Bake Off Week 4 round-up: Going loco for Mexican week

Another week, another awful pun. This time around, we’re treated to the sight of Noel and Matt in ponchos and somberos. Juan day we’ll get tired of it.

As you may remember, both Rebs and Abdul were ill last week, with the end result that nobody went home. Does that mean that two bakers will go home this time around to compensate? Who knows, but they’re all as tightly wound as Mexican guitars.

“I don’t really know much about Mexican cuisine, so this is an absolute adventure,” a grinning James tells the camera, wearing what looks like every bit of loud clothing he owns.

“When someone says Mexican food, my mind goes only to fajitas,” Janusz adds. Well, bad news Janusz: Paul and Prue start the challenge with pan dulce.

For the uninitiated, they’re Mexican sweet buns. As Paul and Prue explain, there are dozens of varieties of them, which is good news for the bakers, because as usual the flavours start flying and the decoration gets wacky.

Janusz is making conchas (a type of pan dulce) decorated like cacti; Syabira’s look like corn on the cobs (and contain a corn and coconut custard); James’ “wee concha numbers” are topped with caramel oysters and edible pearls.

As ever, Rebs is behind schedule. “I have everything broken down to the minute of what I’ve got to do,” she says with a manic grin – but when the buns come out of the oven an entirely new problem presents itself. They’re burnt.

When the timer finally stops, there are more than a few sweaty faces in the tent – but that’s nothing compared to the judging.

First up is Janusz, whose face falls in real time as Prue and Paul condemn his offerings for being dry and “just not punching any flavours at all” – followed by Abdul, who is humiliatingly made to taste his own “dense” and cake-like pan dulces. Surely a Bake-Off first?

On the plus side, Rebs’ conchas are pronounced “nicely made”, while Kevin’s offerings are hailed as uniformly good.

“Almost got a handshake,” he tells the camera afterwards. “Stingy git”.

food, bake off week 4 round-up: going loco for mexican week

All the loud clothing: James and Noel (Mark Bourdillon)

Next up is the technical, and for that, the bakers will be making the world’s poshest tacos.

These “hand-pressed” offerings are going to be topped with steak, refried beans, guacamole and pico de gallo (ie. salsa). Does that still count as baking? Even Prue seems taken aback by Paul’s choice.

Needless to say, none of the bakers have ever made tacos before – not helped by the scant instructions. And naturally, none of them have the faintest idea what a “pico de gallo” is.

“Like a mad professor, I am flinging things into a bowl with gay abandon,” Dawn exclaims. She’s becoming my favourite person in a crisis.

The tent rapidly descends into tortilla chaos – apparently, the optimum object for pressing the dough is with a casserole dish. “My tortilla dance,” Syabira pronounces as she wiggles the dish around; Dawn is also struggling, as she’s slightly too short to put her full weight on the work surface and press down properly.

When the judges come back into the tent, they waste no time sharpening their knives.

“There’s quite a difference in thickness,” Paul says pointedly about the tortillas, while Prue adds, “It’s so tempting to put too much filling in, isn’t it.” Yeowch.

To the surprise of nobody, meat-fan Sandro’s steak is excellent, while Dawn’s is not. “That cow’s still mooing,” Paul says.

Rebs’ guacamole-laden tortillas are condemned as “over-seasoned” and dry; Carole’s are “far, far too thick”. When judging time rolls around, it’s no surprise that they both come last.

On the other end of the spectrum, Maxy nets her first win. “I’m over the moon!” she gushes, while Carole is less thrilled. As she says, she has to pull it out of the bag for the showstopper – and given her difficulty pronouncing guacamole, let alone making it, it’s not looking good.

Fortunately, the showstopper is sweet in nature. It’s a “Tres Leches” cake, named for the three different milks used to soak the sponges after they’re baked. Traditionally, this comprises evaporated milk, condensed milk and double cream: this thing is a heart attack in a tin.

Not that it’s worrying Sandro, for whom the theme “Mexico” apparently means slapping a giant moustache on the side of his showstopper and adding four teaspoons of chilli flakes to the mixture.

More exciting (for perma-Goth Noel, at least) is Abdul’s “Day of the Dead” offering, which involves lashings of white chocolate skulls – but as ever, Syabira is not so much doing her own thing as operating on a completely different plane.

food, bake off week 4 round-up: going loco for mexican week

Tricky decisions: Paul and Prue (Mark Bourdillon)

“I’m making a sweetcorn sponge,” she merrily tells Paul, who receives this news with a look of complete incomprehension.

“Why would you want that in a cake?” he asks. I mean, he has a point.

Rebs then burns her caramel – because of course she does – Abdul’s buttercream splits and the bakers start sweating about how damp their cakes are. Apparently there’s a fine line between offering up a “sumptuous Tres Leches eating experience” and their bakes being either too dry or soggy.

And unfortunately, Syabira’s cake ends up being a casualty; as she tearfully tells the camera, it didn’t soak at all. This viewer’s heart went out to her – things get so bad that Abdul steps in for the traditional Bake Off pep talk, leaving Noel to do the same to Carole, whose chocolate flowers are proving hard to assemble.

To top things off, Rebs’ cake has developed an ominous milk-bulge, which is approximately the point the bleeped-out swearwords start making their appearance.

But the judges wait for no man, and first up is Syabira, who looks like she’s on the verge of a meltdown. She gets away with an “original”; less so Kevin, whose showstopper is pronounced “pungent” and studded with flour lumps, or James, who tried to do too much in one bake and ended up with a soggy mess.

Nobody comes away very well from this: the flavours are either too strong or not strong enough; the cakes are either dry or over-soaked. Only Dawn seems to wring any praise from the judges for her coffee and chocolate concoction. “That’s heaven,” Prue says, while Paul twinkles at her benevolently from across the table.

However, when the time comes, it’s Maxy who runs off with the Star Baker crown for the second time. And on the flipside, it turns out two bakers are going: James, who takes it on the chin, and Rebs, who bursts into tears.

“It’s only cake,” Prue comforts her as the camera pans out. Easy for you to say, Prue.

But time rolls ever onwards, and next week, we’re halfway through Bake Off already! And it’s dessert week. “You know, desserts backwards is stressed,” Matt says in the teaser. Indeed, Matt. Indeed.

The Great British Bake-Off airs on Channel 4 at 8pm on Tuesdays

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