The Great British Bake Off: Japanese Week
October 28, 2020 5:40 PM - Season 11, Episode 6 - Subscribe

It's a Bake Off first - Japanese Week - and the bakers tackle steamed buns, a tricky, layered technical and a showstopper inspired by kawaii - the Japanese love of all things cute and adorable

There have been a number of complaints about the episode being "an Orientalist mess" and that it "feeds the racist narrative that all Asians are the same".
posted by jeather (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It doesn't seem fair to me to criticize the bakers for using non-Japanese flavors in some of the bakes. If you can put curry in a pasty, like happened just last week, why can't you put dal in a steamed bun? It's not like Japanese bakers limit themselves to only using Japanese flavors.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:13 PM on October 28, 2020


I thought the complaints about all the dough ending up crowding the filling were a bit annoying. I mean, unless if you're going after Dragon Quest Slimes as your decoration.... Maybe I'm just lacking imagination.

Nice week for Lottie, though - she seemed to really be hitting some of her more unusual idea this week. It seems like a lost was lost in the editing, though - like we didn't see any of Lottie's mushroom decoration.

On the other hand: Matcha! matcha matcha matchaaaaaaaaa!
posted by Kyol at 6:35 PM on October 28, 2020


I'm not really feeling the critiques of the signature challenge and accusing bakers of being racist for using more generally "Asian" flavours in their buns. As pointed out in the Eater article, nikuman originate from China, plus flavour mixing happens all the time on this show. Pandas are from China? You're telling me that Japan has never made a panda character or panda mascot? I've seen cute shoebills on Japanese stationery, let cute animals be cute. Laura gagging over matcha, however, was embarrassing, and Hermine's "geisha-not-a-geisha" was awkward. The whole "kawaii cake" as a challenge was awkward and weak. Kawaii cakes are not a thing! But then again, neither are pastry cages...
posted by Rora at 7:49 PM on October 28, 2020 [7 favorites]


Hey, what was up with two different bakers not knowing what the word "crescent" means?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:54 PM on October 28, 2020 [6 favorites]


I do think it's . . . odd, in Japanese week, to have generic Asian flavours, and the voiceover of "isn't the only contestant to have East Asian inspiration" given the brief, but also they do generally play around with weird flavour combinations. I'm not really knowledgeable enough about Japanese baking to comment on what would or would not have been better. (Given Paul's noted distaste for matcha, it was a weird technical -- surely there are other Japanese recipes they could have used?)

That said I definitely want some steamed buns now.

The kawaii cake thing just felt like it was "pretend to be Kim-Joy".

And yet again they seemed to be trying to find 3 people to discuss who might go, when it was clear who it would have to be.
posted by jeather at 5:53 AM on October 29, 2020




I didn't mean to say that kawaii style food was made up by Kim-Joy, sorry. I know cute cakes are a thing in Japan (and in many places, though miniature ones is a different thing from what they asked for). Just something about the way they presented this specific showstopper.
posted by jeather at 11:01 AM on October 29, 2020 [5 favorites]


Yeah I think the better criticism of this episode is not that the bakers did something wrong with their flavor choices, but that the tasks themselves could have been a lot more interesting and specific to Japan. Like, that jiggle cake thing? I had never heard of it and it looks amazing, and it could have easily been the signature or technical. Same with the tangzhong method Kim-Joy used.

Modern Japanese baking is inherently very influenced by Western baking. Wheat flour wasn't introduced there until the 1500s. But this episode didn't do a good job of showing the most interesting or unique bits of that cultural fusion.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2020 [10 favorites]


I agree with showbiz_liz. The tasks given the bakers could have been way more interesting and focused on specialties more closely associated with Japan. Though there are definitely more flavors to Japanese desserts than yuzu and matcha and it would have been nice to see that as well.

Also what was the deal with the arch of dough in the nikuman that Hollywood was so obsessed with? Is that really a thing? I don't think any nikuman I've seen has that.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:39 AM on October 29, 2020 [2 favorites]


Also what was the deal with the arch of dough in the nikuman that Hollywood was so obsessed with? Is that really a thing? I don't think any nikuman I've seen has that.

I thought he was mentioning that as a negative thing, but so many of the bakers did it that he wasn't riding them too hard about it. But the first time he brings it up, it seems like a criticism.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:44 AM on October 29, 2020 [2 favorites]


Argh I am dying for this episode to drop in the US. I need me some GBBO this week.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:51 PM on October 29, 2020


And yet again they seemed to be trying to find 3 people to discuss who might go, when it was clear who it would have to be.

Honestly I was convinced Laura was going to go, but I guess if you make a "barely edible" signature bake then it doesn't matter how bad someone else messed up previously (and to be fair I thought Laura's cake looked the best anyway).

Like, that jiggle cake thing? I had never heard of it and it looks amazing

After I got a Japanese rice cooker and searched on Youtube for recipes, my Recommendations page was inundated with "Castella cake" recipes.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:35 AM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


This could be only observing from transatlantic distance but it always seems like there's a breakout crossover star from the crop of bakers. Lottie seems like the easy pick there-- it's a bit boring that it's the younger, thin, attractive white woman, but at least this time she's entertaining as all hell. I'm finding her a more humorous commentator than Matt at least.
posted by supercres at 10:50 AM on October 30, 2020


Finally watched the episode . I thought all the themes/challenges for the different rounds were well-chosen and fairly accurately in line with Japanese food culture (yes even the hamburger/ panda-shaped/Chinese-style-pork steamed buns... that Japanese bun type , the nikuman is based on the Chinese baozi and come in all kinds of flavors in Japan, including Western flavors ).

