The Great British Bake Off: Back to Basics

bakeoff-14_3066651cPreviously on The Great British Bake Off: Richard the Builder, Nancy, and Luis killed it, overcame all the competition, and made it to the final.

We’re reminded of the three finalists’ awesomeness: Richard’s éclair stair and amazing biscuit pirate scene, Nancy’s beautiful first-challenge orange and chocolate cakes, Luis’s delicious looking filled bread and spicy dragon biscuit.

Mel, Sue, and the judges enter the tent to deliver the first challenge: Viennoiserie—an assortment of pastries such as pain au chocolat. They have to make two types. And they’re off!

Nancy comments that it’s strange to only have three people in the tent now, so empty! Paul informs us that these pastries are really hard to master, which is presumably why it’s part of the final.

Luis is making pain au white chocolat with raspberries and cream cheese and chaussons with apple, walnut, raisins, and Cheshire cheese. Paul tells him he has to nail this, like he didn’t already know.

Nancy is making an almond and raspberry croissant and apple and lemon kites.

Richard has to make two different doughs, unlike Luis and Nancy. He’s doing pear pain au chocolat and pain au lait (milk bread). Paul thinks it sounds too simple and warns Richard that this is a dangerous thing to do in the final.

Nancy jokes that the men are more muscular than she is, so she should get extra time to knead. Or you could just use the mixer, Nancy. Just sayin’. Doughs are put away to prove and butter is bashed out to be incorporated into the doughs. Nancy and Luis are incorporating the butter in the usual way: putting it in the dough in a big sheet, while Richard is painting creamed butter over the dough. Paul thinks that’s going to make the pastries too bready. The doughs are chilled while outside it pours rain.

Dough comes out and is filled. Richard admits pain au chocolat aren’t his specialty. Paul leans way into Nancy’s space and teasingly asks if he’s bothering her. Richard proves his pain au chocolat in the drawer while the other two leave the doughs at room temperature. And then all they can do is sit around, waiting.

With half an hour left, they put on last-minute glazes before putting them in the oven. Nancy says hers could have proved for a bit longer.

Breads come out. Some of Luis’s are cooking more quickly than others, so he’s removing them one by one. Richard obsessively watches his pain au chocolat to make sure they don’t overbake. Frantic last-minute decorating and arranging and time is called.

Luis’s pastries look quite delectable, though Mary notes that some are baked more than others. Paul cuts into one and notes that the raspberry has weighted some of the pastry down. He’s not wild about the taste. The chaussons fare better, being nice and flaky and delicious.

Nancy is next. She got a good bake on her croissant but they were underproved, so they’re doughy in the middle. The kites have good layers and delicious flavour.

Richard’s look rather sloppy—some of the pain au lait baked into each other and the pain au chocolat are different sizes. The pain au lait tastes delicious but Paul is terribly offended by the fact that some of them touched during baking. The croissants are basically just buttery rolls, no layers, because the butter was too soft. But the filling’s nice. Man, nobody did terribly well that round, did they?

For the technical challenge, they have to make 12 mini Victoria sandwiches, 12 mini tarte au citron, and 12 mini scones. In 2 hours. Woah. That’s a lot of different techniques to test in a short period of time. I say, make tart pastry first so it can chill, do the jam for the sandwich, make the sponges, do the tart filling, and scones last.

They get going, and it looks like they mostly agree with me. Nancy’s got her jam bubbling and starts her sponge, explaining that she keeps it from curdling by adding a spoonful of flour as she beats in the eggs. Her sponge goes into the oven.

Luis’s sponges come out. Richard’s are looking pretty flat. They roll pastry as thin as they can. Luis’s is really sloppy, because it’s hot in the tent again and the pastry’s melting a bit. Richard accidentally puts two eggs in his scones, even though only one was supposed to go in, so he starts over. Luckily, scone dough comes together fairly quickly. He pops them into the oven, hoping they’ll rise. Luis swaps his tart pastry (which is overdone) for his scones. The pastry’s also cracked in some places, so he tries patching it.

With 20 minutes left, they’re filling tarts and putting them in the oven. Richard’s never made tarte au citron before, so he just mixes everything together and tosses it into the shells. Nancy’s tarts come out of the oven looking kind of pale. Richard’s have puffed up hugely. He declares them a disaster. Nancy’s jam is a bit more set than she’d like; Richard’s isn’t set quite enough. Sandwiches are filled, tarts brought out of molds, Nancy pipes citron in chocolate over the tarts. Richard tries to, but it gets really sloppy. Time is called and the bakes are presented.

Luis has made pale scones with no glaze. Paul seems surprised to find they’re actually baked. The sponges are good. The tarts are awful. The pastry’s too thick and overdone and there’s no piping on the top.

Nancy’s scones have a lovely texture and are well baked but Paul thinks they’re a tiny bit dry. Perfect colour on the sponges though Mary wishes the cream was piped. The tarts are very neat and well done.

Richard’s got good scones, but the jam is too runny in his sandwiches. The tarts are way overdone, the mixture’s curdled into scrambled eggs, and the piping across the top looks more like ‘colon’ than citron. Tarte au colon? Egh.

Last to first: Richard, Luis, Nancy. Luis apologises for those tarts. He can’t believe he wasn’t last.

Showstopper day. Our Bakewell trio troops into the tent while the judges discuss the situation. Richard is not in a good position—Paul thinks that, at this point, the winner is likely to be either Luis or Nancy. We shall see.

