Pains People, Piping Perfection And Taking The Pièce: The Great British Bake Off FINAL

The end is so close we can taste the icing sugar… Will Richard, Nancy or Luis bag the carbohydrate crown?


by Lauren Bravo |
Published on

'By the time we finish this beautiful journey, it’ll be October,' I wrote as The Great British Bake Off series five began back in August.

Now, sitting here, a hot-water bottle in my lap and an apple turnover shoved up my jumper for warmth, I can’t help but marvel at how accurate my prediction turned out to be.

But as we head into the grand final, I’m still searching for answers to many other questions. Such as, who will win: Tiny Pencil, Breakfast Bap or Gilded Olives? Or will Norman suddenly be named Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and king hereafter?

Will the made-up technical challenge be written by Roald Dahl, or based on a fossilised crumb of pie dating back to the Aegean era? Will they be selling off all the set props on Etsy afterwards? Can I have one of the kitschy enamel jugs please?

After the nation has collectively suffered through the final minutes of Donny Osmond on The One Show (it feels like a cruel prank from the BBC – he could never risk caramel-work on those veneers), IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT!

Morning Glory

For the final signature challenge of the series, the bakers must make croissants and pastries. Or as Midge Ure once sang to a breakfast buffet… ahhhhhhh, Viennoiserie.

Once again, the secret to getting their croissants and pain au whatevers right is really good lamination. It’s big news, is good lamination. In fact, over the past few weeks, pastry has officially risen to the top of my list of favourite laminated things – above conference lanyards and the safety instructions you get on planes.

Defending his status as the only contestant ever to win star baker five times in a row (or Five Star, if you prefer), Richard is making pannolays. No wait, sorry – pains au lait. 'I speak French a bit London,' he shrugs.

If anyone would like to learn some more London-French, ‘fait accompli’ translates as ‘getting home on a night bus without sick on your shoes’, and ‘Café Rouge’ as ‘why would we, when there’s a Wahaca round the corner?’

Equally Francophonic is Luis, making ‘pain au white chocolate’ and chaussons with Cheshire cheese in them. To think, we had the audacity to mock Norman and his pesto.

Meanwhile, never one to let a little thing like the final of a national TV competition scare her into giving much of a crap, Nancy is letting the machine do all the hard graft. 'I haven’t got the power to pummel it around,' she says. “I just finish it off”. Where’s Suephemism Perkins when you need her?

Nancy’s also doubling up on her favourite theme – breakfast – by sprinkling freeze-dried raspberries through her almond croissant. If she admits she picked them out of a box of Jordans Country Crisp, I will love her all the more.

Next, we’re treated to our final sequence of vigorous kneading, yeasty proving and the one that I dream about at night: folding sheets of solid butter into dough. When it comes to fillings, we have moisture wars: Richard and Luis using wet fruit that might make things soggy, while Nancy wraps up sticks of freeze-dried raspberries that look suspiciously like Peperami.

Hidden sausage or no, she’s right – Luis’ raspberries have stopped his laminated layers from rising, and Paul hates his cream cheese filling too.

Richard doesn’t fare much better: his milk buns have spread and his butter has leaked, but Nancy’s apple kites send her soaring in the judges’ estimation.

READ MORE: The Great British Bake Off's Latest Scandal: Finger Food

Sponges and scones and tarts, oh my!

It’s the final technical challenge of the series, and despite loathing the technical challenges all the way through we’re now inclined to feel a bit sentimental – like when the end of term comes and you find yourself hugging your most hated teacher.

The bakers must make 12 mini Victoria sponges, 12 mini tartes au citron and 12 scones. 'The result has to be sheer perfection, that’s all,' trills Mary. I’m going to try the same line on my hairdresser.

The main problem is that they’ve got to make all 36 cakes in only two hours. TWO HOURS. It sometimes takes me more than two hours to choose a cake in Tesco, so all kudos to the baker who pulls this feat off.

Richard’s star falls even further when he accidentally puts too many eggs in his scone mix. 'I have literally over-egged the pudding,' he says, snatching the joke out of the nation’s mouth like a lollipop. Oi Richard, less of the punning please! Do I come to your work and try to build stuff? Do I?

