The Great British Bake Off: Crying Over Choux

bakeoff-8_3042157cPreviously on The Great British Bake Off: It was European cakes week, and the Bakewells were tasked with yeast-leavened cake, princess torte, and towering dobos tortes. Paul and Mary apparently had the decision-making ability of that idiotic woman from the Better Together commercial and couldn’t agree on who to send home, so they just kept everyone.

Pastry week, people. Get your hot water boiling and your rough puff folding!

Kate’s really excited about the good weather and the singing birds. Mary’s wearing an epically ugly jacket.

Signature challenge: bake savoury parcels. Empanadas, pasties, samosas, whatever. The Bakewells begin. Luis interviews that the judges are looking for flavour. Well, yeah. Paul says they’re looking for 12 great parcels, something they’ve never had before. Mary says that basically everything needs to be right. Thanks for that insight.

The crew stops by Chetna’s station first. She’s doing Indian flavours (surprise!) with lentil-filled kachori, which she’ll deep fry. Paul seems dubious, for some reason.

Kate is also doing Indian-inspired parcels: spinach and paneer samosas. She’s got a whole plate of artistically arranged spices and Paul thinks there’s going to be an overload of flavours.

Luis is making his grandmother’s beef and chorizo empanadas. He shamefully mispronounces chorizo, adding a ‘t’ for some reason, which I’ve noticed a lot of people do. He’s also making an orange and paprika pastry. Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought to put those two flavours together.

Kate is displeased with her pastry and decides to start over.

Paul swings by Nancy’s and chats with her. She’s making spicy duck pasties with crispy pastry. She’s using ground rice to soak up the juices so they don’t seep.

Martha’s making mini beef Wellingtons. Mmm, beef Wellington. She tells Mary she’s going to seal the meat first and then bake it, so it’s going to be a little more cooked than it would be in a regular Wellington.

Nancy’s cutting meat up super tiny so it cooks through in the pasty.

Richard is making pasties as well: lamb and mint. Mmmmm. Mary notes that his meat is cut in rather large chunks and wonders if it’ll cook through.

The Bakewells start crimping and sealing their parcels, then pop them in the ovens. I just noticed that Chetna, for some reason, is wearing a sheriff’s badge on her apron. Wonder what the deal is with that. Mel calls Luis the king of crimping. Sue also compliments Kate’s technique. Kate’s rather behind, because she had to make up her pastry again. And then her fryer isn’t really hot enough. Nancy, too, is running low on time and her pastry doesn’t seem quite done. Kate realizes her fryer was on a timer and turned itself off. Oooh, crap. That sucks. Martha tells Chetna that they get to this point and she can just hear that ‘hurry up and finish!’ music they always play. Which is playing right now. Heh.

Time is called, and bakes are presented.

Richard’s minted lamb pasties are consistent and crispy. They could have been filled a bit more, but they taste delicious and the meat’s done. Mel grabs one and shoves it into her pocket.

Martha’s Wellingtons look tempting, according to Mary, though there was a little bit of leakage underneath. The taste is very good. Mel pockets one.

Luis’s empanadas are a little pale and Paul thinks they’re too big, but Mary likes ‘em that way. She admires the lack of leakage and everyone agrees the flavours are good. Again, Mel takes one.

Nancy’s spicy duck pasties are also pale and a tiny bit underfilled.

Kate’s samosas are, again, quite wan. Good shape though. Kate says she made them less spicy than usual, for Mary’s sake. Paul pouts that he likes things spicy. He still likes the flavour though. Mel…you get the picture.

Chetna’s kachori has great colour and lots of filling in a flaky pastry. Paul loves them and particularly notes how well she handled the spices.

Nancy interviews that she’s comforted by the fact that others were undercooked. Kate brightsides that at least she knows how to use the deep fat fryer now.

History lesson: back in the 1820s a group of Cornish tin miners were recruited to go work in a Mexican silver mine. It took them 14 months to get there (!!!) and they brought along their cuisine, in particular, the pasty, which they took to the mines with them as lunch. The food caught on with the local Mexican miners, who created their own version. Descendents of all these miners still get together regularly to celebrate their bond and eat pasties from both sides of the ocean. There’s the traditional Cornish one and the Mexican one, which has leek and spices and potatoes and butter.

