The Great British Bake Off: 11.04 Chocolate Week
Who doesn’t like a slab of chocolate, or ten? Especially when gooey, melted, tempered and drizzled. Chocolate Week was one for indulgence; of brownies, babkas and celebration cakes. Yet for all the talk of dreamy, decadent flavours it was worth noting that just nailing the recipe first was best practice.
This week began with that staple bake of chocolate brownies. The expectations were of gooey middles decorated with crackly tops, essentially under-baking which is exacting when they needed a set of eighteen in ninety minutes. With brownies, there is a fine line between sticky perfection, sponge-like consistencies and rawness. That none of the batches actually looked like brownies was proof that occasionally simplicity is key.
Typifying this over-complicated approach was Lottie who double-baked hers to include a layer of Chocolate & Pecan topped with Baked Raspberry Cheesecake. Paul suggested they looked like they’d been dropped, even then there was too much cheesecake. Not one to understate himself, Paul went even further with Marc and his Roasted Macadamia and Praline Buttercream efforts. Yes, they were messy, maybe a bit dry yet he hardly deserved to hear the devastating line that; “Brownies are one of the most basic things to bake, if you can’t get that right…” Barely anyone did Paul; you might as well have lambasted the entire tent!
Not to be caught out was Peter who was scientific with his ingredient ratios and bold with the ingredients themselves of Caramelised Figs, Pistachios, Dates and some slightly overpowering Cinnamon. According to Paul they were ‘just okay’ which likely meant they were actually superb. Dave even brought a calculator for his Honeycomb and Popping Candy Explosion Brownies though his batch was essentially a tray bake. Similarly, Linda went festive with Turkish Delight, Dates and Chopped Mixed Nuts though hers were over-baked and almost a sponge.
Hermine went for the ambitious combination of Raspberry, White Chocolate and Pistachio with a dash of Coffee - perhaps too ambitious. There was Sura, who opted for the marbled effect by combining Ruby and Dark Chocolate with Italian Meringue. Alas, half of her batch fell back into the oven and the other wasn’t even cut. Her week barely improved from there. Then there was the Battle of The S’Mores. Mark’s variation involved a Chocolate Chip Cookie base topped with Italian Meringue and Sugared Cranberries. Judging by the competition, just from Prue admitting that they tasted like a brownie, seemed like a win. They certainly were against Laura’s which were slightly more decadent with a Salted Caramel Drizzle and perhaps too sweet.
The Technical Challenge was a chocolate babka. Of course this meant limited time for proofing an enriched dough with delicious layers of Dark Chocolate and Hazelnuts. Lottie’s didn’t fit in the tin which left her bottom, Dave’s lack of rise meant eighth spot and Sura was just above him. Mark’s was neat but could have risen more which left Laura in second and top was Linda’s which was faultless.
Finally, the fiendishly difficult Showstopper of a White Chocolate Tiered Celebration Cake. There are several reasons why bakers decide not to bake with white chocolate. One is the single-note flavour, another is the fat content which means remembering to take out some butter for structural sponge integrity. The somewhat milky taste also means it’s tricky to compliment with flavour combinations. Even the warm weather wasn’t on their side as tempering would prove tricky.
Those that largely got it right fell down on design and flavours. There was Dave’s Fraisier Cake with Almond Liqueur and Crème Mousseline which looked suitably stunning, though the sponges were a tad too browned. Linda went for three tiers for her English Rose Cake with smooth flavours of Amaretto and Vanilla Mascarpone, countered with Raspberry Jam. Only the piping let her down.
Of those that impressed there was Laura, even if she did have to redo her sponges the Blackcurrant Jam worked beautifully with the Italian Meringue Buttercream. Hermine opted for lighter genoise sponges to counteract the heaviness of the white chocolate with Lemon flavoured Curd and Syrup. No Hollywood Handshake, though there was a PrueGasm. Peter was lobbing chunks of white chocolate into his Graduation Coconut Cake with Mango Curd and Chantilly Whipped Cream for good effect. The cake itself and the flavour combinations, were neat and clever, just like the equations that surrounded it. Mark has been quietly impressing since the outset and he went for Ground Pistachios and Lemon Genoise with Marula Fruit Liqueur and Italian White Meringue Buttercream. If anything, the flavours were too delicate though it looked exquisite and with that he was crowned Star Baker.
That left three to fight it out to remain. Lottie was out to impress by paying homage to her grandparents’ Sapphire Anniversary with Passionfruit Curd and Lime Syrup. For all the artistry in her decoration, it was over-baked. Marc went for three tiers with Pureed Raspberries and Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream, though the sponges were a tad heavy he looked to have gotten away with it. That left Sura who, for some bizarre reason, decided to dilute her white chocolate. She probably wished she hadn’t tried to pay tribute to her parents’ wedding anniversary, when the sponges came out as criminally raw. As Paul tapped the suspect layer to crown her bad week, it was little surprise when she left the tent.