'The Great British Baking Show' Recap: Henry VIII Would Be Proud

Great British Baking Show (Photo: PBS)

Warning: This recap for episode 8 of The Great British Baking Show contains spoilers.

Tudor Week brings an assortment of odd and archaic pastries to The Great British Baking Show‘s tent this week. Garish displays of meat pies — the kind that the old rhyme “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie” is about — cookies that are really more bread, and ancient marzipan recipes (marzipan used to be called marchpane and was made without the egg) are the order of the day. It’s the quarterfinals this week, and the line between staying and leaving the tent has become razor thin.

The Rundown
Candice takes Star Baker for a third time with an ensemble of hot water pies — with two different doughs and fillings in the shape of a fish — that would’ve made any 16th century monarch proud, as well as top marks in the technical challenge, and an unquestioned win in the show stopper round. Her marzipan peacock included a four-layer cake with a “surprise” of blueberries inside that blew away the competition. Benjamina and Selasi were both near the bottom, but this week, Benjamina did slightly worse and had to leave the tent.

Brassy Dames
Mel and Sue are on this week, full of Henry VIII references and something about a pastry clutch for Andrew’s pastry gear signature bake. The best of the week is Sue confusing “Tudor” for “tuba” and waddling in with a flatulent burst of brass. It’s in no way the quality of the material that makes it so funny; it’s solely in the plaintive way she delivers the line, “I spent money on this!”

History Lessons
Selasi is on point with some dates for the Tudor period (1485-1603). “I’ve been reading a lot,” he whispers after casually dropping those dates. Whether that reading is from historical texts or Wikipedia is unclear, but his show stopper does feature the Tudor Rose — a combination of the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster, signifying the marriage that ended the War of the Roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty — as well as a tribute to the Battle of Bosworth Fields, so at least he gets points for effort.

Crystal Math
Ah, everyone’s favorite TV pastime: Arithmetic! Paul’s technical challenge instructions call for the bakers to use two-fifths of their dough for the Knot Biscuit Ball and three-fifths for the Celtic Knot Biscuit, so out come the pencils, paper, and scales to figure out just how much that is. Andrew takes it a step further: He tries to measure the illustrations in the instructions to get a proper ratio of length to diameter in his dough rope. It’s a futile calculation though; the pictures aren’t to scale.

Time to Put Your Game(y) Face On
Selasi is so used to Sue’s antics, that it’s almost half a minute before he even bothers to look up and see the absurd bunch of greenery she’s stuffed up her shnozz — ostensibly because his pigeon meat smells so gamey. Selasi should have known better than to make eye contact with her; nose good ever comes of it. (Ba-dum-bum.)

Since this is something of a historical bake, Paul gives them all tiny mortar-and-pestles to grind their herbs with. Since this is the 21st century, the bakers respond like you’d expect — by pulling faces and griping. Fortunately, the authenticity stops there because no one should be forced to bake without a stand mixer. That’s just cruel.

Digits of Doom
The bakers are asked to make a dozen jumbles for the technical challenge. While technically a biscuit (or what we’d call a cookie), they’re really closer to bread knots, so Paul breaks out the dreaded “digits of doom,” prodding the jumbles within an inch of their lives to see if they’re underbaked. It’s invasive and not at all appropriate viewing for the children. By the time he’s done, you’re not sure whether to have a cigarette or call the police.

Heart-Stopping Collapse of the Week

The sympathetic pain of watching Selasi’s marzipan field fall apart is only slightly ameliorated by the knowledge that he has more marzipan and more time to make it right. But nobody likes to see their work crumble like that — and especially not that badly.

Berry, Berry Happy
What could possibly put a grin that wide on Mary Berry’s face? If you guessed “booze,” you would be 100 percent correct. In this case, it’s from the kirsch that Selasi uses in his glaze, but one gets the sense that if a baker asked the judges to dip their biscuits in a cup of pure woodgrain alcohol as part of a show stopper, Mary would be only too happy to oblige.

This Is What it Sounds Like When Peacocks Cry

Candice’s marzipan peacock may stand as one of the greatest show stopper bakes we’ve ever seen on The Great British Baking Show, but even still, it may not be as impressive as Sue’s peacock screech.

Full Tilt Failure
It took Andrew at least three tries to properly caramelize sugar to make jousting lances for his show stopping knights. Unfortunately, because he lost so much time, he found himself rushing to complete the delicate candy work. The end result doesn’t look so much like a lance as it does a boil that you would lance. It’s so far off that it’s hard to even make vulgar double entendres about it; really, it looks more like a balloon animal experiment from The Island of Dr. Moreau gone hideously wrong.

Candice says the remaining bakers now look like “the Spice Girls before Geri left” and she’s not entirely wrong…

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

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