Bonjour. Bienvenue à la demi-finale de The Great British Bake Off. A vos marques, prêts, cuire!
Week nine saw the fantastic four voyage to France - at least in spirit - in a bid to win their spot in that elusive final. The very idea of it has been wafting through the tent like brioche cooling on a window sill, and now, the remaining bakers could almost taste it. Sue Perkins also mentioned something about a tiger in the tent. She might have been referring to Mary, but we’re not sure.
“I’ve been containing my competitive spirit,” said Beca, while Frances explained that she had been taking on Bake Off “like a marathon”. Kimberley calmly commented that “there was a lot of talent” in the tent, and that, at this stage, it was just too close to call. Make no mistake, these girls weren’t about to let three mere challenges stand between them and the chance to join Bake Off royalty.
First, the Signature Bake: three different types of savoury canapé, produced in just two-and-a-half hours. One must be choux, the second could be shortcrust or rough puff, and the third could be any pastry of the bakers’ choosing. Every minute mattered.
“They are going to have to pace themselves. The finish has got to be absolutely perfect,” remarked the Berry. Mr Hollywood, just for a change, wanted uniformity and a “big punch” in a little packet, so to speak. Steady.
Kimberley opted for pea purée tarts, crab and wasabi profiteroles, and steamed buns with barbeque chicken. Keeping with tradition, Frances wanted to produce another miniature garden with legume canapés, chantenay carrots, choux pastry tomatoes and cauliflower cheese scones, leaving Paul to turn his head away to hide a smirk. One word. We don’t have to spell it.
Beca, now dubbed Beca-roon by Mel due to her obsession with the little dears, wanted to use them to create something savoury. She went for stilton and walnut macaroons, beetroot and salmon choux puffs and Welsh rarebit tartlets.
Ruby, describing her poppy seed biscuits as being covered in “beetroot stuff” (she meant jelly) was going for spinach, parmesan and egg tartlets, and choux buns with goat’s cheese and caramelised onions to accompany them.
The judging was swift and, at times, brutal. Ruby’s creations were given a brief knock by Paul, but Mary called her pastry “beautifully cooked”, so not all bad then. Beca’s stilton macaroons were on the chunky side, leaving them looking rushed and clumsy. Apart from Kimberley’s oversized buns, she was practically awarded 10/10 by both Paul and Mary, while Frances managed to slap the substance on her style.
The Technical was one of Mary’s own making, leaving the bakers to battle with what Sue Perkins eloquently described as a “brain”. A Charlotte Royale, “the perfect Technical Challenge”, required Swiss roll, mousse and the ability to know that it’s probably best to line your bowl with cling film. Kimberley reckoned it was going to be fun, whereas Ruby looked like she was contemplating slicing her fingers off just to leave the tent.
Sue and Mel sniggered to themselves in the corner as they watched the bakers prepare their bowls. Hiding behind their hands, they revealed that it was pretty much, without fail, impossible to remove the compacted Swiss roll pieces without cling film. Cue shot of Ruby lining hers with butter.
Quickly changing her mind with the assistance of S + M, the bakers were given a countdown to place their Charlottes in the fridge, accompanied by the lilac mousses. They were in for a cold night.
A new day, and welcome back the Charlottes. To conclude, an arrowroot and sugar mixture was used to cover as a glaze. The judges placed Ruby in fourth, Beca in third, Frances in second and Kimberley first, and, unsurprisingly, she was pretty chuffed.
The Showstopper was the bakers’ final chance to put themselves into the final. But first, they were going to the Opera - a tricky cake, requiring excellent timing, to allow the layers to cool, and precision. Frances wanting to create a “soap opera”, the only baker to have a bit of fun with the challenge, and selected white chocolate, lemon and lavender, earning a raised eyebrow from Paul. Then again, he didn’t like the idea of Ruby’s saffron, but she took no notice.
It was banana-drama for Beca, who essentially presented the judges with, well, a large banana. She had banana essence, banana chips and real banana in the layers for “freshness”. Kimberley produced rather even-looking layers and a distinctive dotty top, while Ruby’s sort of sank on one side. That said, both judges were impressed with her flavour.
Frances’ lavender and lemon didn’t really come through, but her presentation, as usual, stood out. Despite some criticism, Kimberley was awarded Star Baker and a definite place in the final. Sadly, it was Beca who was given the heave-ho.
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the three finalists: Kimberley, Frances and Ruby.
The Great British Bake Off is currently airing on BBC2 on Tuesdays at 8pm.