It was pastry week on Great British Bake Off last night and that means the country was on the edge of their seats waiting for the first of many (hopefully, many) soggy bottom jokes. Luckily, we didn’t have long to wait.
Signature round: frangipane tarts. And the first real opportunity for the soggy bottom klaxon. Especially in light of the fact that several of the bakers decided NOT to blind bake the tart crust. Were they MAD????
Technical challenge: flaouna. Nope, me neither. No idea what a flaouna is and I am none the wiser for having watched last night’s episode. I know that the technical challenge leaves some instructions out to test the bakers’ instincts but based on what they were all saying and all having to suss out, my impression is that other than the name of the recipe and “Make dough” and “Bake” they weren’t given much else to go on. To me, this was about Paul Hollywood trying to display how clever he is. And just coming off like a jerky hall monitor.
The Showstopper: Vol-au-vents. The 70s called and you are invited to the cocktail party! Some very very interesting flavour combos here.
ALVIN: Oh Alvin, I wish I could say I hadn’t seen this coming but I had. You were just this side of chaos so often and your time management (sometimes done very early, sometimes scrabbling) was all over the place. This week was no exception – soggy bottom, uncooked pastry, raw plums. As the bar is raised, these things become more and more problematic.
IAN: I’m with your wife on the black squid ink thing. I have no idea what it tasted like but it didn’t look terribly appetizing. And I don’t care if you are using eggs from your own guinea fowl – unless they somehow taste like something utterly different, they are just eggs and this whole “just my own little twist on things” posturing is becoming slightly tedious. That said, I am not going to hold your “Cornish pasties” style flaounes against you since I think this week’s technical challenge was an obstacle too far.
NADIYA: Oh dear, no! Don’t cry. Damn it, now I am getting weepy. Nadyia, Nadyia – it’s OK, honestly. How could you think you were going home this week. You did very well the first two rounds – they loved your frangipane tart. You took the “subtle flavours” risk and you nailed it, And you came second in the technical – and this week, that really MEANS something. Yes, the showstopper could have gone better, I admit. But your fillings tasted amazing and the pastry layered and flaked. It just (this particular time) didn’t come completely together. You will kick butt next week.
PAUL 2: Is he know the most relaxed person in the tent? He may be. He’s focused, yes. But he doesn’t seem to be VIBRATING with tension like almost everyone else (except Tamal). That said, Paul 2, like many department stores, decided to drag us all into Christmas a bit early but that was OK because it looked nice and tasted good. The same cannot always be said of department store offerings. Paul kept hitting the taste sweet spot in the showstopper – his crème pâtissière vol-au-vents tasted great but, according to the other Paul, looked “hideous.” Harsh words from a man with so much product in his hair that you could spike fruit on it.
FLORA: Stop gilding the lily – especially with, frankly, with substandard gilding. Mary is absolutely right – just give them what they asked for but a really AMAZING version of what they asked for. Not what they asked for plus bells and whistles that make it look like you are trying to hide something. And can I just ask, Flora – who trims the top of the tart crust before baking? Rarely am I so in sync with Mr. Hollywood but in this matter – a matter of tradition, logic and pastry – he and I are as one. On the bright side – chocolate puff pastry? Genius and well done.
MAT: Get you, Mat! Someone was having a fab weekend – Mr Star Baker! If this is “under-prepared” you’ll do OK. Still, how funny are you with the whole “Are you using a machine to make your pastry?” question. You go ahead and make it by hand, Mat. That’s what I do. I also admit I had some doubts when Mat announced he was making a Pina Colada frangipane tart – I think the judges had some doubts as well, until they saw the rum. Well, until Mary saw the rum. And – his and hers vol-au-vents? Fabulous! Get in!
TAMAL: Seriously, Tamal – you are really chill. Your tart filling bled into the frangipane (and Tamal, they’ve talked to you about that before) and still kept smiling. You came last in the technical challenge and you still kept smiling. Your vol-au-vents tasted good but were smooshed – and still you smiled on. But this week it was your turn to be saved by someone doing just a bit worse that you. Smile on, Tamal, smile on. But beware.
Next week – Victorians. And a delay ’cause I am going on holiday for two weeks. I shall return to my GBBO recaps when I return.