The Great British Bake Off: Mexican Week
October 5, 2022 7:53 AM - Season 13, Episode 4 - Subscribe

The bakers explore authentic Mexican bakes, as they put their twist on the sweet bread pan dulce for the Signature, tackle a Mexican street food staple in the Technical, and make their own showstopping version of the milk-soaked tres leches cake.
posted by ellieBOA (52 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had braced myself for this episode to be bad and you know what? It was actually worse than I had anticipated. I think because it doesn't seem like the producers really tried.

Like, I get that the contestants are mostly just people living their lives and so if they want to make guac-a-molo or peel an avocado with a vegetable peeler (wut) or make zero distinction between a taco and a tortilla, ok sure maybe? Maybe.

But the hosts and behind-the-scenes people don't get a pass from me since they're professionals and wow it would have taken so little effort to do even a little better.

My bar was basically "can they avoid cringe?" and they could not.
posted by fruitslinger at 8:38 AM on October 5, 2022 [15 favorites]

Bad! So bad! Worse than I'd imagined! They learned absolutely nothing from the Japanese week debacle, clearly.

On the normal GBBO bullshit front, not giving the bakers enough time to prove the pan dulce and then bitching about them being under-proved is a classic. Additional bullshit from the technical, why no tortilla press?

Glad to have gotten the double elimination out of the way this week. Dragging that drama out would have been tempting but I'm happy they resisted it.
posted by merriment at 10:15 AM on October 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

This was pretty bad. Not enough time to prove the signature, a cooking rather than baking technical, and stacking tres leche cakes that aren't supposed to be stacked because they're soaked in milk and soft. And so many people deciding that adding chile is how they are going to make something Mexican.

Also, Paul--Mister pretend I know Mexican baking--Hollywood sneering at Syabira for using corn, an ingredient used in some Mexican cakes. It originated in Mexico, for heaven's sake. Ugh. I knew it was going to be problematic. Someone on reddit suggested that when they do bakes from other countries, they should have a special guest judge who's an expert in that cuisine, and I agree.
posted by ceejaytee at 11:01 AM on October 5, 2022 [17 favorites]

Yeah bit of a trainwreck this week and I wish Carole had gone instead of James! Recap wasn’t up when I posted but is now.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:05 PM on October 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Oh. My bad. I guess Carole was peeling the avocado with a paring knife. It was a quick clip. There was a lot to take in.
posted by fruitslinger at 2:08 PM on October 5, 2022

Also, Paul--Mister pretend I know Mexican baking--Hollywood sneering at Syabira for using corn, an ingredient used in some Mexican cakes.

I was furious at Paul for this reaction- he's done baking shows in the U.S. and should be aware of corn in things like cornbread (which can be sweet or savory). It really threw Syabira for a loop and was completely unfair since she's been so good with her flavors. He went full jackass this episode.

Carole apparently not doing any research on basic Mexican ingredients and refusing to call anything by its name was really irritating. Annoyed that she wasn't one of the people going home after that. I had more sympathy for her before this episode.

And Kevin was absolutely correct to say that tres leches cakes should not be stacked. I've never had one with more than two layers and they are most frequently a sheet cake.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:17 PM on October 5, 2022 [13 favorites]

Carole apparently not doing any research on basic Mexican ingredients and refusing to call anything by its name was really irritating.

What annoyed me was when she’d lost her ruler and knew her pan dulces were all different sizes but didn’t ask anyone if she could borrow theirs! Presentation is 80% of this show.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:42 PM on October 5, 2022

my SO and I watched it and it was soooo bad...

We are also 100% convinced that some conspiracy or harsh editing or some factor was in play post-episode filming because even though there was a refried bean requirement, AT NO POINT during the taco judging did they acknowledge, what we are convinced was, multiple trainwrecks of bean fail.
posted by alchemist at 5:44 AM on October 6, 2022 [8 favorites]

I'd never heard of conchas before, but they looked enticingly like melon pan, one of my favourite Japanese bakery items, so now I'm extremely keen to try one. Nobody in my area makes them, but I've found one London bakery that does them for nationwide delivery, I think, albeit with a dangerous-sounding minimum order of five. Bet they're run off their feet right now!

