The Great British Bake Off has hit the ground running for good. After a slow start, the show lifted itself out of its slump last week thanks to an innovative technical challenge requiring the bakers to craft veggie burgers. This time around, the 10 remaining contestants are tackling Dairy Week for the first time ever in Bake Off history. While last week’s veggie burger challenge, which required the participants to cook patties in addition to baking burger buns, proved a bit too controversial for purists, Dairy Week might strike the right balance of creativity – not too adventurous, but still surprising.

For their decorative signature challenge, the bakers are tasked with making a dairy cake, meaning the mixture must contain a cultured dairy product such as yoghurt or buttermilk. Co-presenter Sandi Toksvig warns that a key factor to manage is the level of moisture in the bake: if it’s too high, the cake will be fragile and prone to tearing. We’re given this information just as Michael’s creation for the day, a lemon sour cream cake with a raspberry cheesecake swirl, is introduced – and it’s no coincidence. Michael, we’re told, is taking a risk by introducing two types of dairy into his bake, when one would have sufficed. He pays for this gamble dearly when the time comes to extract his cake from his mould and the whole things breaks in half. Michael, last week’s Star Baker, experiences a vertiginous fall from grace as he deems his own bake “unrescuable”. Despite Michael’s self-directed harshness, judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood both praise his lemon-raspberry cake’s flavours, so not all is lost.

The dairy cake challenge makes for a good bit of tension, causing participants to worry that their cakes will never slip out of their moulds. That’s not a problem for Michelle, whose cake comes out smoothly, though she does accidentally break her cake stand after hitting it with her heavy mould – leaving it to Michael to swoop in at the last second to rescue her bake. All 10 bakers display admirable creativity (Helena’s ghost-shaped cake is adorable and makes for a good bit of banter with her fellow Goth, co-host Noel Fielding), though Phil’s yoghurt cake with rosewater syrup is deemed a bit lacking on the rose flavour side. Priya’s having a bit of a tough time too as Leith deems the texture of her banana-chocolate yoghurt cake slightly off. Steph, on the other hand, wins over the judges with her chocolate and raspberry buttermilk cake. David’s limoncello-glazed lemon and poppyseed yoghurt cake is also a hit, and with two new contenders for the title of Star Baker, we’re off to the technical challenge.

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One of the great pleasures of Bake Off is learning things I never knew I needed to know about baking, and the technical side of it doesn’t disappoint. This year, the contestants are asked to produce 12 “maids of honour”, a Tudor bake that Henry VIII supposedly loved. To the untrained eye, “maids of honour” mainly look like tartlets, though they’re made out of an intricate combination of pastry, lemon curd, cheese curd filling (yes, cheese curd, and no, it doesn’t sound incredibly appetising). The whole thing, by the way, must be topped by a Tudor rose, which is to be achieved thanks to a stencil. Of course, this is Bake Off and tarts are involved, meaning the words “soggy bottom” must be uttered – a requirement that Hollywood and Leith take care of when outlining the potential pitfalls lurking in our bakers’ future.

Timing, more than unbaked dough, seems to be the main issue for Priya, who falls far behind the other contestants. Not that this matters much: Hollywood and Leith only need take one look at all 10 batches of maids of honour to declare that they’re all too shallow and overall quite bad. Priya comes last, which isn’t too surprising given that she – by her own admission – spent too long getting the curd right and barely has anything to present. David comes second while Steph is first, confirming these two’s status as this week’s frontrunners – but naturally, nothing is set in stone until the showstopper challenge.

This week’s showstopper is another Bake Off first: the participants must produce an assortment of mishti, Indian milk-based sweets typically served during important occasions such as weddings. Michael chooses to replicate the colours of the Indian flag with his mishti, combining flavours of mango, pistachio, lemon and rose. The result, says Leith, is really stylish, and his flavours earn him the judges’ praise, suggesting that the nervous baker has redeemed himself for the week. The same goes of Priya, who earns Leith’s compliments for having mastered the saffron flavour, a tricky one to get right.

Phil, however, fails to charm Hollywood and Leith with his garden-inspired creation (topped with a gnome), and Hollywood says he’s gone overboard with his elderflower, pistachio and blueberry flavours. Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, Steph’s mishty, flavoured with rose, pistachio, mango, date and walnut, are deemed a success, as is David’s combination of carrot, fennel, cardamom, mango and kewra water (a plant extract used in South Asian cooking). This 10th series of Bake Off has introduced a new rule, according to which one episode will see two bakers get eliminated instead of one – but perhaps what we really need this week is a rule allowing for two Star Bakers?

But the rules of Bake Off only allow for one star to shine and Steph walks away with a well deserved Star Baker title (she was first in the Tudor technical, after all!) while Phil, perhaps predictably, leaves the tent.  If there’s anything to be learned from this episode, it’s that the show is at its strongest when it opens itself up to innovation. After all, we’ve been hanging out in the Bake Off tent for a decade. We were due for some changes. Of course, each new challenge comes with a risk, but so far, this series has stuck the landing. It stops it from becoming stale.

‘The Great British Bake Off’ is on Channel 4 at 8pm

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