GBBO 2015: Episode 9 (Chocolate)

At last, at last! I am back from my travels and back to recapping Bake Off – and just in time too as we have reached the semi-finals!And it’s CHOCOLATE WEEK! I love chocolate week, not just because I love chocolate but because it is such a wonky thing to work with – whether baking, saucing and building with it – and in this episode, the 4 remaining bakers are asked to all of these things.

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Signature Round:  Paul and Mary wanted a chocolate tart. It had to have chocolate-flavoured pastry but could be whatever type of pastry you wanted. The fillings had to involve/primarily be chocolate and it had to be decorated in some way. As Sue pointed out, chocolate decorations would be keeping in theme but “decorated” was the only requirement.

Technical Challenge: Fiendish. So much so that Nadiya admitted,”I would sooner have another baby than go through that again”. Ian, normally cool and calm, completely forgot baking basics – and Flora? Flora looked like she’d run a marathon and Tamal looked like he was having an out of body baking experience, watching himself from above. Chocolate souffle is a bastard.

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The Showstopper: A chocolate centrepiece involving biscuits in at least one part, which makes sense because they were not allowed to use dowels and you want something more structurally sound than just chocolate.

FLORA: Farewell Flora. *sad wave* I like her style – the hair, the clothes, even the Peter Pan collars which I usually loathe with the heat of a thousand suns. I like her confidence as she is baking, even if it seems to disappear in the face of judgement. I always thought it amusing that she’d sass Paul (very politely, because she was clearly brought up to be so) at the workstation but was all, “sorry! sorry!” during judgement. Honestly, she chewed her finger and said, “sorry” at every remark.

But here is the thing. Flora knows baking – studied it, practiced it, has grown up doing it (and let’s face it, still has more growing up to do – she’s only 19) but – she didn’t listen (also possibly connected to being 19 yrs old).

When Mary and Paul both tell you MULTIPLE TIMES over the course of many weeks to focus on the brief because it’s the thing holding you back then – really, you ought to focus on the brief. She knew this intellectually and said in her piece to camera that she was going to take this often-heard advice on board. And yet – mere moments later there was Flora, adding macarons and twirls to the top of a chocolate tart. Even as she did so, she said, ‘I should probably be just concentrating on a tart and not venturing into other minefields, but I always do.’ The result: Macarons that were deemed not good and overcooked atop a tart that lacked shine because it was rushed. Flora. I’m gonna miss you. But LEARN from this. Stop trying to overachieve with flash and do so with uber competence. THEN add the flash.

Coming in first on the technical challenge (and congrats on that because it was a BUGGER of a challenge) might – MIGHT – have been enough to save except for this insistence you had for straying from the brief. It was hampering your results – and that’s just not good enough for the finals.

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We will see Flora again, I am certain of it. The camera loves her, she’s clearly knowledgeable, has the instincts of someone who has been baking since they could crawl – and the “Flora flourishes” she can’t resist adding are JUST the kind of thing cookbooks and cooking shows thrive on.

IAN: Anyone who can make a mechanically operational chocolate well is OK in my book. Some may think Ian is smug but quite frankly, I’d be smug if I could do that. And, though he has occasionally exhibited a bit of smugness, I saw no sign of smug this week. Now that he’s arrived in the later rounds, Ian is starting to show signs of stress not in evidence in earlier rounds.

The way he blanked on how to make a creme pat during the technical was a stark example of this. He’s made creme patisserie before. Many times. Even a couple of times for this show and yet – there he stood, looking around helplessly for something – anything – that would jog his memory banks. Poor Mel stood with him and looked pretty helpless herself. I love how into the whole thing Mel and Sue get.

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I think Ian went into the show knowing he was damned good and that his little “my own hens” touches, using his own herbs in slightly unexpected ways, would set him apart from the rest. But when you get to the semi-finals, everyone left is a rock star to some extent and have their own touches. It becomes even harder. As is always the case, someone passed through to the next week because they were just a touch better than someone else. This week, Ian’s presentations were just a touch better than Flora’s and he didn’t have an ongoing issue with straying from the brief.

TAMAL: I think Tamal summed himself up quite nicely this week:  ace at flavours, rubbish at timings. That said, his signature bake seemed to go as planned and to the time allotted because there was none of the last minute rushing we sometimes see from Tamal. Of course, this in and of itself caused him some doubts as he commented on the six million elements being created by Flora at the station behind him. Never mind those, Tamal – they didn’t help her in the end.

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Of all the tarts in the signature round, Tamal’s was the one I wanted to actually eat. And not just because he called it New York Chocolate pie (as a New Yorker, I didn’t see anything particularly New Yorkish about it but let’s not quibble – it looked delicious). His souffle – like everyone’s – was a best guess but his guess was pretty spot in since he came in second for t he technical challenge. I knew the wonky lines of white chocolate were gonna be an issue on the showstopper. Wouldn’t have been QUITE as big a deal in an early week but this was the semi-final and at this stage, piping should be straight.

NADYIA: I don’t know which Nadyia face was my fave this week. She has, as I have said many times, the MOST expressive face ever and everything plays across it.

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There were moments of shock – not the least of which was when Paul silently gave her a congratulatory handshake over her peanut butter and chocolate tart. There were tears of sadness – her piece to camera after the technical challenge had me crying along with her, she was SO certain it was all over and she was devastated at coming in last. There was gumption – her determination to finish that chocolate peacock and make it MAGNIFICENT. And she made me laugh. The line about rather having another child than ever tackling souffle again? Her Jekyll and Hyde moment with Mel? Hilarious.

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Oh, and again I learned something new when Nadyia described her use of peanut powder. Honestly, she is SO creative and so experimental with flavours. Why is this woman not in the R&D department of an upscale bakery operation?

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Then there was this. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet 🙂 Followed for Flora telling Ian to stop weeping which was also adorable.

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Next week – the finals! I’ll be happy whoever wins because I think all three have done so many amazing things over the course of the series and all have done it with good humour and grace under pressure. But if Nadyia wins, I don’t mind admitting that I will cheer so loudly that I will quite likely scare the daylights out of the cats.

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