Major spoilers, but The Great British Baking Show “Dessert Week” was a welcome return to form for the Netflix show after the disaster that was “Mexican Week.” Forget tacos and tres leches cake. This week, the British bakers were asked to bake such British favorites as steamed puddings and lemon meringue pie. Judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith were looking for perfect technique and brilliant flavors. They even seemed to favor the classics over the more adventurous recipes. Everything in The Great British Baking Show tent was back in its place, except Carole Edwards. In many ways, it felt like Carole was reliving the mayhem of “Mexican Week” and it was heartbreaking to watch. Not just because we love Carole, but it once again begged the question: did Paul and Prue boot the right bakers last week?
Since its earliest days, The Great British Baking Show has asked its bakers to try their hand at traditional “desserts.” By this, the producers usually mean puddings, pies, tarts, meringues, mousses, and more. This year’s “Dessert Week” asked for eight individual steamed puddings, a perfect lemon meringue pie (without the help of a recipe!), and a mousse-based dessert with “a surprise.” As Paul himself pointed out, the bakers were pretty evenly divided between top and bottom. Sandro, Maxy, Janusz, and Abdul all excelled in the tent this week, while Dawn, Syabira, Kevin, and Carole floundered. Carole’s troubles not only led to her eventual elimination, but also felt a bit like “Mexican Week” deja vu.
Before she entered the tent, Carole told the cameras that she felt buoyed by Paul and Prue’s decision to keep her after last week. They must believe in her! Which is why when they visited her, they very kindly threatened that she better not make a single mistake. Carole was already fussing over burnt plums. It was not a good sign, but rather an augury of the mess to come.
First, poor Carole poured lukewarm water into her steaming trays instead of boiling hot H20. This meant that her steamed puddings “splodged” out. (This is a technical term, I’m sure.) As she put it herself, it was a “disaster.” Paul and Prue pointed out her puddings were not cooked. Carole fared slightly better in the Technical Challenge, coming in sixth place out of eight. However, her success was largely thanks to Malaysian-born Syabira’s complete ignorance about lemon meringue tarts and Dawn’s scant filling.
So clearly, Carole had to knock the Showstopper Challenge out of the park to stay in the competition. To save herself, Carole used a whopping thirty sheets of gelatin in her mousse dessert with a black velvet strawberry sponge in the middle. Paul and Prue were clearly concerned when they heard how much gelatin she was using and rightfully so. Most of the bakers struggled to balance the texture of their mousse desserts with good and proper taste. In the end, Carole’s Showstopper wasn’t really bad, but it wasn’t really good, either. One mousse flavor was delicious and the other tasted of gelatin. The decorations were ’70s twee. It was fine.
What I didn’t find fine was having to watch sweet, lovely Carole stress out with every step of every recipe this week. The sweet Dorset-based baker was wholly out of her depths this week, and not because she was unfairly charged with becoming a Mexican chef overnight. As I posited last weekend, Paul and Prue probably should have booted Carole with Rebs Lightbody dat the end of “Mexican Week” and saved James Dewan, whose biggest crime was overextending himself in the Showstopper Challenge. Both Carole and Rebs had consistently struggled in the tent before then. James had not. Logic would suggest that Carole and Rebs would continue to struggle going forward, while James would have a better shot of bouncing back. (But this is just one woman’s opinion…)
Paul and Prue were right to eliminate Carole this week. She simply couldn’t keep up with the other bakers in the tent. More worrisome to me as a fan of the show, though, is the fact that the bakers are already starkly divided in terms of skill and talent. It’s not fun to watch the same handful of bakers struggle while the same trio corners all the praise. Mistakes and missteps are supposed to be part of the The Great British Baking Show journey, but in the best seasons, bakers fought through their struggles. Carole’s run in the last two weeks has been a heartbreaking portrait of a hobbyist struggling to keep up with cutthroat competition. I’m heartened to know that she is proud of the experience, but I wish Paul and Prue had eliminated her after her first week on the skids. Two weeks of disaster is harder to watch than one.
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