The Great British Bake Off: Cocoa Loco

12074531_904415872975404_1787862421670097854_nPreviously on the Great British Bake Off: Patisserie proved too much for Baker Paul, while Nadiya clinched Star Baker again, even though her bubblegum éclairs sounded frankly disgusting.

Semifinals, folks! Where has the time gone? It’s chocolate week. Yum! For their first challenge, they have to make a chocolate tart.

Everyone’s quite tense and nervous. Paul unnecessarily tells us that there’s now no room for error. Mary says that these have to be perfect and have a superb flavor.

SueVO tells us that cocoa pastry needs just enough liquid to bind it. Yeah, doing a chocolate pastry can be a bit difficult, because cocoa obviously doesn’t have gluten, so it won’t form any structure at all.

Tamal tells the judges he’s doing a Chocolate New York Pie, which has a dark chocolate filling, raspberry coulis, and crushed praline. I’m not sure what’s New York about this. Will it also reek of urine and come with annoying tourists who tend to get in everyone’s way and can never find the Empire State Building? (I worked for a year in Midtown Manhattan. Hated it. In case you couldn’t tell.)

Next stop is Flora. Hers has a passionfruit layer, milk chocolate mousse, and dark chocolate layer. And lots of decorations, with macarons all over the top. Heavens, Flora. Also, that tart kind of sounds like an overload. I think the milk chocolate is what’s giving me pause, but that may be because I don’t much care for milk chocolate.

Ian’s doing a bay-infused salted caramel. Woah. Maybe pick one of those things? I feel like the salt’s just going to overwhelm the bay flavor. Paul also seems doubtful.

Nadiya says she’s had problems getting the pastry to look nice when she practiced. She’s making a chocolate tart with a layer of salted caramel and peanut, then peanut butter chocolate mousse, with peanut butter she’s making herself. Of course. Actually, peanut butter’s fairly easy to make, so this does make sense, unlike Flora’s macaron insanity. She plans to decorate it with truffles covered with peanut powder. She seems to be having some fun with molecular gastronomy over there.

Pastry cases go into the oven to blind bake. Flora starts on her passionfruit custard while the others work on caramels. Nadiya adds rock salt and peanuts to hers, while Ian adds some fine salt to his. I personally prefer rock salt in a salted caramel because, as Nadiya says, it adds little bursts of saltiness instead of just a uniformly salty flavor.

Bottom layers are spread in tart shells. Nadiya and Flora move on to decorations while Ian moves on to his chocolate filling and Tamal worries he’s going too simple. While piping out some chocolate bits, Flora wonders if she should have just focused on her tart. Too late now.

Mousses are piped in, ganaches spread. With half an hour left, they move on to the finishing touches. Flora stresses that her tart isn’t really coming together properly. Ian’s made some chocolate bay leaves to decorate his tart. Nadiya does those truffles. Flora’s macarons look really good. My hat is off to her. Time is called, tarts are done.

Tamal’s pie is the least refined looking of the four, but it looks really delicious. The pastry’s nice and thin, and Mary loves the contrast of texture: crunchy pastry and top and smooth middle. Paul’s not sure he likes it. Damn, Paul, what’s not to like? Raspberry and chocolate are amazing together! He decides he does, after all, like it.

Ian’s chocolate and bay leaf tart looks beautiful, cuts well, and is rich and creamy, though you can’t taste the bay leaf. Paul doesn’t like the caramel.

Nadiya’s peanut salted caramel chocolate tart looks quite pretty, though the pastry is a tad thick. Mary really likes it and Paul shakes Nadiya’s hand. Well done, Nadiya! Man, I love peanut butter and chocolate. I kind of hope they post this recipe online.

Flora’s passion fruit and chocolate tart looks quite pretty, though she didn’t get much shine on her ganache. The distinctive layers are really good, but the passionfruit base split. Nice flavors, though. And she screwed up the macarons. They’re overbaked.

Afterwards, Flora decides that was fairly catastrophic. Nadiya can’t believe how much they liked it.

Technical time. This is a Mary recipe, and they’re staggering the Bakewells’ start times. Three of them are sent off, leaving just Flora to begin. She has to make a chocolate soufflé. Eh, souffles aren’t as hard as their reputation would have you believe. Just get those egg whites nice and stiff and be careful folding them in and you’re good.

Paul asks Mary why she chose this and she says it’s because she thinks it’s one of the most difficult things to make. Oh, please, it totally isn’t! Macarons are waaay harder. The soufflé she and Paul have in front of them is massive. It’s like a soup tureen full of soufflé, which kind of ruins it for me. They’re just spooning up great whallops of the stuff, which means you’re not really going to enjoy the lightness, it’ll collapse into a pile on the plate. It also hasn’t risen very well. I don’t think I’ll be trying this particular recipe.

Hang on, now I’m confused: why are they staggering the start times? Are they going to stagger the judging as well? Because otherwise that seems kind of unfair on everyone except the person who goes dead last. Souffles don’t stay standing for terribly long, you have to get them from the oven to the table pretty quickly.