For the technical, they’re doing one of Paul’s recipes: they’re tasked with making kouign amann, a traditional Breton pastry, which none of them has ever even heard of. Neither have I. This should be interesting. They can barely even pronounce it. Paul says it has to be buttery, crispy, and flaky. It’s basically like a croissant crossed with a muffin. For future reference for those of you looking to make these delicious-looking things, you have to wait until you’ve turned (or, rather, folded the pastry over the butter) three times before you add the sugar, otherwise the sugar will dissolve in there. Also, these need to be risen and rested before going into the oven, otherwise they won’t open up all flower-like as they should.

Everyone’s nervous and unsure exactly how to do this. They mix doughs and set them aside to prove, though they don’t know how long to leave it. They have tea and water and wait. And while they wait, they bash their butter into a flat rectangle. Martha jokes that the butter is Paul if he doesn’t like her pastries.

Dough is rolled out, the butter is placed on top, and dough is folded over it. Chetna’s waiting for her dough to prove a bit longer as the others roll out their now butter-filled dough and re-fold. That’s how you get the flaky layers. Kind of a pain, but worth it in the end.

Time to figure out what to do with that sugar. Should it all be added between a single layer, or should a little bit be added between each of the three ‘turn’ layers? Sue thinks Richard and Martha have done it right, just putting it in one layer, instead of all three.

Doughs rest and are then shaped and put into muffin tins before being left to prove again. Kate puts hers to prove in the fridge, Luis proves and room temp, and some of the others use proving drawers. I think proving in the fridge is going to be an issue, because that slows the prove waaaay down. It’s fine if you have all night to leave them, but if you only have an hour or so, it won’t work. Typically.

Everyone’s just sitting around while their bakes prove. Finally, they pop them in the oven. Kate notes that hers aren’t as puffy as some people’s. Well, no, they wouldn’t be, would they? Nobody is really sure when they should even take these things out. Nancy’s come out first and apparently smell amazing. Others soon follow. Some are puffier than others. Nancy mourns the fact that hers aren’t all uniform sizes.

Time is called and the pastries are presented. In come Paul and Mary. They all have good strong colour, but let’s see who did right by the sugar: adding it at the end.

Luis has some issues. Kate’s are quite bready because there was an issue with the prove. Richard has great layers and uniform size and perfect flavour. Nancy’s got layers but irregular sizes. Also needed a longer prove. Chetna put sugar in every layer and overbaked. Martha has uneven size and underproved, but the flavour is good. Last to first: Chetna, Luis, Kate, Martha, Nancy, Richard. Everyone applauds and he does a little happy dance in his seat. Hee!

Everyone pretty much shrugs and goes ‘eh, whattaya gonna do?’ in their interviews.

The next day, the judges confab. Richard and Martha are doing really well, and Nancy and Chetna could either go up or down. The others, however, are in trouble. Paul thinks Chetna’s poor technical performance puts her in the danger zone as well.

Showstopper: éclairs. Twenty-four in two different flavours. They have four hours. Off they go!

Richard says it’s nice to be going into the showstopper without panicking as he has been for the last few weeks. Mary notes that choux pastry is special because it’s actually baked in a pan.

Chetna’s making a chocolate choux with a mango filling and a caramel icing as well as lemon meringue éclairs. Sounds like she has some pretty elaborate decorations planned. Mary calls these really ambitious.

Kate is also doing a chocolate choux, to go along with Neapolitan éclairs, and some basil choux for lemon meringue.

Nancy is making salmon and horseradish éclair (interesting and gutsy) and raspberry ripple éclairs. She actually grew the horseradish herself too. She’s the only one making a savoury éclair. Go Nancy!

