The Great British Bake Off: Blast from the Past

12011315_898109596939365_1097321333402864709_nPreviously on The Great British Bake Off: Pastry week overwhelmed Alvin, Nadiya had a vol-au-vent meltdown, and Mat became Star Baker on the strength of his really delicious-sounding English breakfast vol au vents.

Well, this is something new: this week is all historical recipes. Cool, I can get into this one!

Sue VOs that the Victorian era ushered in a new dawn for home bakers, and the Bakewells will be tested on techniques that defined modern baking. Flora tells us she knows little about the Victorians, apart from their lovely frocks. Yes, Flora, frocks that actually killed people. Sigh.

The Bakewells are welcomed to the tent and given their first challenge: raised game pie. Which they can fill with whatever they like. Yeah, but if it’s a game pie, that really limits the filling, no? They get started while MelVO tells us that raised game pies were Victorian status symbols.

Hot water crust is made. I love working with that, but you have to work super fast with it, because it cools and hardens quickly.

Paul’s pie has all sorts of game, including boar. He’s decorating it with pastry leaves which Mary seems a little disappointed with, because those Victorians loved to elaborately decorate things.

Mat’s actually got a vintage tin from 1850, so he’s already ahead of the game (if you will). He’s creating a raised venison and pigeon pie. He’s doing plaits on the outside and antlers standing in the middle.

Tamal is doing a Middle Eastern flavoured game pie. Mmmmm. He’s using ras el hanout, which apparently Mary’s never heard of. Seriously, Mary? I actually keep a jar of that stuff in my fridge. It’s handy for slapping on grilled or seared meat.

Nadiya is also using some unusual spices: Chinese five spice. Also mmmm. Also a staple I keep around all the time.

MelVO says that game was an expensive seasonal treat for the middle classes, so making it showed you were on your way up.

Flora’s making a sage and game pie. She’s putting a lattice and some leaves on top.

Ian is apparently in the habit of picking up roadkill and cooking it. Sorry, but that’s really disgusting. He has, of course, made his own mould, in the shape of a bird.

Moulds are filled with pastry and filling, then decorated. Tamal’s going with an Arabian Nights theme for his decorations, with moons and roses. Flora worries she’s overfilled her pie and, in order to ensure it cooks through, she’s keeping it at a high heat the whole time, which could dry out the filling. After a while, she takes her pie out and checks the temperature. It’s way low. She considers turning up the heat to 220 but Paul warns that she’ll burn her pastry.

Pies come out and are unmoulded. Ian’s made a pork jelly to accompany his. Flora’s pastry looks way overdone.

Mat’s venison and pigeon pie has excellent colour and looks beautiful. Inside, it’s well packed and the meat is tender. Mary seems to like it, but Paul wishes there was more bacon.

Ian’s roadkill pie is underdecorated for Mary. The inside looks gorgeous, with three lovely looking layers. The pastry’s a little thick, but the filling is delicious. The jelly is really good too.

Nadiya’s aromatic raised game pie looks very delicate to Paul, with its decoration of roses. The filling doesn’t taste gamey enough to Paul and Mary, though.

Tamal’s Middle Eastern game pie is beautiful and the filling is fabulously moist and not too spicy. Paul adores it. Tamal gets a handshake and everything.

Paul’s Not a Boar-ing Pie looks too boring for Mary and Paul, but the filling looks really good. The meat’s a teensy bit tough and overbaked.

Flora’s game pie is overfilled and overbaked, but the pastry is crisp, so there’s that. She was expecting to do much worse.

Time for our history lesson (of course): let’s learn about Mrs Beeton, the 19th century Martha Stewart. She got her start writing the domestic column for her husband’s magazine. Her first recipe was kind of a disaster: she forgot to mention you need to use flour in a cake. So, she was a disaster there, but she was good at finding other people’s recipes and tips and compiled them all into Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1861 and outselling Great Expectations. It’s been in print ever since.

Time for the technical. Sue and Mel show up with tennis racquets. This is a recipe from the 1890s, and according to Mary timing is really important, so no dawdling. They have to make tennis cake. Never heard of it. It’s apparently a rich fruitcake decorated with icing that became royal after Victoria used it on her wedding cake. Did they not frost royal wedding cakes before that? Or not have them at all?

They get started, and Tamal’s immediately thrown by the recipe.

Paul thinks this is mean, because cooling the cake enough to decorate with an annoyingly twee tennis court is going to be tough in the time allotted.

The Bakewells cream butter and sugar and chop up dried and candied fruit. The cake has to bake for two of their three hours. Cakes go into the oven and attention is turned to marzipan (or almond paste, as it was known by the Victorians). Once that’s done, they make royal icing, then divide it up and colour two thirds. Finally, they make sugar paste out of gelatin and icing sugar. Flora’s screwed up the gelatin by cooking it over really high heat. Mat’s made some seriously day glo green, gloopy sugar paste. Sugar paste is cut and put on top of marzipan. Mat’s trying to actually spread his on top. Not good. Nadiya stresses about not remembering what a tennis court looks like. Mat has made another batch of sugar paste that looks much better than the last one.

