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Great British Bake Off 2015 - Week Two

For the showstopper round, the contestants must bake 36 biscuits and put them in a biscuit box. No, not a biscuit box, but a biscuit box, that is, a box made of biscuit. Oh, and the biscuit box must be made of different biscuit to the biscuits that are inside the biscuit box. Clear as mud.

This week's GBBO begins on an odd note with a message across the screen reading, 'Who Do You Think You Are, Paul Hollywood?' While it can't be seen as anything other than a welcome remark given some of his harsh judging and the way he often looks to enjoy belittling others, it does come across as rather passive-aggressive. However, it turns out that it's just a trailer, and the tidy-bearded one is the focus of an upcoming episode of the BBC celebrity genealogy series.

The episode then actually does start and, to paraphrase Flight Of The Conchords: 'It's biscuit! It's biscuit time!' The signature challenge for the eleven remaining contestants is to make 24 biscotti. Mel and Sue make a big deal about biscotti needing to be baked twice and the fact that biscotti is indeed Italian for 'baked twice'. However, surely the word 'biscuit' is French for 'baked twice' too? So, we're doing an Italian baked twice version of a 'baked twice' - got it?

All of the bakers use dried fruit to ensure their biscotti have the desired crunch except Alvin, who's putting in something called jackfruit, which no-one's ever actually heard of, but The Guardian have recently claimed is "pulled pork for vegetarians", so expect it to soon have its own café in Shoreditch dedicated to it. Anyway, not using dried fruit was a mistake, as Alvin's biscotti (which, incidentally, is a great name for an experimental jazz fusion band) are underdone and too soft.

Elsewhere, Paul and Mez Bez are intrigued by Ian putting home-grown rosemary into his orange and almond biscotti, but are pleasantly surprised at the final result where, according to Paul, the orange and rosemary together taste like ginger. Apparently this is a good thing, and no-one stops to ask why he didn't just use ginger in the first place. Elsewhere in the tent, there's an odd trend for people serving their biscotti with alcoholic drinks for no real reason. Ugne's white wine and goji berry biscotti (possibly the most middle-class thing ever invented) come with a couple of glasses of wine, and Dorret's almond, apricot and amber sugar biscotti are next to what looks like a half-drunk bottle of Schnapps. Clearly, biscotti are no longer an accompaniment to coffee, but the snack of choice for those looking to get absolutely smashed.

Flora has, by her own admission, over a hundred cookery books, most of which are French (they're probably kept above the Aga), but even she hasn't heard of this week's technical challenge bake: the arlette. It's a wafter-thin, puff-pastry cinnamon swirl that's so obscure that even Googling it yields nothing on the front page. You do get to learn fun facts about other famous Arlettes though. Who knew it was the name of the mother of William the Conqueror?

Despite fairly basic instructions - at one point it just says, "Make the dough" - and the confusion caused by the fact the butter needs to be wrapped around the pastry rather than vice versa, everyone seems to make a fairly decent go of it. Some are too thick (the arlettes, not the bakers), some don't have enough swirls, and Marie only bakes four of the required eight due to putting the oven on the wrong setting, but they all seem to have the right texture and flavour. Marie's oven error means she finishes bottom of the technical, with Dorret taking the plaudits for her perfect arlettes, which comes as a boon to her after a disastrous week one and a fairly indifferent signature round earlier in the episode.

For the showstopper round, the contestants must bake 36 biscuits and put them in a biscuit box. No, not a biscuit box, but a biscuit box, that is, a box made of biscuit. Oh, and the biscuit box must be made of different biscuit to the biscuits that are inside the biscuit box. Clear as mud. Mary's looking for technique and flavour, which seems fair enough, and Paul announces he's looking for "architecture", because he's clearly gone mad with power and forgotten he's judging a baking competition in a tent.

Though Mr Hollywood hasn't gone quite as megalomaniacal as his namesake, who's making a gingerbread box for his pink macarons, then icing himself dressed as a Coldstream Guard on the front, because that's apparently an entirely normal thing to do. He's claiming that his creation is a family memory box, but the only thing in it is those macarons. As tasty as macarons are, the Paul family must feel a little cheated that apparently all their memories are just of a particular sort of biscuit.

Dorret is making frog-shaped shortbread, and is scolded for using a frog biscuit-cutter, as if it's reasonable to expect she cut out and detail 36 individual, identical frog shapes. She didn't mill her own flour either, the lazy so-and-so. Mat, who we've been told roughly 46 times is a fireman, is making a gingerbread fire engine replete with crushed boiled sweet windows. Ian's made some kind of aluminium cylinder for baking his shortbread (see, that's what you need to do to impress in a baking competition, Dorret: metalwork) and is also making pink macarons. Tamal asks what gingerbread without ginger is called ('bread', you would think), and puts anise in the mixture which houses his impressive-looking chequerboard shortbread.

Mary's pleased that Scottish Marie is making shortbread, because apparently you have to make food from your homeland all the time. That said, her bake is clumsy and her biscuits deemed plain. Ugne clearly got the memo about baking native food, as she's making traditional Lithuanian cookies, and a cookie jar out of Lithuanian honey cake. She's also making a terrifying-looking marshmallow baby, who is arranged to look like it's trying to climb into the jar. Presumably that isn't a Lithuanian tradition.

Elsewhere, people are rushing and things are getting broken. Flora makes a gingerbread tea chest for her Earl Grey biscuits, but manages to snap the lid in half just as she finishes icing it. Alvin has spent so long making brandy snaps he doesn't have time to assemble his gingerbread casket, and just presents the constituent parts to the judges, like some sort of Ikea, self-assembly project. They're nothing compared to Nadiya though, who is getting in a complete state. Her Chinese-themed gingerbread bowl has a decent shape so she puts it into the oven to finish firming up, and the whole thing collapses and she has to start again. She's working against the clock and, just when it looks like she's got it together, Sue Perkins appears out of nowhere and breaks the lid of her box. Nadiya spends the whole showstopper challenge convinced she's going to be the unlucky person leaving the tent, but will she be proved correct?

Innuendo of the week: "It is very wet. Is everyone else's not? Oh dear!" - sounds like Tamal may be a little, um... premature.

Star baker: Ian picks up the gong, and it sounds as if his ginger, sorry, orange and rosemary biscotti were what pushed him to the top of the tree. He's amazed, as he claims he's never even managed to win the baking competition in his local village where there are only 400 houses.

Going home: Being star baker one week clearly isn't a guarantee of longevity, because it's Marie who gets the boot. Despite finishing bottom of the technical challenge, it seems a little harsh, and the judges feel she's a good baker who just plays it safe too often.

Next week: Our tenacious ten have to contend with bread. As Mat rightly points out, "Doughverload!"

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