The ‘Great British Baking Show’ Feather Mishap Was a Teachable Moment

Photo composite by The Daily Beast/Netflix
Photo composite by The Daily Beast/Netflix

Who knew that something as light and fluffy as a feather would be so controversial on The Great British Baking Show?

On this week’s episode of the feel-good baking series—biscuit week!—the kitchen was set aflame by a tiny mistake made by Syabira. The gaffe was tiny, but with stakes as high as the ones on GBBS, it may have cost the contestant a shot at Star Baker. But really, it shouldn’t have been as big of a deal as it was made out to be.

The technical challenge was tricky this week: The contestants were tasked with creating a perfect flies’ graveyard biscuit. “What’s a flies’ graveyard biscuit?” you ask, grossed out. I am too. The actual dish is a bit more scrumptious than what it sounds like. With raisins and brown sugar, the Scottish pastry is a fruity delight.

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For those who aren’t familiar with GBBS’ technical challenges, contestants are given a list of (usually vague) instructions on how to prepare a specific dish. They need to stick to the basics, make identical dishes, and attempt to wow the judges—anonymously. Sometimes, though, mix-ups happen. Contestants read the instructions wrong. They forget to add a specific ingredient. They haven’t been practicing, and under pressure, bakes get more complicated.

So, when fan-favorite Syabira—who, for reference, won last week’s technical with a killer red velvet cake—had a bit of a blunder, she should’ve been forgiven immediately. Especially considering how beautiful that blunder ended up! Instead of feathering white chocolate into the milk chocolate, Syabira created white chocolate feathers from scratch and layered them onto her biscuits.

The result is incredible. Syabira’s feathers are gorgeous, show-stopping, one of a kind, mesmerizing. It’s a little mistake! Plus, English is not Syabira’s first language (she’s from Malaysia and moved to London in 2013), so penalizing her for this slight mistake feels harsh. And, again, the feathers are delectable. They are perfect.

Still, Paul Hollywood is a harsh critic. While fellow judge Prue Leith had a good laugh over the feathers, Paul was less impressed.

“That’s quite original,” Prue said with a chuckle.

“It’s ridiculous, that’s what it is,” Paul responded. Both agreed that the feathers weren’t “what we asked for.”

The rest of Syabira’s technical is pretty good; the dough’s a bit soft, but other than that, stellar bake. But Syabira ranks second-to-last in the technical challenge, doesn’t take the Star Baker title (though the winner this week does clearly deserve it!), and endures laughter around the tent over her mistake.

Great British Baking Show viewers are as upset as I am over the whole affair, which shouldn’t have cost Syabira a higher ranking in the technical round. Her bake was impeccable, and the feathers only added to the dish.

“As a non-brit I feel the urge to support every other non-brit on #GBBO,” one user shared. “ESPECIALLY when they do the wrong thing due to the language barrier like yes babes you are so right you’ve made it even better fuck the english language you’re so valid.”

Perhaps the right thing to do would be to forgive the mistake, blame it on the language barrier, and actually applaud (instead of laugh at) Syabira for her skills. Justice for Syabira. Next week (and every week after), I’ll once again be rooting for her to get that Star Baker spot. And the bakers will continue pulling for more descriptive technical challenge instructions.

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