Well, that was intense.
Four humans entered The Bake Off Tent for semi-final week. Four humans walked out at the end of the episode.
And in between, there was a whole world of drama.
Who knew chocolate could be so emotional?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves - like a good baker, we need to be methodical, we need to start at the beginning.
Sue warned our final four - Stacey, Hannah, Annabel and Jeff - to be firm, but gentle in the Technical Challenge.
Dean was less inspiring when he said (thankfully away from the bakers) he wasn’t sure he’d even attempt to make whatever was in store for them!
The theatrics were kicked up a notch with the contestants starting the bake at staggered times - whatever could that mean?
(Well, if you’ve ever watched an episode of this wonderful franchise you’ll know exactly what that means - a soufflé.)
Soufflé are mystical beasts - and quite delicious. Also they remind me of the pub quiz master who, ironically - or maybe not, pronounced them “soffle” when they were the answer to a long-forgotten question.
What a way with words for someone who gets paid to have his way with words…
Stacey kicked things off. She hadn’t made a chocolate soufflé before, but admitted she thought they would pop up somewhere along the way. She was also making her first custard… who are you woman? What on earth is your game plan?
Hannah is excited, because she has never made one before either. What did these people actually do in preparation for this show?!
Jeff (who along with Annabel has done this sort of thing before) went rogue - filling the ramekins to the very top, rather than the advised three-quarters full.
And by jove, that rebellious streak got him into trouble. Too full = not cooked enough. And yet somehow, he managed to sneak into second place.
Because the judges were sitting nearby for a blind taste-test, or maybe because the slightest noise might scare the soufflé into shrinking, there was a lot of whispering by manic bakers sitting on the floor, staring wistfully into their ovens.
Which made the bleeping of Hannah’s foul-mouthed breakdown at an early oven exit all the more startling!
It didn’t stop her from taking out top spot though. She had some corker soufflés. Cursing for the win!
The shadow of tragedy was creeping over The Tent as the Showstopper Challenge got underway.
The judges wanted a simple chocolate cake - with at least two layers, white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and decorations from tempered chocolate. Yeah, very simple.
Hannah used the recipe she baked for her own wedding, while it turns out Jeff catered his wedding too, which blows my mind.
I had enough trouble turning up and brushing my hair without vomiting with nerves when I got hitched, but then that’s probably why I’m not inside that tent learning what a soufflé is.
Stacey’s stunning, cartoon-like white chocolate cake is beautiful, if a touch dry.
Hannah’s heavy-as-three-bricks truffle cake was delicious enough for her to be called “our mystical baker” by Psychic Sue.
And Jeff was a man of simple, restrained elegance: a cake with 10 layers, including a pistachio dacquoise, raspberry jelly, ganache, sponge cake, chocolate shell and a mirror glaze. Yeah, very restrained….
And then, of course, there was Annabel. Poor wee Annabel, who couldn’t quite make it to the end of the challenge after she fell ill mid-bake.
The signs of her demise started early, but at the same time, really came out of nowhere.
A pained look here, an extra sip of water there. Blood on her hands (don’t worry, that was just the plums) and cracking cakes taking just a little bit longer to cook than everyone else’s.
One minute she was confident she could get something delicious on the plate, the next, she was outside in tears and shaking like a tiny leaf, unable to continue.
It was all over in a flash, but certainly shook the other contestants in The Tent.
Hannah, a particularly weepy mess, was worried about her pal. These bakers have certainly become a bit of a team during all of this, which is very sweet and very uncompetitive.
After some tense times and Very Official Deliberation by a slightly stressed Sue and Dean, , Jeff was named Star Baker and Annabel was allowed to stay to compete in the finale. After all, to boot her out for something that was completely out of her control would have been “unfair”.
It was a move that was very in-tune with Bake Off’s DNA. There is no cash prize, and perhaps if there was, the other bakers wouldn’t have been as eager to have her back in the kitchen.
But as it (cake) stands, our fab four will continue through to the finale next week hand-in-hand.
The Nicest Show On TV retains its crown yet again, and I really want a slice of chocolate cake.
The Great Kiwi Bake Off is on TVNZ 2 on Tuesdays at 7.30pm and then on TVNZ OnDemand.
Bridget Jones is a TVNZ publicist and former entertainment reporter.