The Great British Bakeoff: Biscuit Fever

GBBO traybake.PNGPreviously on The Great British Bakeoff: Pies, pies everywhere! We had apple pie (lots of them), custard tarts, and phyllo. Kimberly was amazing (seriously, try her savoury phyllo pie—I just had it for dinner and it’s freaking fabulous) but Ali was sent home.

Mel and Sue chat about how Britons spend almost as much every year on biscuits as they do on fruit and veg. I’d believe it. Mostly because a lot of the biscuits over here are delicious. The Bakewells cheer for having made it to the halfway point, but also worry that the competition will get infinitely harder from here on out.

Signature challenge: make your favourite traybake. All the pieces have to be identical and all the ingredients must be made from scratch, so no brought in caramel. Mary says she wants to see some lovely surprises and Paul wants the Bakewells to pay attention to textures.

Howard’s doing a take on a flapjack, calling it a breakfast flapjack, with oats and bananas and a yogurt icing. Beca’s doing cherry, chocolate, and hazelnut brownies, a flavor combination she tested out on her husband’s army buddies. Frances is baking a millionaire’s shortbread crossed with a banoffee pie, which she’s going to cut into blocks and stack up like Jenga or something. Mary warns her to remember to pay attention to the flavours this time. Christine’s doing a mixed berry and almond traybake, which sounds quite delicious and season-appropriate (this is all filmed in the summer). Ruby’s using a pastry base on her blackberry lemon bakewell. Mmmm, nice combo. She once again didn’t have time to practice, having just finished exams. Mary sweetly asks her how they went. Ruby says they were a breeze compared to being on the Bakeoff. Sue asks Kim how her week was and Kim says that being Star Baker does not get one a free upgrade on the train home. Well, that’s just bullshit! Glenn’s making marshmallow, which takes kind of a while because they need time to cool down and set up, so he’s a little worried about that. He’s doing an apricot and pistachio tiffin, and like Ruby, school got in the way of practicing throughout the week. His tiffin does sound pretty delicious, though. I bet it would be a huge hit with kids. Paul notes the immense amount of chocolate he’s melting and Glenn admits he may have overestimated on that.

Traybakes go in the oven. Rob’s forgotten to put the chopped nuts in his and is now scraping the traybake batter back in the bowl to mix the nuts in. Glenn’s marshmallows came out, so now he just has to wait for the traybake to set up in the fridge. More of a traychill for him, then.

Time for our history lesson: this week, it’s Tottenham Cake, a pink-iced traybake that owes its origins to a 19th century Quaker baker, who made the cake as a treat for kids. The cake apparently embraces Quaker ideals: treating people equally, being frugal, etc. Sorry, at this point my cable went loopy and I missed a chunk, but sometime along the line, the Tottenham Football Club picked up on the bake and kind of adopted it.

Bakes come out of the ovens. Howard notes that his is rather simple, but it does fit his personality, so as a signature bake it works. Glenn’s doing maths to figure out how to cut his up. Ruby’s shaking terribly and Sue tells her to relax, it’s only blackberries! Last-minute decorations are applied, last-minute measurements made, and time is up.

Beca’s chocolate, cherry, and hazelnut brownies are perfectly sized and quite yummy, according to Sue, but Paul thinks the middle ones aren’t quite baked enough. Chrisitine’s mixed berry and almond crumble are quite pretty and Mary likes the flavours. Frances’s millionaire banoffee buns are good; Paul likes the little bit of salt she threw in there. Glenn’s apricot and pistachio tiffins are too thick. Paul actually calls them grotesque, but Mary likes the flavours. Howard’s breakfast traybake lost its yogurt icing, which soaked in while it was still warm, but Paul thinks they’re thick and stodgy. Rob’s blueberry and orange is underbaked, quite raw, in fact. Mary likes the fruity topping, but thinks the whole thing is soggy. Ruby’s blackberry and lemon bakewell doesn’t even make it to the judges’ mouths before Ruby’s apologizing for it. Heavens, Ruby, calm down! Paul says the flavours are great but the texture’s not good. Kim’s get high marks from everyone.

Time for the technical challenge. Frances admits she’s already ‘cream crackered’ which is a great saying I’ve not yet heard. I’ll have to use it, I feel pretty cream crackered most of the time these days. They have to make 18 tuilles, half shaped classically and the other half rolled into cigars and dipped in chocolate. They get started. Some of them have done them before—in Ruby’s case, she made terrible tuilles—while others are just hoping for the best. This is going to be a tough one, since it was recently raining, which can make delicate little cookies like that really soggy very quickly. Batters are mixed up and then have to be left to rest. For how long? Nobody knows! They just guess. The Bakewells start scraping the batter into templates and then have to make their own piping bags. That’s a bit cruel. The recipe gives them a baking temperature but no baking time. Of course.

Some of the Bakewells start taking their tuilles out and shape them by laying them over a rolling pin. One of Howard’s cracks. Time to shape the cigars, which have to be rolled very quickly indeed. Bakewells burn their fingers rolling these things up. Howard’s a bit worried about some of his, but Mel comes over and tells him they look good. Glenn’s are actually looking pretty decent. Better than Howard’s, I’d say.