I wish they still did the informative little sections from the BBC days, where you get to find out a bit about what the bakers are being asked to produce. I knew next to nothing about Mexican food when I started watching the episode, and, well, no change by the end, except "hey, are conchas related to melon pan?". I'm not even clear on what the right pronunciations were for anything.

And I wish they wouldn't show footage of people being visibly upset. It's not fair or kind.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:57 AM on October 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Was quietly chucking at Noel’s “I don’t like baking. It’s a waste of time” for longer that it probably deserved
posted by supercres at 9:18 PM on October 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Last week was at least entertaining, this is just painful. I'm only half way through and already had to pause it twice because I was so annoyed. It's usually a show I enjoy with my. morning tea on friday's, but not today.

I definitely agree if they move forward with having (insert country here) week, they need to invite guest judges who actually know about that cuisine. It might be great if they invited the bakers to a demo of the food by a professional-so have a conchas demo where they can taste what they should be like and ask questions. Hell they could even the demo segment as part of the show because I do miss the food history and so forth and I've never had or made a conchas. It doesn't need to be a regular feature of the show, but when you're supposed to be exploring a different culture's food, I think, you know, showing how that food is actually made might relieve some of the incredible painfulness.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:56 AM on October 7, 2022 [8 favorites]

refusing to call anything by its name was really irritating

It's interesting how British people decide which languages and terms you should at least lean towards the native pronunciation of and which ones you just steamroll over. They didn't both happen this episode, but Prue (who's Seth Effrican, I know) made sure to say "craquelin" with at least a nod towards French but (pretty sure) in the past pronounced chorizo as "cher-it-so."
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:03 PM on October 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Also, Paul--Mister pretend I know Mexican baking--Hollywood sneering at Syabira for using corn

Yep, and for me it was a seemingly throwaway comment he made during the taco challenge: something about how the "color" at the bottom of the tortilla wasn't necessary (or something to that effect).

Dude, in Mexico (and in many parts of Central America) that's the sign of the perfect tortilla, getting the toasting on the comal just right, just a bit of char but not tipping over into burnt.

And are we not talking about the opening? I know that cringe is a calling sign of these, but sombreros and ponchos? C'mon.
posted by jeremias at 5:19 PM on October 7, 2022 [15 favorites]

It's interesting how British people decide which languages and terms you should at least lean towards the native pronunciation of and which ones you just steamroll over.

That’s something my friend and I constantly bemoan. There’s an older episode where Paul consistently talks about “a churros” and never refers to the singular churro without pluralizing it. One churro, multiple churros, you doof. It’s just adding insult to injury since he also insists on pronouncing the word “cher-ahss”. Listening to him say “tack-oh” causes me pain (to be fair, only a couple of them seemed capable of the short a). I just don’t get why the vowels are so impossible for them to say right.

This whole episode was shameful. They should feel ashamed.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 6:57 PM on October 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

But they made the opening joke meta, see, so it’s okay. cough My wife and I both said, “Oh no” the moment we saw Noel and Matt wearing sombreros.

This week was bad in so many ways. I joked last season about Drop It On the Floor Week, but that would have been preferable to this. “For his bake, Janusz is featuring a cookie tray coated in floor wax.”

Other highlights (ahem): A mustache on a cake. A MUSTACHE. The temple: is it Aztec? Mayan? Whatever! And a medallion on it. What does it mean? Bah! Also: stacking tres leches cakes. Soaking said cakes whilst in the pan. Paul being all, “I JUST CAME FROM MEXICO SO I KNOW BESOS.” No tortilla presses; use a casserole lid! Corn’s a main flavor, but this cake tastes like corn! ALL CRINGE.

But people. Tacos as a technical challenge. Is not baking. It is literally cooking. Okay, make a tortilla. That wasn’t the challenge. I guess this also opens the door to just doing whatever so long as there’s a baked component. Chicken and biscuits? Why not?

