October 30, 2019 10:23 am Leave your thoughts
Deep breath, here we go. Thirteen bakers, ten weeks, thirty challenges and innumerable weak jokes later, it’s the final of the Great British Bake-Off, ten years after the first series aired. David has been dreaming of this for the entire decade. ‘I just want to enjoy everything about this weekend’, he says, with a jaw clenched tight as iron and shoulders set like steel.
Alice flaps and swishes around him. Steph calls on the Baking Fairies. They’re both seasoned Star Bakers: at this point the contest is as tight as Paul Hollywood’s underpants/Prue after a slice of Armagnac cake.
For the Signature Bake, the judges want The Ultimate Chocolate Cake, and really, who wouldn’t. Rich, deep, moist, chocolatey, decadent, extraordinary – anything other than ‘bog standard’, says Prue, in an unfortunate chocolate-related choice of words.
David gives us a cake laced with prunes and Armagnac. Prunes in a cake? Of course: they help retain moisture and bring the most deliciously toffee-ish taste, as well as a wonderful squidgy texture. Who can sell you the best organic prunes in the world? Naturally Good Food, of course. See them here: you’ll be needing the word ‘unctuous’ to describe them.
Steph is stuffing a Black Forest Gateau with cherries. People get sniffy about Black Forest Gateaux, but that combination of cream, chocolate and cherries, laced with something a bit stronger, is as good now as it ever was in the 1970s. Don’t use standard glacé cherries, though: try Naturally Good Food’s natural-colour glacé cherries instead, with a proper crimson hue and a deep, sodden, purple flavour.
Alice, meanwhile, is sticking ginger, pears and maple into her chocolate cake. She’s decided not to use ‘proper’ chocolate, but cocoa powder instead. If you’re backing her bake, check out our finest, organic and Fairtrade cocoa powder here. It’s nothing like the hot chocolate powder you’ll find stuck at the back of your kitchen cupboard, but instead has a depth of chocolate-yness like a plunge pool at the bottom of Willie Wonka’s waterfall.
If you want solid chocolate, of course, you’ll need the best – minimum 70% cocoa solids – as stocked by us in quite extraordinary quantities. If it’s raw cacao you need, once again, we can help you out, with our butters, nibs and powders here.
Some of us at Naturally Good Food would sell our grandmothers for a good bar of chocolate. We love selling it, dreaming of it and writing about it. Check out some more of our sticky-fingered blogs here:
This week, we’ve got two recipes for you. The first is the Ultimate Chocolate Cake as made by Normal People in Their Own Kitchens. No mirror glazes, no Armagnac – but a really good, dare-I-say-it bog-standard chocolate sponge.
The second is My Favourite Chocolate Cake of all Time: Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness cake . Damp blackness, Nigella says of it. Dark majesty. It’s so good, you should only make it once a year, perhaps for your birthday, should that happen to fall next week.
So who’s winning? And more importantly, who are you backing? We get to see a snippet of the contestants’ home lives. David, the heroic nurse, from an ordinary northern family of food snobs; Steph, whose baking has proved life-changing and whose family want her to believe in herself again; Alice, like Hermione in Harry Potter, the high-achieving daughter of two dentists. ‘With Good Management, you don’t need Good Luck’, her parents chant in unison. It might not be as snappy as ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ – and you probably won’t find it embossed on an inspirational scatter cushion any time soon – but it’s certainly a mantra I plan to employ as GCSE revision gets underway in my house.
Pans boil over, cakes break, syrup gets forgotten, invisible Channel 4 Baking Fairies bring David ice (though he’s cool enough already). The cakes cut like squelchy velvet and David’s makes you drunk just to look at. Alice’s is wobbly. ‘It’s a great cake, but is it a great chocolate cake?’ murmurs Paul. Prue, head down and gobbling, thinks it’s a wonderful cake.
It’s a twice-baked stilton souffle for the Technical, in this Week Without a Theme. But there is, perhaps, still a unifying element to the week: it’s all simply delicious food, a celebration of the taste and happiness that comes from eating really lovely stuff. Yes, healthy food matters enormously, and we’ll be the first to sell you bulk sacks of brown rice and psyllium husk, but sometimes, it’s even more important to have food that can comfort and sustain, that can mend a broken heart, that can make everything all right with the world, that can give you a glimmer of hope, that can rescue you from the flu, that can, quite simply, warm the cockles of your heart. This is such food – and the Final is a fitting place to celebrate it.
That said, only David manages to create an identifiable soufflé. Steph’s are a horrible splattery mess (tears). Turns out she put them in a cold bain marie – ‘Oh, bad luck, Steph’ commiserates Prue, meaning, presumably, Bad Management.
It’s a rollercoaster, helter-skelter ride to the end, with slides into despair (Alice’s parents’ flight to the Picnic Final has been cancelled! Bad Luck or Bad Management, the viewers wonder?) – and an arduous climb up the steps to hope once more (Channel 4 has chartered a plane – well, perhaps – and they make it on time!).
The contestants have to create a Deliciously Deceptive Feast in a nougat picnic basket. It’s to be an ‘edible illusion’, in which things look like one thing but taste like another, like a Chocolate Puddle Cake once made by my sister, which looked like a cowpat but in fact tasted worse.
David gives the illusion of calm, like a swan with its legs peddling furiously beneath the water. Prue gives the illusion of being a foreigner (‘Bravo!’ she applauds David, in a whole new accent). Paul gives the illusion of someone speaking entirely naturally and not as scripted by the production team.
The bakers create chicken burgers made of coconut, Scotch eggs that are really carrot cake and saffron buns perfectly disguised as peaches.
But success turns out to be just an illusion for Steph, utterly deserted by the Baking Fairies. She’s in tears throughout – and scores a Hollywood Hug, rather than a Handshake after the judging. ‘It doesn’t matter’, Paul reassures her.
And of course it doesn’t. It’s just a chicken burger that’s really a cake covered in coconut. What matters is that, in the end, the Bake-Off does what it always does so very well: celebrates people’s efforts, friendship, love and generosity; celebrates the taste, texture and comfort of food; and celebrates the lessons to be learnt in losing, as much as in winning. No wonder Americans lap it up.
Out the contestants come, into the sunshine and the arms of their waiting families. We all know that Steph is ruled out. Alice, though, is ecstatic – and David would like to be.
And, finally, after nine solid weeks of coming second, he triumphs – a tortoise catching a hare, an underdog getting recognition at last. Hugs, handshakes and heartwarming moments all round.
‘It’s the best feeling in the world’, he says.
And we’re all there with him. Because that’s what cake can give you. And that’s why we all need it in our lives, every now and then – and why, just once a year, a nation settles down to watch the Great British Bake-Off.
And it is, of course, why we continue to sell all the things you need to make wonderful cakes, biscuits, soufflés, patisserie, chandelier pies and bakes of all kinds, at Naturally Good Food.cacao, cacao butter, cacao nibs, cacao powder, chocolate, chocolate cake recipes, dark chocolate, Fairtrade cocoa powder, Final, GBBO10, Great British Bake Off, minimum 70% cocoa solids, natural colour glace cherries, organic cocoa powder, organic prunes, raw cacao, raw cocoa
This post was written by Yzanne