To snap or to crumble? It was biscuit week on The Great British Bake off
The question was to snap or to crumble because it was Biscuit Week. Over the years we have seen contenders turn from amateur bakers into makeshift architects just to get through. Of course, flavours have to be there yet so does the structural method. No-one wants a collapsing masterpiece nor a soggy biscuit.
The Signature Challenge was 12 Chocolate Coated Biscuit Bars and not the types you would find down a supermarket aisle. Oh no, these would be fancy, delicate and elaborate. The brief seemed to suit Alice and her Kiwi-inspired Honeycomb Peanut Mallow Bars which were complex yet well textured. Similarly, Michelle’s Raspberry Bakewell Bars were subtle and sophisticated in their decoration, being so exceptional that Prue even went for a second bite. Thankfully, Rosie upped her game from dog biscuits to Virgin Mojito Biscuit Bars which were so delicious Prue gave her a cheeky little wink. Is that the new Paul Hollywood handshake?
Others were judged down for how underwhelming their batches were. Helena again stuck with her Halloween theme yet her Wicked Witch Matcha Fingers were decidedly a bit plain according to Paul. Amelia’s Turkish-inspired Pistachio, Almond and Raisin Nougat Biscuit Bars were under-baked. Phil’s Orange, Cranberry and White Chocolate Fudge Bars were too sweet and off-putting. David had put an extra effort in, ensuring his pistachio nuts were warm and ready for toasting for his Coco-nutty Chocolate Bars yet he was let down by some messy decoration.
Others failed to master the technicalities they set themselves. The mousse failed to set for Henry’s ambitious six layered Coffee, Cardamom and Hazelnut Shortbread. For Michael it was the marshmallow that let down his Lemon and Rosemary Biscuit Bars, though the flavours did pull though. Steph decided to incorporate semolina into the biscuit dough for her Chocolate, Caramel Macchiato Biscuit Bars and went overboard on the crumbliness. Ever heard of ruby chocolate? No, neither had Paul and he found it overpowering for Priya’s Ruby Barfi Biscuit Bars though kudos for the inspired 80s pink and yellow decoration. Then there were Jamie’s Sour Cherry Caramel Shortbread Biscuit Bars which crashed out of their moulds in bits and drips with only Michelle’s intervention preventing utter disaster.
The Technical Challenge was an old-school favourite of 12 Fig Rolls and for such a seemingly plain biscuit this elicited several questions. Which sugar was for the biscuit dough; icing or muscovado? How much filling was to be used? How were they rolled? How long were they to be baked for? To what colour; golden brown or ghostly pale? Helena failed to supply a full batch and had to scribble her missing roll onto the slate, even then they were far too flat to be considered a roll which left her bottom of the pile joined by Jamie who decided his needed to be egg washed. David redeemed himself somewhat by claiming second which left Alice effectively claiming both challenges as she finished top.
As is now tradition, the showstopper was a 3D Masterpiece Biscuit Structure. Typically strong, stable and structurally sound, until the moment Paul revels in smashing them apart like a child with a sandcastle. Four hours may seem like a long time yet when it is to create such a necessarily stunning piece of work the task can slip away.
For Michael the time seemed to ebb away quite readily as he suffered a crisis of confidence putting together his Hamish the Highland Cow with Chocolate Orange then Chilli flavoured shortbread. He had little worry about, even the outlandish chilli went down well. Henry seemed to disappoint himself and Paul with his Gingerbread Chapel Organ. With its thick brandy snap pipes and a closed lid, there was clear room for improvement. As there was for Phil’s Tina the Tortoise featuring a garish Lemon and Orange decoration; the underdone florentine peeled away atop his sugar biscuit shell. On the opposite scale was Steph with her slightly overbaked Ginger The Gingerbread Cat. Then the Langues de Chat in Priya’s The Beast of Rocky Mountain Dragon were too rustic for Prue even though the creation could be left in an art gallery.
Last week’s Star Baker was Michelle who stuck to her Welsh roots with Dewi y Ddraig Cymraeg, or Dewi the Welsh Dragon, which featured Cardamom and Pistachio wings. This was one of Prue’s most interesting tasting biscuits EVER and you can imagine she’s tried a few. Sticking to her Halloween theme yet again was Helena whose Orange Tarantula Caught in a Spider’s Web was simply spectacular. The Earl Grey and Lemon shortbread was deceptively pleasant and the spun sugar with macadamia nuts was a innovative touch, the creation itself being deliciously bitter and dark. Perhaps the most impressive was David’s Wedding Spray. The flavour combinations of Fennel and Lime, Grapefruit and Caraway, Cardamom and Lemon were decidedly ambitious yet the end result was fragrant and beautifully, delicately decorated. Not far behind was Rosie whose My Favourite Gingerbread Chicken featured 212 (count ’em) individual tuile biscuits. Though the gingerbread was underdone, the effort was clearly not in vain. Alice could rest on her laurels yet continued to excel. She did Sculpture at art school so she really had no excuse for her Chocolate and Coconut New Zealand Lamb. The masterpiece was cute and could have been included in the next Nick Park feature, unsurprisingly she was crowned Star Baker.
With the double elimination in play, nerves throughout the tent seemed to be on high alert. Amelia needed to impress yet her Swimming with Dolphins with Lemon Shortbread waves was stacked, not moulded and a bit meh. After failing to impress last week, Jamie was not to escape again. His Biscuit Guitar made from Chocolate Gingerbread came with a re-run of his Lemon Shortbread and was labelled by Prue as, ‘quite simple, all a little thick and clumsy’. Mercifully, she was simply referring to the guitar.
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