Good episode
posted by Bwithh at 4:21 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


Ahhh Mark L. :( :( :( From the reactions of some of the other bakers to him getting cut, he seems to be this season's Val: cheerful, a little goofy, a lot of heart, lots of friends. I thought the bit he and Lottie planned out with the burgers was cute and way better than the usual scripted jokes from the hosts. This episode I also finally warmed up to Dave. Maybe it's the editing, or he's more comfortable with the camera by now, or just the less-crowded tent. I was annoyed that Noel again joked about not liking food, and he kept bothering the bakers like with the nagging to flip the pancakes. At least he went and comforted Laura when she was upset.

I also wasn't a fan of Laura's comments about matcha. It's not my favorite either, but the gagging went too far. I also would have loved to see more than matcha and yuzu, like red bean, sesame paste, taro...mochi? There was so much fondant in the showstoppers (blech), but I am curious to try jiggle cake.

Guess I'll go look at the articles, though I think it's a weird standard that when the bakers have to make a sandwich cake or something they get criticized for being too traditional and boring, and then if it's Japanese week and they don't go totally traditional it's now insensitive. Though didn't someone get cut in a past season because their Danish pastries were too French? It's not the first time I've wished I could see the brief.
posted by j.r at 9:26 PM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


Okay, after reading the articles jeather linked, I wish they had done dorayaki for the technical. (And now I'm hungry and wish I had some.) I assume Peter still would have won, partly because his showstopper was castella cake which I have just learned is what the dorayaki pancakes are made of. Partly because technicals are his specialty, as he seems to be the only contestant who studied all the core GBBO things and made sure he knew them going in, as a GBBO superfan.
posted by j.r at 9:20 AM on October 31, 2020 [2 favorites]


I was intrigued enough by Lottie's cotton jiggly cake (recipe on GBBO's website) that I did some searching and found this simpler recipe posted in April 2020.

It's essentially a cheesecake, but instead of whole eggs, it has whipped egg whites (plus their yolks added in the batter). It was easy to prepare and delicious.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2020 [7 favorites]


Oh damn. I just might give that a try. Do you know how long it would keep for? I'm living alone for the next month and while I could totally eat that whole thing, it would take me the better part of a week.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2020


Incidentally, can anyone point me to a video or guide to folding things into batter? I don't think I've ever done it right, but I don't know exactly what I'm not doing.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:56 AM on November 1, 2020


This was worth it just to watch Paul fake enjoy the matcha layer-cake.

I'm surprised more people weren't freaking out about Paul asking to have his burger-bun without gherkins. I believe Lottie when she said that her burger wouldn't have been dry except that she had messed up her relish on Paul's account.
posted by skewed at 10:57 AM on November 1, 2020 [5 favorites]


I don't know about this specific instantiation but cheesecake freezes very well.
posted by jeather at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


Re: Paul and matcha, there was almost a really interesting comment from Paul in the discussion interstitial where he started talking about judging things objectively when you didn't like the flavour, but he got cut off. I would have liked to hear his thoughts on that.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:06 PM on November 1, 2020 [8 favorites]


Right, Paul and the gherkins! I too would be interested to hear how the judges handle things they don't like, because in the past when they've had to try matcha (heh) they've said they don't like the flavor and penalize the baker for it. I think that happened to Howard forever ago? Maybe there are flavors they can dislike but still take in the context of everything else, and maybe there are flavors that would overpower things enough that they can't be objective about the balance of flavors. I hope they tend more towards the former and we just don't hear about some of the things they dislike. But if there's either a very familiar or completely unfamiliar flavor, I think they're more likely to call it out if they don't like it. (Pro tip: never use banana extract on GBBO.)

Still, I wish they would broaden their horizons. At least Paul didn't complain about the matcha technical, but the gherkins thing made him look like a picky toddler. He's a professional food judge!
posted by j.r at 1:07 PM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]


To give PH the benefit of the doubt, I assume he wouldn’t ask a baker to omit an ingredient he wasn’t partial to if it was something that is a common component of general baked goods, but pickles fall so far outside of that zone that I don’t think it was unreasonable for him to request one without. It would be like if someone were to make eel pie during pastry week; that’s a strong ingredient that’s not for everyone. (That said: “can’t stand” gherkins? Really, Paul? Grow up.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 7:27 PM on November 1, 2020


showbiz_liz, here's one. Mix in about a quarter of the egg whites in first to loosen/lighten up the batter. Then, dump in the rest of the egg whites, and it's sort of a cut/fold/turn motion to gently fold them in.

Also, fold in the cheese!
posted by damayanti at 7:47 AM on November 2, 2020 [3 favorites]


Ahhh Mark L. :( :( :( From the reactions of some of the other bakers to him getting cut, he seems to be this season's Val: cheerful, a little goofy, a lot of heart, lots of friends.

I loved Mark L.; he was probably my favorite, but there was no one else who could have gone home this week. Peter's lamb buns were adorable, and I loved the lone black sheep. I've never had steamed buns, but after watching this I really want them.
posted by gladly at 8:46 AM on November 2, 2020


There is a London-based Malaysian comedian on Youtube who takes on the persona "Uncle Roger", an Asian man who reviews and busts on "cooking videos" where Western chefs attempt Asian food.

He had some things to say about this episode.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:39 PM on November 17, 2020 [1 favorite]


I understand where Paul is coming from with gherkins/pickles/pickle relish. I can't stand them and the flavor is strong enough that you can't ignore them.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:41 PM on November 17, 2020


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