What the heck was that?
Last week, I said that I expected a “bloodbath”, and I would have bet real money that we would have seen this season’s promised double elimination this week. That didn’t happen – never lay down your hard-earned scratch on prop bets, kids – and while there was plenty of turmoil, the form that turmoil took was strange, confusing, and even a little disturbing. Did any of the bakers in the Tent really do all that well this week? Are there any bakers we can still trust to make it to the Finals? And just what in the world was up with that Technical Challenge? Why are the bakers making veggie burgers in the first place, and what are said veggie burgers even being judged on? Does it even matter? Why is this happening?
Bread Week was a week of chaos, and these rankings reflect that chaos. As success in Bread Week has historically been a good indicator of which bakers will succeed down the stretch, the upper tier of the rankings has seen the most shuffling, and once again, the top spot in the rankings has changed hands. All of the bakers who seemed entrenched as this season’s heavy-hitters, so to speak, visibly struggled in one or more challenges. No one knocked it out of the park, or even did particularly well, in all three phases. In short, Bread Week was good reminder that anything can happen in the Tent, and that anyone who remains in the Tent could still emerge as a contender down the stretch.
The methodology for determining these rankings can be found here. Everything from here on out is a spoiler, so consider yourself warned.
Week 3 – Bread Week
Signature Bake: Filled and Yeasted Tear and Share Loaf
-Recipe: Eight White Burger Baps (Buns) with Veggie Burgers
-Judging Parameters: Quality of kneading and gluten development. Quality and duration of proving. Lightness of texture. Some consideration to quality of burgers.
-Did Anyone Succeed? Yes. Henry and 1st and David in 2nd definitely succeeded; Steph in 3rd and Priya in 4th arguably succeeded
Show Stopper: Display of Artistically Scored Decorative Loaves
Star Baker: Michael
Last Week: 10th Change: -1
Place in Technical: 11th
Since the start of the season, Amelia seemed to struggle with attention to detail, and this finally caught up to her, as her little mistakes turned into big mistakes. Her Signature loaf was tasty, sure, but it was also rather lumpy and misshapen, and had giant chunks of peppers and onions floating around in it, messing up the texture. What was worse was her disaster of a Show Stopper, which both judges found lacking, albeit in different ways. Paul took her to task for her under baked loaves, seemingly unsure why she would have brought them out of the oven in their condition, and Prue didn’t seem to like her decorative scoring very much. When you have a rough Signature and an even rougher Show Stopper combined with a last place finish in the Technical, you’re almost certainly going home. Amelia was no exception.
Last Week: 11th Change: +1
Place in Technical: 8th
Bread Week was Helena’s most consistent performance to date. Unfortunately, she consistently under-performed, relative to her fellow bakers. In the Signature, her over baked cinnamon rolls were covered in icing, which meant it needed to be sliced up, which meant it failed to meet the ‘Tear and Share’ criteria. Better to whiff on the criteria in the Signature than in the Show Stopper, but still. In the first two weeks, Helena’s Show Stoppers saved her from threat of Elimination, and while she wasn’t under direct threat of Elimination this week, her Show Stopper was not up to that standard. It still looked great, to be sure, but the all-important definition on the scoring was lost, and the loaves themselves were dense and flavorless. Helena did enough to stay afloat this week, but her chances of staying the Tent over the long haul remain slim.
Last Week: 9th Change: 0
Place in Technical: 10th
Phil had his best showing of the season to date in Bread Week. His Signature was so well done, the judges barely had anything to say about it. His Show Stopper also received high marks, save for a comment or two from Paul about insufficient scoring. And even though he came in second to last in the Technical, the judges never mentioned him as being in real danger. (They also praised his veggie burgers, which is baffling. The burgers were better than most, but he still got 10th? Did they matter at all in the first place?) So why, then, is Phil stuck at 9th in the rankings, right where he was last week? Phil did pretty well in Bread Week, to be sure, but his ceiling is still defined. Set-In-Their-Ways Old Guys typically do very well with bread, and while his flavors didn’t chafe at the judges’ tastes this week, he may be right back to his old ways next week. Also, when your best week features a second to last Technical finish, that’s a bad sign.
Last Week: 5th Change: -3
Place in Technical: 1st
But an even worse sign is finishing 1st in the Technical and then still getting nearly Eliminated after the Show Stopper. Such was the fate of Henry this week, and the flaws in his Tent game are really starting to show through. Henry has shown flashes of brilliance in all phases of his baking game, but many of his individual bakes are marred by glaring flaws. His Signature looked extremely neat, with alternating black and white buns, but the flavors were off-balance, and the bread itself was bland. His Show Stopper was even worse, as it was unclear what aspects of it, if any, were any good. One of his fougasse loaves had paper stuck to the bottom, and all of them were a bit tough. His boule had unimpressive scoring, and was both under proved and under baked to boot. Henry keeps aiming extremely high with his bakes and coming short. He needs to dial back on flash and focus on his fundamentals, or the bad performances will continue.
Last Week: 7th Change: 0
Place in Technical: 4th
Priya, by contrast, had a perfectly fine week, albeit an undistinguished one. Her best performance was in the Technical, which Paul and Prue seemed to find mostly pleasing. Both her Signature and Show Stopper bakes were competently executed, but neither of them were flawless. Her cheese and jalapeno Signature looked and tasted great, but still got dinged for being over proved. Her Show Stopper had the inverse set of problems. The bake inside was great, but the decoration was not what the judges wanted. The scoring simply wasn’t deep enough, and the painting around the scores didn’t hide this problem. The bread itself didn’t taste like much, either. As ever, Priya did some impressive things in Bread Week, but she didn’t put it all together. If Priya is able to put together more complete bakes, she could become very dangerous, very quickly. If she never gets to that level, she will continue to chug along until she gets bounced.
