The Great British Bake Off: Pretty Patisserie

capture3.jpgPreviously on The Great British Bake Off: We’ve had dough week, but then there was advanced dough week, which meant filled sweet breads and doughnuts. Once again, Richard rocked, while Martha’s overproved doughnuts sealed her fate.

Mel and Sue welcome us back for the semifinal. Semifinal already! They adopt strange fake French accents because it’s patisserie week.

Luis interviews that, at this point, the judges are going to be super critical. Unlike the total pussycats they’ve been up until now. Chetna can’t wait to get in and start baking this week. Nancy says that one side of her wouldn’t be too disappointed if she left now, having made it this far, while the other side is telling her to buck up and get to the final. Richard’s just trying to keep the momentum going.

Mel says it’s nice to see four Brits in the semifinal of anything. Heh. For their signature challenge, they have to make two different flavours of baklava. Ugh, that sounds like a pain. Paul says they’re looking for great phyllo pastry and a lovely syrup filling to bind it all together. Mary says that phyllo is one of the most difficult pastries to make. I’ll bet. It’s one of the few things I’ve never wanted to try, because it seems ridiculous. Chetna agrees with me. Just buy the stuff! Apparently homemade phyllo is made of flour, water, oil, and vinegar. Good to know. The doughs are heavily mixed to build up the gluten.

Chetna’s adding cocoa to her phyllo and Paul asks how she’ll know when it’s done, if it’s got brown in it. Mary interjects and tells her to just go with her guts. She’s doing chocolate orange baklava and masala chai baklava. Mary compliments her inventiveness. As the judges walk away, Chetna worries that she’s made a mistake. But too late now.

Luis tells the judges he’s doing a rose and barberry flavour baklava in a flower shape and a halwa baklava roll with saffron syrup. Mmmm.

Nancy admits she didn’t really know what baklava was before she had to make it for the show. She’s making breakfast baklava: coffee and chocolate and muesli with orange syrup. Paul asks what shapes they’ll be in. Triangles, apparently.

Richard is working on his fillings, chopping ginger and nuts. He’s making rose and pistachio baklava and walnut and almond with cinnamon and orange syrup. They sound lovely, but not terribly groundbreaking. He admits to Mary he never made phyllo before. Has anyone there? Aside from Mary and Paul, of course.

Paul and Mary talk about how complicated baklava is and wonder how Chetna’s flavoured dough will work out. Mary likes the sound of Luis’s flowers.

Everyone rolls and stretches their phyllo, which is a very delicate, difficult process. This reminds me of the strudel challenge, when one of the Bakewells rather cleverly brought a patterned fabric to roll out on, and when he could clearly see the floral pattern, he knew it was thin enough.

Luis starts creating his flowers, which are very intricate. They’re made by layering phyllo cut out in a star shape. Baklava is rolled, shaped, and baked. Mel wonders how Richard’s unbelievably thin pastry is going to be rolled. He’s using some fabric to help lift it up.

While baklava bakes, the Bakewells make syrups. Nancy thinks her baklava’s screwed up, because the honey and chocolate are bubbling up. Paul stares into some of the Bakewells’ ovens in a way that I’d find both rather menacing and distracting, if I were there.

Luis starts painstakingly decorating his pastries. Syrups are poured over and platters artfully arranged. Nancy thinks all of hers are a mess. Chetna’s chocolate ones look like breakfast buns, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Time is called, Mel growls at Luis to step away from his bakes.

Nancy’s first up. Paul notes that her pastries look pale. The museli one holds together nicely and has a good crisp crunch and a nice flavour. Coffee and chocolate tastes really good too.

Paul wonders if Luis’s flower baklavas are really a baklava, since it’s more of a phyllo cup than a layered pastry. Plus, they’re bone dry. Mary isn’t getting the layers. The halwa doesn’t have enough layers, but the flavour is great.

Richard’s rose and pistachio are delicious and are declared a winner by Mary. The others are slightly underbaked.

Chetna’s look heavy, according to Mary, but are all perfectly formed. Masala chai doesn’t have enough layers and don’t have syrup throughout, which makes it dry. Chocolate pistachio are delicious, but again, the layers aren’t there. She interviews that she really doesn’t want to go home. Nancy didn’t like this challenge because she knows hers weren’t lovely, and she hates that. Richard feels like his baking skills have been proven.

The technical is a Paul recipe. He wishes them luck before leaving. They have to make a schichttorte, a German cake with 20 layers. Woah. It’s also baked under the grill.

Paul reveals the example cake and explains that it’s a fairly simple sponge cooked under the grill so they get light and dark layers. He cuts into the cake and it’s really beautiful inside, with all these wafer-thin layers.

Luis creams some butter and sugar and separates eggs. Chetna folds in beaten egg whites. She hopes it’s ok, because she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Luis jokes about how competitive she is. Richard pulls out the scales to measure 50g for each layer. It doesn’t look like very much. Apparently, the recipe doesn’t specify a temperature or length of time for grilling. I’d guess it only gets grilled for a couple of minutes, with the layer as thin as it is. They pull the tins out and add a little more mixture and have to bake it until it’s dark golden colour. Richard’s worried about running out of time. So’s Chetna.

History lesson: the schichttorte is part of a baking tradition in Germany that includes the baumkuchen, a hugely difficult traditional German cake. It’s name means ‘tree cake’ and it’s baked on a spit. Mel calls it ‘patisserie meets rotisserie.’ Heh. It seems to be made by drizzling batter over a constantly turning spit, building it up slowly. A baker shows Mel how to do it. After cooling for 24 hours, the cake is covered with fondant and chocolate. And then eaten. It’s massive.

