The Great British Bake Off: Chocolate Week
October 13, 2020 5:05 PM - Season 11, Episode 4 - Subscribe

It's Chocolate Week and the bakers tackle a deceptively simple traybake signature, a technical packed full of chocolate and nuts, and a white chocolate celebration showstopper
posted by jeather (37 comments total)
In which we learn that no one knows what smores actually are (caramel?), that apparently the "you need to let enriched dough rise" argument is ignored as needed and my "I planned to make brownies, maybe this will give me ideas" thought settled on "plain with walnuts it is".

They do seem to be trying to make much more fun of the judges, to mixed effect. I am very sad Sura left, even though she was the only realistic possibility after that cake.
posted by jeather at 5:09 PM on October 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

A truly shocking week! Everybody struggled. I definitely did not pin Sura as one to go home before the halfway point, or even at all.

White chocolate in the heat of that tent is TOUGH. Maybe the idea was that the brownies would be easy to balance it out . . . whoops.
posted by Anonymous at 7:08 PM on October 13, 2020

Nooo, not Sura!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:00 AM on October 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Only up to the end of the brownie segment but man what a cockup all around. I was thinking the whole time what Lottie said at the end there - if anyone had actually just made a damn brownie, they would have run away with it. Don't any of these guys know that the best part of a brownie is the top? Why smother that in buttercream? It's sacrilege!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:16 AM on October 14, 2020 [10 favorites]

"And my signature is just a plain goddamn brownie with some toasted walnuts" probably felt like too little going in to it, but jeez absolutely none of those looked anything like edible. There's performing in front of the nation on a gigantic stage and there's messing up a perfectly good thing by trying too hard.

I think the babkas were all much better than I expected, but apparently the bakers haven't learned the whole "read the whole frickin' recipe" thing yet? All of the fitment issues would've been obvious if they'd only read like the next damn step.

Peter and Marc E (I think? the sculptor) are sort of my early favorites, and I sort of wish they'd give a bit more time to Linda, but none of them are really amazing me yet - I'm waiting for the first really standout week for anybody, really.
posted by Kyol at 7:01 PM on October 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

I wonder if by this point the pace is starting to get to them. I read some article that said it was two days on, two days off, but everyone practiced the whole way through the days off. So by this episode it's been two weeks of essentially continuous baking, not counting the initial isolation period/orientation/whatever else.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:08 PM on October 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, open admission time, I've don't think I've ever had a s'more? I know we tried a few times when I was a kid, but the ooey-gooey hershey's commercials with the melting chocolate and toasted marshmallow between graham crackers never ever came together. Maybe my folks just didn't want to leave the chocolate out in the summer heat? Is it actually a thing that works like the advertisers claim?
posted by Kyol at 7:39 PM on October 14, 2020

Yep - the chocolate doesn't completely melt, but the heat of the marshmallow melts enough of it to make it gooey. But first you need to toast the marshmallow long enough that it's basically liquid inside.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:55 PM on October 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Like everyone else I was aghast at the Brownies challenge. I felt terrible for them all, massively overthinking a recipe that can be made brilliantly in half the time they were given and, as often happens in my case, while a little drunk.

>Why smother that in buttercream?
Why smother anything in buttercream? It's not terrible in moderation, but Bakeoff contestants do have a weird habit of making perfectly fine cakes then laying on the buttercream with a trowel. And the judges tend to reward it. It's like the odd fad of cupcake shops that swept across the UK about 10 years ago, which sold decidedly utalitarian sponge bases with about three times the volme of coloured buttercream spurted on top. I basically quite like good buttercream in tiny quantities to complement a cake, but at some point people need to admit that they don't actually like cake that much, it's just a substrate for buttercream.

>Also, open admission time, I've don't think I've ever had a s'more?

I think smores are less of a thing here in the UK than in the US, or certainly they were when I was a kid. I got through beavers, cubs and scouts, and while we certainly messed around melting marshmallows and chocolate over campfires, I'm pretty sure I learned the word "smore" from American friends in university.

Hershey's has only made it across here in the last 5-10 years -- you can buy Hershey's kisses in some shops, but I think they're not exactly mainstream, and there's still the widespread opinion that most American chocolcate is terrible -- so we wouldn't have had whatever advertising you're talking about.

I'm also not totally sure what Graham crackers are, but about 10 years ago an American friend told me that the UK doesn't have a good equivalent. Google suggests that digestive biscuits are pretty close?
posted by metaBugs at 11:45 AM on October 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm also not totally sure what Graham crackers are, but about 10 years ago an American friend told me that the UK doesn't have a good equivalent. Google suggests that digestive biscuits are pretty close?

In terms of flavor, they are very similar to digestive biscuits. But imagine a finer texture of flour and a rectangular-cracker-like shape, and less crumbly, and a bit drier. They're a very common snack for kids because if you squint they're healthy, but they're also sweet, so lots of families with kids will just have them around all the time.

