The Great British Bake Off: Who Knew Puff Could Be So Tough?

11150456_893259827424342_4440518741192959539_nPreviously on The Great British Bake Off: The Bakewells had to do without an awful lot of vital ingredients for various bakes. Nadiya had a great day, finally winning Star Baker and tossing Ian off his pedestal. Ugne, however, had a terrible time of it and got sent home.

It’s pastry week, so I hope everyone’s got their tart bases good and crispy. Bakewells report to the tent. Tamal would ‘quite like’ to be Star Baker. I would quite like to be a Booker Prize winner. Let’s see if we both get lucky!

For their first challenge, they have to make a frangipane tart with shortcrust pastry. On your way, Bakewells!

Flora’s super nervous, Mat’s not feeling confident.

Paul tells us you have to be careful not to overwork shortcrust. Mary thinks they should all be able to do it, but it’ll be a test for them not to get a soggy bottom. You know how Mary feels about those!

Bakewells get started on their pastry, rubbing butter into flour. Mat’s surprised that Flora’s using a food processor to make her pastry. Doughs are popped in the fridges to relax.

The judges stop by Alvin’s and he tells them he’s adding a layer of jam in his plum frangipane tart. Mmm, plum.

Paul the baker is doing a ‘Christmas’ frangipane with wine-poached pears.

Tamal is also going festive, with mulled wine poached pears in his tart. Paul wonders if the blackberries Tamal’s using will bleed into the frangipane.

The Bakewells start making their frangipane, which is an almond-flavoured pastry cream.

Ian’s using eggs from his own guinea fowl in his pear and raspberry tart. He says he hasn’t baked with guinea fowl eggs in a while, so he’s not sure how this’ll go.

Nadiya is toasting her ground almonds to give the tart some extra flavor. He’s making bay leaf, rong tea, and pear tart. Rong, for those who like learning new things, means ‘colour’.

Mat is the next stop. He’s using pineapple in his pina colada frangipane tart. ‘Of course you are,’ Paul deadpans. Mel wonders if this particular tart will put them all in a party mood.

Pastry is rolled. Alvin’s looks a bit crumbly and dry and is sticking a lot. He tries rolling it out on clingfilm.

Several of the Bakewells blind-bake their pastry. Flora worries that her case has come out a bit darker than she would have liked. She’s making an apricot and rosemary tart decorated with amaretti biscuits. Paul notes that she trimmed the pastry before it went in, and some of it shrank down, so it’s not going to look perfect. Mary and Mel think he’s being a hardass.

Alvin’s only just now getting his crust in the oven to blind bake. But they have more than an hour left, so I don’t think that should be an issue.

Mat’s blind-baked crust has shrunk down quite a lot, which isn’t great. The sides have sagged.

Everyone starts filling and decorating tarts. Flora’s looks quite pretty. Alvin is way behind. What’s the hold up, Alvin? It does not take nearly an hour to blind-bake a crust! It takes about 20 minutes!

With 10 minutes left, everyone’s stressing and worrying they won’t be done in time. Tarts start coming out of ovens and look quite pretty. The edge of Flora’s burned, though. She tries trimming it off and puts the amaretti cookies around the outside. Other Bakewells glaze away. Time’s up!

First for judging: Ian’s pear and raspberry. Mary misses the glaze, which got sucked up in the pastry. He also has a soggy bottom because he didn’t blind bake.

Nadiya’s bay leaf, rong tea tart looks really professional, according to Mary. The pastry is underbaked, but the flavor is good.

Mat’s pina colada looks good and is a nice flavor, but the bottom is soggy.

Flora’s tart looks messy to Paul and Mary tells her to forget the amaretti, because they add nothing. The tart tastes great, though. It’s overbaked, unfortunately.

Paul’s Christmas frangipane looks stunning to judge Paul. It’s barely done underneath, but the inside is perfect.

Alvin’s plum frangipane looks quite lovely, but the pastry is overbaked and too thick. Also, the frangipane is underdone and the plums aren’t cooked through.

Tamal’s spiced plum frangipane doesn’t look gorgeous but is nicely baked and has a beautiful flavor. ‘Messy top, tidy bottom,’ says Sue.

Alvin tells us that he won’t give up. Flora bewails the amaretti.

Oh, the pastry lessons are back. We’re off to Denby Dale, Yorkshire, the Pie Town. Apparently the residents celebrated the repeal of the corn laws in the 19th century by baking a massive pie. Celebrations were cut short when one guy nearly drowned in it. They pulled themselves together for Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1887, though. Sue is taken out to a nearby field by a historian and told about how the town just couldn’t seem to stop screwing up their giant pies. They finally managed it in the 1960s. In 1988, they got the world record for the biggest meat and potato pie.

Technical time: Paul’s recipe for flaounes, a Cypriot cheese-filled pastry. Nobody knows anything about them. I’ve never heard about them either. Mel says it sounds like an airline, ‘fly flaounes!’ Heh.

Even Mary’s never heard of them. Paul chose this to test them on both dough and filling. There are two flavourings in this that I’ve also never heard of, and there’s nothing in the recipes to tell anyone what to do with these.