Cakes start coming out. While they cool, the Bakewells pipe little tennis racquets and nets. Mat is…baking his royal icing net and racquets? What the hell is he doing? Are those ovens also fridges or something? He pulls them out and they’re all tan. Nadiya can’t figure out what on earth he was thinking. Cakes are desperately decorated. Time is called.

Paul’s net collapsed and a bit of the cake got stuck to the pan. The cake’s tasty, though. Nadiya’s done spectacularly. Hers is really the only one that looks right. Mat’s looks like ‘the tennis court from Hades’ according to Paul. Heh! His cake is also raw in the middle. Tamal’s neglected to do a net, but he has a good bake and flavor. Flora’s net fell over, but she piped well. The cake is slightly overcooked too. Not her day for that. Ian has no net and the cake is slightly underbaked. Last to first: Mat, Ian, Flora, Tamal, Paul, Nadiya.

Tamal and Nadiya are in contention for Star Baker, while Mat, Paul and Ian are in trouble. Not Flora? Really?

And finally, our Showstopper: Charlotte Russe, a freestanding pudding with a shell of ladyfingers filled with bavarois cream and jelly. They start by making sponge ladyfingers.

Ian’s using a ginger jelly and rhubarb bavarois with a crown on top. Sounds elaborate, not that I would expect less of him.

Paul is doing a rhubarb and strawberry russe with lots of sculpted fruit decorations. Mel has this completely bizarre moment where she asks if Paul’s going to use a tiny hammer and chisel to shape his apples. Paul the Judge looks at her like she’s insane.

Tamal is piping some decorations onto his sponge fingers.

Mat is piping his sponge fingers so they bake together and form a sort of wall. He’s making a very strawberry russe.

Flora’s got champagne jelly and pomegranate juice in her russe, along with a white chocolate bavarois. Paul doesn’t approve of the use of pomegranate, because the seeds will be unpleasant in a dessert that’s supposed to be all silky. Wait, she’s using whole seeds? Yeah, that is pretty bad.

Bavarois are made. It starts as a custard and is set with gelatin. Tamal’s adding cardamom to his. Mmmm, cardamom. Whipped cream is added last, to give it all a silky texture.

Nadiya’s doing a raspberry bavarois, and a mango one, and she’s using an Italian meringue in it, which Paul thinks should help with the set.

Jellies are made and set, also with gelatin, of course. Flora’s right, those Victorians loved their gelatin.

Gloppy bavarois are poured into lady finger moulds and popped into fridges to set. While that’s happening, decorations are made. Tamal’s doing macarons, Ian’s doing a crown, and Paul’s carving up his fruit. Sue sidles up to him and asks when he got into carving fruit. He apparently picked it up in one day, and damn, he’s a quick study, because this is some amazing work so far.

One hour left. Nadiya pours her second bavarois layer on. Some of the others add their jelly. Paul begs his not to seep. Back in the fridges these things go.

After their rest, they start coming out. Mat needs the help of several people to try and get his onto the serving dish, but the thing’s falling apart. Decorations are applied. Ian gets applause as he places his crown. Time’s up! Nadiya looks terrified, as always.

Flora’s up first, with her raspberry, pomegranate, and champagne russe. It looks good, has distinctive layers, and a rich bavarois. Paul doesn’t think the pomegranate brings anything to the party.

Nadiya’s mango and raspberry russe looks lovely, though Paul thinks the fingers are too flat. The layers look great and it tastes fab.

Paul’s russe is a bit underset on the top and the bavarois is over-gelatined.

Ian’s Victoria’s crown russe looks spectacular to Mary and the layers inside are perfect. Paul says it’s spectacular all around.

Mat’s very strawberry charlotte isn’t well piped and has that split on the side. The jelly on the top hasn’t quite set, but it has a nice flavor. The bavarois is really good. Paul says he really loves this challenge. I think he’s a huge bavarois fan.

Tamal’s spiced blackberry, raspberry and cardamom russe looks quite pretty and has really perfect layers. He even managed to get away with not putting a sponge on the bottom, which is ballsy as hell. But it worked. Mary and Paul love the flavours, which are tricky but he managed to get them right.

The judges confer. Flora has disappointed, and Paul and Mat are in trouble. I’ll be amazed if Tamal doesn’t get Star Baker this week.

Back to the tent for good news and bad. Sue gets the fun job this week: Star Baker goes to Tamal! Yay! Totally deserved, by the look of things. It’s down to Mel to break the news that Mat is going home. He definitely saw it coming, too. He agrees that it was the right decision but jokes that he’ll have to keep baking because people will want cakes and he should really start charging now. You should, Mat! You’ve been on the telly, people will pay!

Tamal immediately goes and calls his mum to announce the good news, which is kind of adorable.

Quarterfinal next week!

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