The Great British Bake Off: 9.09. Patisserie Week
There are certain expectations for Patisserie Week which include a level of finesse, a quest for perfection and exquisite design throughout. To get to the final, each contestant would have to believe they were a Parisian pastry chef for the week which for a bunch of amateurs would be a challenge in itself. Perhaps then the nerves got the better of them but this was more a case of who made the least mistakes to prevail rather than who impressed to get to the final.
The Signature Challenge was delicate enough of 24 Dipped Madeleines, which is a genoise sponge with a delectable little hump. Knowing they would be pushed for time all of them opted for baking powder to pump their hump. However, both Ruby and Rahul opted for fresh raspberries despite being warned by Paul that the liquid may distort the bake, it's just science.
As well as her raspberry and lemon sponge covered in white chocolate and raspberry powder, Ruby's Pick Your Own Madeleines also included orange and stem ginger sponges covered in desiccated coconut. Alas, her hump looked a little pathetic and her lumpy batter left little definition in the bake. All in all, a bit heavy and a bit sad, not a great start then.
Somehow Kim Joy managed to stick to her animal based themes as she plumped for orange flavoured Madeleines made to appear like bunnies, (because we have all seen an orange bunny rabbit, right?) then lemon dipped ginger variants. With the stakes so high you could forgive her shaking hands in what would be a traumatic week. Despite her worries, her sponges were expectantly neat and tidy aside from the bulging humps due to excessive baking powder. Alas, there was little sense of the lemon nor ginger though the orange was an improvement.
After last week, Rahul really needed to up his game to secure his place in the final and soon looked unduly nervous. Possibly due to the fact that he had also challenged Ruby's raspberry and lemon flavour combination to go with a batch injected with orange curd and covered in chopped hazelnuts. The old Rahul looked to have made a welcome return as the flavours were there and, despite the raspberries lowering the hump, the execution was largely there too.
Surprisingly it was Briony who first opted for the alcohol option this week with her cocktail themed Madeleines based on mojitos with a mint teabag and spiced rum then dark chocolate and coffee beans for espresso martinis. The mojitos lacked a punch, in fact they lacked any discernible flavour at all, though the espresso was present. A middling start for Briony who would show good intentions throughout but consistently failed to hit the mark.
If they were to prevail, the four would have to keep their stamina for the longest ever technical to create a Torta Setteveli. The Italian dessert incorporates seven layers, this one would consist of two chocolate genoise, two hazelnut bavarois, a praline base and a chocolate mousse then a sublime mirror glaze all in three and a half hours. When Prue called it the 'near impossible' this really was a challenge worthy of earning a place in the final.
Rahul then Briony were left ruing their rubbery mirror glazes as they were now in serious danger. Despite having suffered a meltdown at her struggle to make a chocolate mousse, Kim Joy finished second as her mousse melded into the mirror glaze. Top of the pile was Ruby who could afford a smug grin due to the definition in her layers and the simple fact that her mirror glaze managed to cover the entire cake.
Despite all the trials and tribulations, there was a rather level playing field as the final spots on offer came down to the showstopper. In order to imagine they were a Parisian pastry chef they would have to produce a Parisian Window of choux (light French pastry), pate sucre (French sweet pastry) and puff pastry mille feuille totalling 36 patisseries. The question was, who could hold their nerve?
Ever the artist, Ruby created a Parisian Un Bouquet de Fleurs Window Display of Strawberry and Mint Mille Feuille, Chocolate and Hazelnut Saint Honoré Cakes and Lemon Verbena Tartets. Her layers were again present and correct in the Mille Feuille and the verbena was perhaps overpowering but a solid effort was all she needed to be crowned Star Baker.
Joining her was Kim Joy though there was a shock that no animals were featured in her Favourite Flavours Window Display. However, there were nuns in her Religieuse (one large choux pastry underneath a smaller one filled with crème patissiere) which went with Mango and Passion Fruit Tartlets then Lemon and Blueberry Mille Feuille. She was not the only one to run out of time but immediately the dry top of her Mille Feuille was set upon by Paul as if this was really Paris and he really was a patisserie chef seemingly mortified by the pathetic effort sitting in his window. Though her nuns were properly filled, the execution was lacking.
The final place would be decided between the two bottom placed contestants from the technical challenge; Briony and Rahul. In a case of who got away with it there are certain words you really want to avoid hearing during Bake Off, such as 'unbaked', 'raw' and 'inedible'. Perhaps the most damning to hear in a semi-final is the word 'boring' and this was the major criticism aimed at Rahul who somehow got away with playing it safe. His Classic Tribute to Patisserie Window of Lemon and Blueberry Mille Feuille, Caramel Eclairs and Classic Fruit Tartlets was effectively scaled down and he also based his filling on the same crème patissiere batch. With his confidence rocked you can appreciate why he would opt for safety first yet for the semi-final that was a risk in itself. With all that pragmatism, the fact he failed to glaze the fruit on his tartlets was another grave error yet on a lighter note, his Mille Feuille looked comical but at least it tasted amazing which may just have saved him.
Then there was Briony, oh Briony. Her first mistake was being the only one going old school with the full, laminated version of puff pastry for her Coffee and Walnut Mille Feuille. Black Forest Tartlets and Lemon Drizzle Eclairs would complete her British Tea to French Patisserie Window yet not opting for 'rough puff' condemned her efforts as she would continually be playing catch up. Still, she seemed rather cool about the clock ticking down until she noted the doughy middle in her Mille Feuille. To compound her misery the tarts were too thick and the eclairs too big then unfilled. Almost criminally in a semi-final, she may even have mixed up her salt and sugar which sealed her fate and meant she failed to make it to the final.