The Great British Bake Off. Episode six: botanical

Cathryn Dresser, GBBO series three contestant and baker extraordinaire, takes us through series 7 with an expert eye. She sure knows how to cultivate an interest in bakery...

Week 6 in the tent was another GBBO first; it was Botanical week and I was bloomin’ excited to see what would come out of the ovens. As Tom said: “If it grows, it goes!”

The signature bake was a citrus meringue pie.  Fruit meringue pies have appeared as a challenge before, so this wasn’t entirely new, but is a great test for the bakers as it is a bake with several components.  The judges were looking for crisp shortcrust pastry cases that were thin, but without a leaky filling, and featuring a well-set and flavoured citrus curd and light crisp meringue.  Mary was seeking “sheer heaven” and “crisp oven-baked meringue”, which few bakers delivered.  

Rav, did you say tequila? I loved the idea of a margarita meringue pie, but sadly the flavour was weak.  Jane and Candice were seemingly in competition with one another, making similar pies, Jane oven-baked her pie and the judges enjoyed it.  Candice, on the other hand, had sloppy meringue that she had tried to pipe – unsuccessfully – and which she had decided to dye green.  I was disappointed to see so much food colouring in the tent on a week when natural was meant to be the theme.  

Candice wasn't alone in her meringue flaws as many bakers had trouble with stiffness.  Benjamina and Selasi’s relationship seems to be blossoming and they made a nice pair of tarts. Who needs Brangelina when you have Benjalasi! Benjamina is emerging as a baker to keep an eye on, as she is consistently super.

The technical challenge was to make two well-shaped and baked herb fougasses (French leaf-shaped breads), so both full of herbs and shaped like a leaf – botanical indeed.  Tom declared this was his “cinema treat”... I have trouble sneaking in my own sweets into a cinema, let alone a loaf of blinkin’ bread, plus fougasse has a crisp crust (noisy) and would make so many crumbs (messy)! Tom, I am guessing you struggle to find cinema companions?! This said, Tom (bread week star baker) came top in this technical, proving he knows all he kneads to know about bread.

Selasi (who I can confirm is my new fave in Val’s absence) was – unsurprisingly – taking it easy, but got caught short, finding he had plenty of thyme, but not enough time, to properly bake his bread.
At this stage it was girl-flour-flower-power all the way, with ALL the boys wilting, leaving us wondering which one would need weeding out.

The final challenge was to create a three-tier floral show-stopping cake.  I thought this was a really lovely challenge, as long as flavours were balanced properly, so that we didn’t see cakes that smelt and tasted like a pile of Lush bath bombs.  I can say from experience that four hours fly by in the tent, so making, baking, cooking and decorating in this time was going to be a push.

The making and the baking of the cakes was essential before thinking about the decoration.  Candice’s cake sounded incredible, if a little ambitious, and Tom’s flavours turned out to be just the judges’ cup of tea.  Gardener Jane unexpectedly decided to go against nature and didn’t use any floral flavour, then made her flowers. Confused? Yes, I was. Jane, what were you thinking?

Selasi piped his way out of the danger zone, leaving Andrew and Rav in real trouble.  Both chaps went for simply decorated cakes that the judges were distinctly underwhelmed by (I will say I liked Andrew’s decoration and thought it was in keeping with the natural theme).  Benjamina’s semi-naked number was beautiful with one out of the three cakes also tasting lovely.

Final judging was tricky this week and it was a hard one to call, but it was Tom who rose to success over the three challenges, making him star baker.

Rav couldn’t quite pull it around this week as he so cleverly managed the week before, which meant he was the baker picked to leave. Rav was ace and left with a smile on his face.  Andrew didn’t have a smile on his face; like the show-stopping cakes, he was in ‘tiers’, weeping with relief!

Next week is desserts, but remember, desserts is stressed spelt backwards!

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