The Great British Bake Off’s (GBBO) semi-final chocolate theme had me hunting for chocolate in my kitchen. 

Doing my day job I have to sample a lot of cake. I try to counter this pleasurable dilemma by balancing it with healthy diet at home. You are more likely to find a pack of gluten-free oat biscuits in my cupboard than a bar of chocolate, that’s for sure.

Yet watching the remaining four contestants wrestling with chocolate tarts, chocolate soufflé and a chocolate show-stopper played havoc with my desires!

A thin pastry and interesting flavour combination would be the sign of a good chocolate tart. Nadiya’s rectangular version had too thick a crust and got my thumbs down, I was in agreement with the judges on this one. Flora produced a chocolate fantasy fit for the Last King of Scotland. It was bursting with vibrant exotica and, for Flora, some macarons too! Tamal’s handsome pecan praline, raspberry and chocolate tart had a thin crust and would not be out of place on a restaurant’s menu.

Ian is the most creative baker in the sixth series of GBBO. He takes risks with interesting flavour combinations, even if he doesn’t always manage to hit on Mary Berry’s taste buds, not with his bay-infused tart. The glossy look and the simple décor of white chocolate leaves looked professional.

Technical challenge

It was Mary’s turn to choose the technical challenge and she decided that a chocolate soufflé would help sort the average from the sublime. I’d say most of the bakers weren’t born when the last chocolate soufflé was served in a restaurant in this country and it showed when confronted with the task.

Since the soufflés had to be sampled warm, the start times for the bakers had to be staggered, adding a bit of extra lift to the show’s familiar format.

I’m not a fan of warm, eggy, chocolate desserts, but flavour is only one side of the coin. The texture has to be perfect too and is achieved by blending the chocolate custard with a smooth meringue – too challenging for most as it turned out, with white meringue pockets there in abundance. Flora (for once macaron-less) did best with her texture and rise and won first place in the technical.

In the morning I read a kids’ book on how to create simple machines from everyday objects; like ball bearings made from marbles and jam jar lids. Ian’s feast of chocolate engineering, a chocolate well, could certainly be an entrant for a second edition. Well, well, well!

I bet you didn’t know that male peacocks fake sex sounds to attract females. Nadiya’s chocolate peacock was certainly capable of producing shrieks of delight with the judges and featured some interesting knacks of how to model with puffed rice and chocolate paste. Flora’s chocolate carousel spun out of control and crumbled in front of the judges. Just then I remembered that lovely ballotine of chocolates gifted to me recently – what a happy ending!