Great British Baking Show Power Rankings – Dairy Week

Before we begin, I want to address the horrific brutality of this week’s Technical Challenge. (The spoilers start now, don’t say I didn’t warn ya!) Let the record show that at this point in the season, Prue and Paul have both assigned two Technicals each. Paul, whose reputation as a colossally fussy hardass precedes him, has assigned two Technicals that at least a few bakers were able to pull off. Prue, who has no such reputation, has assigned two Technicals that ruined the very lives of every baker in the Tent. This week’s showing was the worst overall Technical performance in years.

And I would like to state for the record that I’m almost surprised it didn’t go worse. This Technical was comprised of four phases, three of which were nightmarish all on their own. First, the bakers had to make a rough puff pastry. I’ve never made a rough puff myself, but I’ve watched enough GBBS to know it’s a royal pain, one that trips up multiple bakers year in and year out. Second, the cheese curd the recipe called for looked like one of the nastiest substances ever conjured. There’s no way any human could cook such a gloop and feel confident they are doing things right.

Finally, and most horrifically for someone of my level of artistic talent (none whatsoever), all 12 pastries needed to be dusted with powdered sugar in the shape of a Tudor Rose, the stencil for which needed to be drawn by hand. This is what Wikipedia says a Tudor Rose looks like. What the shit!? Who the heck is supposed to be able to hand draw a stencil of that, from memory, at a time when everyone is busy screwing up their esoteric pastries? I understand that the point of most Technicals is that they set the bakers up for failure, but sheesh.

Outside of the Technical, however, a lot of bakers had pretty damn good weeks. Once again, only one baker was Eliminated this week, largely because pretty much everyone stepped up their game in the Show Stopper, knowing it was necessary to stay safe. Now that the season is a full four weeks in, a clearer picture of which bakers can do consistently well – and therefore which bakers are in the best position to make it to the Finals – is beginning to emerge, and most of the initial bottom tier of bakers has now been Eliminated. This week, the top spots in the rankings have gone to bakers who have had good showings week in and week out, and those bakers who haven’t been able to achieve with regularity have taken a plunge.

As always, the methodology for these rankings can be found here.

Week 4 – Dairy Week

Signature Bake: Cultured Dairy Cake

Technical Challenge

-Recipe: 12 Maids of Honor (Rough puff with lemon curd and cheese curd filling topped with Tudor Rose decoration)

-Judge: Prue

-Judging Parameters: Well-layered rough puff. Quality of both types of curd and quality of decoration

-Did Anyone Succeed? Absolutely Not

Show Stopper: Display of Mishti (Indian Milk-Based Sweets) – 3 Varieties with 12 Pieces per Variety

Star Baker: Steph

Eliminated: Phil

10. Phil

Last Week: 9th Change: -1

Place in Technical: 6th

There’s an element of old-school, Classical period tragedy to Phil’s Elimination. Every week, you can examine the performance of the Eliminated baker and point out what went wrong in each individual bake, and why it was a worse problem to have than some of the other problems other bakers had with their bakes, and sometimes you can even pinpoint the exact moment he/she did something dumb that ruined his/her whole Show Stopper, and you get the idea. But with Phil, there’s that tragic element of downfall as a manifestation of a larger character flaw (as a baker, not as person – he seems like a decent enough dude). Phil just didn’t understand the situation he was in this week, and it cost him dearly. His Signature was messy looking when no one else had problems with the look of their Signature Bakes. 6th in the Technical isn’t awful in a vacuum, but since everyone was essentially tied for dead last it’s not a helpful placement, either. His Show Stopper stood out in a bad way, with childish design and cloying flavors (hearing Prue describe them made me taste extract chemicals for a second). In his cutaway interview after the Show Stopper judging, he complained that the challenge was “not my thing”. Phil, I hate to break it to ya, but in the words of a great champion, it doesn’t matter what your thing is once you’re in the Tent.

