Week seven. Six bakers. One Bake Off tent. Our two professional bakers, Gerhard Jenne and Charlotte Green, take the bakers’ pastry bakes apart in this week’s The Great British Blog Off, and they’re pretty relieved to see a certain baker go.
“Lots of stuff to go wrong and one of the most challenging bakes to date.”
The remaining bakers were given suet pudding as the Signature Challenge in this episode.
The last time I used animal fat in a cake was circa 1983, when we made a lardy cake at Justin de Blank’s Hygienic Bakery in Knightsbridge. Since then, the trend to vegetarian fats has been unstoppable and I’ve never come across suet or lard in a bakery again. Even mince pies are all vegetarian these days.
This was a challenge that suited the traditional bakers like Beca and Christine, less so Ruby who is a bit of an urbanite baker. A wide variety of flavours and styles were chosen and all did really well in this challenge. Hooray, Hooray.
Onwards to religieuses: “baked nuns” a choux pastry-based French patisserie. Most home bakers give choux pastry a wide berth. Furthermore, they have to be filled with crème pâtissière and dipped in ganache. Lots of stuff can go wrong and this was one of the most challenging bakes to date as it required technical knowledge of making a good choux pastry, organisation to get the various components ready and precision with the piping and assembly. Beca ticked all the boxes and did very well. I like her. Glenn I wouldn’t want near my kitchen as he is often messy, but seems to get there by sheer force.
The Showstopper Challenge puff pastry was going to be interesting, as it was four hours long. With so many high-quality puff pastries available frozen, very few bakers are making their own these days. Glenn went for the more unusual way of wrapping the dough in butter - the inverted method - but will that impress the judges? I recall this method from my college days – it does require very cool conditions. We found there wasn’t much benefit in doing so, and it certainly didn’t help Glenn, who completely messed up organisation-wise - his station was a bomb site.
Beca was calm throughout, but her pastry lacked “elegance” according to Paul Hollywood. Christine’s Eccles cakes were a good choice, her baskets were well-laminated and her fruit baskets hit the mark. Frances put on the most impressive display; a lot of love had gone into her presentation and she was crowned star baker.
Glenn, however, was booted off. The last man standing, he said at the beginning, the editors had something up their sleeves there. I should have known it was going to be him that was going this time. I’m glad, and the cleaners will be pleased he’s gone.
“Nuns ‘heads’ rolled off in all directions, runny crème pâtissière leaked out, chocolate ganache dripped everywhere.”
Baking for a place in the quarter final, the six contestants took on sweet or savoury suet puddings this week. A decidedly old-fashioned dish, suet pudding is probably considered by most people to be “stodgy” – but with Paul and Mary demanding a light and crisp pudding, the bakers needed to be precise with their ingredients to form the perfect pastry. With the weaker contestants already eliminated, the standard and confidence levels were noticeably higher.
Ruby was the only baker to use vegetarian suet, made from palm oil. Suet has higher melting and congealing points than regular fats, which allows the batter to set before the suet melts, making the pudding light and spongy. Vegetarian suet also has a high melting point, but congeals quickly and loses its particle shape, reducing sponginess.
Glenn doused his pudding in Armagnac and baked it in a Mermaid Pudding Sleeve, but damaged the top on removal and, to my astonishment, tried to hide this by sprinkling on sugar and… grilling it. This caused the broken edges to burn and become move obvious, but undeterred, he decided to hide this with a blowtorch.
The judges were largely satisfied with the contestants’ results, although the texture of Ruby’s roly-poly was criticised, a result of the vegetable suet. Glenn’s alcoholic pudding was too much for Mary, who usually enjoys a tipple, but Paul, who likes his alcohol flavours to be mild, said he loved it.
The Technical Challenge was eight choux pastry ‘religieuses’ – profiteroles shaped like nuns, to the uninitiated. Again, the bakers appeared confident, with most saying they had experience with choux pastry, which unlike other pastries is made initially in a pan over heat. The first stage passed without too much trouble, although Christine’s profiteroles emerged from the oven looking burnt.
It all changed in the assembly stage though, and suddenly chaos reigned, as nuns’ ‘heads’ rolled off in all directions, runny crème pâtissière leaked out, chocolate ganache dripped everywhere, and shaky piping was blotched on top, against the ticking clock. Christine came last for burning her pastry, and everyone but Beca received criticism for presentation, with thin, runny crème pâtissière a factor for Glenn and Frances.
Making puff pastry for the final challenge is a tiring process, with a lot of folding and rolling out, but Glenn had come up with another method – rolling his dough in butter, rather than folding the butter inside. This seemed to me to be a suicidal risk in front of the disapproving judges, but he went ahead all the same. Sure enough, while Frances and Christine fashioned exquisite shapes from their correctly made pastry, Glenn’s mille-feuille fell apart, forcing him to try and hash it all back together. The judges did not sugar coat their words, describing his pastries as hideous, awful, raw, and looking as though they had been dropped. He was promptly eliminated.
Frances, who has thankfully been concentrating on substance in her toned-down designs, received praise for her puff pastry, and was named Star Baker. Next week will see the remaining five go into the quarter final, where the level of difficulty is sure to rise again.
You can read Gerhard’s blog here.
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Charlotte’s personal blog can be found here.
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