“Slack” is one of the most glorious words in the English language. It can mean physically loose, like a badly anchored tent rope. It can be made plural for “slacks”, those most evocatively provincial of garments. And, when I was growing up in Leeds, it was a one-syllable insult encapsulating not only laziness at work, but dubious levels of sexual choosiness, too.
Now – thanks to judge Paul Hollywood on BBC Two’s The Great British Bake Off – it also applies, in a new and unique way, to custard. Tonight’s challenges, all on the broad topic of “desserts”, required two different kinds of custard. There was the lighter crème anglaise for the technical challenge of the île flottante – and then the thicker custard of the signature trifle.
It was that trifle custard which Hollywood frequently judged to be “slack”. Custard that is too thin won’t, you see, create a cohesive layer in the trifle – and those layers need to be proudly visible through the glass bowl. “The custard is very slack,” said Hollywood to Mark – who, surprise surprise, would ultimately be one of two bakers eliminated. “The problem is, the custard’s quite slack,” he explained to Beca – who once again hung on, but mainly on the strength of her petits fours.
But it was Deborah whose custard came most unstuck. She managed accidentally to steal Howard’s perfect custard from the fridge for her trifle – meaning that her own “far too slack” custard ended up in Howard’s trifle, putting a curse on his carefully constructed layers.
In the end, Deborah also had to be eliminated. Once again – as with last week’s egregious use of props by Frances – it wasn't clear whether the rule book had (or should have been) thrown at Deborah over the custard-stealing incident. But the poor woman’s petit fours did for her as well – they were, if tasty, a complete mess.
One tactic that the rules apparently allow is the bringing of any and all kinds of tools from home. Christine was crowned star baker, and not only on the basis of her louche-looking piña colada trifle. Her brandy-snap cones were created on a pointed wooden implement that had been made specially for her, by her long-suffering husband, on a lathe.
And speaking of the rules, I have two more quibbles from tonight’s episode. First: what, precisely, about making an île flottante fits the definition of “baking”? To my small mind, baking necessarily involves an oven – and no amount of meringue-poaching, custard-swirling or sugar-spinning can legitimately be offered as a substitute.
Second, Frances was off again with her outrageously pre-prepared presentation – this time, turning up with a “gramophone record” as the plate for her Nutcracker Suite-themed petits fours. I’m starting to wonder if Frances’s surname is “Faust”, because she appears to have made a deal with the devil to get away with all sorts of sins on the Bake Off. So I have resolved to do God’s work, by keeping a very close eye on her from this point on.
This week’s best…
Beca’s perfect little purple macarons
White stilton in Howard’s petit four biscuits
Paul Hollywood put-down
“As a petit four, if someone gave me that, I’d send it back to the kitchen for sure and ask for the chef”
Mary Berry put-down
“These meringues are actually weeping”
more people need to watch this, it's basically the nice, very sweet grandma of MasterChef