Great British Bakeoff: Pie? Oh, My!

Previously on The Great British Bakeoff: Poor Howard had a terrible week as his custard got pinched and things kept just going wrong from there. He managed to hang on, though, and instead we lost Mark and Deborah. Ruby continued knocking it out of the park, but she was beaten out for Star Baker by Christine, who was flat-out amazing.

It’s tarts week, so feel free to insert your own very obvious joke there. Mel and Sue are wearing fake fat bellies and singing ‘who ate all the pies’. Heh. The Bakewells are welcomed to ‘a life of pie’ and reassured they won’t have to look after a tiger. They will have to do a double-crusted fruit pie for their signature bake. Mmmm, pie. It’s feeling like proper autumn here now, which is strangely putting me in a fruit pie mood. The apples are particularly fabulous this year, so now I want apple pie. Mmm, apple pie.

Kimberley’s making her boyfriend’s favourite pecan and rosemary caramel apple pie. Damn you, Kimberley! I’ll be up until midnight making a pie now! Beca’s putting orange zest in her piecrust. Ali maybe accidentally blends some of the plastic that was wrapped around his butter into his shortcrust. Ooops. He’s doing an apple and pecan pie. Christine’s having trouble with her shortcrust. She, too is doing an apple pie, this time with plum, and it’s her granny’s recipe. She apparently makes it every week. Wow. I like a good pie and all, but I don’t know if I’d want the same one every week. I don’t even want the same bread every week. Howard’s putting fresh herbs in his apple and sage pie. Is anyone not doing an apple pie? Seriously, folks, there are so many excellent fruit pie options out there! Strawberry and rhubarb, cherry, raspberry? Or, one of my favourites, Shaker lemon pie? God, that pie’s amazing. It’s like lemon marmalade in a pie. Nope, apparently nobody on this show has heard of anything besides an apple pie. Strange. Oh, wait, called it too early: Frances is doing a peach and frangipane pie inspired by James and the Giant Peach. It’s going to be shaped like a giant hot air balloon, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because I don’t recall the peach turning into a hot air balloon at any point, but then, it’s been many, many years since I read JatGP.

Glenn’s doing a sour cream and maple syrup custard. Interesting. He describes it as a sort of sweet quiche and Mary says it could be really lovely. Emphasis on ‘could’.

Pies are covered and decorated. Howard’s using a cinnamon stick to form the steam hole, which is actually a pretty good idea. Could at least impart a bit more flavor. Glenn realizes his leaf decorations are coming out a really lurid colour, but it’s too late to change it now. Pies are popped in the oven, while Ali’s still futzing around with his. He only has 30 minutes to bake it, which really isn’t enough. He knows he’s probably going to have a soggy bottom, which is a cardinal sin on this show. Everyone crouches at their ovens, staring at their pies. These pies are going to be hot as hell when they’re served. Usually I give my pies at least a few minutes to cool, so they stop bubbling up before someone bites into them. But these are going right down to the wire. Ali jacks up the heat on his oven, which is never a good plan. He worries about what to do and Christine urges him to go with his instincts. With just one minute to go, Ali and a few others take their pies out and pull the moulds off of them. Frances decorates her James and the Giant Peach scene. Time is called.

Well, most of the pies look nice and golden. The maple leaves on Glenn’s sure are bright. The judges start with him and he’s got a soggy bottom. Paul also can’t taste the custard and scolds Glenn for not practicing enough. Kim’s pecan and rosemary caramel apple pie looks very inviting to Mary, and Paul says it’s one of the nicest pies he’s had in years. Wow. Now I really want to make her pie. Frances is complimented on her artwork, but the flavours are totally off and it’s dry. Paul urges her to keep substance over style. Beca’s pastry is too thick. Rob’s apple and pear with thyme is beautifully baked and the pastry is good. Ruby’s apple and marzipan gets a big thumbs up from Mary. Howard’s apple pie with sage pastry is too crumbly and the pastry looks really underbaked to me. Mary likes the idea but couldn’t taste the sage. Christine’s apple, plum and cinnamon pie is too liquidy. She didn’t have enough thickener. You’d think she’d be able to do this pie in her sleep, if she makes it every week. Ali’s apple and ginger with pecan and walnut shortcrust pastry has underbaked pastry and Paul can’t taste ginger. Paul tells him he needs to try his food before it’s served. Ali says he hates fruit pies, so he’s not exactly heartbroken. Christine beats herself up and starts to cry during the post-judging interview. Aww, it’s ok, Christine!