(Incidentally, my only exposure to digestive biscuits as an American was when I did a semester in China. Imported chocolate-covered digestives were the only vaguely cookie-like thing in the student store, and my classmates and I went through them by the truckload.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

Yes, digestives are similar to graham crackers but crumblier. I've had smores a couple of times and find them to be a strange combination of a too-sweet filling with a slightly sandy cracker. I also don't like Hershey chocolate, which I find gritty and too sweet. But once we made them with Lotus Biscoff cookies spread with nutella with the toasted marshmallow squished in between and it was heavenly.

I was really shocked at how bad the brownies were this week. After that I wasn't expecting anyone to make an edible babka, so it was a surprise at how good most of them were.

I, too, like Mark E the sculptor but the big distraction for me every week is Lottie's hair falling over everything. She touches her hair then touches the cakes - ugh! Tie it back! What a pity Sura had to go, but she failed in every task this week, so really there was no other option.

I think Matt is gelling well with Noel (who I adore) and I like the extra Hollywood teasing. I was never a big fan of Mary Berry, so I also have the love for Prue.
posted by essexjan at 12:51 PM on October 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Tiny s'mores derail... I'm allergic to chocolate so I make my s'mores with dulce de leche spread and cinnamon graham crackers and they are VERY good.
posted by merriment at 3:25 PM on October 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

What’s with the white chocolate obsession on this show? Yuck. The 80’s called, and . . . .
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 5:52 PM on October 16, 2020 [6 favorites]

Also, I only always think of Elaine Benis when someone says “sponge.” Sponge-worthy.

And, finally, Paul and Lottie have wolf eyes.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 5:56 PM on October 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

I’m always so distracted by long hair not tied back on this show. They don’t need hairnets, but tidy would be better.

At this point, I like everyone left. Mark L is so giggly with both hosts, I do love him. Linda is really holding her own, and I think she’s really improved from the start. Loved Hermine getting a Pruegasm, but am not a fan of that term.
posted by gladly at 8:12 PM on October 16, 2020 [8 favorites]

Nooooo Sura was my favorite! I do have a lot of contestants left to root for (I really do like almost all of them that are left) but as soon as Sura's cake turned out to be raw I knew. :(

I am amazed at how badly the brownies went, across the board. If you want to get fancy you could do like, raspberry or cheesecake swirl I guess? But brownies should not have topping, nope, definitely not, naked all the way as nature intended please. It's also interesting to see the food trends come and go--for example, the judges have accepted that naked cake looks are an actual stylistic choice (previous seasons' contestants got a lot of flak for it). Passion fruit was all the rage for a while there; now it's all about ruby chocolate, which I hadn't heard of until a couple weeks ago and now it's made multiple appearances. And I don't think anyone's made a decorative macaron yet this season?

I'm feeling spicy today though because I was not charmed at all by the hosts. Noel lost me in the last week or two for commenting about how he doesn't like to actually eat baked goods (and "eating is cheating," really?), and I wish every single time call didn't have to be a bit. Give it a rest.
posted by j.r at 10:58 PM on October 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the bell was obviously tolling for Sura when her cake wasn’t just lopsided but raw. I was so sad for her. I like everyone left and I’ll have a hard time seeing more of them go. Especially Mark L and Linda, but I love Lottie and that was tough to see her flounder this week.

I loathe white chocolate and cannot stand it when people put crap like frosting on brownies (which I also prefer cake like, whatever, Paul, but I’ll accept gooey if it doesn’t have a bunch of extraneous nonsense on top). So that was an awful challenge and I’m not surprised it went off the rails so badly.

It’s almost like they plan the complex melty stuff for the hot days or something. As soon as they said chocolate, I muttered “it’s probably going to get up to at least 30 in that tent.” I’m amazed anything stayed solid.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:31 AM on October 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I hate to say it but I was more amused than I expected by everyone failing at brownies. Apparently just a plain brownie with walnuts really the best is thing ever. I have seen brownie recipes in the US with frosting on them and always thought them an abomination so I feel vindicated.

My ex bf, who introduced me to this show, was a huge fan of babka and loved to bake so the babka challenge was a bit bittersweet to me. (It took me a while to be able to watch GBBO again after the break up.)

And I can't believe no one commented that Lottie's white chocolate cake was a vageode cake.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:05 AM on October 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Late to the party but dang that was a tent full of brownie wrecks! I think Matt has been fairly charming but Noel has been a bit of a jerk more than once.

Lottie should have gotten a few kudos for the height and style of her decoration. Maybe it was a bit much but it looked more impressive than most.

Dammit I wish it were a none-going-home week.
posted by Glinn at 6:22 AM on October 17, 2020

By the way, if you haven't yet you should listen to The Bake Down, which is hosted by Jane and Howard and some non-GBBO guy and they review the week's episode and offer great insight into what it's like to bake in the tent and how the briefs are and stuff. And they have guest bakers. AND the other guy runs a company where you can do live-stream or in-person baking classes with a GBBO baker*, which I am totally going to do when my kitchen is set up for it and I am very jealous of UK MeFites who can go to in-person.

*I don't know if they're doing in-person right now for obvious reasons
posted by Anonymous at 11:00 AM on October 17, 2020

I don't grok brownies, and even I could have made a good enough brownie to keep in the running: Dark, dark chocolate with toasted pecans (because someone else is buying the ingredients).

