The Great British Bake Off: 11.08. Dessert Week
And then there were five. As The Great British Bake Off reached the Quarter-Final stage you could tell that there were nerves in the tent. The final is within reach and the challenges were getting increasingly difficult; Dessert Week was no exception with a Technical Challenge that proved too technical for all of them.
First up was a familiar dessert, Mini Cheesecakes. At this stage of the competition each component of every batch had to be exact. For Mini Cheesecakes this meant silky smooth fillings, punchy flavours, textured bases and an artistically decorated top. No one wants an under baked, eggy mess, nor a sunken top though for some reason Passion Fruit was clearly in vogue.
One contestant who went Passion Fruit-free was Peter whose Ginger and Lime batch looked uncharacteristically amateurish and more like ridged mashed potato as he struggled to hide the dips. In comparison, Dave continued his impressive form with a ‘Celebration of Citrus’ of Lemon, Passion Fruit and Orange. Suffice to say, they were neat and decidedly satisfying.
Winning Star Baker the previous week usually means nothing at all. yet Hermine looked increasingly confident. Her Passion Fruit Cheesecakes on top of a Cinnamon Biscuit base were cooked in a Bain Marie then presented in lovingly wholesome jars complete with labels. Alas, the base was soft, while the filling lacked flavour. An inauspicious start yet, she was not dismayed. Marc kept it simple with good old fashioned New York Style Baked Vanilla and Mascarpone Cheesecakes with Pecan, Apricot and Almond. They looked more like tarts and were deemed too big and thin. In fact, the brainstorming for a Bake Off Musical with Matt and Noel seemed far more interesting than his batch. Then there was Laura who went for a combination of Vanilla, Mango and Passion Fruit. The textures were correct though they did look a tad rushed.
This week their gingham-concealed Technical Challenge dated back to the 1700s of Sussex Pond Puddings. Prue admitted that these were her favourite pudding, though quite why is anyone’s guess. There’s stodgy Suet pastry containing an oozy filling of a whole lemon (yes, a whole lemon) with syrup then served with a silky Crème Anglaise. Old fashioned? Certainly. Unnecessarily complex? Too right. As usual, the instructions were diabolically vague with no idea of how much milk to add nor how to treat the Suet pastry then how long to steam the puddings for. Eventually they decided on an hour which meant an awkward wait in the tent with several wondering if it long enough. It was not, as no one impressed and even a round of applause seemed embarrassing.
In a round where no-one impressed, it seemed unfair to even judge their attempts. Of course they still did with Dave’s suffering from a lack of steaming as his burst like a pile of vomit. Undoubtedly it was raw and hardly palatable which left him last. followed by Peter and Hermine. Though Marc finished second and Laura top, they were the best of a bad bunch. Even their puddings needed more time steaming and Prue seemed genuinely upset at their collective ineptitude.
There was an element of vindication in the Showstopper round as a final chance to impress opened up for several contestants. A Jelly Art Design Cake is a truly showstopping creation of sponge, mousse and jelly with the design requiring precision art and technical construction skills. They would have to inject liquid jelly into set and ensure each layer was firm enough so the overall design remained intact. Even Matt looked serious.
For Marc and Peter this was their final chance to stay in the competition and neither really proved themselves as, again, it was a case of who had been less terrible. Peter went for a Snow Globe Jelly Cake decorated with pastel coloured Panna Cotta Christmas decorations. The pressure was on and he began to second guess himself by not adding enough cornflour to his Orange and Cranberry Mousses though his Panna Cotta decoration did set. Had he done enough? Just. Perhaps if Marc had managed to nail just a single layer, he might have remained. The Apple Jelly was rubbery, the Chocolate and Strawberry Mousse had split and the Hazelnut Meringue was solid enough to build a house with.
That left the remaining three to fight for Star Baker. There was Dave with layer upon layer of Guava and Apple flavoured Jelly to create a clever, intricate Newquay Beach Scene atop an ill-advised Chocolate Fudge Sponge and an over-set Clotted Cream Mousse. The design was great yet the execution of the layers had failed him. Looking at Laura’s ‘Flower Power’ Koi Jelly Art Cake was like looking down into a pond. She had looked nervous throughout the round and at one point miraculously caught her layers. The Raspberry Mousse was delicious and the White Chocolate Bavarois with Genoise Sponge worked beautifully. Paul called it perfect though somehow failed to produce a handshake. That left Hermine and the Japanese Poppy in her jelly dome looked exquisite enough on its own. Add layers of Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse with Cherry liquor in the Kirsch Syrup and you have a deserved winner. Every layer brought something and she rightly kept her Star Baker title.