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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Pastry Pressure on The Great British Bake Off

t was a magnificent week seven with Bake Off back on perfectly proved form after last week’s European cliché cringe-fest.

It was pastry week and we opened with a signature challenge to salivate over. The bakers were tasked with 12 savoury pastry parcels. The dozen pockets of pleasure had to be uniform in size and beautifully brown with spot-on seasoning, moisture and of course, bake. With pasties, samosas and empanadas to choose from there was an ambitious mix of parcels. Nancy, sadly losing her dry wit as the stress rises, decided on spicy duck pasties. Her pallid offering was met with a lukewarm reception, Paul stating instant disapproval to the colour and lack of filling as a bit of a ‘let down’ Mary agreeing they ‘could’ve done with a shade more filling.’ After blossoming last week, and the Star Baker accolade, I had a firm eye on Chetna. Her Indian themed crispy lentil kachori’s gleamed illustrious praise from Paul ‘the pastry is delicious, I do love the flavour.’ Chetna is a prime example of the contestant / housemate / singer who keeps their head down, doesn’t make any sudden movements and then tackles everyone else out the way at the finish line. It’ll be an intriguing watch to see how she fares over the next crucial few weeks. Kate was another one to fail on the colour chart. Her eastern themed spinach and paneer samosa’s were not dissimilar to my Nan’s soggy dumplings. ‘They should be an awful lot darker than that’ she admitted after an unfortunate fryer issue. ‘The colour is pale, the filling interesting, I don’t like the pastry’ critiqued Paul. Mary like her crimping though. Swings and roundabouts I guess. It was a strong start for Martha, who had been the most imaginative of the bunch by plumping for mini beef wellingtons. A subtle triumph, Mary declared them ‘very tempting’ with a ‘gentle pink beef’ (don’t go there folks.) Paul agreeing ‘tastes good...the flavours are fantastic.’

Week seven saw the technical challenge of all technical challenges and bamboozlement across the tent. The task was to create twelve of Pau’s individual kouign-amann (Google, my savour, thank you) a French rare Breton pastry bake made with bread dough containing layers of butter and sugar finished with a crispy, flaky exterior. With three and a half hours on the clock and not one single baker having heard of, let alone having baked, the kouign-amann’s it was a technical challenge to truly test the already mettle of our bakers. With faces suggesting they knew more about astrophysics than the recipe one of the key sticking points was which of the layers had to be sugared. It was a code to crack that rivalled the enigma - the first layer? The second? The third? All three?! After a beautifully Mel-and-Sue-observed period of tense waiting it was time for the six to step up to the gingham dock. Martha was placed sixth after choosing to use sugar on every layer (nope) and a resulting offering described as ‘over-baked and lacking lamination’. It was a rare hiccup for Luis who was placed fifth; his effort sank in the middle and lacked layers. Kate struggled too, placed fourth, her bakes were too bready and failed on...you’ve guessed it...the layers. There was a sterling effort from Nancy who, despite ‘irregular sized’ morsels, had some well-formed and nice tasting bakes. It was down to Richard to storm in to first place with Paul positively simmering over his offering ‘nice and high, good lamination, nice caramel colour...pretty much the same size.’ And the key to that sugared layering? Just the final layer.

 With a number of our bakers feeling the heat this week the showstopper was a legitimate make or break round. The task, a whopping twenty four éclairs, twelve each of a different flavour. The only mandatory elements were choux pastry and the traditional éclair shape. For what seems  a simple, yet absolutely delicious, sweet pastry offering our bakers devised a wealth of impressive and original twists on the classic. The ever imaginative Luis excelled with his American themed blueberry cheesecake and peanut butter and jello treats. Paul declared them ‘amazing.’ He singled-out the peanut batch as ‘incredible. Different. I like different’ he gushed. In a stunning moment that surely caused Twitter to go in to meltdown Mary took things to a whole other level by revealing that size really did matter ‘They’re all an even length. Six inches.’ Goodness. ‘You’ve nailed it on all counts’ she concluded. Increasingly shaky Martha had an awful showstopper and ended up in total panic as the clocked ticked down. Her US breakfast themed rhubarb and custard and maple syrup and bacon éclairs were more watery porridge than eggs Benedict. Paul went straight for the jugular ‘I don’t think they look good at all!’ he exclaimed of her rhubarb éclairs. Worse fate was to follow, in a glare you’d expect to see if he’d been asked to chew a Gregg’s pasty, Paul made no effort to hide his horror at the unfinished, slapdash state of the syrup and bacon éclairs. It was a classic Hollywood moment but heart-breaking for Martha.  ‘The filling is too weak’ he concluded, with Mary agreeing ‘it doesn’t really work for me’. Richard, and his still ever-present pencil, put in a strong showing with a flower power display of lavender and blueberry and rose and raspberry éclairs all presented on his hand made steps – the ‘stair of éclairs’ if you will. Paul fawned over his blueberry offering for being ‘packed full of filling’ with both Mary and Paul impressed by his delicate use of the oft-tricky lavender ‘you haven’t over-lavender-ed’ surmised Mary.  Kate, poor Kate, after last week’s Swedish princess marzipan disaster she really needed to have a flawless showing this week. Her Neapolitan and lemon meringue éclairs were self-proclaimed as ‘absolutely terrible’ at the end of baking. Her meringue batch fared well enough with Mary calling the filling ‘very good’ but it was the Neapolitan set that sealed her eventual fate. ‘A mess from start to finish’ scathed Paul who went on to dissect her messy presentation, the varying bakes and the runny strawberry filling. By the time Mel came to announce the next evictee it was no surprise to see Kate given her marching orders. She has been an excellent, watchable contender but the two consecutive weeks of messy bakes firmly saw her off. It was left to Richard to win the star baker plaudit, his third of the series.

So, so long Kate, and hello to next week’s quarter finals.

This week’s lowdown...

Bad egg
Martha. It was cry / bake / cry this week and it’s beginning to grate.

Good egg
Chetna, as she continues to surprise, I’m eager to see what big guns she pulls out next.

Smut watch
Mary and her six inches.

Next for the scraps
She isn’t coping well with the pressure, Martha is on shaky ground I suspect.

The Great British Bake Off Continues Wednesday's at 8.00pm on BBC ONE.
Read our Review of Week 6
Read our Review of Week 5
Read our Review of Week 4
Read our Review of Week 3 
Read our review of Week 2
Read our Review of Week 1

Contributed by Craig Heathcote

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