Think you could handle Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood’s technical challenges? British Baker has enlisted two professional bakers to examine every episode from this year’s The Great British Bake Off: Gerhard Jenne and Charlotte Green.
Gerhard Jenne founded Konditor & Cook in 1993. During his apprenticeship as a konditor (pastry chef) in Munich, Gerhard developed a taste for fine and indulgent cakes, contrasting with an interest in healthy, savoury whole food.
Charlotte Green is responsible for Langs of London. From the age of seventeen she began to work in commercial kitchens alongside her A Levels, teaching herself the science behind baking. She now runs her own bespoke cake company, producing a variety of cakes.
“Irrespective of looks, a cake should always deliver on taste.”
This being the fourth series of The Great British Bake Off, the producers behind the programme have given us a baker’s dozen: 13 contestants. This increased the drama as there is the possibility that two bakers could leave in one of the episodes.
By the end I felt two were definitely ready for the chop, but this being TV there are also rules - and the youngest one, Ruby, wasn’t going to fall at the first hurdle.
Before it got this far, however, all 13 contestants had to deliver on three pretty steep challenges: Signature Sandwich, Mary Berry’s Angel Cake as the ’technical challenge’, and a no-holes barred chocolate cake creation.
There was plenty that could go wrong, and the contestants had a messy time of it, but there was also an opportunity to shine.
This year, I admit that I had a peak at the contestants’ bios beforehand and thought that Mark, the satellite engineer, might be the one to look out for. Precision and technical ability are positive traits in a baker, and he appeared to have plenty of both. It came to no surprise that he kept his cool and won the first round.
Frances and Lucy impressed me with their imagination. The sandwich and squirrel cakes were fun, and the thyme and chocolate number showed courage and was pretty to look at too.
Irrespective of looks a cake should always deliver on taste, and I have a feeling that Howard might impress us even more in future. I certainly fancied trying his gluten free sandwich, as well as his indulgent re-mastered Black Forest Cake - that’s if Mary and Paul didn’t gobble it all up!
“Most contestants overcomplicated their designs.”
For their first ’signature bake’, judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood requested a British classic ‘with a twist’, testing technique, understanding of flavour combinations and basic presentation.
A practiced recipe of the contestants’ own choosing should have been a breeze, but mistakes were made in this time-critical task, noticeably the use of deeply-filled pans requiring long, slow cooking.
Mark’s failure to pre-heat resulted in raw cake, and Ruby cried over her curdled crème patissiere, having overheated the eggs. Glenn’s bulky strawberry cake was rightly labelled “awkward” but Beca’s grapefruit drizzle impressed, and Howard’s gluten-free recipe paid off, despite melted filling.
The technical challenge tests baking knowledge by omitting instructions. This week’s fatless Angel Food Cake, leavened with beaten egg whites, was a clever choice, identifying those bakers whose repertoires exceed sponges.
Whilst Ruby struggled with beating and folding, Christine, Kim and Ali disastrously greased their special tins. The batter must grip both the outside edge of the tin and the central tube in order to rise; greasing prevents this. Toby also sugared his tin, which would have worked, had he not accidently substituted salt for sugar. Mark cooled his cake with the largest, heaviest expanse of crumb at the top, causing it to collapse.
The ’showstopper’ task was an elaborate chocolate cake with tempered chocolate decoration. This process of heating and cooling to form small, uniform cocoa butter crystals in the chocolate structure is notoriously tricky for beginners. Despite this, most contestants overcomplicated their designs, or attempted to work with large pieces beyond their skill level.
Rob’s technique of using balloons to form chocolate raspberry bowls was simple but brilliant, combined with some obviously practiced, two-tone chocolate cigarellos. Ali’s chocolate was melted rather than tempered and the result was branded “childish”, whilst Toby, Deborah and Glen presented over-baked, flavourless cakes.
Rob was deservedly declared this week’s Star Baker, whilst Toby, with his salt disaster and dry chocolate cake, was eliminated.
Christine, Beca, Frances and Howard show promise, and it will be interesting to watch as they progress onto breadsticks and decorative loaves in next week’s episode.
You can read Gerhard’s blog here.
Follow Konditor & Cook on Twitter: @konditorandcook
Charlotte’s personal blog can be found here.
Follow Langs of London on Twitter: @LangsofLondon