And yeah, I know they’ve done things like shepherd’s pie before. This was different.

So bad. Between this and bread-no-bread-and-pastry week… wow. This was the worst ep.
posted by hijinx at 7:03 PM on October 7, 2022 [8 favorites]

yikes dot uk

Shame on Paul in particular and anyone else who was involved in producing this in general. I'm also pretty disappointed in the baker (Dawn or Carole? can't remember which) who spiced her steak too liberally and then said "I wouldn't eat it" very dismissively. Even given that it was a stupid challenge for the show, that was rude.

I also ???ed to layering tres leches cake. I don't eat it because dairy issues, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it, like, frosted. Seems like overkill. It would have made more sense as a signature, because you could present individual slices, beautifully decorated.

It may just be me / watching this live, but it really seems like the production is not interested in setting up the bakers for success this season. We're four episodes in and have had two repeat star bakers. These challenges are not calibrated correctly and it's not fun to watch people fail.

absolutely infuriated for syabira btw. "oh ew what's this sweetcorn doing in my cake." Grow up, seriously.
posted by snerson at 7:53 PM on October 7, 2022 [7 favorites]

I made tacos tonight. I felt like I had to in order cleanse myself of that episode.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:24 PM on October 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Yeah, this was worse than I expected - I was expecting some casual racism, but not expecting the baking part to also be quite this bad.

For me, the most annoying parts were how both Paul and Pru referred to the tortillas as "tacos" while judging, Paul seeming to think the ideal tortilla resembles the mass-produced kind you buy in the grocery store, Paul judging Syabira for using a Mexican flavor (corn) and then Pru later knocking her for having some whole kernels in there. I get that everyone is bound to have their personal preferences, but I wish the judges would at least try to put their biases to the side. Contestants shouldn't be docked for using a flavor (especially not one relevant to the week's theme) that a judge happens to not like.

All of those tacos looked bad, including the ones presented as the "model" by Paul. The avocado color was all wrong - pale and flavorless. They had them cook the tortillas before the steak. Why! Those tortillas would have been cold by the time the judges tried them, and likely soggy from the pico de gallo, which should have only been added right before eating.

I agree strongly with the suggestion that any future "other country week" would be a nice opportunity to bring in at least one guest judge, and to take some time to actually educate the audience about the different foods. I really don't need a whole episode of watching people bake (or cook).

Oh, and I don't get what James was chosen to leave and not Carole. I didn't quite get why the judges were so harsh on the appearance of his show-stopper - ok, maybe not all of the elements were perfect, but then Paul went on to praise the 'Aztec' temple which was clearly a bit of mess.
posted by coffeecat at 7:50 AM on October 8, 2022 [6 favorites]

Wow. That had the sophistication and nuance of a Family Guy episode.

(Although I’d like to taste a homemade pan dulce. The only ones I’ve tried were industrial bakery versions.)
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 8:08 AM on October 8, 2022

These bakers can't possibly be trying these recipes out at home, can they? Surely they would have caught that they were too spicy or too boozey or whatever. They always seem so surprised when things don't work out.
posted by Biblio at 8:11 AM on October 8, 2022

Biblio, with the spice issue, I'm guessing some of these bakers don't consume much spicy food (at least my experience traveling in the UK was that outside of a handful of major cities, there isn't much spicy food to be had), and so they're trying to guess what Paul and Pru will expect - so they might think "well sure, it's too spicy for me, but everything is too spicy for me - if I do the right amount for me, the judges will dock me for making it too mild."
posted by coffeecat at 10:03 AM on October 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Like everybody else, I absolutely hated this episode from start to finish. But the end effect was a beat of me realizing, oh, these judges don't know what the fuck they're talking about. And if they don't know what the fuck they're talking about this week, it probably means they don't know what the fuck they're talking about in other weeks too. Maybe every week!

