The Great British Bake Off: 11.05 Pastry Week
All of a sudden, The Great British Bake Off has reached the halfway stage with Pastry Week. When not just their baking skills would be put to the test but their cooking and even the baker's geometry. Would this year’s contestants learn the lessons of those that have gone before them; of no soggy bottoms, exquisitely thin bases and delicate pastry work? We would soon find out. This was also Linda’s time to shine, or so she thought.
The humble Cornish Pasty was the subject of the Signature Challenge and each opted to pimp theirs up, as you would expect. The test would not simply be limited to the execution of the brief but the combination of buttery pastry with moist, flavoursome fillings.
Linda even failed to hit the brief as her Rough Puff had no crimping, then again that kinda suited her Spicy Indian Chicken and Potato filling as they certainly looked like samosas. With a hybrid pastry which was not quite Shortcrust nor Rough Puff, Hermine opted for a tasty, spicy Moroccan Tagine filling of Lamb and Chickpea. A risk that paid off and even her hybrid pastry worked. Then there was Peter who, even when taking a huge risk like combining fish, rice and egg, still made it look effortless. His fish-shaped Smoked Haddock Kedgeree looked gorgeously brown yet the rice took away any welcome moisture.
Rice in a pasty is ill-placed anyway as Dave found out with his Thai Basil Chicken efforts. Another one cooking with fish was Marc. He had to get his Shortcrust pastry right as well as the ambitious Monkfish, Asparagus & Samphire filling or he’d have been suitably embarrassed to return home to Cornwall. Though it looked anaemic and dry, though there weren’t enough crimps he should be ok whenever he leaves the tent for home.
As last week’s Star Baker, the pressure was on Mark yet his spiced Shortcrust pastry was a winner alongside the kick of his Indian Aloo Gobi & Paneer filling. Perhaps in another week, he would have got a Hollywood Handshake. Not this week; even Laura using a Cheat’s Puff Pastry recipe from Paul’s own pastry book failed to get a handshake. Though the pastry was notably flaky for her simple and effective Cheese and Onion batch. The boldest filling belonged to Lottie who went for Sausages with Mash Potato and Gravy. There were doubts yet the textures and fillings proved even Prue wrong.
If that was tricky enough, it was relatively straightforward compared to the Technical Challenge of Raspberry and Salted Caramel Eclairs. Here’s where we found out who had done their homework. Who had practiced Choux Pastry before, which was certainly not Linda who needed three attempts and eventually provided a deconstructed version to finish bottom. Marc’s were underbaked and he was followed by Laura. We also discovered who had not made Crème Pâtissière before - perhaps not Dave and certainly not Lottie. Mark’s were messy but still tasted delicious, Hermine’s were a tad too big and top of the pile was Peter whose were as neat as ever.
The show’s fascination with extravagant 3D Showstoppers continued with a Caged Tart; basically a sweet tart caged inside a lattice pastry design. There were so many aspects that had to be nailed; the thickness of the tart base, the blind baking, structurally strong pastry for the cage and geometric skills to ensure it held together. The drama was in watching the cages come out of their moulds and wondering if they would remain intact. Peter and Laura’s came out in one piece while Mark’s fell apart. Then there was Linda, who needed the perfect final round, hers crumbled apart like her chances.
When it comes to design, Dave is looking like a dark horse and his Mango & Lime Tart looked stunning enough. The surrounding design was chic and minimal, as a Louvre-inspired Pyramid Cage should be. Lottie also went for a Pyramid Cage, though hers looked a bit more dainty, it was the Apple Tree Tart with a Toffee Popcorn Crème Diplomat that was under real contention. The question was, could it be an actual tart if it didn’t have sides? Though it looked a mess and might not have even hit the brief, at least it was tasty.
Marc’s Chocolate, Apple & Blackberry Pie Tart in a Puff Pastry Cage was a lot more colourful and involved though the regimented base didn’t quite complement the filling. A shame. Then there was Mark who was in a bit of trouble and his Pear & Sage Tart sounded divine yet the Rough Puff Bottle Cage was ill-advised and even the pears looked insipid.
Laura wanted to prove the judges wrong, that she could do dainty designs as well as big flavours. The Key Lime Filling in her Kent Garden Tart nailed an intense flavour hit while the Italian Meringue in a Puff Pastry Cage impressed for design. Lessons learned, she was awarded with Star Baker. There was able competition from Peter’s Blackberry & Lemon Tart which may have had the best confinement in the tent with a robust Shortcrust Pastry Cage. Then the awkward silence as the camera panned from the two judges tucking in to cut to Peter’s concerned face. He had little to worry about. Neither did Hermine who also went for citrus with a Lime Confit & Lemon Meringue Tart in a Pastry Box. With such precision, the construction suitably fell apart though the tart base was a tad too thick. That left Linda and her Gypsy Tart of Chocolate, Coffee & Brandy in (what was supposed to be) a Vanilla Pastry Dome. In earlier rounds she may have gotten away with a collapsed cage, though at the halfway point it was not nearly enough.