Great British Bakeoff: Oh, it’s Just a Trifle

how_to_make_trifle_89033_16x9Previously on The Great British Bakeoff: Ruby had an amazing turnaround while Lucy and her organic, homegrown boringness was sent packing.

It’s desserts week, which makes Christine happy, because she loves desserts. Presumably she wouldn’t be on this show if she didn’t, right? Sue welcomes the Bakewells back and tells them they’re starting off with trifles. Mmmm, trifle. Everyone’s super confident, but the VO tells us this is a test of multitasking as well as baking, because you need all these distinct layers of cake, some sort of jam-like thing, and custard, all of which need to be made separately and assembled. Paul tells us it’s hard to keep all the layers separate, which I’ve never found, and Mary says most trifles are pretty soft all the way through.

We learn that Ali raised charity money by baking while at uni. He’s topping his trifle with macaroons. Mmm, macaroons. Apparently he hadn’t even heard of trifle before this challenge was announced. Really? Wasn’t he raised in the UK? I can imagine never having one, but never hearing of it? Wow. Glenn’s piping out round ladyfingers for his base. We see him building a croquembouche at home and high-fiving his totally adorable dog, which is probably thinking ‘that’s my dinner, right?’. Ruby’s making ladyfingers and a sponge base and admits she hasn’t quite practiced this all the way through. Uhhh, ok. Apparently she’s busy with her finals, so she doesn’t have a lot of time for practicing recipes. Fair enough.

Mark’s making ginger cake instead of ladyfingers, and Beca and Kim are also doing cake bases. Deborah’s doing a swiss roll base. Interesting. She’s got a spray bottle filled with, I think, lemon water or liquor or something, which the judges and Mel start spraying directly into their mouths and declare quite lovely. Like boozy breath freshener, I suppose.

Baking sheets go into ovens. Ruby’s having trouble keeping everything she has going straight. Others get started on their fruit bits, making jams, jellies, and compotes. Beca swears you can’t have trifle without jelly. She’s doing an orange and ginger trifle. She says that trifle is a staple in Wales, where she grew up. Christine’s doing a mango jam to go with her pina colada trifle.

Ladyfingers and cakes emerge. Mark’s is a bit overbaked on the edges but he’s not too worried. Time to start on crème anglaise (the custardy bit). Mark’s apparently using eggs from his own flock. Paul doesn’t seem to approve of his method of using cornflour in the crème. I say, whatever gets the stuff to thicken. I tried making custard for a trifle once and stood there stirring it for nearly an hour and it never thickened at all. Even my mother, a pastry chef, couldn’t figure out where it went wrong. Mark’s goes wrong, by the way. It looks like choux pastry. Mary is appreciative of the fact that Howard’s doing a true crème anglaise, with no cornflour, which apparently makes him unique this week.

With things cooling, Bakewells start making toppings. Sue falls in love with Kim’s honeycomb.

Trifles are assembled. Deborah realizes she accidentally stole and used Howard’s custard. I’m surprised they don’t mark their bowls or something. I bet they will after this. She feels really, really terrible but Howard’s a good sport, even though now he’s got one of the crappy custards, not the actual classic one he really made. How are they going to properly judge those two now?

Howard’s been a bit thrown, and Deborah, desperate to make up for her mistake, tries to help him find the spoon he needs.

Ali’s having fun finishing his trifle off.

Mel calls time. Howard looks disappointed, and I don’t blame him, because the custard is a bit runny and is ruining the layers.

Ruby’s desert island custard is great looking—it has cute little palm tree sponge cutouts on the side. The judges approve the flavours. Glenn’s raspberry and almond trifle has good layers and is enormous, like all his bakes. It also tastes good. Kim’s got a peach, almond and ginger trifle which gets high marks. Rob’s custard is a bit thick, and Mark went too thick on the cake and too thin on custard. Frances needed a bit less custard too. Beca’s looks great, but the judges seem to find the amount of cake a bit overwhelming. Ali gets kudos from Mary for the macaroons and Paul really likes the trifle. The pina colada is fun to look at and has great flavours. Deborah admits to having used Howard’s custard, which is declared quite good. The taste of her trifle overall is declared quite good as well. Paul notes that the layers aren’t defined, in part because the custard sucks. The flavours blend well, but Mary wishes he had skinned the apples. Afterwards, Howard says he wishes he could just get one uneventful bake out of the way.

