The Great British Bake Off: 5.09 Patisserie Week
Just when you thought The Great British Bake Off could not get any tougher it reaches the semi-final stage and Patisserie Week. Put simply, the very best pastry chef would have found this week hellish, let alone amateurs.
First up, filo pastry for two sets of 12 portions of baklava. Before you ask, no, you could not bring in any readymade packs. They each had 3.5 hours yet even that seemed short to create the most fragile of pastries. Aside from getting the layers wafer-thin there was the issue of the syrup; too viscous or too hot and it would simply soak the pastry. Then there were the fillings to consider for this sticky Middle Eastern sweet.
Nancy went for the rather pedestrian filling of muesli for her Breakfast Baklava then Coffee and Chocolate Baklava. The flavours were original, the texture was good and there was a winning crunch yet they appeared shoddy. Of course, Luis went for the spectacular with his Indian Rose Baklava yet Paul Hollywood disputed whether they should count and judged them as "bone dry". The Halwa Baklava Rolls only included one layer and it seemed that Luis had missed the brief.
Richard had done his research with a few local Turkish restaurants in North London and it paid off. The classic flavour combinations of Rose and Pistachio Baklava then Walnut and Almond Baklava with Cinnamon and Orange Syrup worked well and Mary Berry was complimentary on his shape and big nuts. The only contestant to dare mess with the pastry was Chetna who added cocoa for her Chocolate Orange Baklava. Paul did his usual scrutinising which left her doubting and she was criticised for her lack of layers. Similar problems hit her Masala Chai Baklava with a lack of syrup. Round one to Richard.
The technical has become a little predictable. Yup, as expected no-one had heard of, let alone baked, a Schichttorte before. Put simply, it is a German layered cake which sounds simple enough until you consider the 20 layers and two hours cooking time. Cue frantic reading of instruction sheets and a few panicked faces. This would ultimately test concentration, and also boredom levels, as each contestant would have to watch the grill to ensure enough alternate layers of light and dark cake.
Certainly, the most organised would excel and Chetna came up with a method of maintaining the grilling heat yet alternating between five minutes for light and seven for dark. Even then she struggled for time and her cake ended up over-baked, lopsided with only 17 layers leaving her last. Nancy decided to list her layers as she went yet only managed 18 and her chocolate glaze refused to set which left her in third place. This left a fight between the boys for top spot. Both managed the required 20 layers yet the professional finish and even layers of Luis' were the difference. Round two to Luis then and it was already looking worrying for the ladies.
The final showstopping round certainly lived up to its billing. If you have ever been to a French patisserie you will fully appreciate how stunning the entremets look in the window. These strike fear into any pastry chef yet each contestant had to create two sets of 12 in five hours.
Nancy called them "top end", Mary billed them "the high end of patisserie" and it was clear that expectations were high. These had to be exquisite both in flavour and appearance with a focus on incorporating different flavours and textures in each tiny delicacy. Even in their own workstations this would test their ability to multi-task and perform several challenging cooking techniques under pressure but hey, at least someone else would do the washing up.
From the start, Nancy appeared daunted and her comment that "cooling time is a luxury" set the tone for a truly difficult ordeal. Even then her Lime and Passion Fruit Entremets seemed relatively simple yet were criticised for their poor appearance, specifically from Paul for hiding the layers in a white chocolate glaze. Certainly, the refreshing flavours were there for her Raspberry Nonnettes and the jelly square centre impressed yet the sight of her chocolate glaze simply running onto the worktop proved how tough she found it.
Chetna seemed to find the challenge equally punishing as her mousses refused to set and nerves got the better of her. Even if they did contain six layers, 'The Flavour Queen' was harshly judged for the not very neat appearance and lacklustre flavour of her Chocolate, Orange & Nut Entremets. Thankfully, her Cappuccino Entremets provided a memorable kick.
Like the technical challenge, the boys again proved top dogs with both eager to show off their finesse. It seems that everything Luis puts up to the plate looks shop-bought, which is a compliment at the precision his creations convey. Mary deemed his Chocolate Mousse and Cherry Entremets as "spectacular" while Paul admitted that they looked "very, very good". Makes you wonder why Luis always looks so humbled when he keeps receiving such high praise. The Pomegranate, Fig and Pistachio Sponges fared similarly well with their distinct layers and prominent flavours.
For anyone wondering how calorific these desserts were need only have watched Richard casually lob in lumps of butter for his buttercream. He had also decided to showcase distinct layers for his Hazlenut Mocha and Pink Grapefruit Entremets and each featured bright, contrasting colours complimented by delicious flavours. After another impressively consistent round he was awarded Star Baker for the fifth (FIFTH) time. Alas, it was time for Chetna to leave the tent.