Bronya Smolen looks at the latest episode of the Great British Bake Off, where tarts, mummified pears and towers stretched the contestants’ skills. 

The Great British Bake Off contestants stepped up the game this week, with more nerves and daring recipe attempts than the series has seen so far.

My favourite quote of the episode came from Martha: “It’s like I’m mummifying a pear”- if that’s not stretching yourself I don’t know what is! Stretching yourself seemed to be the theme of the show, and is something professional bakers should do regularly, especially when there is a bit of competition around. Next week’s Baking Industry Awards (BIA) is full of finalists who certainly haven’t spent their career playing it safe. Our finalists are the ones who thought about putting the cherry on top, and then some.

As this week proved, pushing the boat out doesn’t always go entirely to plan, but it’s all about making a comeback. Martha shed tears over her custard tart feedback, but with every soggy bottom there is a crispy based triumph waiting in the wings - she rose again in the technical challenge and ‘mummified’ her pears to perfection.

Criticism can be difficult to take, but must be used to your advantage. A good baker will take on board comments and suggestions, and come back to the table with a new improved product. It’s all about bettering yourself with the sometimes harsh, but fair truths. 

Others were not quite as lucky. Norman, who has been renowned for playing it safe all series, decided to pull out all the stops with his ‘Pieful tower’ in the Show Stopper challenge. Unfortunately his technical ability and choice of lavender-flavoured meringue let him down, earning him a trip to the pie chopper.

Maybe Norman’s reluctance to go that extra mile and do something different was his downfall. He was so used to the simple life that, when he finally decided to push himself, he lacked confidence and ability.

When it comes to judging, points are always given to those who have really stretched themselves - like Nancy who hand-raised her pies, or Chetna who produced different pastry flavours for her four-tier fusion pie tower. Judging is tough especially when, like at the BIA, standards are so high.

To all of you finalists in the running next Wednesday, I wish you luck! Hold your head high, and your mummified pears higher. But maybe keep your lavender at home.