GBBS 2021 Power Rankings – Biscuit Week

Hello again and welcome back to the GBBS Power Rankings!

Before I get started, I’d like to ask for a quick show of hands. How many of you out there actually like gingerbread? As in, you find its texture and flavor appealing, and you would happily eat more than one gingerbread biscuit in a given sitting, and would do so for pleasure and not out of some diplomatic obligation? Please note that this question does not apply to ginger cookies, which have the moisture and texture of regular cookies, and are therefore capable of being pleasant to eat (my sister-in-law makes some particularly good ones); this question applies only to gingerbread, with its broken glass consistency and corrugated cardboard dryness.

Really? Oh wow, that’s way more hands than I thought would go up. If I may indulge in a follow-up question (and I may, because this is my blog and I can do what I want), why? You know that shit is gross, right? I cannot recall a single time in my life – not even in my youngest of days, when I was pudgy and sugar-crazed – that I found gingerbread a remotely appealing substance. The appeal of crunching down on on a thick shard of compressed spice dirt is simply lost on me, as is the appeal of using gingerbread for decoration.

Say you make a gingerbread house. Just what the fuck are you meant to do with it, exactly? You could let it sit around as a decoration, but if you do so, by the time it has been sitting around as decoration long enough to justify the effort put into its creation, any possible marginal utility that can be derived from eating a sweetened pastry will be long gone, even to the most depraved of pro-gingerbread sickos. Leave a gingerbread house out for even a day or two, and trying to eat any part of it after will feel like gnawing on a an old dog bone with some ground ginger sprinkled on it. If you let your gingerbread house remain just long enough to acknowledge its existence, and then dig in as soon as this is complete, then not only is the excess effort of crafting an aesthetically pleasing(ish) structure is entirely wasted, you’re still better off asking your local pizza parlor for some spare boxes, then dumping some sugar on them and digging in, from a flavor perspective.

All of this is to say that each year, Biscuit Week puts me in a bit of a tizzy, as the Show Stopper is, inevitably, Build a Gingerbread House, Except Like, Really Fancy, and Probably Not Actually a House. While I’ve only spent a brief time in the U.K., I saw nothing in that time to suggest that gingerbread house construction was regarded as a fundamental pillar of regional baking. Why is this considered a necessary test? Every other damn Show Stopper involves constructing some sort of baked goods stronghold or another; why is doing the same with biscuits considered so bloody necessary? This foisting of gingerbread architecture homework upon each and every Tent’s bakers is even more baffling when you remember that, at the start of every Show Stopper, one or both judges will take time out of their busy day to remind us all that it is not enough for a Show Stopper to look good, it must taste good, as well. And yet, how can that be possible when gingerbread is made all but mandatory? Either Paul and Prue secretly consider taste overrated, or their palettes suffer from terminal British-ism.

I want to say that there was a time when making 24 identical, filled brandy snaps would have made a perfectly fine Show Stopper, especially in the second week of a new season. Unfortunately, I don’t think that was ever true, with the possible exception of the very earliest seasons. Oh well, at least I didn’t have to eat any of these monstrosities.

Compiling this week’s rankings was a even more of a strange and arbitrary exercise than it normally is. The three bakers on top are the three clear favorites in the current Tent. After that, there’s at least one dark horse candidate, and possibly a second. After that, there’s everybody else, a peloton of pastry that proved rather difficult to separate. All of them (well, almost all of them) could potentially break away down the stretch of the season, but with the murderer’s row up top, their work is cut out for them. To the rankings!

Week 2 – Biscuit Week

Signature Bake: 24 Brandy Snaps

Technical Challenge

-Recipe: 12 Sandwiched Jammie Biscuits

-Judge: Paul

-Judging Parameters: Definition of stamp pattern; properly mixed and chilled dough. Uniform top and bottom biscuits with buttery, shortbread-like flavor and texture.