Technical: Paul’s recipe for custard tarts. They have to make 12 of them with golden pastry and smooth custard with just a little bit of wobble. Off they go! Curiously, Ali loves custard tarts. But he hates fruit pies? I’ve never met anyone who hated a fruit pie. To each his own, I guess. In the judges’ tent, Mary and Paul admire some beautifully baked custard tarts.

The Bakewells get started with their pastry, which needs to be worked a bit more than the usual shortcrust, so it can hold the custard without leaking. While it’s resting, they have to make the custard. The instructions just say: make the custard filling. Yep, those are the technical instructions I’m used to. Some of them heat the custard while others just combine cream and egg yolks and hope for the best. With one hour to go, Glenn worries about time being against him. The Bakewells start to roll the pastry out. Rob’s cut his circles too small, so he’s desperately patching the pastry so it comes to the top of the moulds. They pour in custard, top with nutmeg, and start baking.

Sue tells us that custard tarts were once great treats at the royal courts and were noted in England’s oldest cookbook, which dates back to the reign of Richard II. A historian shows us the book, which is greasy, so it was apparently used. Wow, the stories that book could tell. It includes porridge, stews, and desserts, amongst other things. A food historian tells us that the book describes custard tarts, which haven’t changed much since then, though they used to include saffron, because it was super expensive. Richard apparently taxed the hell out of his subjects to pay for his extravagance, which made him quite unpopular, and he was eventually deposed and killed, only leaving behind the cookbook as his legacy. Well, there are worse things.

Back with the Bakewells, they all wonder when they should pull them out of the oven. They have 15 minutes left. Ali notes that his pastry’s too soft. Someone else’s overbaked a bit. Rob wonders how to get the tarts out of the pan. Well, Ruby had the foresight to put in little lifters before she put the pastry in, so she easily lifts the tarts out, but mourns the fact that the pastry’s not quite done. Others are wrenching the things out with palate knives. Glenn throws his tarts in the freezer in desperation. Some of the Bakewells’ tarts fall apart completely. This is not a great technical for most of them. Howard’s having a particularly disastrous time. At one point, he loses the custard out of one entirely and just throws a crumbled tart shell on the plate.

Tarts are placed on the table and in come Mary and Paul, who manage to not just start laughing at some of the feeble attempts. Frances is up first, and she gets high marks, as does Beca, who’s next. Mary wishes there was a little more custard. Christine’s got a soggy bottom, and some of hers fell apart. Howard’s got a good bake, but the tarts are too shallow. Rob apparently rushed his, and the pastry was a little weak. Ali’s got raw pastry and only managed to get 6 instead of the required 12. Glenn’s also missing half and they look so bad Paul won’t even try them. Ruby’s are too shallow and underbaked. Kimberley’s are too shallow and on the raw side. Placement, from worst to best: Glenn, Ali, Christine, Ruby, Howard, Kimberley, Rob, Beca (only because they were a tad small), and Frances. Everyone applauds Frances’s success. Both Glenn and Christine are gutted and Christine worries that she might be going home. Buck up, Christine. Look at the amazing turnaround Ruby had!

Showstopper: a filo pastry pie, with pastry made from scratch. Handmade filo pastry? That’s just cruel. Even Mary Berry says she never makes her own, because why the hell would you when you can actually get perfectly good filo from the grocery store that won’t make you weep in despair? Still, as Paul says, that’s a good test of their abilities.

Kim’s putting turmeric in her filo. Howard’s doing fresh fig and feta filo flan. How does one do a filo flan? We’ll just have to see. He admits that it’s really hard to get it out of the pan. Well, good luck, Howard! Christine’s doing a roasted vegetable and filo pie with feta cheese. Is feta the new apple here? Bakewells knead their filo, building up the massive amount of gluten the dough requires to hang together. Glenn’s kneading his in the mixer while enjoying a cup of tea. Heh. Ruby says she’s not doing a savoury because she actually can’t cook. She’s doing a rose, almond, and raspberry filo pie. I’d be worried about the raspberries being too wet for filo pastry, but good luck to her. Paul quizzes her on how she’ll get the pastry thin enough. Ruby’s been practicing in her tiny student apartment, which is currently covered in flour.