Chetna is frantically mixing choux pastry in a pan. So is Martha. The trick with choux is knowing exactly when it’s done. Richard illustrates that when the pastry drops off the spatula in  V, it’s good to go. He’s making lavender and blueberry (I’m surprised anyone’s doing lavender anything after that debacle with Norman’s meringue) and rose and raspberry. That sounds really good, actually. He built a little staircase for his ‘stair of éclairs’ that’s going to be repurposed for a chicken coop after this. Way to recycle, Richard’s family!

Martha is making rhubarb and custard éclair and a maple syrup and bacon éclair. Sigh. I love bacon, but I’m kind of over this whole ‘bacon as dessert!’ craze. Paul warns her not to let the bacon overwhelm everything else.

Éclairs are piped out. Luis sprays his with sunflower oil to help them rise a bit more evenly. They’re popped into the oven and baked off. They’re looking pretty good so far. While the choux cools, the Bakewells create fillings and decorations. Richard very carefully measures out rose water, hoping his filling doesn’t taste like soap.

Luis is making blueberry cheesecake and peanut butter and…jello? (did he really mean jelly, or am I mishearing him?) éclairs. He’s working on blueberry jam/jelly. Mary and Paul wonder how all these flavours are going to work together. Nancy describes herself as ‘traditional with a contemporary twist’, which for some reason cracks up Kate.

Filling begins. Nancy actually measures the amount of filling going into each éclair. Martha’s crème pat is too runny and she doesn’t know what to do. Fold in extra whipped cream maybe? Sue messes with Chetna by joking they only have 15 minutes left when there’s half an hour. Martha has to remake her crème pat. Mel announces they have 10 minutes left to ‘polish their choux’. Heh. Martha hasn’t even filled hers yet. Bakewells start arranging buns on displays. Richard and Chetna sweetly step in to help Martha out. Kate’s having trouble too—her strawberries are still hot as she’s putting them on the chocolate. She Rubies about how bad it all is and declares herself a goner.

Nancy first. She thinks her flavours are all right. Mary loves the presentation. Paul declares the pastry light, delicate, and crispy. The savoury is really nice. The sweet one is a tiny bit soggy and a little too sweet.

Richard’s stair of éclairs look decent and are all a uniform size, also packed full of filling. He hasn’t ‘over-lavendered’ and the rose is perfect.

Luis’s American-inspired éclairs look like a party to Mary. They certainly are exuberant. Not elegant, but fun, certainly. The chocolate and peanut butter are incredible and different, which Paul likes. The other one is fab as well. He didn’t even get a soggy bottom!

Kat says hers are all right, but not perfect, and she knows she needed to be perfect. Lemon meringue has a good filling, but Mary doesn’t taste the basil. Kate says it comes late and Paul finally tastes it and likes it. The chocolate ones are a total mess, though. Kate knows.

Chetna went above and beyond and did a baker’s dozen by accident. Hers look beautiful. The éclairs could have baked a tiny bit longer, but they taste lovely and are well done and well thought out.

Martha’s look terrible, poor girl. Paul takes one look and actually says, ‘where do I start?’ Ouch. The rhubarb and custard taste good, but the maple ones are too runny and the bacon isn’t crumbly. Mary says it doesn’t really work for her. Martha gets teary but reassures a concerned Luis that she’s ok. Awww.

In the judges’ tent, everyone agrees that Luis totally just rescued himself. Martha’s just lucky she did as well as she did in the earlier challenges. Chetna’s safe. Kate had a rough day, after having a rough day yesterday as well. Mary notes that over the Bake Off years they’ve had problems with lavender and rose, and Richard nailed both. Both Mary and Paul know who needs to go and who should get rewarded. I don’t think there are any mysteries here.

Back in the tent, Sue announces star baker: the man who makes a bespoke stepladder for his éclairs, Richard! Wow, that’s his third time as star baker, go Richard! Mel has to break the bad news to Kate—she’s going home. She doesn’t seem surprised. She’s still gutted, though, and says she loves baking, but she may now take a few days off. Martha can’t believe she managed to squeak through. Mary interviews that it’s unusual at this stage to be star baker three times. Richard adorably interviews that it’s exciting to make his family proud, go home and tell his kids daddy’s won. Awww, that was a sweet note to end with.

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