The Great British Bake Off: Biscuits
August 31, 2016 6:38 PM - Season 7, Episode 2 - Subscribe

It is week two of The Great British Bake Off, and it is crunch time as Paul and Mary set the bakers three biscuit challenges.

The bakers start with a signature challenge, but who will snap first with just a few hours to make 24 identical decorated biscuits? Hidden under the gingham cloth is a technical challenge that requires perfect piping to avoid a crumbling whirl.

Sue Perkins drops in for tea and history as she discovers the etiquette of dunking biscuits, from Victorian high society right back to Greek survival biscuits. The final showstopper challenge requires precision baking to build a biscuit structure that reveals a little more about each of the bakers.

description via bbc iplayer
posted by everybody had matching towels (33 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This seemed like a really accident-prone episode. Seemed like every moment there were biscuits falling on the floor or some bit of gingerbread collapsing.
posted by peacheater at 7:12 PM on August 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wait, which Weasley is he supposed to be? Between punting on the river in Cambridge and singing in the show tunes choir and making little bee-decorated cookies, and his ticking off a list with a schematic diagram for his gingerbread - this is Bill Weasley, the Headboy, right?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:07 PM on August 31, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh, man, so many collapsing gingerbread houses. And I was very disappointed that Benjamina's and Selasi's didn't turn out better. But go Candace! And Tom will need to practice his piping, I suspect.

Engineers really do seem to do well on this show, I'm thinking. Andrew's working the same way that Richard did a few seasons back: very design-oriented, very precise.

I would like to know why some of the Viennese Whirls ended up flat, though. Were those the ones that weren't chilled before baking?
posted by suelac at 9:03 PM on August 31, 2016


According to Mary Berry's recipe, chilling the dough after piping it on the sheet helps it keep shape.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:02 PM on August 31, 2016


That episode was filth, I approve.

I've tried baking Viennese biscuits once, and the recipe I had instructed you to place the piping bag in the fridge for fifteen minutes, which is a cruel joke. As always, Mary is right — pipe them soft and chill the baking sheet instead. The sagging ridges were definitely because the butter wasn't cool enough to hold up until the dough started to set.
posted by lucidium at 2:46 AM on September 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


I always enjoy the gingerbread episodes as I've been making one a year since I was five for christmas. Internally cringing each time they fell and also criticising in my head their technique. Did it come earlier this year? I thought in previous seasons it happened later on and I think that explained a lot of the mistakes. Just nerves. I missed how long they had to make them. I've done elaborate victorian houses but they took a few days. The lighthouse I made (which is basic squarish shape) took 2 hours to construct. I always wish they had more time for that challenge to just see what they could come up with.
posted by kanata at 8:39 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


A few seasons back the gingerbread houses were later on in the competition. I liked seeing it in the second episode this year. Mainly it's fascinating to see previous advanced challenges earlier because it makes me eager to see how they're raising the difficulty each year.
posted by toomanycurls at 10:18 AM on September 1, 2016


If you're not following the contestants on Twitter, I heartily recommend doing so. They're all adorable. Somebody was a jerk to Rav earlier today and Benjamina and Selasi stuck up for him (apparently Rav and Selasi and Andrew are all good friends outside of Bake Off now <3).
posted by stolyarova at 3:28 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


There seemed to be a lot more innuendo than normal (especially considering that Sue wasn't in the tent).

Both this episode and the first one had more disasters than usual, too.

I don't think I'll ever bake a gingerbread house, so I like living vicariously through the bakers. Kate's was really cute. She reminds me of Frances in her choice of flavours and ability to decorate.
posted by minsies at 12:06 AM on September 2, 2016


I feel like they're all so stressed out this year! (With the exception of Selasi, of course.)
posted by andrewesque at 5:50 AM on September 2, 2016


Andrew, Benjamina (this episode) and Tom were also pretty chill.
posted by stolyarova at 9:18 AM on September 2, 2016


Engineers really do seem to do well on this show, I'm thinking. Andrew's working the same way that Richard did a few seasons back: very design-oriented, very precise.

