The Great British Bake Off: 9.05 Spice Week
After Terry's non-appearance last week the heat was on for the very first Spice Week. This would be the first double elimination and from the start it was clear that the prospect of being one of two to leave had gotten to a number of contestants as they strained to get their flavours out there.
Perhaps one of the most familiar spices was up first in the Signature Challenge which was Ginger Cake. The spice would take many different forms; stem, fresh, ground and crystallised yet each had to be treated carefully. Briony had opted for fresh and ground in her Honey and Apricot Ginger Cake which was dry and even overpowered by the apricot. For his Bonfire Night Caramel Ginger Cake with Cinder Toffee, Rahul treated us to his now customary look of pain combined with apologetic nervousness. Again it was all in vain as he got a Hollywood Handshake for the ginger honeycomb and the awesome stem ginger. That little genius. Karen also went for Bonfire Night and was again keeping close to her home comforts as she based her cake on the traditional Yorkshire treat of Parkin. After replacing the milk with brandy it was perhaps little wonder it was deemed too boozy. Another contestant with a known drinking problem, at least in her baking, is Ruby. This week she lobbed rum into her Jamaican Me Crazy Ginger Cake, though sadly at the expense of the ginger.
Of course, gingerbread came into play and Jon depicted his loved ones on a Family Christmas Ginger Cake (yes folks, the countdown has already begun) complete with Lemon Water Golden Balls. Alas, the balls were the mini stars of the show as the cake was deemed claggy. Kim Joy also decided to bake a gingerbread house to sit atop her Stem Ginger Cake with Poached Pears. The texture was great and the balanced flavours were rewarded with a Hollywood handshake which set the tone for her week. The third handshake went to Manon who went for fresh ginger for her elegantly scorched Italian Meringue Ginger Cake.
After so many consistent weeks, Dan finally proved himself human when the batter in his Ginger and Lemon Drip Cake started to split revealing curds. Then the dilemma of whether to stick or twist and the inevitability of throwing the mix into the bin and starting again. With limited time to cool the four tiers leaned due to the warmth when assembled, a shame yet well retrieved. The cult hero had returned and Terry was back playfully singing to himself while preparing his Caramelised Pear and Stem Ginger Cake. Just like Dan, the temperature beat him as the buttercream melted leaving a gluey mess.
Gold star for anyone who has heard of a maamoul. No, me neither. This week's Technical Challenge was two batches of the filled Middle Eastern pastries; one with walnuts and the other with a date paste. As usual, the devil was in the detail which was, as usual, cruelly omitted from the notes. The pastry needed to treated with care and contestants had to deal with two unknown but potent North African ingredients in the pastry itself. For the unaware amongst us, Mastic is a plant resin with an anise flavour and Mahleb is derived from cherry stones. Good luck finding either in your local supermarket. Karen had swapped the fillings around leaving her bottom where she was joined by Terry whose had melted, both would be in the final reckoning too. At the top was Ruby though Dan redeemed himself with second place.
There may be a bug in the tent as Prue was absent through sickness for the Showstopper Challenge leaving Paul to play the Bad Cop routine all by himself. The challenge was spectacular enough of a Spiced Biscuit Chandelier which tested their abilities as architects. The biscuits had to hang and too much sugar would make them brittle while too much butter could let them crumble.
There were cracks throughout Jon's messy Birthday Chandelier for Emily's 21st. The biscuits also appeared as if decorated by someone half, or even a quarter, that age. Rahul went for six hanging rows totalling 150 Orange and Cardamom biscuits for his Durga Puja Cardamom Chandelier. Yes, 150. He looked close to tears until Paul mentioned the words, 'melt in the mouth'. If anything, the little genius had probably overexerted himself.
Another conundrum was getting the timing right of when to bake, when to cool and when to decorate. Briony looked to have managed it with her Turmeric Latte Chandelier which looked exquisite yet the flavours failed to pull through. The same issue plauged Karen's Pontefract Girls' School Reunion Chandelier which was ambitiously flavoured with liquorice and cardamom. The biscuits were solid and chunky, just like the women in Pontefract, yet the lack of flavours signalled the end for her.
One down and one more to go. Dan had found himself in a bit of trouble from his lopsided Ginger Cake yet was back to his familiar, formidable self for his Birthday Kaleidoscope for Constance with beautifully designed butterflies. Also deemed safe was Ruth and though her Peacock Chandelier of 50 Pistachio and Cardamom biscuits lacked the promised ganache sandwich the biscuits were beautifully baked and stylishly designed. A few more were looking for some festive cheer and Manon's Art Deco Spiced Biscuit Chandelier was dominated by Chocolate and Tonka Bean Checkerboards. There was no discernible flavour but the consistent shade of the biscuits and the spectacular design was impressive. Kim Joy fared a lot better with her Christmas Spiced Ice Chandelier of snowflakes which looked suitably wintry and the spice combinations were classically balanced, more than enough to claim her Star Baker. That left Terry and no amount of praying could save him and his biscuits as, optimistically, he had gone for all 78 characters from the 12 Days of Christmas. After all that effort the biscuits were deemed quite bland and with that the double elimination was complete. Seven remain.