All right, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: “Biscuit” is not the British word for “cookie.” Just as Inuits have a million words for snow, so do the British have countless words for their baked goods. There are still cookies here in England, but they are usually larger, softer, and chewier. Think the Mrs. Fields cookies you get at the mall or the delicious ones next to the Subway cash register. Paul Hollywood alludes to cookies a couple of times in this episode, and that is the distinction.
A biscuit is both smaller and crunchier and usually meant to be dipped in tea. For an American equivalent, think of a Nilla wafer or a Chessman cookie. Both of those are biscuits. (One thing that is not a biscuit: the Jaffa cake.) British English is so confusing because they have so many specialized words, but then someone compliments Prue’s “jumper” and that could mean either a sweater or a sweatshirt. I guess it’s Americans who have a million words for their leisure wear. (I added a glossary of British terms at the end of this recap so no one would be confused.)
It’s funny that a macaron is a French cookie that is both crunchy and chewy, so it is neither a cookie nor a biscuit, it is, well, a macaron, not to be confused with a macaroon, which is the coconut dessert you always find in delis. The bakers have to make 18 macarons that look like something else. Some make them look like cats or ice-cream cones. Others make them look like watermelons or peanuts, which are a bit more obvious. Dawn, however, chooses to make a macaron look like a yo-yo, or two discs with a gap in the middle. Um, that’s just a macaron with a bit of string tied onto it, Dawn!
She gets the season’s first handshake from Paul Hollywood for her treats before he’s even done chewing. He’s so enthusiastic his hand popped out like one of Inspector Gadget’s spring-loaded limps flying out of his trench coat. (For the record, I hate the Hollywood handshake, but I am resigned to it. I do agree with Noel, though, that the handshake should harden on a baker’s hand and then be peeled off like a glove.) He can’t get enough of her strawberry mascarpone-filled treats that look, well, just like macarons.
Maybe Hollywood is hot for mascarpone because Maxy also gets a handshake for her raspberry mascarpone and salted caramel macarons that look like daisies and were inspired by her two young daughters. I’m sorry, but I still refuse to believe that Maxy, who looks about 22, is old enough to have two children. Whatever it is that she is baking seems to be working.
There are no real disasters in the first round, though Rebs runs out of time because she had to remake her macarons. The finished product, which is cat-themed, is actually adorable. If she had five more minutes to make them look neat, she might have been in the top. Maisam comes close with her carrot-shaped wonders, which needed a green stalk at the top so they didn’t just look like boogers covered in Cheeto dust.
The biggest disaster for me was Abdul, who is one of two to make fake ice cream cones. His ice cream is pink but the flavors are caramel, coffee, and chocolate. Who wants to bite into something pink and get coffee? Pink foods should only be bubble gum, cotton candy, or berry flavored. That is just science. At least Kevin had a green ice cream cone that was mint and chocolate flavored. That makes sense.
My lover Sandro makes a “cheat meal” themed cookie that looks like a hamburger and fries. He says on his cheat day he orders a triple cheeseburger, a chicken sandwich, and chicken nuggets all in the same meal. Yeah, I could polish off the same, but why does he look like a Greek statue with a delightful cross tattoo behind his ear and I look like SpongeBob if you slathered him in goose fat and gave him a mustache? Hmm?
Speaking of mi amor Sandro, he is such a little tease. During the technical challenge, which is to make a dozen Garibaldi Biscuits — dried fruit baked between two crunchy layers and decorated with chocolate — he has to wring the orange juice out of the dried fruit. “This is good for my arms,” he says, biceps bulging like an Instagrammer trying to get me to click the OnlyFans link in his bio.
Again, no huge disasters in the technical except for Abdul and Syabira, who think that feathering the chocolate on the side of their biscuit with white chocolate meant to make a white-chocolate feather to put on top of them. Syabira’s feathers are the tastiest-looking thing in the whole challenge, but she and Abdul are the bottom two for not giving the judges what they were looking for. The only way that Abdul would have given the judges what they were looking for is if they asked for a plate of animal crackers smothered in baby diarrhea, so I think it’s best for everyone they have not asked for that. Rebs is the winner of the technical, pulling her up from one of the last slots in the previous challenge, and James comes in second, burnishing the warm reception he got for his raccoon-shaped macarons that I thought looked like a shadow demon from another dimension.
