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GBBO: the four life lessons to take from a stressful pastry week

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Helen Bownass
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As the contestants grapple with pastry, we learnt some surprising, and philosophical lessons, from the Bake Off Tent. Warning: episode five spoilers ahead. 

We’re now at the baking halfway point, and the pressure has cranked up a few notches in pastry week. No doubt that Paul Hollywood declaring, “halfway through, I expect them to start pushing themselves” didn’t induce much calmness. 

But amongst the furrowed brows, incorrect pasty crimping (apparently each pasty should have 20 crimps) and Linda having to remake her eclairs three times - and still serving up a glaze it yourself version - there was much philosophy to extract. And I’m not just talking about Linda’s Karma Pasties.

GBBO: Linda

Time is an abstract concept

There was much discussion of time, and the passing of it, this week, which made me realise we shouldn’t be beholden to time’s rigorous structures. We put too much pressure on ourselves to achieve things by a certain point. As Noel said: “Time goes into a small bumbag that Paul Hollywood wears!” What does time even mean anyway? 

 Also, you can’t control time; Mark thought his pasty dreams were over when he asserted they “had 15 minutes left and they need another 20 minutes,” yet he went on to produce a brilliant bake. Sometimes we just need to forget about what should happen and when, and trust in the process – although of course, this is the opposite of all baking advice.

GBBO: Mark

“Crème patisserie is just a posh word for custard”

I’m living for Laura busting baking myths this week. And she’s onto something: let’s make crème patisserie accessible for all. This was an excellent week for Laura, I have to say. She was in her element and her calm confidence was a joy to watch. She made a cheese and onion pasty that seemed simple but tasted utterly delicious – a reminder, that doing something uncomplicated exceptionally well is often the most skillful, and exposing thing you can do; made jokes about keeping Peter in a small pastry cage and feeding him cheese and got a deserved Star Baker in the process.

GBBO: Hermine

Nobody puts a tart in a cage…

There’s been a lot of inexplicable showstopper challenges in the Bake Off tent, from a cake that ‘looks like’ a celebrity to a biscuit table setting representing a memorable meal. But a sweet tart that’s homed inside an intricate pastry cage seems like they’re just making things up at this point – or perhaps the producers just want to sum up the year we all stayed inside.

The contestants expressed the incredulity best, from Marc’s subtle: “Why would you make a caged tart?” to Hermine (who I’d like to see more of next week) declaring: “It’s bonkers, it’s beautiful. You’re supposed to showcase it not cage it….” Let us all remember that just because it is physically possible to make a cage out of pastry and put a tart inside it, doesn’t mean you should. Tarts, like humans, shouldn’t be locked away, even if those bars are made from flour and butter.  

GBBO: Laura
GBBO: Laura

Don’t assume the worst

It’s easy to be a harbinger of doom in your own life when you take on something meaningful,  like a stressed out Mark tonight. But when he said to Matt of the final challenge: “It’s a tough one, a lot to do, a lot to think about, a lot that can go wrong. Matt came back with the perfect calming retort, by saying “Nothing has gone wrong so far. You just lied to me.”

Perhaps Mark was rattled by the Bake Off curse. Legend has it that whoever wins Star Baker in Week 4 has never won the competition, and of course Mark took home the honour last week… And his pastry cage did fail quite spectacularly so perhaps he was right to question himself, although he managed to stay in the competition for another week, and Linda exited stage left  (it really is a shame, Linda!). 

Maybe we should turn instead to Lottie and her proclamation that “I have hope, if not faith”.  A mantra for 2020 if ever I’ve heard one.