pan. Cruel editing, really.

24:19: In most technicals, there’s normally one or two absolute wins, one or two absolute failtures, and a sort of in-between sector. This one is going badly for quite a few bakers, moreso than usual, but Linda is really having an absolute nightmare. She’s on to her third choux and they all look like churros. She said she loved pastry! Pastry ... Does not love her.

Technical tiers

  • Eclair tier: Hermine, Mark, Peter
  • Nightmair tier: Dave, Lottie, Marc, Laura
  • Despair tier: Linda

Great British Bake Off 2020 Pastry Week: Showstopper Challenge

32:12: This is what GBBO does best. A caged tart: a tart, inside a pastry cage. Aesthetics! Fragile constructions! Wild ambition! Serious jeopardy! We love it!

36:49: There are rose cages, floral cages, tarts with no sides... This is why GBBO is good. It’s back. After five turgid weeks punctuated by the dead celebrity showstopper in Cake Week and the total chaos of Chocolate Week, it’s back. And the tweets are in!

56:00: Showstopper challenge tiers

  • Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine tier: Laura, Dave, Lottie, Peter
  • Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing not so well tier: Marc, Mark
  • Coming out of my cage and I’ve been having a breakdown because Paul broke the cage with his clumsy Hollywood handshake hands tier: Hermine
  • Coming out of my cage and my favourite week has broken me tier: Linda

Great British Bake Off Pastry Week: Results

Star baker: Laura.

Going home: Linda. It was probably a close-run thing with Lottie, but GBBO’s enduring showstopper-means-all judging bias was always going to go against her.

Running theme: GBBO getting its mojo back.