9. Priya

Last Week: 7th Change: -2

Place in Technical: 10th

Priya, on the other hand, did just enough to keep herself alive for another week. Her yogurt/banana bread cake in the Signature had a tough exterior, but somehow the texture inside was just fine, and the décor was good. That’s not a great start, exactly, but her Technical was so completely ruinous that the judges refused to even examine it. I’ve been watching this show for years now, and I’m not gonna swear that’s never happened before, but if it has, I don’t remember the specific instance, and I’m certain the total amount of times that’s happened can be counted on one hand. Once she presented her Show Stopper, she immediately got guff from the judges about the colors she used on her mishti, but they were well made and tasted great, and thus received passing marks. Still, even though Priya showed good potential after the first week, the only constant in her week-to-week performance has been mistakes, and she’s been on a steady decline in the rankings ever since. Some mistakes were major and others were minor, but as the field thins, Priya will need to clean things up, or her time in the Tent is going to end soon.

8. Helena

Last Week: 10th Change: +2

Place in Technical: 9th

Helena has been a fixture in the lower portions of these rankings for the entirety of the season, and while she didn’t emerge as a dark horse Semifinals contender in Dairy Week, she did put together her best showing of the season to date. Her Signature cake was the most ambitiously decorated of all, and she nailed both the structure of the design and the bake itself. Helena has done well in the Show Stopper more often than not, and this week was no exception. The sweets display was praised both for its look and for its flavor; Prue, in particular, seemed to really dig the lemon in the biscuits. That said, Helena did exceptionally poorly in the Technical, forgetting to add water to her pastry crust. Keep in mind, we haven’t had Pastry Week yet this season, and you know it’s coming at some point. And in general, Helena has yet to do all that well in the Technical. Even if she continues to do well on both the Signature and Show Stopper in the coming weeks, that will not be able from being placed in the near-bottom of the Technical week in and week out.

7. Michael

Last Week: 5th Change: -2

Place in Technical: 7th

As always, the primary concern with Michael is his mindset. After last week’s turn as Star Baker, Michael got off to about the worst start imaginable, with a Signature cake that, while still plenty tasty, split almost exactly in half in the pan. The cake required emergency surgery to assemble, and even though he was able to put the cake together, there was no hiding such a colossal problem. While it’s plenty understandable why Michael got as down on himself as he did in the wake of such a catastrophe, the fact that he was so focused on what went wrong bodes poorly. The dang cake still tasted fine, y’know? He had a great Show Stopper all-around, too, with excellent visual contrast between his varieties of mishti, and wonderful, subtle flavors to boot. In terms of raw talent, Michael has always been one of the more promising bakers in this year’s Tent. But his problem is that he always bakes nervous, and a nervous baker is almost always an Eliminated baker in the long run.

6. Henry

Last Week: 8th Change: +2

Place in Technical: 3rd

Dairy Week played out as a sort of “Best and Worst of Henry” mixtape. When Henry is at his best, he is precise and methodical. This is the Henry we saw in the Signature. His cake wasn’t flashy, but the decoration that was present was extremely tasteful, extremely neat, and extremely well-defined. The cake itself was well-baked and delicious, to boot. However, when Henry is at his worst, it’s invariably because he’s attempting to show off skills that no one is asking him to show off, resulting in bakes that are less than the sum of their parts at best and colossal botches at worst. This is the Henry we saw in the Show Stopper. For reasons that are unclear, Henry decided that he needed to make actual ice cream for one of his mishti; the ice cream didn’t set and looked like barf. Again (and I cannot stress this enough), no one asked him to do this, and it’s hard to see why he felt the need to make things harder on himself when making things harder on himself has screwed up his bakes week in and week out. That said, it’s worth pointing out that Henry does do well in the Technical consistently, so if he can finally learn to bake within his means he could go far.

5. Alice

Last Week: 3rd Change: -2

Place in Technical: 8th

After Biscuits Week, Alice rocketed straight to the top of these rankings on the strength of a rock star-caliber performance. She slayed in all three phases in a way that seemed to establish her as a force to be reckoned with. And now, a couple weeks later, that world-beating performance seems like a flash in the pan. Unlike Bread Week, Alice did just fine in Dairy Week as didn’t appear to be in danger of Elimination, but what is becoming consistent about her performance is the occasional blandness of her bakes. Her Signature looked nice enough and had the right texture, but didn’t taste like much. Alice, like most everyone else in the Tent this week, stepped it up in the Show Stopper, with mishti that simulated cheesecake and carrot cake while remaining true to the parameters of the challenge. She also did well with the look and presentation. Still, not being good at flavors almost always spells doom in the long run, and more distressingly, Alice hasn’t done particularly well in the Technical outside of Biscuits Week. Alice can probably hang on for a while, but she will need to do better to make the Semifinals.