For the showstopper, they have to make a patisserie showpiece, a pièce montée, which somehow relates personally to them. They begin.

Paul declares this the ultimate patisserie challenge. Mary talks about pictures of these things she’s seen from centuries past and they’re all really fantastic.

The judges stop by Richard’s station first. He’s tapping into his childhood and constructing the place where he grew up, with a hill made of sponge and raspberry jam, a windmill, a croquembouche, and an almond brittle stone wall and meringue mushrooms. Sounds cool. We learn he’s the fourth generation to join the family’s building business, but his first job was at a bakery. He built the house where he and his wife live with their two incredibly adorable little girls. His wife actually gets teary talking about how great a person he is. Aww! He starts on his ginger sponge, joking that he loves ginger—he even married one! Boom!

Nancy tells the judges she’s excited and is making the Moulin rouge with sponge, a croquembouche and red-dyed caramel to create the sails. Two windmills? What’re the odds? We learn that she went back to uni in her 40s to get a master’s degree in business admin. Good for her. Her husband says she’s a determined woman who does whatever she sets out to do. She has eight cute grandkids and a couple of them talk about what she’s taught them to bake.

Sponges start to go into the oven.

Luis is also inspired by the village he grew up in, which is a mining village. He’s making a multi-layer cake with mint macarons, chouquettes, and a chocolate biscuit on top in the shape of a mining wheel. Paul wonders if he can get it all done in the allotted five hours. Luis, apparently, is in a ukulele club. I had no idea such things existed. You learn something new every day. He met his wife at art college, and she’s also tearfully proud of him.

Piece montee apparently needs choux buns, so the Bakewells start working on those.

Sponges come out and choux goes in. Nancy’s making her windmill out of a ginger and orange biscuit. Mmmm.

Meanwhile, their friends, family, and former Bakewells are gathering for the traditional end-of-Bake Off party. Kids play, Bakewells wonder who’s going to win.

Luis pipes out some macarons and says he likes making them, but it took a while to get the knack and he’s still not perfect. I hear him on that. Learning macarons was a project I set myself a few months ago. They weren’t easy.

Cakes are assembled so the fussy work can begin. Sugarwork next! Nancy’s making the sails for her windmill from caramel, while Richard’s doing an almond brittle. Mel and Sue are stuffing themselves with the cut-off edges and Richard’s spare choux.

Fifteen minutes left. Things start getting super anxious. Nancy doesn’t even have her sails on with just five minutes left. One of them cracks off as she’s taking it off the Silpat. Oh well, keep going. Luis’s wheel stands up. Nancy manages to adhere that lost sail and tries doing some last-minute piping that doesn’t work. Richard’s brittle sails go on, Luis finishes putting his macarons on. Time is called.

Luis’s looks amazing. Really, really slick. Richard’s is a bit sloppy. The sails are kind of droopy. Nancy’s looks pretty good.  This is a much better showing than the three showstoppers from last year, which were so horrible looking I was actually embarrassed for the bakers.

Richard presents first.

Paul notes the day-glo green grass and says the colours are ‘interesting’. Mary likes it and thinks it looks fun. His cake is fantastic and his choux are first class, according to Mary. Paul likes the brittle. Richard seems relieved.

Nancy presents her Moulin Rouge. Mary tells her she should be really proud of this. The windmill even turns, which is really impressive. Paul wishes the biscuit was a bit neater, but it’s delicious. The sponge is nice and light. Her passionfruit-filled profiteroles get high marks.

Finally, Luis. Mary says it shows lots of skills and Paul says it’s a piece of art. His mint flavouring in the macarons is perfect, but his chocolate sponge is dry and buttercream could have used a bit more flavour. Mary admires his piping work on the biscuit, and Paul loves the flavour of said biscuit. The three finalists take their pieces out to the lawn to great applause. Family and friends embrace them. They’re serving up their technical bakes as well. Poor Richard and Luis must be cringing at that.

The judges confer. Richard’s looked childlike but was delicious, Nancy’s was really good but had some appearance flaws, Luis’s was stunning but the bottom layer flavour combinations didn’t really work for Paul.

The judges and hosts come out with the trophy and bouquets to announce the winner. And it’s…Nancy! Wow, she really pulled that out at the last minute, didn’t she? Until his earlier muck-ups I thought for sure it would be Richard. Well done, Nancy, I do like you, and you had some amazing and lovely bakes, so congratulations!

Mary interviews that Nancy has the instinct and clearly loves baking and is a perfectionist. Paul says everything just came together for her. Luis says he really thinks the right person won.

Since the Bake off…

Claire’s been baking to raise money for charity, Enwezor ran an endurance race and expanded his amateur bakers group, Jordan is still baking, Iain wants to open a café in London, Diana’s been hitting the garden, Norman is writing his autobiography but has only gotten to the age of five so I don’t think we should be looking for that on the shelves anytime soon, Kate’s been teaching her daughter to bake and making ciabatta at least once a week, Martha passed all her exams and hopes to study food science at uni, Chetna’s been baking for charity and developing recipes for a pop-up kitchen event, Richard continues to build in plaster and cake, Luis daydreams of baking for a living, Nancy is still teaching the grandkids to bake and made her daughter’s wedding cake. Awww.

That’s it for this year, everybody! Let’s raise a biscuit or forkful of cake to our finalists, they all definitely deserved to be there, and to our winner, Nancy!

Image Credit: Mark Bourdillon/BBC/Love product/PA
Image Credit: Mark Bourdillon/BBC/Love product/PA



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