As Great British Bake Off passed the halfway stage the stakes were raised for Pastry Week. Kouign-amann, anyone?
It seemed that after last week’s rather meek ending the cruelty was well and truly back for Pastry Week.
Remember, no-one was eliminated from the last round so there was an added sense of stress and far fewer puns. Having said that, the signature round looked relatively straightforward. Each contestant had to create a set of 12 identical savoury pastry parcels, basically either empanadas, pasties or samosas. While appearance and technical skill are usually put to the test it was flavour that took centre stage with several taking due consideration to seasoning and spiciness.
If anyone was going to triumph on flavour it would undoubtedly be Chetna, ‘The Flavour Queen’. Of course she impressed with her flaky, appetising Lentil Kachoris. While she managed to deep fry hers to a delicate crisp Kate struggled as she failed to notice that the deep fryer had a timer. It seemed pretty futile at the time and there is some saying about workmen blaming their tools which could be duly applied. Whether that was to blame or not, her Spinach and Paneer Samosas looked distinctly pale and uninviting. Luis again decided to introduce a personal influence in his baking and went for Childhood Empanadas which unfortunately followed the same anaemic pattern as Kate’s.
Both Nancy and Richard went for the daunting option of cooking with raw meat. Though underfilled, Nancy’s Spicy Duck Pasties deserved the plaudits for ambition alone. Richard plumped for some rather safe Lamb and Mint pasties yet the meat was beautifully cooked and the pastry was crunchy. What more could you ask for? Finally, there was Martha who again appeared to be cooking with alcohol for her ‘just right’ Miniature Beef Wellingtons though they did suffer from minor leakage.
Onto one of the more ridiculous technical challenges which was the obscure Breton pastry, Kouign-amann. Challenging as no-one, not even the baking oracle Mary Berry herself, knew what one looked like, let alone baked one. Paul Hollywood might as well have asked each of the contestants to go out into the woods and return with a unicorn, it was that unfair. With the method itself being questioned you knew no-one was really going to impress. However, there was a minor clue in that the recipe was supposed to take 3.5 hours which leant a lot of time for proofing. This left each contestant nervously watching each other and waiting to see who cracked first.
Even with so much time various contestants found different ways to sabotage their own creations. Kate proofed hers in the fridge (a big no-no) while confusion abounded over how to apply a layer of sugar. Was it on all three layers or just one? If so which one? It turned out it was the final layer which aided Martha to third place and Richard to first. Those who failed with the method failed with their bakes which was altogether harsh. Luis was fifth as he had erroneously applied sugar to each layer while Chetna’s was deemed overbaked even though the method simply said ‘bake until ready’ which, to someone who has never seen one before, could mean anything apart from blackened. Almost inevitably, Paul looked radiantly smug as he played Bad Cop to Mary’s Good Cop in the judging.
Compared to that, the final showstopping round looked a little more pedestrian until the final few minutes. Each contestant had to make two sets of 12 eclairs, with each set a different flavour. This all seemed a little ‘Heston Blumenthal’ as Kate opted for a Neapolitan with chocolate choux pastry encasing a strawberry and vanilla filling. Her basil-infused pastry missed the spot, well, it passed Mary by completely. She even had a lemon meringue-off with Chetna whose combination of chocolate with mango surprisingly hit the spot. In the contest that really mattered her lemon meringue triumphed *cue camera turning on Kate’s stern face*.
Nancy went for the most ambitious of flavours as she selected savoury with a Salmon and Horseradish effort. Like the horseradish, the raspberry for her ripple was also homegrown which failed to gain any bonus points yet hers were deemed close to perfection. Outdoing her was Luis who went all yankee-doodle-dandy with his Stars and Stripes inspired doozies. They were bright, they were showy yet the combinations of Blueberry Cheesecake and Peanut Butter with Jam were “incredible” and they “nailed it”. The highlight of the night though was undoubtedly Mary swooning over Luis’ perfect 6″ lengths. Snigger.
Another who had gone for an American twist was Martha with her Maple Syrup and Bacon creations. Alas, the execution was lacking for her Rhubarb and Custard efforts too as she spent the final few minutes rushing for time and even had to employ Richard to help with the decoration. At least she managed to present something even though they were soggy and the tears were beginning to show. Thankfully Richard had his finished in good time and managed to leave with his third Star Baker award. Though the icing looked as if it had been applied by a toddler his subtle flavours won out in the end. With more than just a nod to the departed Norm there was a nod from Mary that Richard had not ‘over-lavendered’ his floral custards.
From the moment Martha realised she was running out of time it seemed as if she knew she was going home. The other contestants seemed to know it too yet she would have a final reprieve as Kate was given the boot. Like last week, another twist at the end but one Kate could not escape.
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