-Did Anyone Succeed? Jürgen and Giuseppe

Show Stopper: Interactive 3D Biscuit Toy

Star Baker: Jürgen

Eliminated: Jairzeno

11. Jairzeno

Place In Technical: 9th

Change: -2

There’s nothing too surprising about Jairzeno’s dismissal, as he didn’t really show much in his two-week Tent stay. Like last season, all of the bakers this year seem to have a good grasp on flavor, so Jairzeno’s competence in that department didn’t provide him with a leg up. As such, his time management gaffes took center stage. That said, I’m a bit dubious of Prue’s comments on his brandy snaps, as calling the chocolate and fruit combination too strong smacks of the unexamined bias that has plagued the judging in recent years. What does too strong mean in this context, exactly? It’s not like he used extracts, and the combination itself was well-received, so I get the impression Prue’s problem was that Jairzeno’s snaps simply tasted too much, which is closed-minded at absolute best. Too much flavor, what a fucking scandal. Not that a better Signature would have saved Jairzeno’s campaign; for the second week in a row, his Show Stopper looked an absolute mess, although at least he finished his design this time out, kind of. One of the masts on his ship broke clean off, and the decoration on the sides seemed all over the place, and the assembled ship lacked neatness, generally. The poor guy knew it wasn’t a great showing, too, which is always a bummer. So yes, I do think Jairzeno absorbed some unfortunate judging idiocy, but I also think that two bottom-half Technical finishes, two-quasi finished Show Stoppers, and obvious time management issues are enough to sink far more promising Tent stays.

10. Amanda

Place In Technical: 4th

Change: +1

Oh for fuck’s sake, it’s happening again, isn’t it? For the second week in a row, Amanda appears to have done just enough to survive another week; one more episode of this, and I’ll be forced to consider her Finals ticket all but punched. The judges’ charitable disposition towards Amanda’s Show Stopper simply baffles me. They both agreed that it was fine, except for the complete and utter structural collapse, a collapse due entirely to Amanda’s equally baffling decision to make her rocking horse out of brittle sugar cookies and not structurally sound gingerbread. I can recall a time, one not so far removed from our own, when the judges punished this level of hubris with Olympian vengeance. But for some reason, Prue and Paul regarded this utterly preventable disaster with a sort of “there, there” sympathy. Prue even went so far as to say the finished product looked good, except for the collapse, which I’d regard with great curiosity even if it were true. I saw enough wadded smears of dissolved sugar glue on the fractured base slats alone to hold up a life-size single engine co0kie Cessna; any compliment towards any aspect of the presentation here scans as Mary Todd Lincoln saying that actually, the play was pretty decent. I must stop short of saying that it was Amanda and not Jairzeno who deserved to go home; Jairzeno really did have a worse week, all things considered. But the sympathy Amanda received for the judges for presenting a bad Show Stopper was a reminder of last year’s baffling displays of kindness, and that makes me nervous that eventually, Amanda will remain while a better baker is sent home.

9. Lizzie

Place In Technical: 6th

Change: -1

It’s a bit of a bummer to put Lizzie this low in the rankings, as her continued refusal to take any of Paul’s bullshit remains an inspiration. She’s doing the lord’s work out there. And yet, this is as high as I can go. Two weeks in, and Lizzie has yet to present a bake that wasn’t some kind of messy-looking, and unfortunately for her, Paul instantiates the exact kind of small dick energy that requires pushing back against any and all perceived slights, no matter how petty. It was this imperative at work when he jumped down Lizzie’s throat for describing the filling of her Signature snaps as ‘congealed’, which, come the fuck on, man. Act like you’ve misspoke once in your life, Jesus. Much more justifiable was his call out of Lizzie’s Show Stopper, a Paint-a-Truck gingerbread that came unpainted, with the idea that the judges could do it for themselves. When everyone else is at least decorating their own bakes, not doing so yourself is always a bad look. It’s not impossible for Lizzie to improve her fortunes, but she’ll need to drastically improve her decorations and her neatness.