Bakewells start grating cheese and mixing it with sultanas. Flora doesn’t like how it feels. They put the filling aside to rest, then get started on the pastry. Included in the pastry is mahlepi, which is ground sour cherry pits, and mastic, which is a crystallised tree resin that smells like pine. Everyone’s grossed out by it. The pastry also has yeast in it. Nobody’s sure if this should be kneaded or not. The VO warns us that overworking the pastry can make it brittle.

Pastry is divided and rolled out. Mat’s going super thin, since he got smacked around for his thick pittas last week. The instructions say to coat one side of the pastry with sesame seeds, but doesn’t specify which side, in or out. Nobody knows what the hell to do. There aren’t going to be any two of these that look alike. Nobody has any faith in what they’ve done. They yank the damn things out of the oven with one minute left and serve them.

Paul and Mary come in and Paul just manages not to laugh at them. Tamal’s lack sesame seeds on the outside and the breads are too flat. The taste is good, though. Flora managed to get the shape mostly right and a good colour, but they’re a little flat. Alvin’s look like pizzas. ‘Lots of sesame seeds, though,’ Mary brightsides. Mat’s are good. Nadiya rolled her dough too thick but the taste is good. Paul’s are a little undercooked and the glaze is patchy. Ian’s got the wrong shape, but the colour is lovely. Last to first: Tamal Alvin, Paul, Nadiya, Ian, Flora, Mat. He’s pleased that his afternoon went better than his morning, so yay!

It’s pouring rain the next day. The judges confer and Paul says it’s getting hard to judge these, because the Bakewells are all over the place, going from great to terrible challenge to challenge. Alvin’s in trouble. Serious trouble. Mary actually says he needs a miracle to stay. Ouch.

It’s a very retro showstopper: vol au vents. Two types, 24 of each. And yes, of course they have to make their own puff pastry. They get started.

Paul chuckles that he’s actually old enough to remember vol au vents. Alvin’s pulling his socks up and seeing this as a new day.

The Bakewells mix up pastry and chill it, then beat butter into a flat rectangle. Butter is then folded into the pastry, rolled, and folded again. The pastry is then chilled, and the whole thing begins again. The more folds you get, the better the puff.

The judges think Ian’s pastry looks nice. He’s making mushroom vol au vents and a scallop one with squid ink. Interesting. His wife apparently talked to him the night before, after having tried a bit of the latter filling, and told him she didn’t like it. That’s a little bitchy, actually, since it’s too late to change it now.

Paul is doing garlic and chili prawn on risotto and a sweet one that’s inspired by trifle.

It’s pouring buckets outside, and thundering.

Flora is doing two doughs, one of which is chocolate. It’ll be filled with ganache, whereas her other one will have asparagus.

While pastry chills out, fillings are started.

Mat is making a smoked trout and horseradish and a full English vol au vent.

Nadiya’s making a cod and clementine and a korma vol au vent. They’re her mother’s and her grandmother’s recipes.

Alvin is filling one of his vols with chicken a la king, which his mum used to make. His other one is salmon en croute.

Tamal’s inspired by a sandwich he had years ago, which apparently was a life-changing sandwich with pork fried with fennel. That does sound pretty good. His other vol is chicken and coriander.

Some of the Bakewells notice the butter’s formed lumps in their pastry, which is not good. Nadiya’s actually making a second batch.

The rest of them start cutting out vol shapes. Nadiya is kind of freaking out but tells herself she has to relax and stop rushing, or she’ll screw up. Some of the vols head into the ovens. Paul’s aren’t rising straight, and neither are Tamal’s. He didn’t have a chance to chill them before he put them in, so they’re kind of melting.

Vols start coming out. Alvin’s have slumped all over. Nadiya’s upset because her pastry’s not rising much and it’s melting quite a bit.

Crunch time. There’s basically no way Nadiya is going to finish in time. The Bakewells start messily filling their vols. Nadiya basically just puts her pastries in a pile around a bowl with her filling.

Vols are presented.

Mat’s look amazing and taste delicious. I really want those vols. I want the full English one for breakfast tomorrow.

Paul’s are underbaked, but nicely layered. His trifle one is yummy, but looks ugly.

Flora’s asparagus and Parma and her praline and chocolate look quite pretty and taste good too, but the pastry didn’t rise very well. They do like the chocolate puff pastry, though.

Tamal’s chicken and coriander and pulled pork vols are messy and pale but have a good bake and a good flavor.

Ian’s terre et mar vols are a little squat in size and Mary thinks the mushroom one looks overbaked. Paul hates the black ink ones.

Nadiya’s vols get an ‘oh dear’ from Paul. Mary says it’s sad that everything toppled, but she got nice layers! The fillings are amazing, though. She bursts into tears of frustration.

Alvin’s salmon and his chicken a la king canapés are pretty but underbaked. Paul likes the chicken, but Mary doesn’t like the other one. Alvin’s gone this week, guys.

Judgment time. Paul thinks Mat did a great job. Mary compliments Flora’s guts for making chocolate puff. They think Alvin and Nadiya are on the chopping block and now need to consider past bakes.

Back in the tent, star baker is named: it’s Mat! And the person going home is…Alvin. Yeah, I thought so. He interviews that being in the tent made him more resilient. Paul tells us that Nadiya’s curries basically saved her. She’s incredibly grateful not to have gotten the chop.

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