Also advertising people, I thought - folks who cared a lot about visual design and wanting everything to look juuuust right while also knowing what’s feasible.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:01 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


> Engineers really do seem to do well on this show, I'm thinking. Andrew's working the same way that Richard did a few seasons back: very design-oriented, very precise.

I suspect the producers are casting engineers (and highlighting the 'engineering' aspect of their bakes) as a deliberate appeal to the male viewer.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 4:26 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think that’s part of it - definitely making sure that baking comes across as butch and not just a woman’s activity. (Ditto the general diversity of the cast.)
posted by Going To Maine at 6:16 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Speaking of the diversity of the cast: I wish I could watch the early episodes (when the cast is larger) with a Brit nearby to expose/explain all the subtext of the different dialects. It seems (at least from ~5000 miles away) that they are making an effort at representing a broad swath of the population.
posted by janell at 11:54 AM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am in favor of moving up the gingerbread construction challenge to happen with a larger group and before they've all gotten their feet. Empathizing with someone's all-too-obvious imminent gingerbread catastrophe is such excellent television!
posted by janell at 11:57 AM on September 3, 2016


There seemed to be a lot more innuendo than normal (especially considering that Sue wasn't in the tent).

I must confess I guffawed at "Would you please hold my jugs?", and "Mary will you eat the carpet?" "Oh yes!".

Is it just me, or is this year's group.... not as good as last year's? Some of the mistakes seem elementary and the piping is shocking in some cases - I could pipe better, and that's saying something as I'm terrible. I think it's compounded by people being too ambitious maybe? It seems like a lack of practice or something?

I was amazed Candace managed to get her pub together, so many elements
posted by smoke at 7:48 PM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think that the first few weeks are often terrible. I'd definitely agree that these have been pretty dang bad, but my recollection is that the previous year also had some awful starts too.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:13 PM on September 3, 2016


my recollection is that the previous year also had some awful starts too.

Last season, Nadiya came in dead last in the first technical. (!)

So, yeah, everything is still very much up in the air. Except for Lee and Louise, I guess.
posted by suelac at 10:04 PM on September 3, 2016


Omg Selasi on Twitter just now.
posted by stolyarova at 9:28 AM on September 4, 2016


My link seems to be broken - that's what I get for trying to post on mobile. But Jane shared a picture of blackberries on a bush, forlornly commenting that the best ones always seemed just out of reach.

Selasi replied:

"@Janebbakes the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice? Hehe"
posted by stolyarova at 9:38 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm so grateful for the folks on YouTube who upload these so we can see them in the US. BBC, get your act together!! What ever happened to GLOBAL service!!?

I was slightly frustrated by Paul and Mary's continued assertion that biscuits had to snap. While I get that the first challenge was clearly to make decorated "sugar shapes" (ie: elaborately iced hard cookies), is there no place in UK baking for a lovely, soft, chewy, pillowy sugar cookie? As a not-fan of brittle cookies I'm sad for you if those aren't a thing.

Agree that basically all of the gingerbread (even the pub) was below the standard we've seen in prior years. I googled around a bit to check my memory, and found these:

Last season's challenge (also in ep 2) was 36 biscuits in a gingerbread biscuit box which included Mat's Firetruck. Alvin did not finish and presented his pieces neatly stacked. (This was the episode where Sue broke the lid to Nadiya's box.)

Season 5 (biscuits also ep 2) featured Luis' George and the Dragon, Chetna's seaside carnival, Diana's train, and Kate's tea party (lots of photos in this BBC slideshow).

Series 4 had the biscuits as episode 5, and included a Dalek (which was the last place design), Howard's tea pagoda, and the Bavarian clock tower.

Series 3 (episode 8) featured (all of gingerbread) a barn, an amazing Roman Coliseum, a birdhouse, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace. Full pictures here.

Series 2 and 1 did not have a "build things" type challenge.

Now, last year's challenge was explicitly boxes, which are slightly easier to do, but series 5 challenge was pretty much comparable to this year's (had to tell a story, needed to have height), and I feel like the results were much, much better. The decoration skills for this group were just so sorely lacking. As we were watching it, we were wondering if the rain/damp was playing a factor.