Flora has never made a soufflé and really doesn’t quite know what to do.

Ian is returned to the tent and given his task. He begins. He’s drawing a blank on how to make crème patissiere. Flora’s just getting going on hers. She admits she’s never done a chocolate one before. Yeah, that’s fairly unusual in a crème pat.

Nadiya arrives and begins. She, too, has never done a soufflé. She has already screwed up the crème pat, by the look of it. Seems lumpy and a lot paler than the others’.

Tamal finally completes the foursome. Again, we have a contestant who’s never done a soufflé.

Egg whites are beaten and folded into the crème pat. Nadiya’s is a complete disaster. How the heck are they all at this point at the same time? Is Flora just really slow? Or is it just edited to look that way? This is really confusing me. Souffles go into the ovens and Ian laughs that there’s nothing good coming out of his oven today.

Ok, so Paul and Mary are sitting with their backs to the contestants and Flora hands her soufflé (nicely risen) to Sue, who brings it up to them. It’s well baked and has a good colour and flavor, though it hasn’t been mixed quite enough.

Ian is next. It’s risen unevenly, and not much. It’s been well mixed and has the right consistency and a lovely flavor and texture.

Nadiya’s looks like a volcano cake. It hasn’t been well mixed at all and has big chunks of meringue left in. Good flavor, though. I’m surprised.

Finally, Tamal. His, too, looks like it’s erupting and has split. It, too, has some flecks of meringue but overall is quite good.

Last to first: Nadiya, Ian, Tamal, Flora. Well done, Flora! And on your first try, too! Ian is amazed his was edible, Tamal’s relieved he didn’t come last, and Nadiya cries. I mean, this has really hit her confidence hard.

Judges confer. Paul thinks Ian is in the weakest position, but a lot depends on the showstopper now.

For their showstopper, they have to make a chocolate centerpiece. And it has to feature white chocolate, which is a disgusting abomination and isn’t even chocolate, so screw this challenge.

Everyone’s nervous and shaky.

Tamal is making a bell tower with vanilla shortbread and tempered chocolate sides and star anise biscuits. Mmm, star anise.

Nadiya appears to be making Rice Krispie treats.

Flora is making a cocoa carousel with pecan shortbreads, a chocolate and puffed rice roof, and a chocolate cake base. The horses will be white chocolate ganache. Paul asks if she bought the horse-shaped cookie cutter she’s using and she tells him she made it, actually, Wow, well done. I can’t even make a heart.

Nadiya’s doing a chocolate peacock and sculpting the head out of the Rice Krispie treat I saw earlier. She’s also making cinder toffee eggs and a white chocolate nest. Sounds impressive.

Ian has chosen to make a chocolate well and has all sorts of moulds to shape the chocolate.

Everyone rushes to get things done. Biscuits are baked, chocolate is tempered. Nadiya is piping tail feathers from several different types of modeling chocolate. Things are piped, Flora’s horses are dipped. Nadiya’s tail is looking really spectacular so far. Flora worries about time. Tamal wonders if he was overly ambitious. A piece of Flora’s carousel tumbles and Sue goes to help her out. The music goes all frantic as time ticks down.

Masterpieces are presented. First up is Tamal’s bell tower, which looks quite nice from a slight distance, though not so great up close. Paul points out the overdone biscuits and poorly piped lines. The chocolate was tempered well, though, and the shortbread tastes nice.

Up comes Ian’s well, which looks nice and Mary gives him points for originality. Paul lowers the bucket into a pool of white chocolate at the bottom and wheels it up, dipping a biscuit in it. The biscuits are great, but Mary wishes there was more piping and skills on display.

Flora brings fort her carousel, practically wincing as she does so. It looks…ok. Paul likes it but notes it’s a bit wonky. Mary says she hasn’t gotten much shine on her chocolate. The biscuits are nice, but the cake isn’t great. They start to dig into the roof and the whole thing just falls to bits. The roof is too crumbly and bitter.

Finally, Nadiya’s peacock, which really looks beautiful and shows plenty of skill. Paul calls it a great piece of art. It’s all delicious too. I feel like she should get star baker just for that.

The judges chat. Paul thinks Tamal’s fine, and Nadiya too for doing well in everything besides the technical. I think it’s Flora’s week. Ian’s was great, even if it didn’t show quite as much skill as the judges were hoping for.

Back in the tent, Flora grabs Nadiya’s hand for support. Mel announces star baker: Nadiya again! Flora gives her a congratulatory hug, which is sweet. And then she finds out she’s going home this week. Sue gives her a ‘sorry you’re going’ hug, which is sweet. Flora interviews that this has been really fantastic and she’s pleased with how well she did. Mary thinks Flora needs to focus on her flavors a bit better.

So, it’s gonna be Nadiya or Tamal to win this, isn’t it? That’s my prediction. With a slight edge given to Nadiya just based on how much she’s been kicking ass these last couple of weeks. We shall know soon enough!

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