Chetna Makan triumphs over ‘cheating’ James Morton to win GBBO’s farewell to the BBC. The Great Christmas Bake Off still left a sour taste, by Jim Shelley 

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    The Great British Bake Off said farewell to the BBC but its second festive special The Great Christmas Bake Off did not end the way viewers would have wanted – with a Showstopper Challenge of custard pies and Mary Berry unceremoniously shoving them in Paul Hollywood’s face.

    It’s safe to say that after six years and seven series GBBO’s last episode did not go the way Mary, her three co-stars, or the Beeb had hoped either, or envisaged.

    If anything The Great Christmas Bake Off was more acrimonious than any pie fight – destined to be remembered for a row between two of the Bakers that saw the word ‘cheat’ being bandied about more freely than The Jeremy Kyle Show.

    Tension: Chetna Makan was surprisingly serious when she claimed James Morton was ‘cheating’

    Chetna Makan was surprisingly serious when she claimed James Morton was ‘cheating’ when he openly corrected a crucial mistake with his Scandinavian cinnamon Christmas loaf when he saw how Chetna had prepared hers.

    ‘Cheatna’ Mel Giedroyc branded it, although ‘Cheatna-Gate’ or ‘Cinnamon-Gate’ would have been more standard.

    ‘Do you want to take this further?’ Giedroyc pushed her when Chetna persisted in the accusation.

    ‘I want to take it outside !’ Chetna carped, looking as if she meant it. No wonder James laughed nervously.

    Awkward: She made the cheating claim after he openly corrected a crucial mistake with his Scandinavian cinnamon Christmas loaf when he saw how Chetna had prepared hers

    Triumph: To add insult to injury, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry then adjudged that James had won the Technical Challenge and placing him in pole position overall.

    To add insult to injury, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry then adjudged that James had won the Technical Challenge and placing him in pole position overall.

    ‘If he hadn’t copied us he wouldn’t have come first ! But what can you do?’ Chetna complained afterwards with disbelief, not letting it go.

    What she could do was go all out in the Showstopper, which she duly did, ensuring that it was her name, rather than James’ that will go down as the show’s final Star Baker.

    Nonetheless, the incident left a sour taste.

    Stirring the pot! ‘Cheatna’ Mel Giedroyc branded it, although ‘Cheatna-Gate’ or ‘Cinnamon-Gate’ would have been more standard

    Oh dear: ‘Do you want to take this further?’ Giedroyc pushed her when Chetna persisted in the accusation

    It was a shock and a shame – considering The Great British Bake Off has become known (and loved) for being the most gentle, courteous, contest on television: the embodiment of so many old-fashioned values.

    So it was a surprise to see that festive spirit was in such short supply on the second and final episode of The Great Christmas Bake Off, and not just because (as the title suggests) that was really the whole point of it.

    ‘A very special Bake Off awaits,’ Sue Perkins promised at the start with commendable understatement, or perhaps before she knew exactly what it consisted of.

    Fighting talk: ‘I want to take it outside !’ Chetna carped, looking as if she meant it. No wonder James laughed nervously

    Exciting: ‘A very special Bake Off awaits,’ Sue Perkins promised at the start with commendable understatement

    The returning competitors were Chetna Makan (‘Queen of Flavour’ in 2014), James Morton (Star Baker three times in series three), Janet Basu (semi finalist in series two) and Howard Middleton (generally lovely in 2013).

    It quickly became clear that this was a battle between James and Chetna.

    Howard, like Norman Calder in the first Christmas special, had clearly been invited back because of his likeable personality rather than his cooking prowess, although that’s not to say that the canapés he made for his Signature Challenge were exactly plain: pea pastry filled with smoked trout adorned with dots of trout caviar which Howard applied with tweezers. (Don’t try this at home.)

    The flavour of his second batch were partridge and pear topped with blue cheese and walnuts.

    Likeable: Howard, like Norman Calder in the first Christmas special, had clearly been invited back because of his likeable personality rather than his cooking prowess

     Having a whale of a time: He laughed as he interacted with the judges 

    Talented: The canapés he made for his Signature Challenge weren’t exactly plain: pea pastry filled with smoked trout adorned with dots of trout caviar which Howard applied with tweezers

    ‘I’ve practiced these at home – with pigeon,’ Howard said sweetly, strangely. Perhaps partridge would have been better.

    Janet never seemed like a contender. Her canapés sounded amazing (‘cranberry, wild mushrooms, and chicken liver topped with a splash of Calvados’) but the results were too big and actually a mess – like éclairs without the chocolate and meat that looked like dog food.

    Chetna’s canapés stole the eye (and the judges’ taste-buds): coriander choux filled with aubergine and tomato and spiced potato paprika with date chutney and green mango chutney.

    ‘You’re saying these are the less spicy one?!’ gasped Paul Hollywood. ‘Wow!’

    ‘The whole combination is lovely,’ declared Mary Berry more demurely.

    Not whipping up a frenzy: Janet Basu never seemed like a contender

    Let-down: Her canapés sounded amazing (‘cranberry, wild mushrooms, and chicken liver topped with a splash of Calvados’) but the results were too big and actually a mess

    ‘You can come down my chimney with those any day of the week !’ offered Mel Giedroyc, saucily.