That’s just what James makes in the final showstopper challenge, which is to make a mask out of biscuits. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, all of the Magi, the sheep that are lowing, the exhausted donkey, the dismissive innkeeper, and the horse they rode in on: I hate these structural challenges so much. The mask has to be three-dimensional and it has to be placed on a stand at the end of a challenge. I get it, they need stakes, they need drama, they need a slow-motion shot of someone’s biscuit mask crashing down onto the countertop while the contestant cries and Noel tries to soothe them with his best Tesco Express checkout voice. That’s just what happens to Compost Carole this episode after she made her mask out of lard. (Where do you even buy lard?)
My problem is that everyone has to rely on a “structural” biscuit so they all just make gingerbreads and everything is the same and tastes the same and is boring. Though Paul and Prue end up talking about how each of the masks taste, it doesn’t really matter. This ends up being a contest about who makes the coolest-looking thing and the taste comes secondary. This is not Nailed It!, it’s GBBO/S, we want to see someone accomplish something amazing that we also might want to make at home. Who is going to wear a cookie mask? A bear going to a dessert-themed orgy?
Sandro, the love of my life and the fire of my loins, is making a mask that is both masculine and feminine and busting stereotypes, just like him, he says. Wait, is the feminine, like, you know? [Insert Cate Blanchette GIF here.] When he talks to his neighbor Janusz about the cubist mask that he fashioned out of cookies, Janusz says it is an LGBT mask. Sandro says to him, “You’re representing.” Yes, he is, but is he representing for you, Sandro? Hm? And those big orange-juice-squeezing arms of yours? Hm? Sandro? Inquiring minds want to know.
Alarm bells should have gone off for everyone when Maisam finished with a half hour still left. Her mask is just a circle with a butterfly on it and a lot of icing. Yes, it looks perfectly nice, but Abdul is over here making 90 biscuits in three different flavors and mounting his mask on a heritage birch stump that he found while foraging near his home. You have 30 minutes, Maisam. That is plenty of time to whip up some more biscuits and stick them onto your mask. It’s clear that she is going home.
But Carole is the one who has the real disaster, as mentioned above. I also hated Kevin’s, which is supposed to be the mask of a siren with barnacles and seaweed hanging off of it, but instead looks like a green penny that was left in the gutter of the dessert orgy that the bear wore this mask to. Dawn makes a steampunk mask, which is kind of cool, but she didn’t cut out the eye holes. Honey, that is not a mask, that is just a head. You made a cookie mannequin. The judges also don’t like Rebs’s, which is cute but they say it’s too small. Girl, you already asked me to make a stupid biscuit mask and now you want to tell me how big it should be? That was not in the brief.
The judges love Maxy’s, which is inspired by Notting Hill Carnival, an annual celebration of Caribbean culture in London, but I couldn’t tell what it was supposed to look like. The rainbow of feathers around the rim look delicious and delicate, but why are there needles coming through the eyes? Is this a horror movie? Is this Pinhead from Hellraiser? I love James’s “wee” mask that intentionally looks like a horror movie. Messy and scary is always a good strategy, because if it starts to crack or slide, you just say it’s part of the design.
Syabira’s mask looks the most impressive, with chocolate biscuits on one side and white shortbread hearts on the other, like a bodega black-and-white cookie decided to turn into a real boy. Abdul’s is also fantastic-looking, like something from a video game where the mask gives you powers, but there does seem to be a lot of spun sugar hanging off of it.
Of course we already know that Maisam, who never seemed to hit her stride in the competition, is the one going home. Once again, she didn’t do quite enough, but she’s 19 and she’ll get over it. Maybe in ten years she can change her name and come back again as someone else who is a little bit more polished. Maxy takes home the win after her handshake and her very impressive, though scary, mask. Nearly everyone has survived biscuit week — only to go on to bread week, also known as the Paul Hollywood Is Insufferable Challenge.
An English to English Dictionary
Maths: This is just math, but it’s always plural so that we can hate it more than once.
Packet: A pre-packed bag of something, like cookies that come in a sleeve. A “packet of crisps” is what Americans call a bag of chips.
Spanner: A wrench. Someone accuses Paul Hollywood of eating one. That is an extreme fetish.
Wayne Rooney: Matt calls one of the judges Wayne Prue-ny, which is a pun on the last name of the Michael Jordan of English soccer. This is probably because Matt is obsessed with the Wagatha Christie scandal.