The quarter-final stage is usually when nerves really start to kick in so hands were understandably shaking for Patisserie Week.
Only five remain and given that the final itself is tantalisingly close you could see the tension etched on every contestants face. Patisserie Week would combine artistry with architectural design, while testing decision making and daintiness. First up were Cream Horns; Paul Hollywood wanted full, flaky puff pastry while Mary Berry would have been content with a full horn (snigger).
By this point in the competition even the slightest oversight can become crucial. Even the choice of flour can be key and Tamal went for plain which drew a death stare from Paul. As seems de rigueur, the judge was proved wrong by the upstart and his flavours of lime with mascarpone then malt and honey cream worked splendidly. Another to have gained in confidence is Nadiya and she redeemed herself after her previous puff pastry nightmare. Her rose with pistachio and mocha hazelnut efforts were deemed delicate enough to impress and these two are looking like front-runners.
Never missing an opportunity to show off is Ian but this time his daring did not pay off. While he worried about picking out the perfect almond flakes his cocoa pastry failed to bond and he had the ignominy of a raw horn. The filling was not much better as he added one capful too many of kirsch in his Black Forest Gateau, even for Mary. Fillings were a problem for Paul too. His namesake was giddy with excitement for banana custard but was left stamping his feet like a child at the lack of flavour in his Banana Crunch-away.
Just when you thought Flora would learn to concentrate on the task in hand and not the added extras she was caught fiddling with tuile cigars. Her flavours were daring enough; butterscotch and smoked almond then peach and lemon thyme, but the pastry simply was not flaky enough. Will she ever learn?
Then the technical, or the chance for contestants to learn how to bake something they have never heard of and will probably never attempt again. This week it was Mochatines; a Genoise sponge with a coffee cream centre decorated with rosette icing and a pool of chocolate fondant icing. Only Nadiya had seen one having glanced through one of Mary’s cookbooks. This was Paul’s first Genoise sponge and it was difficult not to feel sympathetic for him as he had to produce a second one. Unsurprisingly he finished last due to a thin sponge and runny icing while Nadiya triumphed at another technical for her neat and tidy efforts.
The showstopper challenge would push a sister to swearing; create a freestanding nun made out of choux pastry, aka a Religeuse A L’Ancienne. Nope, me neither. After the first two rounds Paul really needed a perfect performance to pull him out of the mire, a look of disappointed anguish from his namesake said it all. Despite delivering a proper banana flavour (with the assistance of a few drops of extract) and very good icing the choux was too light and partially collapsed meaning he had to go.
Flora had gotten away with it for another week as her flavours went missing despite leading with lime and basil then coconut and white chocolate. Granted, she did show some initiative by opting for a plain and strong flour mix which nearly passed the two hour freestanding test before she rescued it from collapsing. She had used a spirit level and Ian also opted for a scientific approach for his ‘Nun with Hidden Passions’. As ever the method was exemplary and the flavours of pistachio with vanilla and cardamom with coffee in particular were impressive.
Finally it seems that Tamal has found his confidence. Perhaps listening to Paul’s advice, he went for strong bread flour for that extra strength in his choux and it paid off even if he did have to provide a second batch of caramel. His passion fruit with mango and pistachio with raspberry eclairs were detailed and coloured with sharp flavours, just what we have come to expect from him. Nadiya really had nothing to lose going into the final round and even gaudy candy eclairs were not going to stop her claiming another Star Baker crown. Yes, bubble gum and peppermint cream were bold, over the top flavours. Yes, they looked childish and the nun was wonky. Yes, she needed a sugar water and glucose glue to keep it all together but the hard work had been done. Onto the semi-final.
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