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‘Great British Bake Off’ Pastry Week Was the Best of the Series Yet

Some genuine competition came from interesting challenges that relied on inherent difficulty, not stunting

A hot water pastry pie made to look like a cottage, using coloured pastry inlays.
Crystelle’s stunning showstopper.
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 6 was Pastry Week. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith judged a chouxnut signature which induced fryer terror; a sticky baklava technical, and a savoury pie showstopper, as the sixth episode of GBBO kicked off. There was high expectation, unexpected triumph, and much more besides.

2018 called, and it wants its pastry back

This column predicted that Great British Bake Off would drop a Basque cheesecake challenge this series, thanks to its surge in popularity, customisability, and reliance on charring, something which, on this show, has historically only been very bad news.

Dessert Week has come on and gone with no homage to La Viña, but Pastry Week brought in a chouxnut signature: a hybrid of doughnut and choux pastry that got so popular that it founds its way on to the shelves of Marks and Spencer ... In 2018. Still, the challenge did at least provide some stress, with the help of deep-fryers; some absolutely staggering chat from Prue; and for many viewers, an entirely new dessert.

O.K., maybe we’re going to get a competition...

Crystelle has joined the ranks of star bakers, putting the total at four. With only six bakers left, the original Jürgen or Giuseppe procession has lost its ceremony, and with George and Lizzie — sorry, folks — looking like sitting ducks, this year’s final four could be one of the most competitive for a good while.

... But the judging is still a bit odd.

The showstopper-supremacy of GBBO judging has always been something of a problem, and it reared its head with Crystelle being awarded star baker. She was certainly in contention, despite an abysmal signature round, coming second in the technical and earning the most cringe, dated symbol of acclaim in the entire TV world in the showstopper. Was it enough to overcome the steadiness from Giuseppe and Jürgen? It’s debatable, so let’s see if the show remains consistent with the terms it’s setting itself over the episodes to come.

Credit to the challenge where it’s due

Showstoppers can often be ludicrous, over-the-top challenges deliberately designed to create failure and/or suspense over and above testing people’s ability. But pâté en croûte, with its complex filling, difficult shaping, pristine decorating, and baking-chilling balance, was a real hit of a choice for pastry week. Baklava, too, was a top choice of technical, with a timeframe that actually made making a good one feasible. Just not for Amanda, on either score. Sorry, Amanda.

Star baker: Crystelle
Going home: Amanda
Running theme: Maybe it’s good again actually?