Rob, who’s a mushroom forager, remember, is using mushrooms in his pie-thagorus pie. Oh, I see what you did there, Rob. It’s going to be made up of either triangles or rectangles. Glenn’s doing spanakopita out of one massive filo sheet. He says he’s practiced it a lot at home, and he’s just going to go to his happy place and not worry about it. Ooooh, tell us what your happy place is like, Glenn! Is there a quartet playing Madame Butterfly? (Bonus points to whomever understands that reference). Frances is—wait for it—making a baklava shaped into a cherry tree, studded with Morello cherries. Of course she is. Even the VO says that. How would you even start to serve that?

Kim’s using a North African spice in her chicken, bacon, and butternut pie. Mmm, that sounds really good. Paul nabs some of her crackling. I don’t blame him. Beca and Ali are both using Moroccan flavours in their pies. Ali’s is an orange, cardamom and date m’hanncha (which apparently translates to ‘snake cake’). Paul likes the idea.

We learn that ‘filo’ means ‘leaf’. Makes sense. The Bakewells start rolling their pastry out, some using broomsticks to get a good long rollout. Once it’s rolled, it gets stretched, very gently. Kim asks Ali if he needs all the workspace he’s taken and he tells her he needs to roll out to two metres, so yeah, he needs it all. They start adding fillings and gently rolling up the filo. Frances is spraying some of hers with walnut oil. Shaped pies are tossed into the oven and everyone watches obsessively. Rob’s way behind schedule, because the mushrooms took a while to clean. Sue hurries over and asks if she can help. He says no, but thanks her for the offer, saying he’ll call if he needs her. ‘They all say that!’ she responds. Heh. Christine prays to the God of Crisp. Hee! He’s a fickle god, that one.

Five minutes to go, and bakes are coming out of the oven and being decorated and plated. Kimberley thinks hers looks ok. It does, but it’s a tad plain. Rob’s still isn’t done. Howard stresses over trying to get his pie out of the baking ring it’s in. Sue and Mel grab spatulas and pitch in. It works! The other Bakewells cringe, watching, and applaud at the success. Rob laughs and calls his a scrappy job. Yeah, it kind of is. He just plonked a dish of some dip in the middle and served it up.

Time for judging. Kim’s dressed hers up and it looks really lovely. Mary says it looks like it’s ready for a party and admires the layers of filo. She tries it and both she and Paul say it tastes as amazing as it looks. Kim’s a real contender here, isn’t she? Rob’s spanakopita with mushrooms looks like a bunch of pasties to Paul, who also notes that it’s underbaked, pastry-wise. The filling’s good, though. Frances’ cherry tree baklava is not, as the picture made it look, actually standing up, so now it makes a little more sense. The design is praised, of course, but Paul has a problem with the inside: it’s underbaked. Christine’s roasted veg and feta pie has nice pastry and beautiful flavours. Ruby’s sweet pie looks pretty scrappy. It’s just a coil, really, but the flavours are apparently amazing. Beca’s Moroccan filo feast is nice, but the texture gets a bit mushy. Howard’s fresh fig and feta flan is praised by Mary, who is happy to see he got it out of the tin. Glenn’s spanakopita has beautiful, crispy layers and Paul loves it. Glenn couldn’t possibly look more relieved. Ali’s orange, cardamom, and date snake cake is flaky and yummy. Mary likes that it’s not quite as sweet as baklava, but advises him to put some pistachios inside next time, instead of just using them to decorate the outside.

Judges and hosts confer. Paul says that Kim’s showstopper was amazing. Mary can’t believe Ruby’s doing as well as she is, considering she’s a student with no equipment to practice with properly. Glenn’s pie and technical challenge put him in the bottom, where he’s joined by Ali for his terrible pie and custard tarts. They think Rob tried to be too clever, but his showstopper wasn’t a showstopper at all.

Time for judgment. This week’s star baker is…Kimberley! Yay! She really did seem to deserve it this week, she rocked. And I must try that pie of hers. And the showstopper. Going home this week is…Ali. Ah well, sorry Ali. That’s what you get for hating fruit pies. Ok, that’s mean, it is sad to see him go. He’s sad. Glenn’s relieved to have managed to squeak by. Howard says this feels bittersweet, because it’s really sad to see someone else go. He and Ali hug quite a lot, so I guess they got fairly close during the Bakeoff. Christine tells him he’d better keep in touch or she’ll kill him. Aww. Never has a death threat been so touching.

Next week: biscuits. One tower will tumble, and it looks like someone’s making a biscuit dalek. Of course they are.