    James Morton set a new Personal Best for bakers pontificating to the camera about what they were doing, confidently making both batches of his canapés with puff pastry only for Hollywood to announce they were too crumbly.

    ‘The flavour is spot on. The puff pastry is just not up to scratch.’

    When Morton heard the Technical Challenge was to make a Scandinavian Christmas Loaf, having been Star Baker in his previous Bread Week he immediately assumed that he would win it.

    ‘I was hoping for something like this,’ he smiled confidently, embarking on an attention-seeking technique slapping his dough about.

    Confident: James Morton set a new Personal Best for bakers pontificating to the camera about what they were doing

    Skilled: He confidently made both batches of his canapés with puff pastry only for Hollywood to announce they were too crumbly

    ‘No one else does this. It’s just a method I find very effective – gives you good structure… Enriched dough tends to be a little bit lighter. It’s starting to become elastic as you can see.’

    And so on – as if we were making notes.

    Paul Hollywood’s recipe gave only limited instructions on how to shape it, although ‘cut the roll into 18 equal slices being careful not to cut all the way through’ should have been enough.

    James was the first to get his in the oven, having cut through anyway.

    ‘I’ve got a totally different idea,’ said Chetna, who had been watching attentively.

    ‘Oh that’s so annoying !’ groaned James when he saw what she was doing. ‘I reckon Chetna’s got it right.’

    High praise: Paul said of James’ dish: ‘The flavour is spot on. The puff pastry is just not up to scratch’

    Over-assured? When Morton heard the Technical Challenge was to make a Scandinavian Christmas Loaf, having been Star Baker in his previous Bread Week he immediately assumed that he would win it

    He took his out of the oven and set about trying to ‘fix’ it, or ‘trying to think how I can make it more like Chetna’s’ as he put it. ‘This should have been my challenge.’

    ‘James, you’re cheating!’ complained Chetna bitterly.

    ‘Why is he cheating Chetna?’ asked Giedroyc.

    ‘Because he’s changed it after seeing my design !’

    This was true enough, but on the Bake Off not unusual. Over the years several Bakers had helped out their rivals with advice or actual practical assistance.

    In the Showstopper even Mel Giedroyc mucked in and came to Howard’s aid, taking off her jacket and ‘getting my bingo wings out.’

    ‘I haven’t even shaved my armpits Howard !’ she informed him.

    ‘I don’t think you’ve got time now,’ he muttered tartly.

    If anything what compounded James’ conduct was the way that he tried to excuse it after the judges had made him the winner of the round.

    Determined: Chetna prevailed in the four-and-a-half-hour Showstopper though, mostly through sheer persistence and stamina

    Failure: James’ impromptu gingerbread structure collapsed and his doughnuts were not only too crunchy but devoid of crème pat

    ‘I must confess I originally made it completely flat,’ he told Paul and Mary. ‘And then I saw what everyone else was doing and I thought ‘oh my goodness !’ So I quickly made it into that shape. All I have to say is: thanks to the other bakers. Without them I would’ve had quite nice Chelsea buns.’

    Chetna’s forced smile when she heard the verdict (clapping ‘well done James !’) quickly disappeared.

    Why he claimed to have copied ‘all the other bakers’ – rather than just Chetna – was a matter of opinion.

    He had probably identified her as his main rival and didn’t want Paul and Mary to reappraise her position (third in the Technical). Sharing the credit between all three of them instead was more neutral.

    Chetna prevailed in the four-and-a-half-hour Showstopper though, mostly through sheer persistence and stamina.

    Janet ran out of time and messed up her chocolate while Howard was too ambitious, as usual, with his stollen particularly ‘dense’ and his miniature cheesecakes ‘disappointing.’

    As for James he said: ‘my plan today is just to work as quickly as possible.’

    And not get caught copying Chetna…

    ‘The key to a good ganache is to add your cream to your chocolate in a bowl. Never add your chocolate to your cream in a pan otherwise it will overheat,’ he lectured.

    ‘If he knew everything why did he have to copy Chetna?’ you wondered. ‘And why did his miniature macaroons not rise?’ 

    Disappointing: Janet ran out of time and messed up her chocolate

    Faffing around: Howard was too ambitious, as usual, with his stollen particularly ‘dense’ and his miniature cheesecakes ‘disappointing

    ‘It’s an interesting thing about gingerbread…’ is never a good start to any sentence, especially if your impromptu gingerbread structure collapses – as James’ did, exactly as it had on his first appearance. His doughnuts meanwhile were not only too crunchy but devoid of crème pat.

    ‘What are these again?’ Paul Hollywood asked about James’ tiny Christmas cakes.

    ‘It doesn’t look very good,’ frowned Mary Berry. ‘I’m trying to be kind.’

    The judges had claimed that all four contenders had gone into the Showstopper with a chance, although James was ahead.

    ‘It started with a packed crowd, has anyone surprised you today?’ asked Giedroyc.

    ‘James,’ said Paul Hollywood. ‘But not in a good way. The doughnuts were over-baked, the macaroons not good. The fruitcake tastes nice but look at it. It’s just not a nice shape.’

    ‘James just didn’t do the detail,’ added Mary Berry. ‘It’s really rather sad.’

    Not for Chetna… 

    Victorious: ‘James just didn’t do the detail,’ added Mary Berry about his baking. ‘It’s really rather sad’ – Not for winner Chetna…

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