There was so much to be annoyed about, but in particular -- and as a non-Latinx Angeleno who is surrounded by Latin culture on a daily basis -- I was annoyed that they didn't acknowledge that pan dulce is frequently dense and almost always way less sweet than it looks from the outside. Aargh.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:05 AM on October 8, 2022 [7 favorites]

Well, that was a sad spectacle. Re: tacos not being baked, I was wondering why they didn't go with something like enchiladas, which at least can be baked, and there would be a real presentation challenge. There would still be plenty of ways the contestants could mangle the pronunciation of words, if they wanted that kind of "comedy," but we wouldn't have had to endure Hollywood saying "taco" as if it were spelled "tack-o".
posted by surlyben at 11:07 AM on October 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

endure Hollywood saying "taco" as if it were spelled "tack-o".

OK, so when I remarked that I didn't know if any of the words had been pronounced correctly by anyone, I'll admit I hadn't really been including "taco" in that. Chambers says there are two pronunciations, with a long and a short "a": "tahk-o" like the "a" in "father", and "tack-o" like the "a" in "bad". No?
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:52 AM on October 8, 2022

I'm not Mexican. I have traveled extensively in Mexico, including a months-long journey by truck, in non-tourist areas. ManyLeggedCreature, I have never heard anyone say anything other than "tahk-o." (I also live in Los Angeles County, which has almost 5 million Latinx people, the majority of whom are Mexican or Mexican American. In more than half of the county's 88 cities, Hispanics/Latinos are the largest ethnic group. Tacos are literally everywhere.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:20 PM on October 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

The taco technical was so strange. Why not just make them produce twenty perfect, identical tortillas? Seems like exactly the sort of deceptively simple thing that makes for a great technical.

The tiered tres leches reminded me of last season's dumb tiered yeasted cake challenge. The producers love making the contestants stack things that no sensible person would stack, and I hate it. Also, this challenge made Syabira cry, which is unacceptable. I loved how all in she went on corn this week and only regret that the judges do not deserve her genius.

I realize it was dumb and poorly executed, but I kind of loved Kevin's pyramid cake, if you pretend it was for a 90s children's Legends of the Hidden Temple themed birthday party. Also props to Sandro for seemingly having a ball with the showstopper and Maxy for being great at everything this week.

Agreed with everyone above that if they insist on having these international theme weeks, they need to bring in guest judges that have some idea what they're talking about. This was very elementary school cultural appreciation day gone predictably wrong, and the "haha, we're going to offend everybody" opening skit did not help.

Anyway, at the end Paul said 5 were doing well and 3 needed to step it up. I assume the 5 are Janusz, Maxy, Sandro, Syabira and Abdul, leaving Kevin, Dawn and Carole on notice.
posted by the primroses were over at 12:54 PM on October 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

Chambers says there are two pronunciations, with a long and a short "a": "tahk-o" like the "a" in "father", and "tack-o" like the "a" in "bad". No?

Dictionaries describe how their target audiences pronounce things, not what the "right" pronunciation is. Obviously lots of British people call tacos "tackos;" we just saw them doing that.

Which is fine, languages are what they are, British English isn't American English, and it's fine to pronounce loanwords differently than their original language did. But it looks foolish to Americans who almost universally say "tocko" which is much closer to the pronunciation in Spanish. It feels like someone trying to say "taco" who's only ever seen the word and never heard it.

If you're wondering about the pronunciation in Spanish this will vary some depending on the local variant of Spanish but in general Spanish doesn't have the tack/bad sound. In general "a" always makes the same sound and it's close to father but pushed a little bit towards tack.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

I feel bad about being annoyed by the taco pronunciation, and my descriptivist heart is certain that I should feel bad about it. It's really fine to pronounce loan words with an accent, particularly if you are trying to do your best. I was just annoyed by the time the technical rolled around. I'm sorry, and would like to withdraw the criticism.
posted by surlyben at 1:33 PM on October 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

In general "a" always makes the same sound and it's close to father but pushed a little bit towards tack.