There are more nervous mishaps with the tartes au citron, as everyone is slopping lemon curd over the pastry cases. For Pete’s sake guys, even I know you’re meant to pour the filling in when you’re kneeling at the oven! Have you never watched your own blimmin’ show before?

Luis’ scones are too pale and his pastry too thick, while Mary is impressed by Nancy’s tarts and sponges, but not with her slapdash cream method. 'When you’re trying to impress, you do pipe,' she declares, and women across the land hurriedly scribble it down in our home-making jotters.

Richard has pipe problems of a different sort, as his citron tarts read ‘colon’ in chocolate and the curdled filling is equally, um, shit. If Nancy had put scrambled egg in her pastry cases she could have just called it ‘breakfast surprise’, but we can’t all get away with that.

As we head into the final stretch, Nancy is placed top, Luis in the middle and Richard the third. Dick the builder – can he fix it? Let’s find out.

Milling about

It’s the final showstopper challenge, and the show must go on! Before it’s, er, stopped again.

Friends, family and all the past contestants from the series have been gathered for a Bake Off Festival, one you suspect has been modelled more on Glyndebourne than Glastonbury. If Mary Berry ever had to use a Portaloo, it would be the type with hand cream and a fake painting of a horse.

The pièce de résistance is pièce montée, which isn’t exactly a pièce of piss. It’s a tower of cake, sugarwork, choux and petits four, sculpted to look like something spectacular. To be honest at this point in the competition the most fanciful thing would be a cake that just looks like a cake, but that’s clearly not what we’re going to get.

Luis is building his home village of Poynton out of chocolate cakes, mini chouquettes, macarons and a biscuit mining wheel. You really hope Poynton has a tiny museum to put it in. Meanwhile, Richard is from Mill Hill, otherwise known as the home of London’s flakiest Tube station, and he’s paying homage with a mountain of almond and ginger cake and a croquembouche windmill on top.

Nancy is also crafting a windmill (the obvious choice!), but hers is from a few miles south of Hull – it’s going to be the Moulin Rouge. Because naturally, what every celebration cake needs is a vague hint of Nicole Kidman, dying from consumption.

More excitingly, it’s time for the annual delve into the bakers’ private lives. We finally get a glimpse of Nancy’s husband, inventor of the drainpipe brandy snap mould and haver of the world’s most perpendicular fringe. We discover what we sensed already – that Young Richard was definitely hot, and Luis’s home life provides us with the biggest surprise of the evening… he’s a ukulele player!

While the bakers sweat in the tent, outside the old contestants frolic about in slow motion like a 70s Flake ad. Chetna looks quite the babe, Iain has put a clean T-shirt on – and Norman! Norman! NORMAN IS HERE! He’s rooting for Nancy, which means BRITAIN IS ROOTING FOR NANCY.

READ MORE: The Absolute Filthiest Bits Of Great British Bake Off In GIF Form

Smooth sailing

Before we have time to watch Iain and Diana scrapping it out behind the bins, the pièce montées are piled up and ready for the final judging of the series.

Richard has moisture in his sails, (which is the opposite of wind) but he manages to claw back hope at the eleventh hour by being brilliant at everything else. Meanwhile Nancy’s sexy can-can creation reminds Paul of a birthday cake he had as a child, the less said about which the better, perhaps. But her flavours and techniques all have that je ne sais quois. And with all signs poynton to success, Luis’ northern masterpiece has him grinning like the Cheshire cat. His choux buns, macarons and biscuits are perfect – choquette you out, Luis.

It’s a much tighter final than anyone could have guessed, and you could cut the tension with a tiny guillotine as the winner is announced…

It’s Lady Marmalade! Baroness von Breakfast! The Queen of Not Really Giving a Crap has emerged victorious! And I loved her right from the start. Voulez-vous councher avec moi, ce soir, Nancy?

There’s just time for a little weep as we discover what everyone’s been up to for the past four months (mainly 'baking for charity', the Bake Off contestant’s equivalent of discovering oneself on a gap year), before we can stroll tearily into the sunset.

We have all grown as people during the past 10 weeks, I feel. Some of us in spirit, some of us in ambition. Most of us widthways. Here’s to the almighty power of cake!

Next week: we all go back to our miserable, empty lives and are forced to spend Wednesday evening building a guinea pig hutch out of Ryvita to try to fill the void.

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Follow Lauren on Twitter @laurenbravo

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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