The Great British Bake Off: 10.10 The Final
After nine weeks, a baker's dozen of hopeful amateur bakers had been whittled down to just three contestants for The Great British Bake Off Final. Like any reality TV show, what had led each finalist to this point was largely irrelevant. No matter that Steph had four Star Baker awards to David's none; whoever nailed their flavours, handled the pressure and performed best on the day would win. There were meltdowns, tears and even fretting over a cancelled flight in a final that did not disappoint.
The Signature Challenge was an Ultimate Chocolate Cake which left the contestants to conjure up wild and extravagant variations on a relatively straightforward dessert, all under two hours. Simple in theory but devilish in the detail with that amount of time. Each had their own take and each struggled to fit everything in as nerves and quivering hands got the better of them.
Alice came into the final as the dark horse and a more than decent all-rounder, capable of bold presentation and great flavours yet prone to being flustered. She went for a Chocolate, Pear, Ginger and Maple Cake decorated with a Dark Chocolate Ganache Dip, Hazelnut Brittle and Poached Pears in Red Wine and Cinnamon. The recipe was a tad perplexing and the cake itself was a little lopsided in design then flavour with the pear, ginger and maple dominating. Paul wanted more chocolate while Prue thought it was simply delicious and the flavours worked well.
David had impressed by being arguably the most consistent throughout with exquisite presentation yet sometimes found lacking in his flavours. If he could just tweak that then he was in with a shout of taking the grand prize. His Chocolate, Armagnac and Prune Cake looked to wow the judges with simply the sheer amount of booze. There was Armagnac in the syrup, cream and even for soaking the prunes themselves. At least half the bottle had been used with the smell hitting the judges instantly yet the textures hit the mark.
If the final went on form then Steph should have won, yet that's not how these contests are decided. What she's lacked in self-belief she's made up with neat presentation and stunning, understated flavour combinations. She stuck with a familiar, family recipe for a Classic Black Forest Chocolate Cake with all the usual features of Cherry Jam, Kirsch Chantilly Cream and Chocolate Ganache. Out of the three she pretty much nailed the brief of a delicious chocolate cake, even if it was a bit over-baked. While the other two contestants may have over-complicated their efforts, in keeping with what she knew Steph looked to have taken the lead.
The tricky Soufflé had been conspicuous by its absence so of course they brought it in for the final Technical Challenge; six Twice Baked Stilton Soufflés in fact. This was an even bigger challenge when it was clear the contestants hadn't practised. David had mistaken a Soufflé dish for a plant pot, Alice had never made a roux before and Steph had never cooked with a Bain-marie. The results were hardly surprising and it was a case of whose were the least embarrassing.
Alarm bells had begun to ring when Steph put cold water into her Bain-marie and maybe in a previous round she'd have been able to pass it off with an embarrassed chuckle. Alas, this was the final and though that mistake could have been made by a lot of amateur bakers it was largely unforgivable here. You could barely blame her for a few tears considering a misjudgement like that could cost her so severely after she'd performed so well thus far. Steph's efforts could barely be considered and took the appearance of 'soups' but actually tasted ok, Alice's were under-baked while David's looked like Soufflés and deservedly got top spot.
That left it all to play for in the Showstopper of all Showstoppers. A Deliciously Deceptive Feast which was basically a Nougatine Picnic Basket containing cake, enriched bread and biscuits with none of the creations being what they appeared. Cakes that looked like pies, bread buns as apples and drink refreshments served as jellies. With the competition distilled down to a single round, other distractions came into play. Steph was still visibly upset by her Soufflé mishap and Alice was unsettled by her parents possibly missing her big day due to a cancelled flight.
While the occasion of the final got to her Steph ploughed on through with her Picnic Basket. The Spiced Orange Bread Buns lacked any real finesse to be considered Fairy Cakes and her Almond Macarons as Strawberries failed to glisten. Though her Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake masquerading as a Giant Chicken Burger looked suitably bap-esque there were numerous issues and no real WOW factor. Despite four Star Bakers she'd stumbled at the final hurdle.
Alice really wanted something to celebrate and especially with her parents. Her End of the School Year Celebration Picnic had very convincing appearances and the flavours did not disappoint. From the Prosecco Jelly glasses to the Strawberries of Raspberry Macarons, Ice-cream cones of Orange and Cardamom Bread Buns to Blueberry Sponge Apples. The real highlight was the stunning use of her carrot cake as a Pie, Chicken Drumsticks and particularly Scotch Eggs with lemon curd. On another day it may have been enough but not today.
Despite coming second in so many technical challenges and without winning a single Star Baker, David pulled it out of the bag when it mattered the most. Maybe the final got to both Alice and Steph, maybe they were indeed distracted. Both were unsure about their macarons and in the final such little details are crucial and well worth worrying about, yet David made it look effortless with his Peachy Pic-Nik.
There have been question marks over his flavours, particularly his use of spices, yet everything he presented worked a charm. There was a cheeseboard made of biscuit and Fig Rolls that look like Sausage Rolls but the Cheese Wedges made of Lemon Pound Cakes looked good enough for a Dickensian spread. Even his use of the most delicate of spices worked for his Peaches of Saffron, Orange and Apricot Bread. We have come to expect stunning presentation from David and when it mattered he excelled with his flavours too, which is what you need to win a final.