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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Great British Bake-Off: Botanical Week


With the furore around The Great British Bake-Off having died off to an extent I do feel that I'm able to watch the show again without thinking of the impending end of things as we know them. One thing I have noticed though is this series has seemed to lack the vigour of previous series and I'm not sure if this is down to a lack of characters or just a sense of familiarity. However it does appear as if those behind the show are at least trying to breathe new life into it by introducing new themes to go alongside the traditional bread, biscuit and cakes. A couple of weeks ago we had our first ever batter week and this time round we have the very vague botanical week. As we heard in the preview last week anything that grows that goes so citrus fruits, flowers and herbs loom large over the three challenges whilst professional gardener Jane feels like this theme was made just for her.

Signature Bake - Citrus Meringue Pie
Although the botanical week of the title may have felt a little odd, this episode kicked off with a traditional favourite; the citrus meringue pie with the bakers being tasked with combining the sweetness of the meringue with the tang of their central fruit. If Val were still in the contest I feel we would have got at least one classic lemon meringue however two sets of bakers managed to almost exactly replicate one of their fellow competitor's blend of flavours. There seemed to be a playful rivalry occurring between Benjamina and Selasi, both of whom had decided to have grapefruit be the dominating flavour in their pies. Meanwhile Candice and Jane, who had been at the top of the pile last week, continued to be neck-to-neck at the top of the leaderboard with both making a lime and coconut pie. Elsewhere Andrew also had lime in his pie and Rav was just simply trying to bribe the judges by adding tequila to his mandarin pie and serving the dish with a shot on the side. Ever the risk-taker, Tom decided to add pumpkin to his blood orange curd feeling that his creation still met the citrus remit of the task. Unfortunately Paul and Mary did not agree saying that the pumpkin dominated the pie and as a result made the overall dish feel too sweet. Rav also didn't fare too well in the criticisms with his pie being slated for being too small and not having enough flavour. Benjamina clearly won the battle of the grapefruits, as Selasi's pastry was too stiff and cloying to compete whilst hers were praise for being great looking and having well-proportioned elements. However I feel it was Jane who did best overall with Mary particularly praising the way Jane baked her meringue rather than using a blowtorch to brown it. Unfortunately Candice had a problem with the mixture getting stuck in her piping back with her pie ultimately looking horrid but tasting fantastic.

Technical Challenge - Herb Fougasse 

Truth be told I've never heard of a fougasse before today's technical challenge and even struggled to work out how to write it down as neither the judges nor the contestants' pronunciation was particularly clear. Essentially fougasse was chosen as a technical challenge for botanical week due to the fact that it's shaped like a leaf and contains several herbs. One thing I wouldn't particularly describe it as is bite-sized so I was surprised to learn that Tom regularly smuggles a fougasse into the cinema with him on a big night out. Like with most bread technicals, the bakers' main issues was to work out how long they had to prove the dough before putting it in the oven. After initially appearing like he was back in his bread-shaped comfort zone, Tom later starting worrying about his loaf which led to the brilliant 'I've never been this stressed about dough before' line. I personally enjoyed the final stage of this challenge where the majority the bakers tried to get their fougasse to cool down in time by maniacally wafting various implements next to their baking trays.  It did seem during the judgements that a lot of the bakers were on the same level playing field when it came to their fougasse. The exception here was Selsai who didn't bake his bread for nearly long enough and the result was a creation that was too spongy and was almost like a floury bap. There was good news for Rav who was mid-table this week after three weeks of being at the bottom of the technical charts. But it was Tom who seemed to be mounting somewhat of a comeback after receiving almost unanimous praise for his fougasse which I'm sure he tried to take home with him in preparation for his next cinema trip.


Showstopper - Three-tier Floral Cake
Despite Tom coming top in the technical, the customary pre-showstopper judgement saw the judges agree that all four male bakers were in jeopardy. This news would've pretty harsh to hear for Rav, who already told us he wasn't a floral guy just before he was tasked with making a three-tier floral cake which had to either include flowers or be decorated with flowers in some way. Rav did try his best by making his own buttercream flowers, but I felt that the way he attached them to his finished cake left a lot to be desired. Of the other male bakers; Andrew was flavouring the majority of his cake with elderflower whilst Selasi had three different flavour of sponges and was piping rosettes around the cake. I have to say one of the biggest surprises was the way in which Selasi piped the flowers on his cake as, for quite a masculine guy, he has an incredibly delicate touch when it comes to decoration. Tom meanwhile was infusing all of his sponges with tea with flavours such as camomile and jasmine being the key components of his cake. As always I worried for Candice as she took things one step further, as she had four tiers on her cake which represented the respective seasons. The crowning glory of the cake was the representation of winter; which was her nan's boiled fruit cake for which Candice had the original hand-written recipe. However, just like last week, I needn't have worried all that much as Mary enjoyed the fun feel of the cake and I think both judges appreciated the family feel that had gone into it. The only thing that let Candice down was her spiced carrot cake however her nearest rival Jane had a shocking show-stopper round with the icing on her cake being compared to mash potato and the whole creation being described as over-baked. After being criticised coming into this round it was two of the boys who garnered the most overall praise. Tom garnered positive comments for getting the tricky tea flavours to come through in his sponges whilst Selasi looked like he was top dog here with every single layer of his cake being described as perfect. Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for poor old Rav, whose cake looked like a dog's dinner and his decision to go down the simplistic route really didn't pay off. Unusually Andrew seemed like he was in the bottom two as his elderflower cordial was so subtle that neither Mary nor Paul could actually taste it.

Star Baker: After a couple of off-weeks Tom won his second star baker award for the second two challenges.

Eliminated: No surprise really as, after an underwhelming week, Rav was given his marching orders.

Next to Go: It's hard one, everyone so's easily matched but I'd say either Tom or Andrew.

Innuendo of the Week: This week was surprisingly low on innuendos with Mel and Sue's covering Benjamina's semi-nude cake being really the only innuendo this week.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Tom wins this award once again for believing that pumpkin would still be accepted in a citrus meringue pie.

Next Week: Desserts are on the menu as the final six fight for a place in the quarter-finals.

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