Things I wrote in 2016

I’ve seen various writers post things they’re proud of this year, so I decided to do the same. This year I started to pitch pieces to other websites, which was scary, but I’m glad I did it. My experience working with editors has been positive, and I’m looking forward to doing more of it next year. This list of pieces is things I’ve written for the blog and other websites, roughly in chronological order.

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Claire Hooper and Mel Buttle in The Great Australian Bake Off

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5 songs that show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is in on the joke

As I wrote earlier todayCrazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s first season is finally dropping on Netflix ANZ tomorrow, so I thought I’d write something about this show that I love. When I first heard that there was a show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I had a similar reaction to hearing the premise for Jane the Virgin: I scoffed and rolled my eyes. Like Jane, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show that’s smarter than its title suggests. The term “crazy ex-girlfriend” has become a cliche – a throwaway line used to dismiss an ex’s behaviour (“That’s a sexist term”). The premise is that Rebecca flies across the country to be with her boyfriend from summer camp, but as she says in the first season theme song, the situation is a lot more nuanced than that. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is in on the joke of its title. It’s a feminist show at its core, co-run by two women, Golden Globe winning star Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh-McKenna. The songs are funny and insightful. I’ve put together a list of songs that demonstrate that this show knows exactly what it’s doing. This isn’t a list of the show’s best songs (that would be much longer, and I’d probably include all of these anyway), but they give the best sense of what the show is about.

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What’s New in Streaming for the Next 7 Days — DeciderTV

via What’s New in Streaming for the Next 7 Days — DeciderTV

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is coming to Netflix ANZ. ABOUT TIME. Hi Netflix, it deserves better than to be dropped on New Year’s Eve. On the other hand, it’s a show about a woman who is trying to make a change in her life and is just weird enough to be great New Year’s Day viewing. Plus the songs are great, and I’m working on a piece about them just now. Sherlock is back on Monday too, so it will be the only thing the internet talks about for a few weeks. It’s still a good show, but I don’t like it as much as I used to. In short: I am very much a Sherlock hipster.

I decided to make this week’s streaming guide short, so the one thing I didn’t end up highlighting that I might have otherwise is the first season of The Shannara Chronicles which drops on Netflix January 5. I’ve definitely seen one episode, possibly two. They were a bit rough, and I lost track after that, but I’m interested to see how the first season ended. Netflix is also fast-tracking the second season of Shadowhunters, which starts January 3. The way time zones work means that these dates for Shadowhunters and Sherlock are a day later than in their original broadcast countries – I watch Game of Thrones on a Monday morning.

I’d never heard of Ivan Aristeguieta until earlier this year, when he was featured on the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala. The below bit about Bunnings sausage sizzles is hilarious, and spot on. I expect that Lost in Pronunciation will have similar insights into Australian culture, and I’m really looking forward to it.

What’s New In Streaming for the Next 7 Days | @NetflixANZ @StanAustralia — DeciderTV

via What’s New In Streaming for the Next 7 Days | @NetflixANZ @StanAustralia — DeciderTV

Tis the season for Christmas specials! Stan has a whole page of Christmas themed content, including one of my favourites, Yogi Bear’s First Christmas. I don’t remember much about it, I just know we used to watch it every year on Christmas Day when I was younger, probably so my parents could get everything ready for lunch and keep us out of the way. Last year they had some Peanuts specials which I watched with my parents. It was a lot of fun. Over on Netflix, the Sense8 Christmas Special is dropping later today, and the Doctor Who special will be available from 6am Boxing Day on iview. I will not be awake at 6 to watch Doctor Who.

In non-Christmas related content, Stan has the second season of Penny Dreadful, and one of my favourite films of last year, Sleeping With Other People. iView is dropping two six-episode webseries on Boxing Day, and there’s another one coming on New Year’s Day.

As for next year: I was putting things into my January spreadsheet yesterday, and there are some good things coming! I am rereading the first four books in A Series of Unfortunate Events in preparation for the show, as well as rewatching the film. There’s a feature I’d like to put together, and we’ll see how it works out. For now I’ve got my hands full with Terrace House and Fringe (Shipping update: Peter and Olivia still haven’t kissed, and it probably won’t happen for a while now that Peter knows he’s from Earth-2).

The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 2 Episode 10: Finale #BakeOffAU

Olivia: Last bake dudes, have fun!

Antonio: Good luck!

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The final three.

It’s the last week of The Great Australian Bake Off, the nicest show on Australian television. There may be swearing, but the way the contestants care about and help each other is heartening. There’s also cake. We’re down to Olivia, Antonio and Monica. I’m picking Olivia to win.

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Matt, Maggie, Mel and Claire look on like proud parents.

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The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 2 Episode 9: International Week

Olivia: Goodbye oven. I’m done with you.

We’ve reached the second last week of Bake Off, and the judging is fierce. The four best bakers are in the semi finals, and even a small mistake could be the difference between making it to the finals and going home.

Signature Bake: Baked Cheesecake

There have been some great challenges this season (bagels!), and a baked cheesecake is a a perfect signature challenge for the semi finals. The bakers have two and a half hours, and they need to make their cheesecakes spectacular, which is no longer a criterion exclusive to the showstopper. We’re at the pointy end, people. Mel tells us that the earliest recording of a baked cheesecake was in Ancient Greece! Maybe there should be a time travel week next season. Ancient bakes? I’ll work on it.

Antonio is making an Italian ricotta, vanilla and citrus cheesecake with a side of vanilla bean ice cream. Matt asks how he’s going to make it special – that’s what the money ice cream is for! The ice cream is delicious, and Maggie nearly offers Antonio a job, but the cheesecake is slightly overcooked. It’s the semi finals, so the judges are being more critical than they would have been in week 1.

