The Great British Bake Off: Get a Pieful

Kate-Bake-Off-piePreviously on The Great British Bake Off: Some hateful producers forced the Bakewells to make ice cream-based desserts on the hottest day of the year with two freezers completely non-functional. Diana apparently took Iain’s dessert out of the freezer and just left it sitting out, which naturally turned it into a Lake Alaska (courtesy: Sue). In a fit of pique, Iain binned it and was unceremoniously sent off by Paul and Mary.

I’m going to take it as a sign of the improving economy that we now have little enough to worry about that Bingate could actually blow up the internet. Because damn, that really went nuts on Twitter and beyond, didn’t it? People actually complained to the TV watchdog. What the hell is the watchdog going to do about a show that’s pre-filmed? Bring everyone back so they can redo the whole thing? And it just kept getting weirder, too—did you hear about what happened to Diana? Not long after episode four filmed, she fainted, hit her head on a table, and lost her senses of taste and smell. Can you imagine that? That’s got to be one of the worst types of torture for someone who likes to have anything to do with food. I think I’m going to add losing those two senses to my top list of horrifying freak things to worry about. Right up there with blindness. I didn’t even know hitting your head could do something like that. I’m sure some of the trollier types out there will chant: ‘Karma’s a bitch!’, I feel really badly for her. I think it was really shitty of her to take his dessert out of the freezer, leave it, and not at least have the grace to apologise (unless she did and we just didn’t see it, in which case, sorry, Diana, you’re ok with me), but I wouldn’t wish what happened to her on anybody. That sucks. And yet she’s remarkably blasé about it, which is pretty admirable.

Pies and tarts week, everyone. Also, we’re halfway through the bakeoff. And Diana’s off the show because of her accident. This does raise one issue: with Diana gone, couldn’t they bring Iain back to bring the numbers back up? Didn’t they do that once before? Or am I thinking of some other food show I watch? Pretty sure it was the Bakeoff, maybe two seasons ago. Anyway, everyone’s super sad that Diana’s gone. Martha misses her ‘grandma in the tent.’ But there’s no time to lose, it’s signature bake time: make a family-sized custard tart. And don’t bin it. They get to work.

Kate informs us that she loves custard tarts. Paul says that this is all about texture: crispy base and silky filling. Mary tells us you have to be really careful about putting the pastry in the tin, so it doesn’t get holes in it and let the custard leak out.

Norman is making a classic tarte au citron. Mmmm, one of my favourites. He promises he’s going to go risky tomorrow and apparently saving all of his risk for that. He rations it out, I guess.

Martha’s doing a pistachio, apricot, and honey tart. She’s not a fan of making pastry. I’m with her. Pastry’s a pain.

Nancy says pastry is her favourite. She’s making a chocolate pastry for her chocolate passion fruit tart. Paul notes that her tart tin is really shallow and worries about not getting much filling, once the pastry’s in there.

Kate is cooking down rhubarb for her rhubarb and custard tart. It’ll have a swirl of rhubarb compote through it, which sounds pretty lovely.

Luis is chopping up mango for his tart. VO explains that the Bakewells adding fruit to their custard are risking it not setting up properly. The judges stop by Luis’s table and hear he’s doing a tropical tart that sounds really nice.

Richard is poaching figs for his fig and orange tart, hoping the poaching will bring out the fig flavour a little more. Paul approves his plan.

Chetna is using rice in her tart. Uh, ok. Could be good, I guess. I’m waiting to see the face Paul makes when he hears about that, though.

Chilled pastry comes out of the fridges and is rolled out. Some Bakewells add extra flour while others cover it with clingfilm, which is generally the method I prefer, because then you don’t end up adding extra flour to the dough and possibly drying it out or toughening it. Kate’s goes into the tin really messily. Pastry is blind baked. Martha confesses she’s super nervous today, and she’s not sure why.

Pastry comes out of the ovens and is trimmed, with varying degrees of success. Norman’s is all ragged. Custards are poured into the cases veeeery carefully. Richard tries some of his leftover custard and seems pleased.

Timers go off and tarts come back out. Kate’s first and starts piping a spiral of rhubarb compote over the top before putting the tart back in to finish cooking. Luis’s looks perfect and Martha wonders aloud how he manages to do these amazing bakes every time. She doesn’t think her tart’s quite set enough but has no choice but to take it out. Some of Richard’s custard dribbled around the edge. Martha can’t get her tart out of the tin. Kate helps her, but it looks like a chunk of her crust came away. Norman dumps a HUGE amount of icing sugar over his tart. ‘Gives it a nice finish,’ he says blithely. Oh, Norman. It should be a nice light dusting, it shouldn’t look like a Christmas landscape as decorated by a kindergartener. Kate’s tart is finally done enough to come out of the oven. Last-minute decorations are applied and time is called.

