The Great British Bake Off: 11.09 Patisserie Week
Faster than you can say ‘cube cake’ it’s Patisserie Week and the Semi-Finals of The Great British Bake Off. This is where the pressure is really ramped up and where elegance is implored, nay demanded. This was also Hermine’s time to shine as Patisserie is her trump-card, apparently.
To ease the contestants in, the Signature Challenge was a Savarin which is a yeasted, pipeable yet stretchy dough soaked in syrup then decorated. Just like last week, the heatwave conditions were not helpful as proving would prove quicker than normal. If the Savarin was airy and golden brown, they still had to make the decoration fit for a Parisien pâtisserie itself.
Despite being set to leave for around half of the competition so far, Laura was still in with a shout of the final. As ever, those who wanted to impress opted for the bottle and most did. Her Poached Pineapple, Kiwi & Passion Fruit Rum Babas included pipettes of rum syrup for that extra, boozy kick. With perfection insisted upon, the judging was predictably harsh. Though they were golden brown, maybe the batch was a bit irregularly sized and the light sponge a bit overpowered by cinnamon though these were very good rum babas. Dave was improving at just the right time of the competition and his Honey Tequila, Mango & Passion Fruit Savarins sounded potent. Such was his unshakeable confidence, he managed to pull it off with an airy, light sponge and (somehow) balanced flavours. The only issue being that each was sat in a puddle of curd yet, aesthetics aside, this was a solid start.
To give them their full French title, Hermine produced a batch of Crème et Abricot Baba au Rhum (roughly translated as Cream and Apricot Rum Babas). Despite this being the semi-final, she was still laughing and joking as if entertaining guests in her own kitchen. Then the pressure hit as her sponges looked decidedly lopsided, so she did what she had to do; she started again resulting in a perfectly appetising yet under-proved, bready batch. Though the Chantilly and Crème pâtissière worked well and though the flavours were lovely, this was a difficult start. Making up the quartet was clean living Peter. Rather predictably, out of all of them he decided to produce a teetotal batch with an indulgent Elderflower syrup rather than an outlandish alcoholic concoction. Although rectangular and though his Strawberry & Elderflower Babas sounded boring, out came the Hollywood Handshake and Peter was back to his neat and consistent best.
They just couldn’t help themselves could they. For the Technical Challenge, the contestants would have to make a Danish Cornucopia, also known as the ‘Horn of Plenty’ (snigger). Innuendo aside, this was a seriously demanding round with ground almonds instead of flour and an architectural design rather than a recipe. No wonder Laura was reduced to tears. After Matt gave her a confidence boost, she then forgot to turn the oven on resulting in cranking it up and cracked pastry. Of course, no-one was quite sure of how long to bake them for, only for Paul to later remark that the rings had to be baked individually (now you tell them!). Rather tellingly, Hermine simply began freestylin’ and Laura made her caramel on the fly out of frustration rather than anything else.
Almost everything was wrong with Laura’s; the bake, the haphazard decoration and the fact it refused to stand in place. Understandably, she was last while Dave’s were simply over-baked which left him in third. Not that it truly mattered, but Hermine was second due to her poor decoration, which left Peter at the top though this clearly was not shaped like a horn.
Going into the Showstopper it was fairly obvious who was in trouble (the girls) and who could ease off a bit (the boys). Perhaps the pressure told in the end as Peter and Dave excelled, leaving Laura and Hermine to fight it out for the remaining spot in the final. The challenge itself was to produce a Cube Cake comprised of at least 25 mini shaped cakes. The expectations were high, of perfectly baked sponges with professional adornments and exquisite textures.
If there was a showstopper that demanded decadence then this was it and Dave’s Celebration of Chocolate Cube Cake certainly did not disappoint. With shells of white, milk and dark chocolate, perhaps the only faux pas found him cutting his cakes out of their plastic moulds; then again, it was the semi-final after all. If Peter had got a Hollywood Handshake earlier, then Dave got a mini round of applause from Prue for delicious caramel and a perfectly set mousse. Peter likely did not need to go big as he was not going home, yet even then his Chocolate, Raspberry & Pistachio Cube Cake was the most ambitious. Three different cubes, each containing a different combination of the three flavours. Clearly he had practised it before as every element went according to plan. He also had the foresight to cut his cakes instead of risking his inherent neatness by using moulds. Despite the complications, these looked ever so neat to the point that he insisted that the judges try each one. Someone with nerves in a semi-final simply does not ask to be examined so thoroughly. Put simply, he had nailed it again and was awarded Star Baker without any real doubt.
With a final spot up for grabs, Laura really needed to prove herself with her Black Forest Cube Cake. There were five layers in each cake containing two mousses then covered in a dark chocolate mirror glaze. Or so she hoped, as the glaze looked more like an unsieved cake mix. which eventually came out too thin. The end result was a batch that looked somewhat like congealed beef. Yet it tasted delicious and was deemed to be definitely worth the calories. Would her flavours be enough?
For Hermine, practice clearly would not make perfect so she abandoned her planned recipe and was freestylin’ again with a new recipe from the day before. ‘The Best of Hermine’ Cube Cake clearly was not that. While Laura had gone with one cake, Hermine went with two; the first was of Freeze Dried Raspberries with Cherry Mousse loaded with Kirsch. Decent enough, yet the second of Coffee & Praline Mousse with a Jaconde Sponge was Panna Cotta-esque with a mirror glaze, that was like thick wallpaper paste. The batch was lopsided, bouncy and stodgy when it should have been luxurious, bold and sophisticated. She knew this was not her best and the flavours had let her down at the final hurdle. After being Star Baker for the last two weeks, she was the latest to leave the tent.