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I couldn’t resist. Source: Tumblr

Olivia is making a black forest cheesecake, which Maggie deduces from the ingredients on her bench. The judges are looking for something extra, and Maggie asks Olivia how she’ll make it special. Olivia replies that she’s making a cherry tree to go on top as decoration. The cake itself will have a chocolate biscuit base and a chocolate and cherry filling. It’s so good – Matt even uses the word ‘superb’ – that the judges forgive the cracks on top, and Olivia has made the best cheesecake for the day.

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Olivia is the rolling champion!

Monica‘s cheesecake has a pre-bought biscuit base so that she has enough time to make the three layers of her Neopolitan cheesecake. That’s how I make cheesecake bases, but it’s the semi finals, so Maggie and Matt are probably expecting the contestants to make their own bases. The layers for Monica’s cheesecake are milk chocolate on the bottom, vanilla and white chocolate in the middle, and strawberry on top. The strawberry is the best of the three, followed by the milk chocolate layer, but the white chocolate didn’t work out as well.

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Maggie and Matt aren’t angry, they’re disappointed.

Liesel is making a German cheesecake. She found the recipe on the back of a letter that her aunt wrote to her mum, which is great. The cheesecake has a shortcut pastry base, ricotta filling, and is topped with sour cherries and vienna kipfel, aka almond shortbread. The flavours are great, but the judges think it’s more of a tart than a cheesecake.

Technical Challenge: Porcini and three cheese soufflé

This is a Maggie Beer recipe, and before she leaves she tells the bakers that burnt butter is better. As this is a souffle challenge, the bakers will have staggered start times, so Maggie and Matt can taste their bakes when they’re fresh. Olivia is the first to start, and Monica, Liesel and Antonio leave the shed before Olivia hears what she will be making. The bakers start at five minute intervals, and this is how Olivia feels after she’s put her souffle in the oven:

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Diagnosis: Souffle

The trickiest part of this challenge is waiting. The soufflé needs to be in the oven for 40 minutes, but you can’t open the oven to see how it’s going because it will deflate.

Olivia’s soufflé is the first to be tasted, and it’s risen well. It’s golden on the top and Maggie says the mixture is perfect. Olivia watches on nervously because she can’t hear what the judges are saying. Antonio’s soufflé is golden, but it hasn’t risen as much as Olivia’s. The flavours are all there, but unfortunately it’s a little overcooked. They love Monica’s, and Liesel’s had some problems with her crumb.

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This is why they judge the souffle straight away.

From fourth to first: Antonio, Liesel, Olivia and Monica. The judges tell Olivia that Monica’s was slightly better, which is a demonstration of how close this competition is.

Showstopper: Around the World cake

For the penultimate showstopper, the judges have left a lot of room for interpretation of the brief. The contestants are asked to draw inspiration from their heritage, their travels, and people that have inspired them. Maggie says they need to pull out all the stops to make it to the final.

Antonio has abandoned his Italian heritage to make a French cake. His Gateau St Honore has alternating layers of choux buns and puff pastry, a lychee and a raspberry creme patissiere and rings of tempered white chocolate. Matt says the profiteroles are some of the best he’s ever tasted on the show, but Maggie says the puff pastry is a little undercooked. She said she could just sit there and keep eating it though, so this will be a tough challenge to judge. After Antonio takes his cake back to the bench, Maggie and Matt are still talking about his flavours, which is a very good sign.

Olivia has German heritage, but her family moved to Australia a generation before Liesel’s. For her showstopper, Olivia is making a Schichtortte (a great GBBO series 5 technical challenge), which is a cake baked in thin layers. Olivia’s cake will have 40 alternating layers of orange and almond, and will be decorated with a chocolate glaze and sugar work. Her cakes are moist, and the decoration is stunning. Matt counts all the layers in the cake just to make Olivia nervous. Maggie loves the almond and orange flavours together, and it looks as if Olivia will be this week’s Star Baker.

Liesel is also making a Schichtortte! She knows she’s going to be judged directly against Olivia, so she’s understandably nervous. Liesel’s Schichtortte will have 20 layers, some of which will be apricot jam. She’s decorating the cake with a mirror glaze and tempered chocolate. The presentation is simple, but the work went into baking the cake. There are clearly defined layers, but it’s unfortunately a little dry. Maggie suggests that she add jam to more layers of the cake, which would solve that problem.

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It appears that Liesel needs 2 dozen eggs for this challenge.

Monica is making a Pomme Charlotte. With lady fingers for decoration, the cake will have alternating layers of sponge and apple bavarois. Matt doesn’t want anyone to have an easy time today, so he tells Monica that Pomme Charlotte is one of the first things he made in a kitchen. Monica had fun with her decorations, but Matt thinks it’s a bit much. It tastes great though, and the apple isn’t too sweet.

Olivia wins Star Baker, and Mel pauses just long enough to make me doubt my instincts. She tells us that she really wants to win. Of course you do! Liesel is going home, and it’s tough to just miss out on the final. The final shot of the week is Antonio calling his Nonna to tell her he made it to the finale, it’s gorgeous.

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We’ll always have this gif.

Other thoughts:

  • As always, you can find this week’s recipes on the show’s website.
  • These recaps are also being published at Decider TV. Take a look around, there are some great articles going up at the moment.
  • Also: Vote for Bake Off in the Molkies! And other shows in different categories. I just bluffed the sports ones.
  • I’m in a church choir, and when all the stops are pulled out of the organ I can barely hear my own voice.
  • Bake Off related images courtesy of Foxtel, Fremantle Media and BBC Worldwide.