The Great British Bake Off: 11.06 Japanese Week
In a rather drastic departure, or even a telling nod to a previous beloved contestant, it was Japanese Week on The Great British Bake Off. Perhaps they wanted something different for the 100th episode. Or were they paying homage to Kim-Joy from series nine? Her cutesy Japanese baking style got her as far as the final itself as she featured Itsukushima Shrine and even produced Tangzhong Chelsea Buns. Hopefully this year's batch of contestants could be just as inspired.
The Signature Challenge was Steamed Buns with melt in the mouth pastry and a shiny top. As ever, the fillings were the key if they managed to nail the brief. The bun itself was not too difficult, it was fitting in the filling then a nervous wait while the buns steamed. For an amateur baking show, even using raw meat worked out well.
Mark kept it simple with Burger Buns including Gherkins and Cheese Singles though they really needed some sauce. Paul demanded his have the pickle removed which seemed a bit too picky. Joining him in a ‘Burger Off’ was Lottie who layered hers up with Tomato and Gherkin Relish then Bacon and served them with curly chips. She looked to have triumphed as her flavour was spot-on, even without the relish due to Paul's pickle-based demands. As it turned out, this would not be the only disappointment for Mark this week.
Marc was inspired by his family cooking for an Indian ‘Hmmmm Dhal’ of Mango Chutney with Onion and Apple Lentil Dhal though the buns had puffed up a bit too much. If lentils were deemed a bit safe, then Dave’s use of raw poultry for his Katsu Chicken Curry Shaped Chickens was bold; yet they looked the part though the filling lacked flavour. Peter went for Lamb Mince in his cute black and white lambs spiced with ginger, chilli, coriander and cumin. Aromatic enough yet too full which left little room for the bun itself. Thankfully, Laura cooked off the Pork Belly in a Chinese-style sticky sauce for her Piggies. Alas, the piggies were too full, albeit delicious. The only one truly sticking with the Japanese theme was Hermine with her Chicken Nikuman Pandas. Unlike Peter’s, hers were mainly bread, though the filling was punchy.
The Technical Challenge was a Matcha Crêpe Cake and unlikely to be replicated in homes across the country. This was less a cake and more a precise collection of twelve ultra-thin Matcha-flavoured pancakes with equally wafer-thin Strawberry slices and White Chocolate Buttercream. The challenge would be whether they could eek out enough pancake mix for all twelve then work out the complicated layering and whatever a ‘crescent of fruit’ meant. Laura finished last, followed by Marc for a lack of crêpes, then Mark for a leaking, collapsing cake. Hermine was fourth and Dave was third. Lottie might have even claimed top spot were it not for some overzealous coconut decoration, which meant Peter was neatness personified again and claimed top spot.
Going into the Showstopper Round there were two who really needed to impress with their Kawaii Cake and both were feeling the nerves. Typically Japanese, the light cake had to represent all things cute and charming in a bold and vibrant design. This meant anime, shibas, cherry blossom and even cartoon avocados.
Clearly dogs were in vogue. Marc went for Hamish The Dog Cake, based on his own cheeky Border Terrier. There were distinct layers of Honey and Tahini with Ginger and Soy Bean Powder sandwiched with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Though the flavours were unconventional, they complimented each other for a cute and tasty creation. Dave kept with a traditional Japanese flavouring to create a Shiba Inu Cake of Chocolate, then Matcha and Rose Water Sponges. This was a tribute to his dog, Yoki, and certainly looked charming. Both the sponges and the flavours impressed, even though neither judge truly thought that they would.
Peter kept with his love of badminton and created ‘Dizzy The Shuttlecock’. A whimsical creation out of Rainbow-coloured Sponges with Chestnut Cream and Poached Pears, though the combinations were too much for Paul. With something to prove, Hermine disappointed with her Cherry Blossom Cake featuring Vanilla Sponge and Strawberries. This looked like something out of a Tim Burton film, which was certainly well-timed for Halloween, though it lacked any discernible Japanese traits. That meant that Lottie was in for a shout and she went all out with a nine-flavoured ‘Into The Japanese Woods’ Jiggle Cake, named as such because of its glorious wobble. The accompaniments were the worry, as she decided on Cherry Cream Whisky Fudge, Nama Chocolates and Candy Floss. Thankfully, the cake produced the wow factor all on its own and she was awarded with Star Baker.
That left a shootout for the final spot. Laura was the outsider having finished last in the Technical and she felt the nerves producing her Upside Down Pineapple Cake of Chiffon Sponge, Coconut Buttercream and a Lime Uzo curd. These were bold flavours and though the fondant icing was a tad clumsy, the pineapple is supposed to represent good luck and fortune. She needed it; though the layers had concertinaed. it tasted fabulous. Had she done enough? An Avo Baby of Avocado Chiffon Sponges certainly hit the brief. Tiny Avocado babies were both cute and charming. Then it came to the taste, the sponge was dry when it should have been silky smooth. According to Paul, the smaller cake was almost inedible which at this stage of the competition was a tellingly cruel blow though Prue did like the biscuits. The damage had been done and Mark left the tent.