Competition was fierce for the final of Bake Off: The Professionals 2019, as chefs were tasked with an afternoon tea and a wedding feast.
The final three teams were:
- Erica & Thibault, Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel
- Sarah & Leyre, Pennyhill Park
- Nelson & Evaldas, South Place Hotel
“I’m sh***ing myself,” said Leyre, articulately summing up the overall mood in the kitchen.
For the first task, chefs had to create a “scrumptious” afternoon tea, to serve at least six people.
All of the teams had experience with afternoon tea and were, I imagine, quietly confident – well, until Cherish went on to describe it as one of her specialities.
“Chefs, don’t mess with me,” she warned. “I know my scones, I know my pastries and I know my savoury bakes.” Well, that’s the confidence shot to bits, then.
Sarah & Leyre (pictured above)’s afternoon tea included a crab choux pastry, which they had developed to include dark crab meat within the pastry. “My mouth is watering,” said Cherish on hearing the concept. And rightly so; their savoury pastry received high praise on judging, as did their lemon and poppy seed scone. Their last-minute rose scone addition, however, was described as lacklustre.
In terms of the sweet elements, their lavender and honey macaroons were deemed undercooked, though these were saved by the accompanying strawberry- and rhubarb-glazed tarts, which Cherish said were “sensational”.
Thibault & Erica opted for a soft-boiled quail’s egg incorporated into their savoury piece, although Erica (pictured below) admitted to having never boiled one before. Now, call me pessimistic, but I don’t think the final of Bake Off: The Professionals is the best time to try something new…
Unfortunately, I was proved right: the eggs were hard-boiled and didn’t “ooze” as Cherish had wanted. However, their sweet treats came to the rescue, being both beautiful to eat and sleek to look at, with Cherish describing the flavours as “a marriage made in heaven”. She also appreciated the glaze on both the plain and berry tea scone varieties.
Nelson & Evaldas (pictured below) had cured salmon with vodka and were baking their own bread on which to serve it. Benoit was concerned that this was over-ambitious. “We did it last time,” Nelson replied with confidence. That’s Benoit told.
On judging, Cherish enjoyed the salmon, though Benoit was much more critical, saying the bread was too thick, the scones too crumbly and the tarts “complicated for complicated’s sake”. Ouch. That didn’t stop Cherish enjoying them: “The taste profile is mad, I love it,” she said.
On to the second challenge, and chefs had to create a wedding feast with a “beautiful” wedding cake at the centre, alongside two lots of 40 desserts, which were required to be presented “elegantly and creatively”.
Sarah & Leyre went for a secret spring garden theme, Nelson & Evaldas for a mountain and Thibault & Erica for a traditional theme, complete with bride and groom desserts.
Nelson & Evaldas were first to be judged. “It looks more like Ben Nevis than Mont Blanc,” said Benoit, referencing the height of the wedding cake. It tasted good, though, with Cherish particularly fond of the quince ganache centre. Their tree-shaped desserts were too dry, and the blue colour of the pebble-shaped ones put Benoit off, so he ate it with his eyes closed and concluded that the flavours were well balanced, but the texture wrong. Ah well, you can’t please everyone!
Sarah & Leyre were next. “Wow, I feel like I’m in a garden now,” said Cherish as she took in the display. She was also fond of the cocoa nibs mousse element of the entremets wedding cake – something she had previously deemed risky.
Their glazed desserts were visually bare, but Benoit declared them the nicest dessert they had done, while Cherish said it was a spoonful of genius. The hazelnut desserts, however, failed to excite.
Last to face the judges were Thibault & Erica, whose wedding cake was knocked for being short on décor. Cherish liked the bride and groom theme of the desserts, though, saying that their little bow ties had put a smile on her face.
Upon tasting, their cake was dense and not elegant. But their blackcurrant and hazelnut ‘groom’ desserts got high praise, with Cherish saying, “It’s something so small, but it filled up my heart,” while Benoit declared it to be “one of the best desserts we’ve had in the competition”. Wow.
And with that, Thibault & Erica (pictured below) were declared 2019 Champions. Well deserved, if you ask me.