The Great British Bake Off’s “German Week” leads to the season’s first devastating loss

Our Great British Bakers learn there's more to German baking than Black Forest gateaus.

The Great British Bake Off’s “German Week” leads to the season’s first devastating loss

Screenshot: The Great British Bake Off

It’s “German Week” on The Great British Bake Off, which, assuming they don’t do anything truly wild, is unlikely to be a problematic as “Japan Week” was.Prue starts the episode by literally unplugging Noel and Matt’s skit—the woman has taste! Right from the beginning, “German Week” is dubbed “Jürgen Week.” He does have a 50% star baker success rate.

For the signatures, the bakers will be tackling biscuit, which… didn’t we just do that a couple of weeks ago? This time, they’ll have to be German and there will have to be two types. The boundaries of this challenge are quite unclear, but basically, there is one shortbread biscuit which will be decorated to make it fit for a German Christmas, and another one that no one seems to be able to pronounce.

This challenge truly seems to be “any kind of biscuit so long as it’s pretty.” Filled, unfilled, hard, soft, big, small, Christmassy, secular, whatever!

Amanda, George and Lizzy are all in self-deprecating mode. George has put himself in a tricky position with a lacy patterned that would ideally need an additionally 24 hours or so. It’s a pleasant surprise when they come out prettily embossed.

Giuseppe’s orange and strawberry shortbreads are delicious with a modern and slightly minimalist prettiness; this man is having one of the most consistent runs the show has ever seen. Prue actually attempts to start a round of applause. Crystelle’s are also a triumph—dark horse Chigs flavors are still a little on the shy side—and Lizzie’s are a little messy but still fun to look at and to eat, which also applies to George. Amanda does a great job too. Freya isn’t quite bouncing back from a poor week with a few scorched raisins, and Jürgen’s tea biscuits and white chocolate horns earn him a handshake.

All in all, a pretty unexciting challenge—the broad brief meant we were comparing äpfel with orangen.

On to the technical, where they are making Prinzreententtort (a.k.a. Prince Regent cake), which no one but Jürgen can pronounce. But as cakes go, this is dreamy. Genoise is so light and soft, paired with thin layers of chocolate custard and coated in more chocolate. When done right, it really is something special to behold and to devour.

It can be a pain to keep the air in genoise, particularly in such thin layers. And if it gets knocked out or overworked, they will end up with 8 rubbery pancake layers. Plus, it’s a tricky thing to gauge the baking times: Genoise tends to dry out a lot after its baked and it’ll be easy to end up with biscuits and custard. Amanda is veering into Maggie territory and seems a little defeated, while Lizzie is now doing a decent audition for a presenter on one of the spin-offs. Her commentary on Noel and the contestants is wryly observed.

Credit to this batch of contestants—most of them actually produced something you wouldn’t be ashamed to serve to your in-laws. Only Amanda has a disaster with a split mousse, whipped cream rosettes, and a domed shape. Chigs comes in second, again defying expectations by thriving in bakes with highly technical elements, and Giuseppe (a.k.a. Frank Zappa and Albert Einstein’s Italian love child) is top.

What makes Giuseppe such an endearing contestant is, despite his consistent excellence, he’s always seems so sincerely surprised by praise. Jürgen is slightly salty at ranking somewhere in the middle, saying when he does a German café he doesn’t have chocolate cake; he normally has a “cream cake or a Black Forest cake.” erm… what exactly does he think a Black Forest cake is exactly? Adding cherries doesn’t negate the chocolate, my friend.

Going into the showstopper, it’s anyone’s game. No disasters in the signatures means only Amanda really has something to prove. It’s a yeasted cake this week, meaning the warm temperatures in the tent will work in their favor. Paul informs us that regular cakes use baking powder as a raising agent instead and… that is not really true? I suppose bread is his forte after all.

Prue wants something very festive, seemingly unable to separate Germany from Christmas for some reason. Jürgen informs the judges that the tiered elements of this challenge are sacrilege to this German classic, so it’s possible the show didn’t learn anything about cultural sensitivity from “Japan Week” after all.

Over-kneading will lead to overproduction of gluten and bread-like texture, which would not be right. But wisely, Crystelle is enriching her dough to create a brioche which will give her a cake-like texture even if she overhandles it. Giuseppe is attempting Italian-German fusion, but for my money, the most delicious sounding one is George’s chocolate and tahini flavor combination. Freya remains impressively chill throughout all this, even if the judges seem cynical about her concept.

Lizzie’s cake breaks when she’s turning it out, but she has enough decorative elements to cover it up. When in doubt, psychedelic is a solid design choice. Paul agrees and Prue thinks it could be sweeter, but our wise-cracking Scouser has definitely done enough to ride through to another week. Crystelle’s is fantastic, Amanda’s flavors are unbelievable, one of the best tasting things Paul has had “for a long time.” Giuseppe does another “amazing job” with a light panettone-like Italian/German/cake/bread hybrid.

Freya is in serious trouble, as is George. Despite great flavors, the execution of the bakes weren’t quite right, and Jürgen’s is also a little too more on the bread side.

Star baker goes to wonderful Giuseppe! But making Jürgen watch Giuseppe win “German Week” feels a little sadistic. The person leaving us this week is Freya, and it’s a travesty. She’s been an incredible talent throughout the show and really pushed the boundaries of what vegan baking could be. It’s a really sad loss, and awful to watch her crying as she hears the news. Everyone seems pretty devastated to see her go and I hope she gets lots of opportunities off the back of this.

Next week we cross the half-way mark for “Pastry Week.”

Stray observations

  • Poor Freya has been receiving a lot of abuse online because apparently, her love of horse riding is incompatible with her veganism and the internet is a nightmare. Well, I hope she’s receiving enough love to counterbalance it. Truly a remarkable young woman.
  • Noel had to leave as he’d taken ill would normally be unremarkable but with the covid implications, feels kind of dark.
  • I live for salty Jürgen.
  • Another male-dominated week. C’mon Crystelle! You are our only hope!

Join the discussion...