The Great British Bake Off: 10.07 Festival Week
Then there were six and to celebrate each of them getting so far we had Festival Week. No, not the musical kind during the summer filled with bands, stages, tents and questionable burgers but official causes for celebrations and days off. The Signature Challenge of 24 Festival Buns was open for interpretation though their airy and flavoursome composition was not. Baking techniques and proving times would come under scrutiny as this far into the competition 'just OK' would not cut it.
The most obvious festival was Easter as the most versatile option was a Hot Cross Bun. After three consecutive Star Bakers, Steph looked to be playing it safe with her Zest and Spice Hot Cross Buns. True to form, she pretty much nailed them with a perfect texture, sticky coating and the right distribution of fruit for yet another Hollywood Handshake. It couldn't be four Star Bakers in a row, could it? Alice had spent most of the working week marking through her day job as a teacher and went for the same option; though hers were Lemon, Blueberry & Almond variations coated with a Lemon Curd Glaze. The size and colour of the batch was irregular, the lemon was bitter instead of sweet yet the texture was decent. What had been a trying week was about to become a tad more stressful.
David was dreaming of a Bulgarian Easter with his Kozunak Lemon and Almond Plaits. They looked beautifully golden brown and were soft in the middle with a delicate saffron flavour. Even his family at home and back in Bulgaria might concede that these were a triumph. Eager to impress, Michael fused Christmas with Easter for his Figgy Pudding Hot Cross Buns served with a Brandy Glaze and Butter. These were packed (maybe too packed) with dried fruit and decorated with holly leaf icing for an indulgent treat. More importantly, the spices and flavours complimented each other.
Those wanting to make a bigger impression looked to Scandinavia. Henry opted for Sweden and a Chocolate Kardemummabullar with a Cardamom Glaze. Some were bigger than others though each was tempting to look at and the taste was rewarded with another Hollywood Handshake, even if Henry couldn't quite believe it and told Paul to 'shut up'. Rosie went even further afield with her Finnish Mardi Gras Semlor Peacock Festival Buns served with Lemon and White Chocolate Namelaka (a thick and creamy cross between a ganache and a crème pâtissière from Japan) then filled with Raspberry Jam. If they sounded complicated they looked child-like yet lacked a prominent rise which gave them an almost doughnutty texture, not altogether a bad thing.
The Technical Challenge was again met with confused, bewildered and slightly terrified faces. Twelve Sicilian Cassetelli which are deep-fried pastry crescents filled with a creamy mix of Ricotta, Chocolate and Orange and served at Italian carnivals. At this point in the competition, the oven makes way for increasingly dangerous apparatus. Barely anyone had used a pasta machine before and it showed as few could work it without the handle falling off. Eventually they would have to face the deep fat fryer and it is remarkable that everyone managed to provide a set of twelve and that first aid was not necessary. Bottom of the pile were Alice and Michael for their exploding efforts, then Steph for her thick pastry followed by Henry and David for his lack of crimping. Top of the pile was Rosie for her neat and filled pastries which largely meant she'd be staying for another week with the bottom two now in real trouble.
The Showstopper Challenge was another one that few would bother to attempt at home. This time for not having enough room nor bowls, not wanting to exhaust the local supply of eggs and also to avoid the smell of burnt cake batter. A Sarawak Cake is from Malaysia and has several layers of batter, each individually grilled (yes, grilled) on top of each other then chopped up to make what looks to be a huge patterned Battenberg with brightly coloured layers. The method was also crucial of ensuring the layers were consistent and cake-like with rubbery and even burnt layers an evident issue. Then there was the multi-tasking between checking the grill, making the filling and then creating the decorations. Even then, if the layers were well baked the cutting had to be precise to create perfect looking patterns.
Of the six, two contestants were in real trouble and three were up for Star Baker which left Rosie. She did not need to impress yet went rogue with a tricky triangle design for her Rainbow Layer Cake with Lemon and Mixed Spice Sponge. She also really did not need a burnt, discarded layer and while the cake looked a bit clumsy, she'd done enough. David kept his flavouring local with an Indonesian spice mix and brushed with a mix of Tamarind and Honey. The layers of monochrome then blue, yellow and pink were sophisticated and neat which almost evoked that of a dish at a Michelin star restaurant. Yes, it looked stunning but the plate was evidently sparse. No party bags would be provided though he would also be staying for another week.
Alice looked to be doing some much needed DIY as she spreaded an unappetising layer of grey batter amidst a workbench of utter chaos. She really needed to build something extravagant and went for a Chocolate, Orange and Salted Caramel Kaleidoscope Cake complete with sugarworked fireworks. The detail was vibrant and exquisite, even the almond flavour shone through. Would that be enough to save her? Seemingly succumbing to the pressure was Michael who reached for the bottle for his Jamaican Mule Layer Cake with Rum and Ginger Sponges then Rum and Lime Marzipan. Go big or go home was the mantra and this looked more like a giant decorated sandwich than a celebration cake. The sponges themselves were 'claggy' and it's doubtful whether there is a more awful word to describe a sponge. With the competition excelling, he was gone.
That left two to battle it out for Star Baker and Steph was not willing to give up her crown without a fight. She also went for big flavours and opted for Cointreau for her Orange and Chai Spiced Revitalise Cake which was delicate yet old-fashioned, just as she envisaged it. Despite Paul's trademark stare while chewing, the sponges were soft and delicious. With the Handshake count at 1-1, a lot rested on Henry's Elegant Present Box with Raspberry and Mint Jam which even sounded mysteriously South East Asian. The Lemon and Lime Sponges were well textured and flavoursome with his giddy face confirming he'd made it through to another week. Not only that but he was awarded Star Baker. No, YOU shut up.