Also, what's with the too sweet comment? It's an American recipe; by definition, it can't be too sweet.
posted by JawnBigboote at 5:29 PM on October 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

People SAY American desserts are too sweet and yet here’s this challenge all about white chocolate?? And don’t get me started on sticky toffee pudding.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:22 PM on October 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Those brownies were the worst things I’ve ever seen produced on this show. A simple, regular-ass old brownie recipe would have walked away with the top spot. Or, if someone wanted to take it up a notch, Mexican spicy dark chocolate brownies (with cinnamon and cayenne pepper) would probably have blown the judges’ minds.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:00 AM on October 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

I was thinking tart cherry jam drizzle baked into the top, and dark chocolate chunks and chunks of cherries inside. Bam, done.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:24 AM on October 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

It’s almost like they plan the complex melty stuff for the hot days or something. As soon as they said chocolate, I muttered “it’s probably going to get up to at least 30 in that tent.” I’m amazed anything stayed solid.

Has there ever been a Chocolate Week where things weren't constantly melting?

I was really sorry to see Sura go. She was my favorite and I had her down for a potential finalist. I do really wonder what happened with that cake! (And this at least was an elimination that no one could argue with, but it still sucks that they're down to one not-white baker just 5 weeks in.)

I like Hermine's celebration of Prue's reaction. The Prue Roar should definitely replace the Hollywood Handshake, except that I'm pretty sure it was due to the citrus...
posted by trig at 11:51 AM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I do really wonder what happened with that cake!

It seemed to get lost in the editing - like maybe they wanted it to be a surprise reveal - but surely Sura knew the cake was raw? I mean, they know how to make cakes! And check they are done! What on earth happened to make the cake that under-baked? Timing mistake? Oven temperature mishap?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:52 PM on October 18, 2020

She mixed water with white chocolate, I feel like that was bound to give it a weird, if not totally raw, texture.
posted by Anonymous at 2:06 PM on October 18, 2020

Sura was my favorite. I think she was low-key one of the funniest bakers they’ve had on the show, but it was subtle and often conveyed with just a skeptical look.

White chocolate is an abomination and should be banned from all future baking challenges.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:44 PM on October 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

White chocolate is an abomination and should be banned

posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:15 PM on October 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

I liked Sura but that was a justified departure.

I do NOT get how everyone fucked up the brownies so badly. Meringue on a brownie is an abomination. Salted caramel is acceptable, but only if the brownie itself isn't too sweet. Raspberry would work.

Me, I would have done my favorite brownie recipe, which is Mexican chocolate (cinnamon & cayenne) with dried cherries. Simple, fudgy, awesome.
posted by suelac at 8:49 PM on October 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I wonder, are brownies just not much of a thing in Great Britain? Any UK mefites want to weigh in on this?
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:02 AM on October 19, 2020

She mixed water with white chocolate, I feel like that was bound to give it a weird, if not totally raw, texture.

I mean, I thought so too, but surely she'd practiced it? Maybe she really did mismeasure something, like Paul said...

I wonder how much people were trying to avoid "This doesn't feel like X hours' worth of work" or "This is Bake Off, we were expecting a higher level" comments on the brownies.
posted by trig at 12:38 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I wonder, are brownies just not much of a thing in Great Britain? Any UK mefites want to weigh in on this?

They are totally a thing! I think the bakers just over-thought their way into trying to one-up a standard brownie by doing "something extra" - a tactic which can pay off for bakers who take a known bake and do "something special" in terms of embellishment or flavouring.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:45 AM on October 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

White chocolate is okay in small doses. A whole huge cake of it? nah. I was feeling really un-creative watching all those elaborate brownie plans, thinking The perfect brownie is a little fudge-y, chewy, maybe nuts, but no other junk. Pistachios in a brownie, tho, worth a try. I don't even like chocolate chips in brownies. Purists, Unite, Save The Brownies!

I only make brownies a couple times a year, but that doesn't stop me kinda wanting one of those pans that lets you make brownies with So Many Edges. You grease a brownie pan with salted butter and cocoa powder(or dry brownie mix) and the edges are sooooo good.
posted by theora55 at 5:26 PM on October 19, 2020

Thanks to this episode I made my classic brownies with fancy chocolate and, to make them special, a few roasted pecans, and they are perfect. (Chocolate chips in brownies are not good, but I have one recipe where you make an espresso ganache and mix that in, and it's delicious if a lot of work for a brownie.)
posted by jeather at 11:51 AM on October 20, 2020

This brownie fiasco would never have happened in a normal season, I bet everyone just decided to spend their very limited practice time on their showstopper (or maybe just rest) rather than do a brownie practice run. If I had been a contestant I would definitely not have had the guts to do a plain tray of (delicious) brownies, I think the embarrassment of looking like a slacker on international tv would be too much, worse than failure.

Anyway, the format sounds exhausting, and the results just haven't been up to the normal levels of GBBO. I don't think we'll know how good these bakers could have been under normal circumstances, which is too bad.
posted by skewed at 6:53 AM on October 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

one-up on white chocolate is gross.
posted by bq at 10:40 AM on November 18, 2020

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