UK people -- where was Sue?

Tom is growing on me. Might be his bright blue eyes, though. I'm sad they didn't actually tell the story of why they were hanging off the mountain.
posted by anastasiav at 8:02 AM on September 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sue had a bereavement that meant she couldn't be at the filming for that week.

We do have soft cookies, but they're cookies, not biscuits. A biscuit has to be crisp.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 3:03 AM on September 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


Seconded theseldomseenkid, biscuits are solid and crunchy. Cookies are a different thing. We have cookies. They pretty popular and available in 99% of supermarkets. This is the British Bakeoff, though, so most of the challenges focus on British baking. (With regular technical challenges from far-flung parts.)

I would quite like to see a cookie challenge though as one needs good skills to to balance brown and white sugar, egg, flour, raising agents, fat and fillings, temperatures and create the perfect cookie as Kenji Lopez Alt discusses. It's far harder than it looks...
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 4:30 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Woah- an an American I have had it hammered into my head forever that "people in the UK call everything that an an American would call cookies 'biscuits,' full stop, if you were to say the word 'cookie' they would look at you like you had two heads." This is mildly mindblowing.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:05 AM on September 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


UK biscuits can also be savory, right? AKA what Americans would call "crackers" (which, to me at least, should always be crispy, unlike US cookies) are typically also called biscuits? This is what I've taken away from Bake Off viewings.
posted by andrewesque at 8:49 AM on September 6, 2016


showbiz_liz, within my lifetime (I'm 31) the presence of cookies in UK supermarkets has become more widespread! I'm pretty sure I remember a time before you could buy many soft cookie-style things in shops, and it being pretty exciting when they became available, possibly around the mid/late 90s.

Speaking of the late 90s, this webpage is sticking closely to the formatting of the 1997 web, but is interesting. I hadn't really thought about the difference in etymology.

You can have savoury biscuits though I think I'd call most of them crackers.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 12:08 AM on September 7, 2016


ShowbizLiz, this is from the UK's biggest supermarket chain : http://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=276131923. You would find similar bags of cookies in every supermarket and often in petrol stations. They are often a top choice if you are bringing in office treats or birthday snacks. Also see Millie's Cookies, and many many many other brands of varying quality.

Andrewsque, I would say that yes, there are savoury biscuits (eg, oatcakes, cheese biscuits, etc) and I think there's been a GBBO challenge on these (lots of parmesan and thyme flavours, perhaps). These similar in texture to your regular biscuit.

Crackers in my opinion are different, they are thinner, brittle (the ur-cracker would be a Jacob's cream cracker). These are more like Ryvita than a biscuit.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 12:44 AM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


On the converse, one of these years, it would be interesting for the technical challenge in the biscuit episode to feature American biscuits (although those would be more suited to the bread episode). Maybe have Paula Deen as a guest judge.
posted by LionIndex at 5:07 AM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the late 90s, this webpage is sticking closely to the formatting of the 1997 web, but is interesting. I hadn't really thought about the difference in etymology.

This is fascinating, thanks! I had no idea that NYC was the epicenter of the word 'cookie'. (We have a famous NYC cookie which is unlike anything I've had elsewhere - sort of a half-cookie, half-cake. Are these known in the UK? They're awesome! Maybe one day I'll see them on GBBO...)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:27 AM on September 7, 2016


I associate black-and-whites more with Jewish Delis than anything else. Definitely seen them in other places and states, though it’s rare.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:17 PM on September 7, 2016


I associate black-and-whites more with Jewish Delis than anything else. Definitely seen them in other places and states, though it’s rare.

Our local supermarket recently started selling these very cookies (Portland, ME) and you have now answered a question I had about why they are decorated that way, but have perhaps raised some questions about what demographic shift led them to appear here.
posted by anastasiav at 3:40 PM on September 7, 2016


Did anyone else notice Mary Berry stumbling over the Girl Guides pledge? My guess is that when she first learned it, there was a 'King' in it instead of a 'Queen'.
posted by bq at 9:55 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


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