Everyone’s running low on time. While the layers are baking, they make the chocolate glaze. Luis throws his in the fridge so it cools to the proper temperature for pouring. Nancy doesn’t think she has enough batter for 20 layers. Richard doesn’t think anyone’ll notice, but Nancy and I know better. Chetna’s way behind—she has 17 minutes left and 6 layers to go.

Luis’s cake is done baking. He thinks it looks ok. Chetna’s only managed to get 18 layers but she has to go with that. Cakes are sealed with apricot jam so the glaze goes on smoothly. Five minutes left. Mel waves a sheet pan at Chetna’s cake to help cool it while Chetna glazes. Nancy thinks this is one of those cakes you don’t glaze the sides of. She’s wrong. With one minute left, everyone gets frantic, piping on some last minute decorations. Time is called.

Nancy’s has a lovely shine, but not much chocolate down the side. Paul cuts in and counts the layers. Mel and Sue roll their eyes and look bored. Eat some cake and chill, ladies. Luis’s has a professional finish, Mary says. Good layers, light and dark. Tastes good too. Chetna’s obviously has some issues. It’s lopsided, overbaked, and missing layers. Richard has very thin layers, but they’re all there, and the glaze has a nice shine.

Last to first: Chetna, Nancy, Richard, Luis. Paul says that his is ‘pretty faultless.’ His smile almost splits his cheeks. Nancy’s just glad she didn’t completely crash, having never baked a cake under a grill. Chetna’s worried, because she didn’t have a great morning, and now her afternoon has sucked as well.

The next morning, they return to the tent for the showstopper: make entremets, very small, exquisite cakes. Two types, 12 each. They hop to it. Mary wants to see how many skills they can show off here. Paul’s looking for beauty and elegance. He adds that he’s seen actual, professional pastry chefs crumble under the pressure of these things.

Luis explains that he’s doing pistachio sponge with pomegranate molasses cream inside, and a cherry and chocolate mousse. His first one will also have a pomegrantate jelly. He hopes it turns out properly.

Nancy is also using jelly in her pastries. She’s making raspberry nonnettes with a jelly centre and lime and passion fruit entremets. Paul doesn’t seem to like the idea that you won’t see the layers in the second one, because she’s covering it with white chocolate. Ick. White chocolate is a disgrace.

Richard is making a dotted sponge for his grapefruit, almond, and vanilla. Mmm, grapefruit. His other entremet is hazelnut mocha.  Paul wishes him luck and says he really wants that grapefruit to come through.

Chetna is making chocolate, orange, and hazelnut entremets with about a zillion layers in it as well as a cappuccino cake.

Everyone’s a bit stressed, because they have about a dozen things going at once. Luis worries about his mousses melting because it’s really hot in the tent. Nancy’s doing a very robust mousse that shouldn’t have a problem. Everyone dashes around pulling things out of ovens, piping mousses, chopping nuts, melting chocolate. Richard’s dotted sponge looks really cute and fun. Nancy doesn’t have time to really cool her layers, but you work with what you’ve got. Richard’s whacking a whole lot of butter into his buttercream, hoping it all works properly and gets glossy, as it should.

Luis starts assembling some of his. Nancy marvels at that, while she gets started on her white chocolate glaze and hopes it’s not so hot that it refuses to set.

Some of the mousse entremets start coming out of freezers. Luis’s are, to his relief, coming out of the molds well while Chetna’s haven’t quite set. She pops them back in the freezer. Nancy drizzles her white chocolate glaze over her cakes. Luis painstakingly starts taking the little topping jellies out of the moulds. Chetna is decorating the entremets that are done while the others continue to set up. She pulls one of the cappuccino ones out and it looks like it’s set now. Nancy drizzles dark chocolate over half her entremets, but it’s going all over the place. Last-minute decorations are applied and time is called.

Richard’s hazelnut mocha are delicious and you can see every layer. The pink grapefruit could have used a tiny bit more flavour in the mousses, but Mary compliments their professional look. They all really look amazing.

Nancy’s lime and passionfruit don’t get high marks for decoration from Paul. Neither do her raspberry nonnettes, though they look beautiful when cut into, with a little square of jelly right in the middle. They also taste wonderful. The unimpressive lime and passionfruits are really nice as well.

Luis’s also look glorious. The pomegranate and pistachio have great layers and Mary loves the flavour. Paul wishes the sponge was just a tidge thinner. The cherry and chocolate are rich and the sourness of the cherries really works well. The glaze on top is perfect.

Paul is really looking forward to the cappuccino entremets from Chetna. Both Paul and Mary love them. The chocolate and orange are a bit split on top and don’t have enough flavour. They’re both disappointed by that.

In the judges’ tent, Mary says that was a cracking final and Luis really did a fab job. Richard too. Paul thinks that the dotted sponge was just that one thing that helps put someone over the top. The ladies didn’t do quite as well as the gentlemen this week. They were disappointed in Chetna and Nancy just did ok in the final, and crashed during the first challenge.

Back in the tent, it’s time to name a star baker: Richard! AGAIN! Fifth time! He looks like he can’t believe it. Mel has to send someone home, and it’s Chetna. Wow, I really thought it was going to be Nancy. She interviews that she had a great time and this was one of the best experiences in the world. Mary says that, today, she just didn’t have the panache of the others. Paul says that she was the weakest of a very strong bunch, so there’s that. On the subject of Richard, Mary has this to say: ‘it’s hard to believe that those builder’s hands can produce such delicate results.’ Richard interviews that he didn’t expect star baker again, he just expected not to go home. Nancy can’t believe she’s actually in the final. Luis, too, is pretty overcome. He actually struggles not to cry in his interview. Awww!

Let’s hope the final next week is better than finals past have been. Who’re you betting on? I think it’s going to be between Luis and Richard, with Richard having a bit of an edge, but one never really knows!

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