Sugar-free, Gluten-free and Dairy-free – welcome to the week of Alternative Ingredients. It all reminded me of the time they tried marketing caffeine-free, sodium-free Diet Coke – otherwise known as brown fizzy water. But never mind.
- Signature Round: sugar-free cakes. No doubt a lot of substitutions – honey or agave syrup instead of sugar. Oh and I suppose carrot cakes with the sweetness boosted with fruit or some kind. Presumably if a carrot cake works, so would any basic root veg variation – parsnip, etc.
- Technical Challenge: one from Paul – so very much about just being difficult for the sake of it. Gluten-free pittas. I’ve never made regular pittas but as far as I am aware, the recipe for your basic pitta is pretty straightforward – flour, yeast, water, salt. So I’m not sure what else you’d need to do other than swap out regular flour for gluten-free flour. That said, having never used gluten-free flour myself, I am not sure what impact that has on the dough but presumably it has some impact on consistency and behaviour. Which would have a knock on effect on how you cooked them … if none of the contestants have ever had a reason to deal with gluten free flour, this might become an issue.
- The Showstopper – dairy-free ice cream rolls. Having tried a number of dairy free ice creams in the past, I know it can be done and it can even taste mostly right but I have no idea whether such ice creams behave (melt, spread, adhere, etc.) traditionally. Also – since it was coconut milk based, a choice had to be made. Do you run with that flavour and lean in a tropical direction or do you try and find something even stronger to mask it.
UGNE: This week we said goodbye to baker and bodybuilder, Ugne. I liked Ugne – she seemed upbeat, willing to dance out onto the edge and was very much enjoying the whole thing. But – too much is sometimes too much, Ugne. And too much over and over is STILL too much. This is true whether we are talking of baking or blue eyeliner. Bottom line: in 2 of the 3 rounds this week, your bakes deflated and squelched into a mass of – well, a mass. You have a knack for taste combos and a love of experimenting – these are awesome qualities in a baker. And totally necessary in an awesome baker – which you clearly are. Combine them with a bit more focus on structural integrity and your bakes will stop traffic!
IAN: Well, look who isn’t star baker this week. Not that he had a terrible weekend – just that a) other people had better and b) his own results put him firmly at the lower end of the pack. To be fair, I didn’t think his signature bake was any more or less simple than some of the others – but possibly Mary wasn’t judging him against the others as much as against his previous results. In which case she was not wholly wrong. When you start off setting a high bar, you are rather obligated to keep it up. Frankly, I think even Paul H was gunning for Ian this week after the snarky, “Pear’s not going to bring anything to the party in an unsweetened cake” line. He seemed awfully pleased to be proved right about Ian’s iffy choice.
NADIYA: STAR BAKER BABY! And even then, she looks like she thinks they may have made a mistake. Nadyia, that show stopper ALONE would have done it but hello? Experimental jam from basil seeds – even Paul Hollywood was learning something from you today. Plus – your signature was beautiful and you WON THE TECHNICAL!!! Jump up and down, throw your hands in the air! Come on, Miss “Most Expressive Face Ever – dance the happy star baker dance!
FLORA: Look, Flora obviously knows about baking. She’s studied it, read up on whatever it is she wants to make at any given time, has a knack for it and has a great eye for decorative detail. But – and we’ve seen this before – she gets distracted by that and loses sight of the texture and taste of the stuff she is producing. Nothing has been AWFUL and quite often it comes out right. But she’s firmly middle of the pack right now and until she produces something that shows as much attention to detail taste/combo wise as it does on the tweaking, she’s not gonna break out.
PAUL 2: We at TransAtlantic Towers have decided that Paul 2 is the not so dark horse. He did not impress me the first couple of weeks – I dismissed him as not fun. But in that, I might have missed something very crucial. Everyone has little hiccups the first couple of times out – not their kitchen, outdoors, weird circumstances. But once the people who can’t cope with that are gone, the people who have made the adjustment sort themselves out and Paul 2 would seem to have found his feet quite firmly. He has got it ALL going on bake wise – produce something that tastes great AND looks awesome. And seriously, his fondant bikini beauty was fab! More to the point – and I’m looking at YOU, Miss “Hope it works out, it didn’t when I tried it at home” Flora – Paul 2 practices stuff at home and when it doesn’t work, he adjusts and practices again.
TAMAL: The only one to go with a polenta in the signature – and move that could have gone wrong. There was already a risk fact ion the sugar swap, this polenta move could have been red flagged by Mary who appears to accept polenta in certain circumstances but doesn’t exactly embrace it. However, this time she totally does and Paul adored it as well. Also – once again, Tamal’s good humor endears him to me. Even as he wrestled the dough in the the technical challenge, he wasn’t letting it get him down. Oh, he no doubt found it weird and frustrating but even in the midst of a runny dough disaster, he kept things in context. I like a man who can not only admit a mistake but takes it all in good humor and snarks his way through it. He made up for it in the show stopper – his tropical ice cream roll was fab!
ALVIN: Alvin seems sweet but a bit – I don’t know, chaotic. I adored the look of his pineapple upside down cake and I, like Alvin himself, was worried it would be considered too simple – especially after Mary said that Ian’s cake (more decorated and more robust than Alvin’s) was “a bit too simple” – but, as Dungeekin pointed out, you can get away with simple if everything else is perfect. And in the case of the pineapple upside cake, it was. But the chaotic, flail-ly Alvin was back in the ice cream roll. Not to put too fine a point on it – how do you NOT realize that the size of your sponge and the size of your roll are not going to work? They weren’t even CLOSE! A child could have seen that the roll was too fat (or that the sponge was too short, depending on how you looked at it). Paul 2 stepped in to help with tremendous focus and purpose, “Do you want a hand, Alvin? What do you want me to do?”
MAT: Mat seemed a tad unclear about the difference between carrot cake and Christmas pudding. I know he was just trying to ensure a LOT of sweetness from the fruit but the same thing we said to Ugne applies here, “Too much is sometimes too much” and he was given a heads up by Mary about the risks he was taking. Yes, the results were delicious but he was put on notice that the texture was not very cake-like and he wasn’t quite on brief. He also seemed oddly confused about the ice cream roll and as a result, ended up with very little ice cream in it. Once again, Mat is in danger but may well be saved by someone else dong a bit worse. That is not a good long term place to be – because you eventually run out of “someone else” and other people’s luck gets better than yours.
I think for me the bottom line this week has been: interesting, entertaining but not necessarily appetizing. I see why having the bakers navigate the “free from” landscape was seen as a good idea – especially from a ‘stretch their boundaries’ point of view. But I think the results were among the most unappetizing looking results I’ve seen on GBBO in a long time.
This is not to say that all free from bakes would be so – just that if you’ve never worked within those guidelines, you are gonna struggle to produce the same level of results you get using your more familiar ingredients. One day – and it’s bound to happen eventually – there will be a contestant who bakes – let’s say, gluten-free for the sake of argument. And their signatures and showstoppers will be the results of a person USED to working with gluten free recipes. THOSE results would be fascinating.
Next week – pastries!