Last Week: 4th Change: -2
Place in Technical: 9th
Like Priya, Rosie has shown lots of talent, but has yet to string together a series of three great bakes. Rosie’s biggest problem this time out was a rough 9th place spot in the Technical, which would have been of much greater concern were it not for pretty good showings in the Signature and Show Stopper. Her Signature was the most complete bake – soft but baked through, and beautifully flavored. The scoring on her loaves in the Show Stopper was the best of anyone’s; deep, neat, and well-defined. Too bad that the bread itself didn’t have much flavor, which was a recurring theme of the Show Stopper. The biggest concern for Rosie is consistency. In Biscuits Week, she did a great job all around, but in both Cake Week and Bread Week, the quality of her bakes seemed to vary wildly. If Good Rosie shows up week in and week out, she could make the Semifinals, at least. But it’s unclear if Rosie has that in her.
Last Week: 8th Change: +3
Place in Technical: 6th
How much is being awarded Star Baker worth in a week where no one really baked like a Star? Not to take anything away from Michael; he certainly had the best week we’ve seen out of him so far, but being the Star Baker is much more impressive in weeks like Biscuits Week, where multiple bakers do a top-notch job. Bread Week was not such a week, and Michael’s respectable but modest jump in the rankings reflects that. Michael’s Signature bake was superb, but he had problems in both of the other phases, with a dead-center placement in the Technical, and a Show Stopper loaf that burst open because the scoring was too deep. Still, Michael snagged Star Baker fair and square, and didn’t show much in the way of mental weakness in doing so. This was an auspicious performance, but can Michael capitalize on it in the weeks to come?
Last Week: 6th Change: +2
Place in Technical: 3
Steph’s bounce back towards the top of the rankings is reflective of a bounce back performance in Bread Week. Her Signature was over baked, but it looked good and the flavors were right. If she had left her buns in the oven during the Technical for a just a bit longer, she might have crawled her way into 2nd. Paul tried to ding her for under baking her Show Stopper, then had to take that back when he cut it open and found it was just fine. Those loaves also had the benefit of good flavors, which seemingly everybody else in the Tent struggled with. Steph quite possibly would have come away with Star Baker had she baked her Signature just a wee bit less; in general, the judges seem to be giving more weight to the Signature than in seasons past, which is odd, but them’s the breaks.
Last Week: 1st Change: -2
Place in Technical: 7th
So was Alice actually in danger of being Eliminated or not? Granted, she did not have a great follow up on her Star Baker turn from Biscuits Week, but after watching the episode twice, I don’t know which of her bakes put her in actual trouble. Both judges liked her Signature for the most part; it was a little dry, but it wasn’t bad overall. 7th out of 11 in the Technical is sub-ideal, but not the sort of placement that is normally cause for concern. Her Show Stopper didn’t have much flavor except for the seeds on her globe loaf, but everyone else had problems with flavor in the Show Stopper too, and if the judges thought other aspects of her bake were lacking, they mostly kept it to themselves. Alice definitely took a step back in Bread Week, though, and she will need to bring it next week to re-solidify her claim to contention, as having a tough Bread Week rarely bodes well for a baker’s Finals chances.
Last Week: 3rd Change: +1
Place in Technical: 5th
Michelle might have the most defined set of skills of anyone in the Tent. She does well week in and week out on both the Signature and Show Stopper, but her Technical scores flag a bit. This week was no exception, although she did bring her Technical score up a decent chunk from last week (5th of 11 is always better than 8th of 12). That said, neither of her practiced bakes were perfect this week. Her Signature was messy (a criticism she got last week for her dragon-shaped Show Stopper), but the loaf itself was properly baked and delicious. Her Show Stopper was one of the few this week to have discernible taste, even if her rye bread hedgehog was weirdly dense. Michelle has done pretty well for herself so far, and appears to have all the tools necessary for long-term success. Her Technical scores remain a concern, however; 5th place isn’t bad when there’s 11 bakers, but it won’t be long before 5th place could send her packing.
Last Week: 2nd Change: +1
Place in Technical: 2nd
It may seem odd for David to reclaim the top spot after his worst outing of the season, but make no mistake, his triumph in these rankings is mostly by default. It’s a reflection of the fact that none of the bakers did a great job in all three phases of Bread Week, which means that every baker’s overall skill level is now a matter of direct question. David had a bad Show Stopper, with burst open, bland loaves that were just barely on the right side of being baked at all. But this was his only truly bad bake off the season so far, and a bad day in the Tent can (and does) happen to anybody, even bakers who go on to win the season. His Signature was dense and didn’t have enough chopped fruit, but was otherwise fine. More importantly, his 2nd place finish in the Technical indicates he knows what he’s doing with bread, and further suggests that his subpar Show Stopper was a fluke. Bread Week was not David’s week by any means, but David still seems to be the most well-rounded baker in the Tent this season, and he’s back at #1 as a result.
Next week is billed as Dairy Week, which sounds like it could entail a lot of things. After all, lots of baking involves dairy in some form. Who’s going to show out, and who’s going to drop out? I personally have no idea, which is why I’m eager to find out! As always, I’ll reexamine where everyone stands next Thursday. See you then!