4. Michelle

Last Week: 2nd Change: -2

Place in Technical: 5th

Michelle had a low-key rough go of things this week, in a way that raises concerns about her place in the Tent’s hierarchy. Prior to this week, Michelle had shown good skill with the flavors and textures of her bakes, but occasional struggles with neatness and decoration. In Dairy Week, it seemed that the opposite was true. Her Signature received high marks in the looks department, but the texture wasn’t quite right (and, as Paul mentioned in an interview clip, the use of cultured dairy in the cake was intended to test texture specifically). Similarly, her Show Stopper looked great, and like Michael, Michelle was praised for the visual contrast between her varieties of mishti. But while they weren’t disasters on the inside, one of her mishti featured subpar rice pudding in a week where almost everyone’s Show Stoppers tasted pretty good. Michelle hasn’t ever done too well in the Technical, either, which is obvious cause for concern. Michelle is still one of the Tent’s better bakers, but it’s no longer clear that her skills are Finals-caliber.

3. Rosie

Last Week: 6th Change: +3

Place in Technical: 4th

Rosie had a quietly excellent Dairy Week, and appears to be capitalizing on her already demonstrated potential. As such, she is owner of the biggest leap forward in this week’s rankings. Her Signature cake checked all the boxes, with good texture and good (albeit potent!) limoncello flavor. Similarly, her Show Stopper was ambitious in its design and still well-executed. Not only did the cardamom and saffron she used in her mishti come through aromatically, they also enhanced the actual flavors nicely. Like everyone else, Rosie didn’t do great in the Technical, but if you’re gonna have a rough Technical anyway, it’s still better to come in 4th than it is to come in 8th, as she did last week. Like Michelle, week-to-week performance in the Technical is Rosie’s biggest concern. Rosie hasn’t had a bad practiced bake since her Cake Week Signature, and in that sense hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Better Technical scores will solidify her standing as an emerging contender.

2. Steph

Last Week: 4th Change: +2

Place in Technical:

At the risk of stating the obvious, Steph put together a fantastic (and fantastically auspicious) performance, not only in the sense that she won Star Baker but also in the sense that this was the week Steph made her case for contention clear. Steph’s first couple of weeks were decidedly mixed; a consistently good Cake Week gave way to a middling Biscuits Week, making her overall skill level hard to discern. But after two good weeks in a row, Steph’s outlook is excellent. If Steph showed weakness this week, it was in the Signature, which was well-baked but may or may not have been a too rich for Prue’s liking. But her Show Stopper was excellent all around, and is one of the few times in Tent history someone has used rose flavoring effectively; there’s usually not enough (compare and contrast with Phil’s Signature) or far too much. Steph also came in 1st in the Technical, and while that doesn’t mean a lot this week, some of the judges comments resembled compliments, if you squint, which means she was miles ahead of everyone else.

1. David

Last Week: 1st Change: 0

Place in Technical: 2nd

Four weeks into the season, it may seem strange for David to have claimed the top spot in these rankings for three of those weeks, given that he has yet to win Star Baker. While he has yet to claim the top weekly prize, however, David has come just short in every week except Bread Week, and has done the best job of consistently performing at a high level. Dairy Week was no exception. His Signature was well-baked and had good flavors, and the same was true of his Show Stopper. His Technical still sucked, despite the 2nd place finish, although again, if you’re gonna suck no matter what, it’s always better to pull a high placement while doing so. With all of the other bakers, even the ones who have done well, there’s a way to envision how she or he would fall short of the Finals. With David, this is much harder to do. He always puts together a top performance, and outside of a tough Show Stopper in Bread Week, he’s shown almost no signs of slowing down. At this point, seeing him go home before the Finals would qualify as a shock.

Next week is something called Roaring 20’s Week, which conjures up vivid images of the horrors of traditional British cuisine. What does a cooking show look like when all the cooking looks like shit? I guess we’ll see, huh? I’ll be back next Thursday to examine where everyone stands in the wake of the nightmares to come. Later!

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