The heat was turned up for the quarter-finals of The Great British Bake Off as Omar reviews Pastry Week.
With the temperature hotting up outside the tent, the tension was raised inside as it was onto the quarter-finals and Pastry Week. As if we had not had enough French baking, the Signature Challenge was Tarte Tatin, though savoury and not sweet. Of course, there had to be lamination and caramelisation with a moist filling, crisp topping and absolutely no soggy bottoms. With all that to consider rough puff pastry on a warm day looked like a sensible joint decision. Freezers at the ready. Timers set.
With her French roots you would expect Alice knew her way around such a creation and her Leek, Apple & Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin did look stylish. The leek lattice looked neat yet the tarte was a little wet and lacked the all-important caramelisation. On the other hand, David’s Caramelly Carroty Tarte Tatin looked a little too caramelised. With a blend of carrots, Paul mistook the purple ones for burnt though it certainly looked more rustic than appetising. In fact, the tarte swung so far away from soggy to the point of being so dry it nigh required an accompanying sauce. A trend that would continue throughout the week.
Introducing a little style was Henry who sported a fetching pink tie in what looked like sweltering conditions. His Crab, New Potato and Tomato Tarte Tatin had a vibrant, sophisticated appearance with beautiful flavours and lamination. The judges were suitably impressed and he looked rather pleased with himself. Rosie did not as her Shallot, Aubergine & Goat’s Cheese Spiced Tarte Tatin used twice as much butter. Usually this would be great for cooking yet here it resulted in a regrettable soggy bottom. To top it off, Paul again came out with accusations of burning with the counter-argument being that this was the result of a red wine and basalmic vinegar reduction with black garlic. Alas, Paul edged closer to charred.
Yet again, while the competition struggled it was Steph who shone with her Caramelised Shallots & Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin. The pastry was just about thin enough though the globs of cheese gave the appearance of a rustic looking pizza. Importantly, the flavour combinations all came together; the toffee tasting caramelisation with the sweet shallots cut through with the creamy cheese. Lovely.
You have to wonder where they keep finding these ridiculous Technical Challenges. This week it was a Moroccan Pie using walker/brick pastry, whatever that is. As usual, no-one had heard of it… But wait, David had stumbled across this on a travel programme. Huzzah. For those wanting a challenge to try at home, the pastry was made with a loose batter made on a hot plate for a delicately thin pastry which still needed to be strong enough to hold the filling. To add an extra difficulty setting, this was to be done on a warm summer’s day.
As usual, the practice became cruel yet absurdly entertaining. Eventually through trial and error the contestants learnt that the pastry needed to be thinner than a crêpe and a tiny bit thicker than wallpaper paste. Steph eventually got there but had a mini meltdown at her inability to create any sustainable pastry. The recipe was as tedious as usual with no indication of how much spice to throw in which resulted in splutters and tears. The final test was manoeuvring the baked pie onto a plate without any filling bursting out. After weeks of coming runner-up in the technical challenge, David could finally claim top spot and Rosie certainly looked to have redeemed herself by coming in second. Henry was bottom for his burst, anaemic looking pastry then Steph for her underbaked effort. Alice may have thrown in too much garlic yet did enough for third.
This left it all to play for in the Showstopper Challenge of a Vertical Pie. Basically, a pie structure with a strong pie at the base supporting at least two more pies on top. That’s a lot of pie which required a lot of pastry. Again, the contestants would have to become part-time architects in designing a pastry that would be thin enough to cut and hold flavour yet strong enough to act as support. Then they would have to be masters of the clock to ensure that each pie was in the oven for long enough. Paul’s eagle eyes would be out, as you would expect this far into the competition.
David threw the brief up in the air with his Whitby Fish Pie. Featuring no lids, could it even be considered a pie? Apparently it was allowed and the shortcrust pastry was cut to an exquisite design which looked like an action scene out at sea. The exposed filling was deemed dry and even too salty; an impressive feat considering the creation was meant to mimic the sea.
She may appear sweet enough yet Alice plumped for an Apple Tree House Pie with a delightful looking rope swing, ladder and sign that read ‘Keep Out’. She also went for shortcrust pastry which looked suitably solid yet hers was overworked. Rosie went for vegetarian curry in her Rapunzel Tower complete with a Camembert dragon. There were nine pies in total and with each pie popped on top of the last one, the odds of it all collapsing increased. Thankfully she was up first and the creation just about got to the table intact. There was a charm to it; Rapunzel’s hair cascading down the tower and the remnants of a former solder having suffered the fate of crossing Bert the Dragon. The pastry was a tad too thick and the filling too dry. Like Alice, in avoiding a dreaded soggy bottom she’d overcompensated and made her filling drier than it needed to be.
Steph also went for a spicy vegetarian filling with her Curried Chickpea & Potato Carousel Pie. The design was cute, neat and organised just like the creator, there were even pastry horses. Out of all the contestants she’d nailed the puzzle of a moist enough filling to hold its structure amidst thin enough pastry and yet again, she claimed Star Baker. Just the four pies for Henry’s (upside-down) Chandelier Picnic Pie of two Chicken, Ham and Chorizo then two more of Spiced Chocolate and Pecan decorated plainly with blackberries and dry leaves. There was no real logic between the flavours, apart from his mother’s opinion and no real sophistication in the design with the pies stacked up on top of one another. The pastry for his meat pies was thick enough for a sturdy pork pie, so thick Paul could point out where it was raw and to top it off, his filling was also ‘bone dry’. Again, the pastry of the dessert pies was too thick with the filling confusingly giving off spicy Christmas vibes. After claiming Star Baker last week it was his time to go. And then there were four and it was time for the semi-finals.
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