8. Maggie

Place In Technical: 5th

Change: -4

Is it a little harsh to drop Maggie four entire spots after one bad week? Maybe. And yet, here I am, the guy who always tries way too hard to avoid overreacting to one episode’s results, coming at ya with a four spot demotion for Maggie for her bad Biscuit Week. So here’s my thinking; Maggie has committed herself to a traditionalist approach. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, but this decision thins the margin of error any Tent baker is working with. If all you’re going to be doing is the classics, you have to nail the classics, which means nailing the fundamentals. Maggie did not nail the fundamentals this week. Her brandy snaps didn’t snap; they were underbaked, gooey, and became soggy from the filling. Her Show Stopper didn’t fare much better; if you’re gonna bring a couple of gingerbread houses and some gingerbread figures to go with, they better both look the business and be perfectly baked. Maggie’s gingerbread was too thick and her decorations were not only a mess, they weren’t anything special to begin with. A fifth place Technical doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, either. It’s not that Maggie is in immediate danger; yes, she could be eliminated this coming week, but so could anyone else. I’ve dimmed on her long-term prospects is that she has committed herself to this traditional, low margin of error style, and her ability to keep up with the ever-escalating baking arms race over the course of the season is now in direct question.

7. George

Place In Technical: 8th

Change: +3

See, I told you George wasn’t as bad as all that! Biscuit Week gave him a nice rebound indeed, albeit one that highlighted his continuing struggles with neatness. None of his brandy snaps were the same size, and he was clearly miserable when assembling them. It’s good that the orange and mastic filling received high marks in the face of Paul’s skepticism, and I suppose it’s also good that the Signature doesn’t matter much these days. But with a wonky Signature and an eighth place Technical finish, the key to George’s good week was his Show Stopper, a motorized gingerbread plane that seemed like it wasn’t going to work, until it worked fantastically. My wife asked me if I thought George was cheating by using a motor; after all, everyone else’s interactive element was baked. I think it’s a fair question, and I see the force of it, but I certainly wasn’t bothered by it. For one thing, building a gingerbread plane that’s aerodynamic enough to move in a tight circle, as George’s was, is no mean feat. For another, the working definition of ‘interactive’ at play here was, to be extremely charitable, broad as all get out, so much so that I don’t think it could stand up to even a modestly Socratic examination. Anyway, good rebound for George, but I’m concerned about his neatness, especially when he’s asked to present multiple, uniform pieces. Spoiler alert: that’s going to keep happening.

6. Rochica

Place In Technical: 11th

Change: 0

It’s always nice to be totally safe the second your Show Stopper is presented after coming dead fucking last in the Technical. I’m still operating under the impression (perhaps a delusion) that a truly terrible Technical can sink a baker’s entire campaign, and Rochica crammed just about as many mistakes as she possibly could have into a single round. And yet, all is forgiven. Check out this gingerbread pinball machine that actually plays pinball! And the gingerbread itself isn’t too thick, either! While I’m heartened to see Rochica immediately rebound from her disaster Technical with her best bake of the season so far, I’m also a bit baffled as to where Rochica stands within the Tent hierarchy. The only thing that has been consistent about her performance thus far has been its inconsistency. As such, this ranking represents a bit of a shrug, and with it, an acknowledgment that Rochica’s campaign could go either way. She could tighten up some of her technique issues and become a real force down the stretch, or she could crash and burn in the next episode and see her stay in the Tent cut short.

5. Chigs

Place In Technical: 7th

Change: +2

Chigs gets a modest but significant boost in the rankings this week for baking like a more promising version of Cake Week Chigs. He clearly is good enough to impress with his practiced bakes, but his Technical placement lagged for the second week in a row (although 7th of 11 is obviously much better than 11th of 12). Like I said last week, this what I would expect from a baker who has only been doing this for about a year, although shit happens to everyone in the Technical, so perhaps better showings are in his future. But those practice bakes, holy smokes! My hands are cramping up at the thought of rolling tiny little fondant snooker balls like that, and all of them were neat as a pin. The decoration of the snooker table itself was a delight, as well; despite being made of gingerbread like most of the rest of the Show Stoppers, it was, for my money, the only bake that more or less looked like the toy it was representing and not a gingerbread representation of a toy, you know what I’m saying? Chigs also did well for himself in the Signature, although he did get dinged for not including enough coffee flavor in his filling. Still, this was a very promising week for Chigs. While this Tent’s top tier seems like it’s already starting to calcify, Chigs is emerging as a real dark horse, and if his Technical scores improve even a little bit more, he’ll be in position to pounce if one of the established elite falters.