Norman’s tarte au citron looks a mess, according to Paul. He’s not wrong. It looks really amateurish. Mary thinks it could have done with a little more baking.

Nancy’s chocolate passion fruit tart looks really fun, with a cute squiggle design across the top. It gets top marks.

Chetna’s rice custard with mangoes and raspberries has slightly undercooked rice. It looks beautiful, though.

Kate’s rhubarb and custard isn’t rhubarb-y enough. Good custard, though.

Richard’s fig and orange gets called out on the leakage by Mary and the orange doesn’t come through enough, disappointing Paul.

Martha’s pistachio, apricot, and honey needs a glaze, says Mary. It’s also underbaked. Soggy bottom alert! Paul doesn’t care for the flavour. He thinks the apricots are too tart.

Luis’s tropical tart has beautiful pastry and perfectly set custard. Paul loves it. Martha’s now crying. She interviews that it’s rough to have the judges hate something you’ve made. That’s a first for her, isn’t it? Chetna’s sad too. Nancy’s both pleased and relieved.

Mel is here to bring us our history lesson: wedding cakes of days of yore, including the 17th century bride pie. A food historian says that most of the ingredients are aphrodisiacs. One of those ingredients? Lamb testicles. Also, sweetbreads, ox cheek, and artichokes. There’s a lot going on in that pie. The historian shows off a multi-piece pie that looks really lovely and elaborate. Mel finds a glass ring in one piece that means she’ll be the next to wed. Lucky her!

Time for the technical: Paul’s mini pear pies. Except they’re not actually pies, they’re poached pears surrounded by a puff pastry spiral and then baked. Martha’s never done this, but Norman thinks this is really straightforward.

Paul says this is good for testing the Bakewells’ timing abilities. They need to poach a pear, let it cool, make the pastry, and then bake the pear.

The Bakewells have to make rough puff, which Richard’s never done. Don’t sweat it, Richard, it’s so easy I’m kicking myself for ever having bought puff pastry for topping pies and things. The VO says they need to be gentle, so the fat doesn’t melt and keep the pastry from making flaky layers. Pastry is folded and put in the fridge so the Bakewells can make the poaching syrup and peel the pears. Everyone’s really tense about poaching these pears, but I don’t really know what they’re so stressed about. Poaching fruit is fairly easy. They just have to be careful the pears aren’t too soft, or they’ll collapse. Pastry is retrieved, rolled out, and re-folded. The folding is what creates those puff-pastry layers. The Bakewells go back to staring at their pears. Luis takes his out and soon the others follow suit. Martha puts hers in the fridge to cool them faster. Pastry gets rolled out, with 30 minutes left, and cut into strips. The Bakewells coat the pears in syrup and start wrapping strips around them. Martha thinks this is strange, because it’s like she’s mummifying a pear. Richard thinks his pastry might be a bit too thick, but since he has no idea what these things are supposed to look like, he’s just going with it. Martha pops some of her pears in the oven, just so she has something to present. A few minutes later, the rest of them join. Others get theirs in and figure there’s no way these are going to be done. All the pastry’s drooped right off Richard’s.

With one minute left, the pears come out. Richard’s look terrible, poor man. Some of Chetna’s pastry sagged. Time is called and the pears are presented.

Paul and Mary come in and Paul makes that, ‘oh, it’s gonna be one of these days,’ noises. Norman’s pears are ok, but the pastry’s undercooked. Richard’s are a disaster. Luis’s needed more cooking time. Chetna’s are pretty good. Kate’s too, though the pear needed longer. Nancy’s could have used a few more minutes in the oven. Martha’s are great. Mary declares that hers show that it can be done. Ranking: Richard, Luis, Norman, Nancy, Kate, Chetna, Martha. Good girl, Martha, way to bring it back after that disappointing first round! She pinks up, she’s so pleased. Luis interviews that he’ll never wrap a piece of fruit in pastry again, that was so awful.

The next day, the hosts and judges confab. Nancy’s doing really well, and so is Kate, despite the lack of rhubarb. Norman’s in a bad spot, as is Richard.

