The Great British Bake Off: 6.04 Dessert Week
Is it just me or is The Great British Bake Off getting crueller? Not Paul Hollywood's latest line of withering put-downs but the increasingly devilish challenges. For instance, no-one really chooses to bake crème brulees, mainly because of the stress involved. Too long in the oven results in scrambled eggs, too little and it is a creamy soup. At least the judging was easy enough.
Those that were viscous rather than velvety included Mat's Coconut and Lime, Sandy's Liquorice and Lemon (ambitious, right?) and Flora's Rhubarb and Ginger. Then there were the ones that were deliciously sweet scrambled eggs including Paul's boozy Almond Liquor efforts and Alvin's Blackberry and Vanilla.
Only four managed to get the texture right proving how tight the window of opportunity was to get them just set. Ugne impressed again as she pulled off another exotic flavour combination; in this case a Marula Fruit Coffee Liquor. Another contestant who is not afraid of throwing in flavours is Tamal who followed Flora's lead with a Rhubarb Compote with Stem Ginger throughout. Nadiya's Cinnamon Tea and Blackberry Jam combined terrifically and Mary Berry was impressed with the snap of the caramel on top. Then there was Ian who made it look easy, again, though there was criticism having used pomegranate not once, but twice.
The technical challenge was not just a multi-faceted world of pain but an international one too. Spanische Windtorte is actually Austrian but uses a crunchy French meringue and a marshmallow-esque Swiss meringue for an outer crust. Then there is cream, strawberries, raspberries and pretty candy violets. Even Paul found sympathy for the contestants.
As per usual it was easier to visualise the cake than use the vague directions only no-one had seen the dessert anyway. No-one knew how tall the meringue rings had to be which ran the risk of going too far and cracking the eventual structure. Ideal for architects and plasterers, a nightmare for overcautious bakers like Alvin who could not resist over-checking his until it was over-baked. For such a sublimely difficult challenge no-one really stood out yet Paul was top for good flavours and pretty flowers.
The showstopper was another tricky dessert you really should not try on a cookery show; cheesecake. In this case just the three tiers. There were a variety of themes and flavour combinations yet consistency fared best. Flora kept hers simple enough, probably too simple, with the single elderflower flavour which was all a bit meh. Sandy's had a vague NYC theme of Cassata (Little Italy), Whisky and Orange (Ireland) and Apple Pie (America). Her execution was even poorer with raw bases and raw middles.
Poor Alvin, yet again he looked flustered and poor time management resulted in a crumbly base and a wonky finish. At the other end of the scale was Ian whose trio of spicy and herby cheesecakes sounded adventurous, then you realise it was Ian so of course it was superbly well presented with exceptional flavours. Someone take him away, he's making this look too easy. At some point Tamal will also start to believe his own hype as his decision to use a Bain-Marie was a masterstroke. His flavours of Honey with Rosemary, Hazelnut Praline and Mango seemed random yet were marked for their delicacy and lovely texture. Maybe next week he won't look so surprised.
Alas, Paul could not follow up his previous round as the berries bled in his dry, over-baked efforts. Ugne was also accused of overdoing hers but only in terms of a rushed cream cheese frosting and an over-sweet Almond and Coconut tier. Her Lime and Chilli, as well as Chocolate and Hazelnut tiers looked truly delectable and Mary Berry could not help eulogising.
Arguably the two most stunning showstoppers both had childish themes. Firstly, Mat's indulgent trio of chocolate bar influenced tiers with Peanut Butter (Snickers?), Honeycomb (Crunchie?) and Coconut (Bounty?) were consistently consistent for taste and texture. If anyone looked to have taken on too much it was Nadiya yet she displayed ingenuity and an artistic touch. By reducing canned pop to syrup she managed to create intense flavours of cream soda, lemonade and ginger beer, topped off with a levitating can pouring out fluffy meringue. Now that's what you call a showstopper. There could only be one weekly winner and making it three Star Bakers in a row was Ian. For a shoddy, unspectacular week Sandy was sent home.