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‘Great British Bake Off’ Dessert Week Returned to a Classic: Freezer Terror

As soon as something relies on being chilled, the tent goes wild — and viewers love it

Paul Hollywood cuts into an imprimé dessert, patterned like European tiling, surrounded by Prue Leith, Noel Fielding, and Matt Lucas.
Paul Hollywood cuts into an imprimé dessert.
Immediate Media

Welcome to the Eater round-up of Great British Bake Off 2021, as Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Matt Lucas, and Noel Fielding return to Channel 4 with the 12th series of cakes, puddings, breads, and inevitable recourse to terrible baking puns. Filmed again in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble, Paul Hollywood’s terrible handshake is here, sweaty as ever, and the tent stands on.

Great British Bake Off 2021 Episode 4 was, as ever, Dessert Week. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith judged a pavlova signature, which assesses topping skills over baking ones; a sticky toffee pudding technical because this show is British thank you, and an imprimé dessert showstopper, as the fourth episode of GBBO kicked off. There was freezer terror, side splitting, and much drama besides. Here, now, is a recap of Great British Bake Off 2021 Dessert Week.

Pavlovas aren’t really built for palavers, and that’s good

GBBO 2021 entered dessert week with the pavlova, a classic across dining rooms, British competitive dinner party TV, and of course: Australia and New Zealand.

It tests one skill: making a French meringue. It can go wrong — cracking — but the very point of the pavlova is that any imperfections are covered by its toppings. It is not an anti-gravity cake, it does not require them to make butter or some other extraneous thing. It is a sensible challenge. Perhaps there is hope after all.

Or perhaps not.

The first genuine disaster of GBBO 2021 is finally here

The cosy Bake Off industrial complex was seen off by 2020. Its twee Britishness has been overshadowed by the way said twee Britishness contributes to poor representation of global traditions. But the Great British Bake Off constant that may never die is also its most thrilling. That constant is, of course, when the flour hits the fan.

In Maggie’s case this week, the problem was that the flour didn’t hit anything. She left it out of her sticky toffee puddings in the technical, and they duly glopped out of their moulds as if they were disappointed in themselves. Look, it’s never nice when people have an absolute nightmare — particularly. But that doesn’t stop it being one of the pinnacles of GBBO entertainment, especially in a case like this, when it isn’t because the producers have just set the bakers up to fail.

Thank you to the freezers

There are some philosophical arguments to be had about whether or not some elements of desserts are baking, but most of these ones make the cut. What this week’s challenges introduced to the season for the first time was the freezer. The GBBO oven’s icy compatriot, which contestants open too much, look into obsessively, and fuss over just as much, has provided some of the series’ most tense moments. No avid viewer can forget the saga of the baked Alaska in 2014.

Even moreso than baking, having to wait for things to chill induces a kind of mania in the contestants — to the point that Chigs’s stomping up and down the tent shook some people’s piping. It’s not proper to advocate for less baking in a show named for it, and yet ... More freezers please.

Is there a new contender to the Jürgen Giuseppe supremacy?

Chigs has been, to be honest, average thus far. But the reality is that, aside from Jürgen and Giuseppe, so have everybody else, so a storming performance this week sets him apart from the field in a way that might not have happened in other seasons. It still looks as if the European duo are ahead of the rest of the field, but should one of them falter things will get very interesting indeed.

Star baker: Chigs
Going home: Maggie
Running theme: Disasters are back and we love it.