Time is called, and the Bakewells bring up their plates. In come Paul and Mary, and Mary tells them they should be proud of that lot. Glenn’s are neat, but a bit too thick. Kim’s are burnt but have the snap you want. Christine’s got a nice even bake and thin cookies with a good snap and a nice taste. She looks relieved. Frances is good. Rob’s bend instead of snapping, they needed to go in the oven for a little longer. Howard’s are pale and the cigars are underbaked and poorly rolled. Ruby’s are kind of a mess, with lots of them broken. Beca’s are both pale and thick. From worst to best: Howard, Kim, Ruby, Beca, Rob, Frances, Glenn, and Christine. Well done, Christine! Glenn’s gobsmacked at being second, Howard’s resigned to being at the bottom, Kim seems philosophical.

Finally, the showstopper. But first, the judges discuss who’s doing well and who’s in trouble. Howard’s in danger, as is Ruby, while Christine and Frances are tops. Rob’s been disappointing them as well.

This week, the Bakewells have to make a biscuit tower at least 13 cm high, with all the biscuits beautifully decorated, of course. That sounds a little…crazy. Baking and architecture coming together, but not in a gingerbread house kind of way. Kim’s making Viennese biscuits, which are rather delicate and might have trouble taking the weight. It sounds like she’s practiced, though, so I trust her. Howard’s using black tea in his Japanese pagoda biscuit tower. If he can pull that off, it sounds like it could be pretty cool. Chrsitine’s using four flavours of shortbread in a Bavarian clock tower. She’s very carefully cutting her cookies out so they’re all the same size. Ruby’s making a tower in the shape of a dropped ice cream. Cute. Glenn’s cherry and hazelnut shortbread dough looks like raw sausages, but he promises it tastes good. He’s shaping his tower like a helter skelter, with macaroon decorations. Rob, of course, is making a dalek out of biscuits. I’m surprised it took this long for someone to do something Dr Who themed.

Beca’s making a whole cake stand out of biscuits. Frances is doing a biscuit tower of buttons and beads. Could be cute, and seems less annoyingly overdone than most of her concepts.

Biscuits are baked and left to cool. They have an hour left. Construction begins. Beca’s is already leaning all over the place. Frances starts stacking hers, and it’s a bit precarious as well. Glenn gets his stack up, but it’s a bit sloppy looking and definitely leaning to one side. Ruby’s slopping buttercream on with her hands while Christine carefully pipes numbers on her clock face. Glenn takes some beautiful looking macaroons out of the oven. Beca gives Glenn some suggestions to help him with his tower, which is really nice of her. Just after time is called, Frances’s collapses. But she’s allowed to restack, apparently, as Mel stands there and holds it and tells her it’s fine. Awww.

Judgment. Glenn’s shortbread and macaroon helter skelter looks nice, and the biscuits are all good. Well done, Glenn! Beca’s cake stand worked and Mary thinks it’s really fun. But the flavor and texture of the biscuits aren’t very good. Kim’s black and white Viennese biscuit stack looks lovely, though a lot of the biscuits cracked a bit. Mary likes the two-tone effect. Howard’s tea pagoda looks beautiful and both Paul and Mary think it looks like a piece of art. Paul likes the tea flavours, though Mary thinks they’re a bit boring. Frances’s collapsed biscuit buttons and beads obviously isn’t tall enough, so she didn’t fulfill the brief. The biscuits are lovely, though. Christine’s shortbread clock tower is meticulous. It looks like a charming little gingerbread house. Mary says it’s stunning and Paul says it’s both cute and a good, strong structure. The shortbreads are delicious as well. I think she’s going to be star baker this week. Time for the dalek. Well, he’s got the look of it right. Mary thinks it’s a little bit clumsy, especially since it’s got inedible decorative bits on it. Paul says the biscuits are just ok. Ruby thinks she messed hers up completely, but I think it looks like a dropped ice cream, and so does Mary. She and Paul chomp away and say the biscuits are really lovely and have a wonderful texture. Ruby’s shocked. Give yourself some credit, Ruby!

The judges chat privately. Christine’s had a great week, but Kim’s biscuits apparently weren’t quite baked properly. Howard’s tower was marvelous, while the dalek disappointed. Paul’s not sure that Ruby’s done enough to keep herself out of the danger zone.

Time to find out who stays and who goes. First up, Star Baker. And it’s…Christine! I was right! Yay, Christine! Sue has to announce the person going home. Say farewell to…Rob. Ah well. Kim looks absolutely shocked. So shocked the cameras actually keep zooming in on her in a very awkward manner. Mary goes over to Ruby and builds her up a bit, because she’s Mary and she’s the sweetest judge in reality tv history. Glenn’s proud of himself for getting through after having had a hellish week at school. Rob’s going to take a few days of from baking, and then probably get right back to it.

Next week: sweet doughs. Someone makes some truly exquisite looking ones that look like tiny peaches.

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