Oh what a difference a pastry week makes! As this week’s bakes burst, burnt and leaked before the judges, some of the bakers’ fortunes were dramatically reversed.
Two former star bakers slid greasily down the pack as my own former favourite, Briony, proved she was a worthy contender after all, finally achieving “perfection” after a couple of disastrous weeks for her in the tent.
So, pastry? “Turn your back on it and it will eat you alive,” warned Jon at the start of episode six. Sinister words indeed, but it was a warning more should have heeded (Dan, I’m looking at you). Jon appears to be becoming the tent’s sage, with more words of wisdom to follow later.
Meanwhile, the bakers set to work on the technical challenge – samosas! The judges demanded six savoury and six sweet of these 1,000-year-old triangles of crispy and light pastry parcels.
As an Indian, Ruby felt she was under pressure to produce perfect samosas, even though nobody she knows makes them from scratch – because they “have lives”. Attitude! Ultimately, her traditional filling impressed and she earned a Hollywood Handshake as the big man declared: “It’s a juggernaut of flavour.”
Rahul did call on his mum for advice and it paid off. He hid behind his hands to await Bake Off judgment, and Prue looked teary-eyed as she hurriedly assured them they were delicious.
“If Paul doesn’t give you a Hollywood Handshake, I will kill him,” she warned. Crikey, this could have been a very different show, but Mr H did indeed proffer his revered paw to Rahul and we could breathe a sigh of relief.
Maverick Dan confused everyone, including himself, when he opted to put his pastry through a pasta machine because he was “too posh to push” with a rolling pin.
Big mistake! As his pastry protested, Dan had to abandon it and start again, but this time he added too much water and the resulting samosas were so tough the judges could barely bite into them.
It was all going south for Dan, and Manon too as her chicken tagine-filled samosas “exploded” and her flavours disappointed.
Briony’s colourful samosas were so beautiful Prue could hardly bear to eat them. Perhaps she shouldn’t have. While the savoury beetroot filling was a success, the peanut butter cheesecake was not enjoyed.
From the relative safety of middle ground, after delivering some soggy but flavoursome triangles, wise ol’ Jon told Dan: “It’s anyone’s game this week.”
And so to this week’s game-changing technical in which the bakers were tasked with creating puits d’amour. Meaning ‘wells of love’ these French pastries – composed of rough puff and choux pastries, plus compote and crème pat – were once thought scandalous due to their saucy shape and name.
Manon’s French well unfortunately ran dry as even she hadn’t heard of them before. And she wasn’t the only one in difficulties as Briony and Dan both forgot to top their creations with nibbed sugar. Briony sensibly added a sprinkle at the end, but Dan goofed by opening his oven, with the inevitable result of deflated pastries.
Ruby took bottom place in Prue’s “hall of shame” for her “cremated” offering.
Dan’s “flat as a pancake” bakes put him next, followed by Kim-Joy’s “painfully thin” wells, and then Manon’s. Rahul came third, Jon’s well aeriated choux earned him second place and Briony was stunned to come first with her “elegant and delicious” pastries.
As we entered the showstopper round, the bakers were divided in their approach to creating a highly decorated, hand-shaped pie suitable for a banquet.
Most chose a traditional, hot water crust pastry for speed’s sake, but Dan, Jon and Kim-Joy opted for full puff pastry requiring heaps of chilling time. Oh my! The intrepid trio hoped the natural flakes of their puff would enhance their designs, with Dan creating a fish, Jon a dragon and Kim-Joy a mermaid.
As they waited for their pastry to chill, the other bakers were free to let loose their creative ambitions. Briony was making the Mad Hatter’s hat to match the Alice in Wonderland print dress she was wearing. Her ingenuity included Alice disappearing down the rabbit hole (aka the steam hole) atop the hat – and lining her pie with savoury pancakes to soak up the venison juice in her filling.
Rahul was making a giant butterfly filled with lamb curry; Ruby was nodding to British and Indian history with a chicken curry-filled Kohinoor crown; and Manon was busy with Poppy, the octopus fish pie.
As Paul and Prue judged the finished efforts, it was clear the puff pastry purists had gambled and lost, with under-baked offerings.
Kim-Joy’s Silke the Vegetarian Mermaid was soggy, but she got “top marks for decoration”. I’m left wondering, aren’t all mermaids veggie? Surely they don’t eat their fishy friends?
Prue suggested Jon’s dragon had lost the fight. Sterner words followed from the judges as Dan presented his unappetisingly pale fish pie that was raw all the way around.
“It’s not a celebration of pasty,” scolded Paul.
Manon was next for a tongue-lashing as her octopus was declared under-baked, salty and dry with overcooked fish. Ouch!
The other bakers came in for compliments. Ruby’s crown pie was “astonishingly” plated and delicious. Rahul’s butterfly was beautiful with perfectly balanced flavours, but he regretted failing to add more steam holes. And Briony’s spectacularly mad hat, with playable croquet, delighted both inside and out, accompanied by cheeky bottles of ‘drink me’ port.
“I’m so happy,” declared Prue after swigging and eating hers.
Proving if you want to get ahead, get a hat, Briony was this week’s worthy star baker. It was no surprise to anyone, least of all himself, that former star baker and occasional sulker, Dan, was sent home. For once, I didn’t shed a tear.
Here’s a few titbits based on this week’s episode:
Most likely to win: Briony (please)
Who should have gone home: Dan
Most fun to watch: Jon
Quote of the week: “I bought a blow torch recently but I was freaked out by it” – Kim-Joy