‘The Great British Baking Show’ Recap: Bread Week and the ‘Digits of Doom’

Great British Baking Show (Photo: PBS)

Warning: This recap for episode 3 of The Great British Baking Show contains spoilers.

Bread Week is Paul Hollywood’s moment to shine — or rather, to dim the shine of everyone in the tent. Every baker dreads his “digits of doom” which poke and prod wherever he sees under-baked dough. It’s stressful, and not everybody measures up to the challenge, especially when he’s grilling them on the difference between a babka and a couronne.

The Rundown
Tom’s swirl bread in the opening round stretches the definition of “bread”, but the judges allow it — partly because he nails the flavors, including the addition of chili which Michael botches. A respectable fourth place showing in the technical — a German dessert called dampfnudel — and a showstopper featuring Thor and the Midgard Serpent give Tom Star Baker this week, while Michael’s underwhelming tribute to his family’s home country of Cyprus didn’t deliver on flavor and sent him home.

Team Save of the Week
One of the great things about life under the tent is that it’s all hands on deck when somebody’s floundering. Candice leaves her brioche in until the last minute because she’s afraid it’s undercooked and when she finally pulls it out of the oven, it’s exactly as she’s feared. With moments left to corral her sopping mess into something presentable, Jane, Kate, and Tom help her get her bread in front of the judges. She didn’t get top marks, but at least it wasn’t another #bingate.

Cutest Couple in Great Britain
What is it about Mel and Sue that make them so adorable? Picture anyone — literally anyone else — mugging and punning like these two and you’d want to strangle someone. “Bready or not,” Sue roars as Mel capers behind her. “We’re on a roll,” says Mel as the camera pans down revealing the two both stepping on a dinner roll. What is this eldritch magic that makes them so wonderful?

The Most Painful Hour of Television You’ll Ever Watch”
The thing about baking is that it’s a precision operation, unlike ordinary cooking where you can season and re-season and take things on and off the heat. When you’ve got 900 grams of dough and the recipe says to split it into 12 balls, you’ve got to break out your scale and your calculator — or your old elementary school long division. Sue breaks out the pencil and paper and gets to work (let’s see you top that, Steve Harvey). If your children ever balk at learning math, show them this episode and ask them if they want raw dough. Well, do they?!

The Agony
You can see it all there in those bloodshot and shame-filled eyes. The kitchen was filled with underbaked dampfnudel in this week’s technical challenge, but Paul focused on one — which turned out to be Rav’s — and pulled off enough uncooked dough to make a whole new bun, uncooked and ready for the oven.

Guess the Smell”
Despite Sue’s protests to the contrary, she does indeed end up playing Mel’s game of Guess the Smell. It ends, as all games of this type should, with Sue being forced to smell a timer.

Most Salacious Innuendo
As always, there are so many to choose from: Mel fondling a fertility charm; Sue asking Kate how her balls are and Kate responding, “Just pinching their bottoms.” But, far and away, the winner is Tom, who has made something he says is Thor’s hammer, but looks like… well, as Mel says, “It’s very male, isn’t it?” “It could be a ‘T’. ‘T’ for Thor,” offers Tom lamely.

Most (Unintentionally) Hurtful Burn
Val has made Noah’s Ark chock full of animals, about which Mary, bless her heart, says, “It’s not a mess, it’s informal” (sidebar: It is a complete mess). Many of the animals lack a certain definition. Or, to put it more bluntly, Paul asks, “Is that a chicken?” when it is, in fact, a giraffe. It’s alright though — Val had the episode’s best comeback. When asked why she’s making one — not the biblical two — doves, she shoots back, “Well, one’s flown away.”

Best Dressed
Sue places the bottom half of Andrew’s basket on his head like a pith helmet proving a) the structural integrity of his bake — both moist and sturdy — and b) that he can really pull it off and should wear hats more often.

The Ecstasy
No matter how bucolic the meadow outside, no matter how friendly the competitors within, being on The Great British Baking Show is still a nerve-racking experience. For proof, look no further than Kate’s face before Paul and Mary dig into her plaited Corn Maiden and after, when they congratulate her on a fine bake. “I want to come on your next picnic,” Mary tells Kate and the relief that flows off of her is palpable.

Heartbreak
The story this week isn’t Michael’s dismissal; it’s the precipitous decline of Candice. Last week, she was Star Baker, but after a disastrous signature challenge – the aforementioned under-baked brioche – and a two-layer plaited loaf that absolutely failed to deliver on the top layer – she barely avoided being cut. Is there a Star Baker curse? Will Tom feel the bite next week?

The Great British Baking Show airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on PBS.

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