History lesson: trifles used to be for rich people, until one woman brought it to the masses. She was a pioneering cookery writer named Hannah Grass who ran away from her wealthy family to marry a soldier. Suddenly on a budget but unwilling to give up the rich foods she’d been so used to, she started creating recipes that emulated said dishes. It was one of the first really clear recipe books that was aimed at the middle classes. Her trifle was particularly popular. She apparently took trifle to the next level by introducing jelly to it. Jelly at the time was difficult to make and was typically only for the upper classes. And to make that jelly, you needed some calves’ feet. Thankfully, Hannah provided very clear instructions on how to make foot jelly. Mel and a historian actually make some jelly, and then build a trifle with it. Mel bravely tests it out and declares it delicious.

Technical challenge: iles flottantes (floating islands). Basically poached meringues floating in a sea of custard. Ruby doesn’t understand why anyone would make this. I have to admit, it’s never appealed to me. They look pretty, but I feel like it would just taste of sugar and nothing else. Unflavoured meringues are a bit dull, and so is custard, to me. Oh, and it’s Mary’s recipe. No pressure, then. Mark accidentally gets egg yolk in his whites, which means he has to start over, because they won’t whip properly into a meringue with any yolk in it. The Bakewells beat up nice, stiff meringues.

Shaping—the chefs have to make quenelles, sort of egg-shapes. Howard’s whites aren’t nearly stiff enough.

The instructions just tell the Bakewells to poach the meringues in milk. No temp, no time. Mark slaps a lid on his pan, which I don’t think is a good idea, because he’ll end up with steam and water under there, which will drip on the meringues and ruin them.

Howard’s having a terrible day. His meringues collapsed and his custard has boiled, so he’s starting over. While he does that, the others get started on their crèmes anglaise. Sue stops by to gently tease Deborah the Custard Thief, who laughs good-naturedly.

Finally, they have to create a caramel to drizzle over the islands.

Looks like Howard’s burned his caramel. Poor guy.

Everyone plates up and Sue calls time. Howard looks pissed off. In come Mary and Paul, and Mary observes that they all look very different. Deborah’s have lost the shape. Glenn’s got good shapes, good custard, and good spun sugar. His meringue is beautiful, according to Paul. Ruby did a good custard but needed to beat her meringues more. Frances’s meringue is underwhipped. Ali’s is fairly good, though the sugar was burned. Howard’s done a good meringue but his custard split. Christine’s is fairly good. Kim’s good. Beca’s meringues are too big and undercooked. Mark’s meringues are a bit of a disaster. Rob did great, and apparently had the best quenelles.

Mark is last, followed by Beca, Deborah, Frances, Howard, Kim, Ali and Christine. Top three are Glenn, Rob, and Ruby. Well done, Glenn!

Time for the showstopper. While the Bakewells prepare, Mary and Paul heap praise on Glenn and Ruby. Mark, Beca, and Deborah are all in danger.

They have to make 24 petit-fours in three hours. Off they go.

Glenn’s doing billionaire bouchees and orange financiers. He starts with the financiers. Christine’s doing ninety niners and sachertorte parcels. She shows Mary the mould she’s using for the ninety niner cones, which is a beautiful little wooden piece her husband made for her. Wow, that’s handy. I kind of wish I could ask my husband to make me kitchen tools I needed. Maybe someday, when we have a garage he can do these things in. Hard in a flat, you know? Debora’s doing canele cherry and chocolate cakes and rose cookies filled with rose buttercream. Ruby’s got a million things going for her lemon shortbread and white chocolate seashells and blackberry and chocolate layer cakes. She admits to the judges that she’s winging it on the decorations, and Sue sticks up for her, reminding Paul the poor girl’s been pretty busy with exams and all. Frances is inspired by The Nutcracker and will be making ginger nutcrackers and sugar plum fairy cakes, served on a record of The Nutcracker. Of course. I was wondering where this week’s gimmick was. She’s weighing each little piece out, so they’re all exactly the same size. Howard’s making black coffee and cardamom cake and white stilton and pear biscuits. Ok, those both sound amazing. I really want one of those stilton and pear biscuits right now. Mark’s making rose and pistachio macaroons and chocolate and raspberry bites. Paul can’t believe he hasn’t started piping the macaroons, because he thinks they need to sit and rest for a while, which I’ve heard is actually pretty useless. Then again, I’ve never made macaroons. Beca’s doing limoncello and blueberry bursts topped with teeny tiny purple macaroons, as well as millionaire shortbread filled with freshly made apricot jam. The tiny macaroons filled with blueberry jam are beyond adorable.

