The Great British Bake Off. 8:10 The Final

For all the furore over the new channel and presenters, the new season of The Great British Bake Off has passed largely without incident. No Bingate, no meltdowns. Indeed, by the time this review is published dutiful viewers will have watched the show and waited patiently for the judges to make their announcement. Alas, one of them already had. Via Twitter. For those of you who are blissfully unaware, Prue accidentally tweeted the name of the winner a whole nine hours before the final’s opening credits. By lunchtime the news had turned into meme gold and spoilers could be ruthlessly shared in offices across the land.

For those who were only concerned with leaks out of baking tins the final was an intriguing one. Steven was arguably the favourite having been awarded Star Baker three times. Kate could be deemed the underdog having memorably dropped a clanger then served it. The dark horse then was Sophie yet knowing that the final would test each contestant on their technical ability it was her time to shine after she had faced her nemesis; bread.

The Signature challenge was twelve small loaves; four intricately shaped, four flavoured and four with an alternative grain in three hours. Each contestant went with spelt yet each variant loaf would play by its own rules and each would have their own proofing and baking time. The main difficulty was trying to work out what needed to be done for each bake and when. No-one said the final was meant to be easy.

Sophie had opted for Orange Plaited Brioche despite the fact it took so long to enrich and prove. Her flavoured loafs were Shitake Mushroom Ciabattas and her Spelt came in the form of Boules. Each looked golden though the boules were underproved and underbaked, the ciabatta was a bit flat though the brioche had excellent plaiting. Most importantly, the flavours were excellent.

Timing had often proved Steven’s downfall and here he was whole roasting garlic to be added to rosemary and fontina cheese for his flavoured loaves. He would have been better off spending the time proving his loaves. The Spelt with Rye loaves were distinctly under-proved and the flavoured loaves were uneven as well as tough. However, his sweet Chocolate and Cinnamon Winston Knots were his saving grace as the flavours and crumb were exquisite.

Going into the final, Kate’s main issue was her lack of finesse which thankfully did not show when it mattered. The Flower loaves had perfect texture and the Roman Spelt with Honey were neat and then there was her Coconut bread. Some would think a little known curry filling would be a risk in the final but her Kala Chana flavoured with Jaggery Goor (a exotic cane sugar) were almost perfect. Round 1 to Kate then.

As usual, the technical was devilish. Ten intricately iced and crisp ginger biscuits with half being oval and the other half square. Straightforward enough yet factor in the intricacy and complexity of the icing and they turned into an altogether more terrifying prospect. All three went back to school to cut out oval outlines yet Sophie almost schooled both as she went for two different icing consistencies. In the end Kate’s were unfinished which left her last, Sophie’s were neat but Round 2 went to Steven for his altogether more rounded presentation and snap.

All to play for going into the Showstopper then which was the showstopper to end all showstoppers, well, this series anyway. An Entremet is a light, delicate multi-layered cake and each one was to incorporate five elements including sponge then covered and decorated. This was technically challenging and a multi-tasking minefield; every layer needed to be perfectly set and then compliment each other. Nothing but perfection would do.

Steven went for broke with his 'Yin Yang' Entremet which was light and dark combined and featured Caramelised Bananas with Rum, Creme Brulee, Raspberry Coulis, Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut Genoise Sponge. A lot to fit in and considering each half had to be individually decorated he left himself too much to do. The timings showed up in the icing which had failed to set and bled onto the layers below, the flavours went missing too. That left the two girls to fight it out between themselves.

Sophie went for an ‘Ode to the Honey Bee’ which featured tempered chocolate decorations, Honey Custard, Blackberry Jelly, Orange Blossom Sponge, Lemon Set Curd and a White Chocolate with Lavender Mousse. The marble icing looked suitably brilliant on top and as soon as Paul’s knife went through you could see the mastery. Neat layers, the right textures and despite Paul’s concerns the flavours did compliment each other. A look of dread came over Kate and Steven as they both knew (as did most of the nation) that they were going to fall short.

Just short though. Kate’s Japanese inspired White Chocolate, Yuzu and Lychee Entremet looked divine. Her big, bold flavours had paid off and the Yuzu zest came through on her Genoise Sponge while the Coconut Dacquoise, Lychee Jelly and Yuzu with White Chocolate Bavarois also combined well. The layers were distinct yet it was not enough as Sophie was awarded the winner. A shame that most of us already knew.


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