And signature: make a three-tiered pie. Whaaaa? What a strange concept. Who would ever make a tiered pie? I feel like the producers are starting to run out of ideas. Or coming up with these challenges by choosing random words out of a hat.

Anyway, they get to work. Paul wants the pies to all link together somehow. The judges stop by Luis’s station first. He’s making four tiers, with pork, chicken, venison, and duck pies topped with fruit. Mary notes that he likes to go the extra mile.

Most of the Bakewells are making hot water crust pastry. Kate is filling hers with rhubarb, prune, and apple with pork. She says they take a while to cook, so she needs to get them going.

Martha’s doing a three little pigs theme: the bottom tier is chorizo, the middle pulled pork, and the top pork and apple. Mmmm. I do love me a pork pie. She’s also flavouring the hot water crust pastry. Nice touch. Paul likes the idea.

Norman’s making a three-course meal in a pie—venison and haggis, fish, and a passionfruit meringue. I’m having trouble marrying venison and haggis with passionfruit and meringue in my head, but maybe it could work. He’s called it the Pieful Tower. Heh. He’s making three different types of pastry, apparently.

Richard is making posh builder pies. Hee! Steak and ale, chicken, and pear and apple. Paul is a tiny bit skeptical about the sweet pie using hot water crust but seems willing to give it a go.

Pastry is rolled, pie tins lined. Nancy is hand-raising her pie. Damn. She’s making a trio of apple pies, two of which are sweet.

Chetna’s also making different pastries for every pie, and she’s making four pies. They’re all inspired by Indian flavours. She promises Mary they won’t be spicy, but they will have lots of flavour. Bakewells start putting filling in their pies. Mel asks Norman to address the haggis with a bit of Burns. He obliges. Pies start going into the ovens. Martha’s biggest one barely fits. The Bakewells get started on other pies. Richard says he’s just ‘knocking up’ his last pie, and then laughs and corrects that he’s ‘lovingly crafting’ his final pie. Nancy borrows his omnipresent builder’s pencil for a sec. Martha layers pulled pork and sweet potatoes in her pie and pops it in the oven. Nancy admires Richard’s apple, pear, and frangipane pie. Norman’s working on his meringue. Sue tries it and comments that you can really taste the lavender in it. Judging from her face, that’s not a compliment.

Martha unmolds one of her pies and it starts leaking a stream of liquid. She decides to put it back in the oven for a little bit.

With just a few minutes left, they start stacking and decorating the pies. Martha’s leaker now has burnt fat around the edges. Oh dear. I hope it tastes really good. She laughs that Paul’s not going to be really impressed with this one. Pies are stacked. Luis’s fall over, but it looks like they survive. That’s some sturdy pastry. Time is called. Everyone looks done in.

Kate’s rhubarb, prune, and apple pork pies look good, have a good colour, and a nice bake. Paul likes them. Mary compliments the super crisp pastry.

Richard’s three course autumn pie feast is a tiny bit burnt. Mary tells him he’s at least been consistent—all three are overdone. The frangipane didn’t properly caramelize, but the rest of it is good.

Chetna’s tiered pies look beautiful and are wonderfully decorated. Good pastry, lots of flavour.

Luis’s four fruity seasons look great and hold together beautifully. Mary says the pastry’s too thick, though.

Nancy’s trip of apple pies get brownie points for not using a tin. Paul likes the flavours but finds the pies dry inside.

Norman’s pieful tower has underbaked pastry and the meringue pie is weeping all over the place. Paul hates the lavender in the meringue. I don’t know why the heck Norman thought lavender would go with passionfruit. I like lavender, and I like passionfruit, but those two don’t marry well at all. His haggis pie is too crumbly.

Martha’s three little pigs look ok (except for the burning on the bottom one). Mary likes the paprika in the crust of the bottom one. The top one needed just a little more cooking. Middle layer is great.

Judgment time. The judges chat. Nancy’s done well, as has Kate. Richard had a lousy week, and so did Norman. It’s Norman’s week to go, I think we all know it. He’s been underperforming pretty much since this thing started. Sue wonders if, with Diana out sick, anyone should go. Oh, so Diana’s still technically on the show?

The judges head back into the tent and name the star baker: Kate! And we’ll be bidding farewell to Norman. Yeah, it was time. He seemed a cool guy, but it was time. Richard realizes he just had a narrow escape. Martha can’t believe she survived pastry.  Kate interviews that Luis said that no southerner should ever win pie week, and here she is to prove him wrong. Do they not do pie down south? That seems an odd thing to say.

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