Sell: An old favourite arrives just as one baker completely burns out.
There was a national outcry last week when The Great Kiwi Bake Off started without a *gasp* Technical Challenge.
Thank goodness then, that the tricky, judge-set baking test was there in week two - complete with blind tasting and instructions that are patchy as all heck.
After all, how do we know if a baker is worth their salt if they don’t try making something they’ve never heard of before?
(For the Bake Off uninitiated, the sanctioned description of a Tech-Chall, as we in the biz call it, will see the bakers given identical ingredients and the same, “pared-down” recipe… hopefully not one for disaster.)
“Make a pineapple upside down cake.”
“Make a caramel.”
Wait, what? HOW?!
It turns out, we mere mortals shouldn’t freak out.
Last week, Peppy Clayton was pegged as having a future in life coaching by one of his fellow contestants.
But it’s clear we should take a leaf out of Yoda Joel’s recipe book, after he delivered this corker, deadpan, down the barrel of the camera like it was an episode of The Office: “Going into the challenge and having no idea - I’m not too fazed about it. That’s how I live my life, really”.
Inspired. Inspiring. Like a rugby-playing Tony Robbins. Blessed be the (tropical) fruit.
Anyway, the series’ first technical challenge was set by Sue, and while Joel might be floating along without a stressed bone in his body, everyone else was far from relaxed.
The tent was on fire - almost literally, thanks to Vanessa’s baking paper - and Shannon forgot to line his tin altogether, making for some very sticky tension.
And while all this was going on, poor Ana had her own burning issues to worry about. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure caramel isn’t meant to smoke. Or be black.
After approximately 16 mentions of caramel, caramelisation, and caramelly things, the actual experts agreed with me (What? How?!) and it was Ana and Sonali’s cakes that were at the back of the pack.
Jeff took out the challenge closely followed by Joel, who responded with an Elvis-like, “Thankyouverymuch”. If this guy was any more laid back he’d be sliding down the walls of the tent.
Speaking of sliding down walls, slices were up next, and we were delivered a plethora of soggy bottoms, a few buttery biscuit bases and some plates of absolute slop.
Yes, a dog’s breakfast, a balls up, and poo. These, dear reader, are just a few of the ways the baker’s described their slices. Fills you with confidence, right?
Ginger slice was a popular choice, but Hannah’s attempted addition of hokey pokey was sabotaged in the fridge (the guilty party remains at large, so keep an eye out for any suspicious, sugar-fuelled behaviour).
Caramel slice was also a winner - although not really, when it came down to it. Joel’s final plate was a sludgy, soggy mess, while Larissa’s banoffee caramel slice was, uh, a bit of a bloody disaster to be honest.
And Clayton just kinda forgot what a slice actually is - his rhubarb Louise cake was “technically” a biscuit, according to the world famous #FleischlSchneider judging panel!
In the words of the ruined man himself, Cut me like a knife, guys! Why is it so tough to make a blimin’ slice?
On a positive note though, I’ve decided the lovely Jeff could sing to me while he bakes three-nut choccy slice every damn day of the week. And after the episode’s musical kick off, I am just hanging out for the Christmas album from hosts Madeleine Sami and Hayley Sproull.
These two are becoming increasingly watchable as a duo, but that is especially true of Sproull, who is a natural - funny, warm, and knows how to poke the contestants, judges and baked goods just enough to keep it on the kind side of snarky.
I mean who else could describe baking paper being peeled away from a cake as being “like a wax strip coming off” in one breath, then express how nervous she felt sending someone home in another?
Distracting her, at least, was the latest instalment from Sue’s growing collection of snazzy jackets, which are a pure vision of joy. Like the wardrobe of your favourite cool aunty.
And almost as snazzy as the sparkly marshmallow slice from Stacey, who is like your cool aunty’s even cooler daughter.
That slice, combined with a solid pineapple performance, saw Stacey - who is just the sweetest thing since sliced cake - take out Star Baker, and then it was goodbye from Ana, who was the second baker to be eliminated.
But like she said, that’s what happens when you burn things in the Bake Off tent.
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