Episode 5 of the Great British Baking Show opens on a double-blazered Mel and Sue. They are standing in a field full of tall, wispy grass and yellow flowers, and are doting on one contestant in particular — Ian — who absolutely demolished Desserts Week and seems to be pulling away from the pack. With 3 out of 4 Star Baker titles under his belt, Sue quips, “I can’t wait to wrap him in a foil cape and give him a good rub-down.”
And thus begins Alternative Ingredients Week! That’s right, the remaining bakers are verboten from using either sugar, gluten, or dairy in the challenges. Seeing as those three ingredients constitute the only reason we get up in the morning, we should have stopped watching. But we didn’t! And we sure are glad, because shortly after the theme is introduced, some of the bakers admit how they want to go Single White Female on Ian:
Signature Challenge: Sugar-Free Cake
First up, the bakers are asked to create sugar-free cakes. They can be any shape, size, or flavor, so long as they aren’t made with sugar. Honey, agave syrup, and fruit are acceptable substitutions. The bakers are given two and a half hours to create this abomination.
Three-peat winner Ian decides on a pear, ginger, and honey cake. Mat has chosen to do a carrot cake with dates and honey. Paul is doing a carrot cake too and is adding chopped pecans and agave nectar. Nadiya and Flora are both making sponge cakes with fruit jam fillings, while Alvin makes his go-to: pineapple upside-down cake. Tamal goes with polenta cake injected with grapefruit and blood orange juice.
The bakers learn there’s more to replacing sugar than just adding sweetness. Some fruits like pear and apple don’t work well as sweeteners. Most of the bakers go with a mascarpone or soft cheese icing, while Alvin decides to glaze his pineapple upside-down cake with agave syrup. Despite this and the simplicity of his cake, judge Paul Hollywood calls it “superb”. Flora’s looked beautiful, but because the sponge was so moist it seemed under-baked. Overall, the judges Mary and Paul are pleased with the cakes and we move on to the next challenge.
Technical Challenge: Gluten-Free Pita
Paul Hollywood picks this week’s technical challenge: twelve identical gluten-free pitas. (Here we learn that Americans pronounce it like “PEE-ta” whereas it’s “pit-UH” across the pond.) Among their ingredients is a mysterious, brown, powdery substance that smells particularly rank. As the bakers proceed with the recipe, the camera pans across the tent to catch each of their befuddled reactions.
Straight away, some of the bakers already look like they’re in trouble. Pita bread needs to be made with a sticky dough, as opposed to a wet dough. Alvin is probably in the worst shape, as he’s only ever eaten one pita bread. Sue quizzes Alvin and asks him, “Can you remember what it looked like?”
Alvin replies, “Like a triangle?”
Just before the blind tasting, Paul Hollywood says they’re looking for 12 “identically-sized pitas, nice and thin, with an envelope inside.” A lot of the pitas are too thick, doughy, and some don’t form enough of an envelope. It’s no surprise that Alvin comes in last place, while Nadiya — who has struggled with technical challenges in the past — comes in first. Ian is visibly worried and knows he needs to knock it out of the park with his showstopper.
Showstopper Challenge: Dairy-Free Ice Cream Rolls
The bakers have four and a half hours to make dairy-free ice cream rolls. Mary and Paul are looking for silky-smooth ice cream surrounded by jam and a light golden sponge. The bakers all use coconut milk as the base for their ice cream.
Both Ian and Nadiya decide to create an additional frozen element to go inside their rolls (this is, after all, the showstopper). Nadiya decides to add strawberry lime mousse to her chocolate ice cream roll, which will come with a henna-inspired design. Tamal is making passion fruit ice cream with pineapple jam. Mat’s following suit with his coconut ice cream and raspberry jam. Ugne decides to go all out with a chocolate and peanut butter ice cream and grape jelly. Paul Hollywood says he is not entirely convinced that the flavor profile will be on point. Ian, who seems to be having a ginger moment, is making mango ice cream with a desert/dessert island theme. Paul II is also going with a desert/dessert island-theme, only his cake comes with a fondant sunbather in a bikini.
After creating their ice cream, the bakers start rolling their logs. The jam is supposed to help neatly bind the sponge to the ice cream, but some of the bakers either haven’t made enough sponge to wrap their ice cream, or their ice cream is way too big. Ugne makes the mistake of rolling her jam into the ice cream instead of the sponge. Tamal’s sponge cracks on one side, and Alvin has to recruit Paul II to help wrap his roll. After the bakers set their ice cream rolls in the freezer, they begin on their decorations.
Onto the judging. Both Paul and Mary agree that Ugne’s cake looks very sad, and the peanut butter ice cream is just alright. Nadiya impresses them with her henna-designed roll, which Mary says looks “most exciting.” Tamal’s cake is also impressive, save for the cracked sponge. Flora’s cake looks nice, but the sponge and the flavors aren’t there. She fears she is in danger of going home. Ultimately, it’s Ugne’s mistake that sends her packing, and a tearful Nadiya is named Star Baker.
Tamal: “So it’s fifty percent grapefruit juice, fifty percent blood orange juice, and some honey as well. So it’s not fifty percent of the others. Ah, maths.”
Mary (on Paul II’s pita pocket): “Gosh, there’s room for all sorts of things in there.”
Also Mary (to Paul II’s sunbather decoration): “I think your lady needs to get a bit of sun to her.”
When Paul Hollywood plunges his knife into Paul II’s sunbather.
Next up? Pastries. Where dairy, gluten, and sugar will be back in full force.