Fun fact, if you do the "pahk the cash in Hahvahd Yahd" Boston accent thing, that's actually the vowel, since Boston English is the one dialect of American English has that vowel, in words like "car" (and also "father", which doesn't rhyme with "bother" in that dialect!)

But (1) yeah, even as a Trained Linguist TM who knows these things, the British English version still sounds weird to me, but also (2) this was not the thing that annoyed me the most because, dear lord, layered tres leches cakes???
posted by damayanti at 2:51 PM on October 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

I saw Rebs going, but really thought Carole was going to go with her. And I liked Carole a lot - she has that lovable eccentric aunt energy - but I thought she did worse than James overall this week.

The taco challenge reminded me of the technical where they had to roast pitas and vegetables on hot rocks, another technical that was only orthogonally about baking.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 11:26 PM on October 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've seen layered tres leches before, but it seemed like a silly idea then and continues to seem like a silly idea. A soggy sponge cake does not work well with multiple layers.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:54 AM on October 9, 2022

As above, this was just embarrassingly bad. Terrible all around, for dozens of reasons. Like, I would genuinely feel ashamed to have been part of this debacle.

And I’m sad to see James go. He was a real delight, and I don’t think his week was as bad as it was made out to be.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:36 PM on October 9, 2022

I finally worked up the nerve to watch this episode and...yeah...not good. At all.
Tacos were just so wrong. And, really not a baking challenge. But, the tres leches cakes...Yikes! Reading this thread just did not prepare me for how wrong-headed the whole circus was.

This episode was a new low for the show.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:45 PM on October 9, 2022

The Great British Bake Off’s Mexican Week Felt Like a Half-Baked Idea [Vulture / Archive]
Great British Bake Off accused of cultural appropriation in Mexican week [Guardian / Archive]
posted by ellieBOA at 6:55 AM on October 10, 2022

Great British Bake Off accused of cultural appropriation in Mexican week

More like cultural defacement.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:22 AM on October 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Look, tack-o, taco, whatever....but "gwackymolo" is just unforgivable.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:26 AM on October 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

The Not-So-Great Defector Bake Off Ignores Mexican Week: I was also hopeful that our bakes would be delicious, since every Mexican pastry I’ve ever had has been delicious. To be confronted with a recipe for steak tacos felt like a slap across the face.

It's not really a spoiler for the blog, since it's in the headline - this week our intrepid bloggers refuse the challenge. They do complain at length about the concept and recipe and Paul Hollywood in general.
posted by the primroses were over at 9:41 AM on October 10, 2022 [7 favorites]

The pronunciation of taco in the UK has to do with how borrowed words with the ‘a’ sound are realised. It’s a complete opposite pattern to the US.

In the UK, “foreign” words like macho, pasta, twat and taco are typically marked with the ‘a’ sound as in ‘cat’, whereas these same words in the US are marked with a “foreign” ‘a’ sound as in ‘caw’. In the US, you can also sometimes see this in place names like Iran or Pakistan, where the very Americanized version sounds more like i-ran and the pronunciation that’s perceived as more global/non-American often sounds like i-rawn (Bush and Obama have a really nice contrast on this).

Both pronunciations achieve their same effects within their respective cultures, but the ‘rules’ for how to do that are swapped around.

It creates weirdness when you have multiple speakers trying to sound authentic (to what? Who?) and everyone’s pronouncing things differently to each other. It all becomes marked and ridiculous.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:48 PM on October 10, 2022 [8 favorites]

I think it'd be one thing if they were just pronouncing it tack-o or peeling the avocado, showing maybe but enough research, but more eye rolling. With everything else it becomes representative of the lack of care and an easy shorthand people refer to the shows flaws.
posted by Carillon at 6:42 PM on October 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

> And I wish they wouldn't show footage of people being visibly upset. It's not fair or kind.