Deborah can’t get her cakes out of the mould they’re in and she’s about to have a breakdown. Mark pulls out his macaroons and they aren’t exactly magazine ready. Deborah cries because she’s lost the fluting on the side of her little cakes, but Sue reassures her they look adorable.

Cakes are sliced, assembled, and decorated. Mark’s not pleased with how this is going and admits he’s not great with little things. Poor Ruby’s hands are shaking and she worries about being slapped for shoddy finishing. She suddenly realizes she needs a plate for all these things. Time’s up!

Glenn is first. Paul doesn’t like that the sizes are so different between his two offerings. Indeed, the little mini dome-shaped shortbread chocolate thingeys look strangely tiny next to the financiers, and he compounds the sin by not making a great shortbread. The financiers are a hit, though.

Christine worries that her ninety niners cones aren’t dry enough. Mary declares them ‘scrummy’. Hee! Paul likes them too. The sachertortes go over well too.

Paul calls out Mark’s crappy macaroons but says the flavours are good. He thinks the cake is a bit thick and Mary says charitably that the genoise layers are a bit dense.

Ali’s made vanilla latte mini cakes and lime and mint shortbread pops. Mary is unimpressed, since they’re just shortbread biscuits, and Paul thinks they all look a little bland.

Kim’s chocolate pistachio financiers and lemon bergamot biscuits (yes please!) look fab together—it’s a really rich looking plate of deep purples and lime green from the pistachios. The flavours are also great.

Rob’s friands look and taste great but his macaroons also didn’t rest long enough and therefore don’t have the shiny tops.

Howard worries about his coffee and cardamom and stilton and pear bites and Mary wishes there had been a stronger stilton flavour. The cake is also said to be quite bitter.

Frances’s cutesy nutcracker bites are lovely looking and are quite good.

Ruby says she’s not overjoyed with her bites, but at least they look better than they did at home. Paul and Mary love them, though Paul thinks the cake could have been a bit better decorated.

Deborah has no faith in herself at all. And yeah, her cakes look a mess. Mary also wishes the biscuits were a slightly more subdued colour. Paul says they’re bone dry, but Mary adds that they do have a rose flavor. Her little cakes are delicious, though. Deborah tries not to cry.

Beca presents her offerings and Mary says they look really special. She’s also managed to do the best looking macaroons, which is funny, since they’re just a decoration instead of her whole dessert, as was the case with the others. Paul and Mary love the cakes and compliment her shiny ganache. Kudos to her, that’s not an easy thing to achieve.

While we wait for judging, I find myself wondering what happens to all the uneaten food on this show. They had to make 24 of these things each, and only, what, four got eaten? I guess the crew gets to tuck in, but how many crew members are there? I hope it gets donated or something, at least.

Anyway, Ruby’s on the good list, along with Christine and Frances. On the hit list are Mark, Howard, and Deborah. Beca’s saved herself by pulling off an amazing showstopper round.

The Bakewells are gathered for the judgment. Mel gets to announce star baker and it’s…Christine! She’s shocked and pleased, and everyone applauds. Going home this week is…two people? Wow. They are Mark and Deborah, neither of whom are surprised. And the cameraman totally ruined that by focusing on Deborah almost exclusively during the announcement. Hugs all around. Mark has no regrets and says he pretty much deserved to go, but he’s made some amazing new friends, so it’s all good.

Next week: pies. Mmm, pie.

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