The Great British Bake Off 8:07 Italian Week
Things were really beginning to heat up in the Bake Off tent, they were about to get hotter with the first ever Italian week. These were unsuitable conditions for baking yet there is always one episode when the summer heat in the tent creates bedlam for bakers. Such conditions lent themselves to Bingate and this was close enough.
Imagine it is 40c. You are in a tent in a baking competition and then have to put on extra layers to deep fry eighteen cannoli with three different flavours. Great entertainment at the expense of the sanity of the remaining six contestants.
As ever, there were some wacky choices for flavours. Liam’s were almost too personal with his ‘Just Doing Me’ varieties of Lemon Cheesecake, Baklava style Honey with Nuts then Marshmallow and Chocolate. Wacky enough even without the addition of a mini blowtorch. The fillings inevitably melted but they hit the mark. Steven’s flavours were more straightforward; of predictable and sensible Coffee and Hazelnuts, Almond Praline and Chocolate then Lemon Curd and Chocolate. The pastry was perfectly bubbled and coupled with memorable fillings. An impressive start yet worth nothing that he does have experience with Italian cuisine through his family which would prove evident.
Essentially there were two leagues at play this week. The top three was completed by Sophie who went completely mad and discarded the ricotta altogether. Not only is the cheese a Sicilian staple but disregarding it is a ballsy option, Paul was suitably outraged with the use of mascarpone with gelatine. However, maybe there was method behind the madness as the fillings had set for her ‘Classics with a Twist’ of Amaretto and Almonds, Ginger, Lemon and Lime then Chocolate and Hazelnuts. Even the judges were converted.
Then there was the bottom three. Stacey opted for her favourite desserts; Jam Roly Poly, Lemon Cheesecake and Tiramisu. She already looked to be struggling after mixing up her toppings and the pastry was underdone but at least the flavours were impressive. Kate was a bit more risqué with her ‘Happy Hour’ Cocktail Cannoli of Limoncello (which Noel clearly approved of), Campari and Orange then Espresso Coffee Martini. The pastry was crisp enough and the flavours were boozy. Job done. Yan continued the 'Saturday Night on the town' theme with her Cannoli Cocktails of Rose, Mint, Amaretto and Lime, Honey and Amaretto then Passion Fruit and Vanilla. Like Stacey, she had made the mistake of using cocoa in the pastry which had fooled her into thinking it was cooked when hers were hopelessly underdone too.
The technical challenge was pizza which seemed simple enough, until they took away the rolling pins. They really were trying to drive them insane. Conditions were even hot enough to prove the dough at room temperature. Then Kate managed to cut her finger in a fan, it was THAT hot. This was even before the horrible moment when they realised they would have to spin the bases in the air in the traditional Italian style. If they managed that there was then the trick of flicking the pizza off the peel onto the stone using semolina. Kate’s pizza flicked straight off the peel into the oven and for a moment we almost had another Bingate, we have all bin there. Indeed, Kate was last for her disastrous effort while Steven was top for his well charred, thin and beautiful base.
The temperature even rose to 40c for the Showstopper but who could keep their cool for 24 shell shaped Sfogliatelle with two different flavours? These layers had to be delicate and even Prue thought that in these conditions, rolling out 14m of pastry was ‘murder’.
There were only three contestants for Star Baker. Liam’s ‘Morning Delivery’ efforts of Maple and Pecan then Orange, Rum and Raisin looked superb displayed in a polystyrene box with ice. Extra bonus points for the presentation as the lamination was prominent with lovely flavours for a ‘hell of an achievement’ according to Prue. Sophie went for the safe option of ‘Classics’ with Mango and Passion Fruit then Cherry, Almond and Chocolate. The effort on the pastry showed for quite the subtle showstopper.
Then there was Steven with his ‘Sicilian style’ of Chocolate and Orange then Lemon Marmalade. They looked the part with authentic looking pastry and tasted delicious, he had had a stellar week and was duly awarded Star Baker.
There were also three contestants hovering above the drop zone. Kate went for a disconcerting ‘Flavour Fusion’ of Dark Chocolate and Hazelnuts then Lemon and... Tahini? According to Paul it was surprisingly pleasant though they looked a bit deplorable in presentation and crucially lacked lamination. Stacey had a Pastry Surprise up her sleeve. Her flavours were not that surprising considering they were Orange, Sultana and Chocolate then Praline Cream with Nuts. The surprise was to line them with choux pastry only to struggle to inject the crème pat filling. She tried to cover her crimes in icing sugar yet even this failed to hide the lack of lamination and the crème pat ran out of raw dough.
Then there was Yan, like Liam she had also opted for Maple and Pecan, albeit with Bacon too as part of her Canadian Style with Lemon and Blueberry. Alas, the execution eluded her as there was little lamination; these were doughy and obviously raw. Any one out of three could have gone but it was time for Yan to go.