4. Crystelle

Place In Technical: 10th

Change: +1

Of course, one cannot speak of dark horses in this Tent without speaking of Crystelle, who has had two consecutive great weeks that have flown under the radar when held against the Tent’s already reigning triumvirate. Even a second-to-last Technical finish feels irrelevant when stacked against the success of Crystelle’s practiced bakes in Biscuit Week. In the Signature, note that she was the only baker to receive praise for the actual snap of her brandy snaps, save for three other bakers who shall remain nameless. And her Show Stopper biscuit vanity stood out among the assembled crowd of generally impressive biscuit toys. There were so many little pieces; so many lipsticks and concealers and earrings and such, and they were all baked perfectly and they were all excellently flavored with lemon and poppy. On top of that, the mechanics of building working vanity drawers that opened and closed with apparent ease cannot be overstated. Anyone who has assembled furniture knows that it’s the shit with drawers that sucks to assemble the most, by far; doing so on such a small scale, with such a degree of success, out of cookies, deserves more praise than it got. So why is Crystelle still only in fourth? Yes, this Tent has a top three that already looks mighty tough to break into, but if anyone can do it, it sure looks like Crystelle can. Even if you throw out her showing in this week’s Technical (and I am), I’m concerned for her mindset. Towards the end of both the Signature and Show Stopper, she was clearly freaking out, saying she was “gonna be sick” as she put the finishing touches on her vanity. While her nerves didn’t impact the finished products this week, and while even the best bakers often struggle to keep cool under the pressure, I am worried that at some point, she’ll have a practiced bake that goes wrong. This concern is feeling more and more unfair as I type this; perhaps Crystelle will rise to the occasion if and when that happens. If so, her potential is nearly limitless.

3. Giuseppe

Place In Technical: 2nd

Change: 0

2. Freya

Place In Technical: 3rd

Change: 0

Yeah, I’m combining my write-ups for Giuseppe and Freya this week, what of it? Call your mom, see if I give a shit. Random and unwarranted hostility aside, there’s a method to the madness, here. I want to use this opportunity to talk about the show’s editing, a topic I have studiously tiptoed around for the entire time I’ve been compiling these rankings. I figure that, since the rankings are based solely on my own reading of judge’s comments we see on the show, and are therefore so subjective I might as well be reading tea leaves, any and all discussion of what judges’ comments may or may not have been included in each episode’s final cut is a completely counterfactual waste of time and mental energy. And yet, I couldn’t help but notice that Biscuit Week’s closing montage included a clip of Giuseppe saying that Jürgen was the guy to beat, in a way that raised my eyebrows. It very much seemed like a deliberate decision to pit Giuseppe and Jürgen against each other as two superpowers vying for supremacy; it felt like manufactured drama in a show that still mostly avoids such cheap tricks. (I think. Do the closing montages engage in this sort of thing often? Frankly, I mostly ignore them.) On top of that, it’s kind of bullshit, because Freya is right there, resting on her laurels after another week of seemingly effortless excellence. Am I really supposed to believe she’s not in the conversation with Jürgen and Giuseppe just because Paul thought she put too much espresso in her Signature, or she only came third in the Technical? That’s ludicrous. I’ll grant that Giuseppe had the slightly better week, but one slightly better week does not merit a ranking swap, especially this early in the season. This isn’t a two-horse race, it’s a three horse race, and don’t let the editing goons tell you otherwise.

1. Jürgen

Place In Technical: 1st

Change: 0

Well gee, what am I supposed to say? Jürgen was Star Baker in Cake Week and his Biscuit Week was only more dominant. He did everything just about perfectly, which gives me nothing to analyze. So instead, I’m going to join with the rest of the GBBS internet to discuss the picture of young Jürgen that snuck into the Biscuit Week broadcast. Looking sharp! He looks like he played the Stephen Morris role für Liebe Bürgerwehren, das hat zur drittbesten New Order-Tribute-Band auf dem Ausgabe des Jahresrückblick für 1987 in dem Schwarzwalder Unabhängigische Wochenzeitung gewählt. The only reason I can possibly be worried about his long-term prospects is the fact that it’s a long season, and there’s a lot of season left. Remember this time last year, when I thought Sura was invincible? Shit happens in the Tent. Jürgen may seem like he’s too good for a random and total collapse right now, and perhaps he is, but there can be no guarantees this early.

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