I desperately miss Mel and Sue and their tactic for keeping the worst of the 'baker is visibly upset and this must not appear on TV however much the producers want it to' at bay (stand very close to baker and swear and say brand names, which cannot be aired on BBC). Stopped watching when that ghastly Noel came aboard.
posted by ngaiotonga at 1:48 AM on October 11, 2022 [11 favorites]

I deliberately am skipping this episode. I just can't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 AM on October 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

This episode is also being discussed on the blue, linking: Subjecting My Latino Self to Mexican Week on 'The Great British Bake Off' [Pajiba]
posted by ellieBOA at 7:30 AM on October 11, 2022

I think I will do my blood pressure a favor and just never watch this episode.
posted by Julnyes at 10:08 AM on October 11, 2022

Palate cleanser with Bruno Bichir
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2022

In the UK, “foreign” words like macho, pasta, twat and taco are typically marked with the ‘a’ sound as in ‘cat’,

"Twat" is not an English word?
posted by oneirodynia at 1:21 PM on October 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I know we are spoiled for choice in things to complain about in this episode, but among all the other horrors were those beans! Those were not refried beans by any stretch and certainly not appropriate for a street taco (which is what I think they were going for?). The wonderful street tacos that I have had in Mexico are generally a delicious little freshly made tortilla, with a spoonful of meat of choice (I love the lengua--beef tongue--when it is available) some chopped raw white onions and a sprinkle of cilantro.
posted by agatha_magatha at 1:56 PM on October 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I gave up on this after last season/series, because I was convinced that one of the two best bakers got sent home because of the floor pastry debacle and that Paul bullied Prue into agreeing with him then decided they should be dishonest about their reasoning (it should have been blunt and simple: "You served us floor pastries. You can do that with your own food in your own home, if you want to, but that is absolutely unacceptable from a professional baker, and we cannot be seen to endorse it. So this week, it's you").

Thanks, everyone, for your responses to this episode. It sounds extremely cringeworthy and I don't regret giving up on it at all.

Thanks, too, for recommending The Great Australian Bake Off (in a deleted comment? In one of the other episode discussions? I'm not finding it again). I'll have to look into that one.
posted by johnofjack at 2:10 PM on October 11, 2022

re: Mel and Sue: this is the first season I've watched since they left. Some friends have organized a weekly watchparty and it's great to be social and chat around a thing, but wow, the hosts and judges are dire (used to be whatever on PH, but have learned enough about him over the years I'm pretty aggressively soured on him). Jumping from golden era to this has been hard.

Are there particularly good episodes from previous non-S&M (I think they'd appreciate that) seasons I should check out, or have they all kinda been like this?

We were all pretty shouty at this ep.
posted by curious nu at 6:20 PM on October 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

re: Mel and Sue...Sue Perkins has new series on Netflix, Perfectly Legal. I think it drops this week.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 PM on October 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

@curious nu: No - the hosts post M+S have just been poor. Sandy was annoying. Noel is always annoying, and Matt is getting worse. If I had to pick, I'd go with the first season post Sandy with Matt and Noel. Matt was kinda sweet at that point.

Someone on the other thread, I think, mentioned this, but it's worth mentioning again: The Roku Channel (if you're in the US, at least) has the early seasons with M+S. They're just as good as I remember. They actually seemed like they wanted to be there and enjoyed the show. They didn't try stupid tricks; they were just good, knowledgeable hosts.
posted by hydra77 at 6:30 PM on October 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

I only see this show when I'm at the dentist, where it is used as an extra dose of Novocain, so I only saw this episode today. Even though you all told me how terrible it was, boy, was it terrible. You told me the tres leches cake would horrify me, but I was angry. Half of the joy of food is the culture that created it, and these judges completely lacked any understanding of what these things were. A concha is a simple cookie; you should not tart it up with concepts. A tres leches cake is a plain little miracle, not a scaffolding on which to pile frosting. I'm not even going to address the atrocity of having people make a taco when they don't know what a taco is.

Of course, I was there for a root canal. Perhaps I was in a bad mood.
posted by acrasis at 3:45 PM on November 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

« Older Movie: Argo...   |  Movie: Sissy... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments