Botanicals Week, the prettiest of weeks on Great British Bake Off where anything that grows goes
Onto the prettiest of weeks, Botanicals Week, where anything that grows goes. The Signature was relatively straightforward which meant some contestants were let loose on their flavours and their interpretation of what exactly constitutes a Citrus Meringue Pie.
Barely a lemon was in sight but plenty of ‘stiff’ remarks. Rav opted for the ‘nuclear option’, tequila, in his Mandarin Margarita Pie and it was still lacklustre. At least his was citrus, we know Tom likes his flavours but a Blood Orange Halloween Pumpkin Pie overlooked the memo. Pecans in the dough was daring yet the pastry was undergone and Mary argued against its citrus credentials. Andrew went even further with three different gingers in his Tangy Lime and Ginger Pie but a thick pastry let him down.
Was that flirting between Benjamina and Selasi? Was his floral shirt drawing her in? A bit of after hours collusion? Both opted for Grapefruit in their pies; with Ginger for Benjamina and with Orange and Mint for Selasi. Both were impressive, Benjamina’s was well proportioned with a beautifully sharp curd while Selasi’s had great piping and a stunning flavour. Then again, Candice and Jane went for Coconut and Lime with different results. Jane opted for old school baked meringue which gave her pie a classic yet colourful look. Candice had to go a step further and hers looked decidedly messy with an off-putting, patchy blowtorched green meringue though at least it tasted good.
The Technical was another unknown; a herb flavoured, leaf shaped French bread called Fougasse. No, me neither. Tom has it as a cinema snack and, unlike Val last week, actually looked like he knew what he was doing. The others were left wondering how wet the dough should be, how much kneading was required and how long it needed proving. All of them needed to draw the design to make sense of the cryptic description and still could not make sense of it, Jane’s looked like something from Alien. Selasi ended up playing it cool, remaining patient and ended up… last with a decidedly soft bake. Tom showed his expertise and finished top, as you would expect.
If any of the contestants wanted to audition for a future in baking wedding cakes then this was their chance; a three tier Floral Cake. Flowers could be used solely in the decoration but the implication was to lob them in for flavouring. Alas, Jane seemed to miss that memo and her Orange Cake was met with a look of firm disappointment from Paul. Even the floral decoration looked like messy, ‘like mashed potato’ according to Paul. Not good but then Jane was not really in trouble. Andrew was and the subtle elderflower flavour was too subtle for Mary while Paul dismissed his cakes as dry, even the decoration looked simple and plain. Could someone do any worse?
Last week’s Star Baker, Candice, went for an extra tier for her ‘Changing of the Seasons’ effort. Lemon, Raspberry and Rose, (pointlessly gluten-free) Chocolate and Orange, Spiced Carrot and her Nan’s Boiled Fruit Cake. All very ambitious, the flavours were nailed and it ended up looking like something from a Tim Burton film. Job done. If there was a friendly rivalry between Benjamina and Selasi it looked like the latter triumphed. His Ombre Floral Cake with layers of Strawberry and Vanilla, Carrot then Lemon and Poppy Seed, each one was deemed perfect by Paul and the piped flowers looked stunning. Benjamina’s was just a little disappointing, the Floral Tea flavours failed to hit home and the semi-naked icing looked unfinished rather than grandiose.
Throughout the show Tom has been undaunted at unleashing flavours and though crushed Chamomile, Elderflowers, Jasmine and Green Tea sounded a bit meh the flavours came through and the decoration was neat, which was enough for him to be awarded Star Baker. Rav had struggled all week and though Andrew’s showstopper was disappointing, Rav’s Orange Blossom Cake only managed a single flavour. He admitted he “doesn’t do pretty” and it showed for an overbaked, messily decorated showstopper and that was enough to send him home.
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