The Great British Bake Off: 10.09 Patisserie Week
You have to be a special type of cruel to set Patisserie Week for the semi-final and this was merciless. One contestant must leave the tent, one step away from the final and the pressure was truly on to create the most fancy, fiddly and refined baking creations. Meltdowns would be had amidst Sugar Glass boxes and exquisite pastries.
The Signature Challenge of eight Domed Tartlets set the testing tone. Each tartlet had to be neat, precise and delicate with a set filling so they actually looked like halved Scotch Eggs covered in shiny, smooth mirror glazes. Before all that there was a touching tribute of each contestant wearing a tie in homage to Henry's departure last week. Lovely.
Perhaps the weakest link this far in the competition was Rosie and she initially impressed with her Lemon, Raspberry and Mint Domed Tarts. Alas, the Raspberry, Gin and Mint Crème Pâtissière oozed out as it failed to set yet the Lemon Bavarian Cream dome and a vivid yellow Lemon Mirror Glaze with a Pâte Sablée pastry were pretty much faultless.
David went full on with the booze in a bid to woo the judges. So much so that a glass of bubbly was offered as a 'palette cleanser'. The bribery may have been ill-judged but the flavours in his Aperitif Domed Tarts were anything but. An Aperol Spritz flavoured Jelly over Rhubarb topped with a Mirror Glaze on a Hazelnut Biscuit Base worked a treat, even if they did look a little bit rude.
Keeping it subtle was Steph with her Raspberry, Lemon and White Chocolate Domed Tarts filled with Raspberry Jelly and Lemon Mousse then covered in a White Chocolate Mirror Glaze on a Pâte Sablée pastry. The flavour combinations of the sharp lemon and raspberry did the trick yet the pastry was too limp for Prue.
Then there was Alice who went for the divine and decadent approach with her Mocha, Hazelnut and Orange Domed Tarts with Espresso Buttercream, Hazelnut and Praline Paste on a crisp, buttery base, topped with Blanched Hazelnuts and a Chocolate Mirror Glaze. The pipework looked a little rushed which was a shame as the flavours were gorgeous according to Paul.
When Prue described the Technical Challenge as "very difficult to look good" then contestants would be obliged to hold their head in their hands, as they have done for this challenge for most of the series. Even with her French heritage, Alice failed to recognise some of the elements and at that point alarm bells should have been ringing. Again, hats off to the researchers for finding such a ridiculously difficult creation as a Gateaux St. Honoré. This is a homage to the French saint of bakers of pastry chefs (trust the French) and is rectangular with two alternate layers; Puff Pastry then Choux Buns dipped in sweet caramel and filled with a Crème Chiboust (a Crème Pâtissière lightened with stiffly beaten egg whites) finished with piped Chantilly Cream. Just getting all that down was a challenge in itself.
At least Rosie has made one before, even if it was a disaster. True to the semi-final there was no room for error; the textures had to be right and the pastry trimmed. The Choux Buns had to be set and uniform sized adorned with crisp caramel. Anything but would simply look wrong. All this stress turned the kitchen into an exam room as side eyes were aplenty on each other's attempts. Whether the pastry should go in the fridge or the freezer. Whether the choux mix had formed a V when falling off the wooden spoon.
Then the meltdown began as Rosie started her Choux Buns, Crème Chiboust and Puff Pastry again then decided to go with her original pastry, at least she hadn't binned it. Remarkably, despite all that stress Rosie's effort looked more than passable. David's Crème Chiboust had split, the butter had escaped from Steph's Puff Pastry and her Crème Chiboust had scrambled then Alice's caramel was overdone. Alice was bottom, Steph was third, David was second and, lo and behold, Rosie actually came out on top. Would that miracle be enough to get her through though?
With the final being so tantalisingly close there was no room for error in the Showstopper Challenge of a Sugar Glass Display Case covering a personal and heartfelt edible object. The display case was a challenge in itself and more or less a chemistry experiment using inverted sugar known as isomalt and melting it at an obscenely hot temperature then letting it set in liquid form. Contestants then became builders for expertly gluing the panes together, thankfully none of it shattered.
Despite coming second in yet another Technical Challenge, David was in trouble with his Greenhouse Growing Moss. Not so much for the sponges but for the simple fact that he'd missed the brief that this was Patisserie Week and the semi-final. The sponges were fine and made from beetroots and prunes then parsnips and apricots for all dem natural sugars. A Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cream Cheese Icing with Buttercream Cacti and Chocolate Soil was also fine. Also, the display case looked rustic enough to look like a greenhouse window covered in condensation. The problem was that this looked like a giant worker's sandwich when the creation needed to be more delicate, more refined, more skilful and ultimately more worthy of Patisserie Week.
It was Rosie's Time with Family that actually proved to be time's up. The glass looked suitably antique and there were certainly various elements of patisserie in there. The list looked impressive enough; of Mocha Crème Pâtissière, Salted Caramel Crème, Minature Choux Buns, Brioche, a Chocolate Tartlet, Orange Pate Sablée base and Chocolate Ganache. However, this appeared rather like a bland afternoon tea with barely any flavour from the cakes according to Paul and it was all a bit meh for a centre piece. Time to go.
With four Star Bakers there is a question that Steph may have peaked too soon. Then she produced her Night at the Opera and it was so true to form, so typically neat and tidy, so very Steph. She almost looks embarrassed when judges shower her with adulation yet this looked suitably stunning. Layers of Jaconde Sponge with Chocolate Ganache and Orange Crème au Beurre covered in Almond Nut Brittle, Chocolate Orange Macarons and a Chocolate Mirror Glaze so dark it looked almost black. Her display case even looked like a giant ice cube as she glued her panes together instead of wrapping them in biscuit like the competition though this time it was not enough to win Star Baker.
At this point in the competition there is always a dark horse and that claim can certainly be made of Alice, especially after her Save Our Oceans showstopper. The waves in the sugar glass may have backfired in hiding the creation yet she pulled out all the stops with her Mirror Glaze Entremet Cake with Lemon Genoise Sponge, Lemon and Honey Custard, Raspberry Curd and White Chocolate Bavarois. The coral decorations looked lurid and vibrant, though someone may need to explain to her the double meaning of a Chocolate Starfish. Despite coming last in the Technical she was safely through as Star Baker. Next week, the final.