April Coffee Break With Baker Dan Beasley-Harling (Hazelnut Mocha Marble Cake recipe is included!)
Coffee Break’s Bake Off commentator Dan Beasley-Harling knows exactly what it’s like to face the rigours of the famous tent in his dissection of the action-packed episode, having been a contestant on Series 9 in 2018, where he was awarded Star Baker in Dessert Week and received a record-breaking THREE ‘Hollywood Handshakes’.
This week, Dan was wowed by Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, calling her ‘one of the most thoughtful and consistent bakers on the show so far’ – and spoke from experience about how Paul Hollywood ‘stares through you’ and makes everyone in the tent weak at the knees.
Dan Beasley-Harling: “Jade clearly had a bit of a thing for Paul and having been stared at by him, I can understand why. He stares into your soul.”
“Jade clearly had a bit of a thing for Paul. There was definite chemistry and she got a bit weak at the knees. She mentioned Paul’s ‘intense eyes’ and from experience they do pierce through you. He has a certain masculine energy which is definitely a lot of peoples’ cup of tea – in the tent, he is exactly like that, effortlessly masculine. He does have a very intense look and he stares into your soul with those piercing blue eyes – he knows how to work them and he does it very much on purpose, but it actually makes you eager to impress him in the tent, so I can fully understand Jade’s reaction.
“Jade got involved in her fair share of innuendo, but I have to say that when Pru said she was going to eat her knickers, I wasn’t surprised. What people don’t know about Pru is that she has a really dirty and wicked sense of humour – she knew exactly what she was doing and that was NOT an accident. Pru is very wink wink nudge nudge on set and always has a twinkle in her eye. There was already a fair bit of innuendo in this, but I saw the rough cut of this episode and let me tell you it was actually MUCH filthier than what was aired, there was a lot of NSFW chat in there from Jade!”
“Jade’s French Fancies were the only ones that actually looked the part! They were brilliant and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting them to be that good. For a celebrity episode, it’s actually hard to imagine how they could have looked any better. She froze her buttercream in hemispheres so it was all perfect, her icing was done faultlessly, they genuinely looked amazing and bar the slight messiness, I can’t fault it. Passion fruit is a good flavour to bake with, as its sharpness works very well in contrast with sugar to counteract it tasting overwhelmingly sweet – so that was a very smart decision from Jade.
“Nobody did an incredible job with the pie – but it was actually a very mean challenge. They gave them a can of frozen cherries which are really wet and didn’t let them blind bake (pre-bake the pastry before the filling is put in) it either. So you just knew everyone was going to end up with a soggy bottom, or in their case a dripping bottom. If the recipe had included them pre-cooking the pastry, they would have avoided it being a big wet mess, they were soaked. For me, they set them up to fail – they are amateur bakers who unsurprisingly wouldn’t have known how much to dry the cherries by. They knew that someone would have a nightmarishly disastrous time and KSI obliged. Although Jade was definitely the best of a bad bunch – hers was a bit leaky, but the lattice was right and the pastry was cooked correctly so it was impressive in the circumstances despite the sadistic challenge set by Paul!
“People who say biscuits are easy don’t know anything about biscuits, they appear easy but are actually very complex and to that end I was impressed with all four contestants. The trick on Bake Off is to go simple and effective and Jade did that, creating a beautiful backdrop and tasty biscuits – she had obviously put a lot of thought into it and the boiled sweet effect was a stroke of genius. The overall impression was incredible and it looked fantastic.
“She deserved to be Star Baker 100%. She was the best and most consistent across all three challenges, it was pretty much a runaway win. Not since James McAvoy have we seen someone trounce everyone else in the tent like that, she was one of the best across the series so far I’d say. Everyone who gets in that tent wants to do well, no matter how famous you are. She is a performer who is used to perfecting her craft and that outlook definitely helped her.”
Dan Beasley Harling: “I loved KSI’s attitude to things going wrong – but he improved so much in the showstopper and definitely deserved the handshake.”
“I loved KSI’s attitude, he was having fun with it when he was messing up – it’s very easy to break down, even if you’re a celeb. You still want to do yourself proud for a wonderful cause, and it took it brilliantly.
“He was so charismatic, upbeat, positive and fun – his laugh was infectious in the tent and it would have rubbed off on the other contestants. Sometimes it can be really tense in that tent, and KSI brought joy to it. When it was all going wrong, he stayed happy and that says something, as it is extremely easy to melt down. The secret to success in the tent is to not spiral but to keep positive and keep moving forward.
“He exemplified that, which is why he got the handshake. It’s funny how much wanted it from the start, so he DIVED in for it without hesitation when it was offered. Everyone who bakes, from contestants like me on the regular show to celebrities want that validation. For me, it’s the highest accolade in Bake Off, maybe even more than winning the show. People may diss Paul Hollywood, but everyone wants his approval at the end of the day.”
“He was quite lucky with his pie – as what he did on the top was so ugly with the square, it was probably for the best that it never saw the light of day! Especially when you’re under pressure, you just don’t think – he flipped it over like a pancake and by then the damage was done, you cannot rectify that as the integrity of it would have been irreversibly damaged by then. At least he embraced it!
“But his improvement was great to see. He had a simple plan, he stuck to it and delivered it. The biscuits tasted good and the meringues were executed well. He didn’t bite off more than he could chew and his improvement warranted the handshake. The trick is to do it simple, do it well and that is what KSI learnt come the showstopper. Confidence is incredibly important, as soon as you doubt yourself it goes wrong. Any time you are in the public eye, you want to do yourself proud so KSI would have been delighted to do the final challenge well.”
Dan Beasley Harling: “Stacey Dooley was terrifyingly unprepared! But I was impressed with how good a job she did for a total novice”
“Stacey was terrifyingly unprepared! But she did do quite a good job – her French Fancies didn’t look like French Fancies, but they looked absolutely delicious, I would have tucked in to one without hesitation.
“Her decision to sprinkle cornflour into her custard was a baffling choice – when you mix cornflour into a liquid halfway through, you cannot break it down and it stays lumpy forever and it turns into wallpaper paste. But she wasn’t to know that and it was a good effort.
“I absolutely loved that when her mould was stuck inside her biscuit in the showstopper, she didn’t even try to remove it. The judges notice EVERYTHING and if the judges miss it, a producer will spot it. There’s never anywhere to hide in the tent, not that Stacey was trying to!
“I loved her moment fangirling over Gloria Estefan, it was a lovely moment to immortalise her in biscuit form. It’s actually very difficult to be artistic in baking – most bakers are neat and tidy in straight lines, but her attempt to mould the biscuit was a valiant one, especially under time pressure, When I have all the time in the world to make it at home I still struggle, so her bake was really good in the circumstances and considering she was such a novice.”
Dan Beasley Harling: “On a baking level, Katherine Ryan making the dogs out of meringue is really, really impressive. She ran Jade close at times”
“On a baking level, Katherine making the dogs out of meringue is really, really impressive. Making meringue is something you can easily get wrong – so the fact she did it so well tells me she cared enough to pay attention to the detail. I’ve rarely seen that in an amateur or inexperienced baker so that wowed me. She definitely ran Jade close at times.”