The Great British Bakeoff: La Semaine Francaise

Kimberleys-Charlotte-Royale-1Previously on The Great British Bakeoff: Ruby whined and whined and was awarded with star baker for her dairy-free vegetable cake decorated to look like a garden. Christine’s guitar cake looked amazing, but apparently tasted lousy and she was sent on home.

It’s French week in the semifinals (I accidentally called last week the semis. Sorry about that.) and we’ve all got our favourites picked out now, right? I’m pulling for Kim. Her stuff always looks and sounds amazing.

Mel and Sue rather impressively greet us and open the show in French. Well done, ladies! Beca’s super excited to be so close to the finals, and Ruby thinks it would be really mortifying to be sent home at this point.

Signature bake: canapés. Mary tells us that lots can go wrong with canapés and the finish has to be perfect. Paul adds that there has to be complete consistency and a big flavour punch in a small amount of space.

Here’s what we’re working with. Frances is doing little vegetable-themed pastries: Chantenay carrots, choux pastry tomatoes, and cauliflower cheese scones. Paul smirks at her as she talks about all the cutesiness going on in her section and repeats the ‘style over substance’ mantra. Ruby’s working on beetroot jelly on poppy seed biscuits; spinach, parmesan, and egg tartlets; and choux buns with goat’s cheese and caramelized onions. Sounds yummy. Kim’s working on fillings for her pea puree tarts, crab and wasabi profiteroles, and steamed buns with bbq chicken. Mmmm. She’s pickling some lotus root and kneading the dough for the buns. Beca’s doing Stilton and walnut macaroons (awesome!), beetroot and salmon choux puffs, and welsh rarebit tartlets. I would eat all of that. Paul asks how the Stilton goes into the macaroons and hears it’s basically the filling.

Looks like this is the week for interesting colourings: Kim’s mixing green tea powder into her choux, and Beca’s using beetroot powder in hers. Trays start going into the oven, and Kim pulls her bun pastry out of the proving drawer and starts prepping a cake pops tray, which she uses to form the little buns. Good idea.

Choux starts coming out of the oven, along with Frances’s little carrot-shaped shortcrust. Everyone gets going on fillings and Ruby cracks a tiny quail egg on the tops of each of her tartlets.

With just a few minutes left, everyone starts frantically assembling. So far, everything’s looking really delicious. Frances’s setup looks like a little garden, which makes me wonder if she’s taking some cues from Ruby’s bake last week.

Kim’s up first. The pea tartlets get an orgasmic look from Mary, the profiteroles are a hit, and the steamed buns, though big, are quite delish.

Ruby serves up next. Mary says everything looks really attractive. Paul tells her she didn’t’ fill the tartlets quite enough, but the pastry is lovely. The beetroot jelly on poppy biscuit is clever, and the choux is flat but delicious.

Beca. Paul thinks they look a bit boring, and Mary says the beetroot choux is a bit overbaked and lacks a ‘wow’ factor. The macaroon is clever but there’s too much stilton inside. The rarebit’s got nice pastry, but the flavor is dominated by the ale. What kind of ale did she use that could possibly dominate the cheddar? Unless she used a terrible cheddar.

And finally, Frances. The presentation is really adorable, especially the cauliflower scones, which really do look like little cauliflowers. The choux tomatoes are pretty, the filled carrots are too spicy, and the wee scones have a good bake and Paul calls them ‘lovely, lovely, lovely.’ Wow, that’s probably the nicest thing I’ve ever heard him say. She’s quite excited. Ruby pouts, because she thought hers was a mixed bag, even though she clearly did a lot better than Beca this round. Kim’s happy the only criticism was over the size of her buns, and she can live with that.

Time for the technical. It’s another Berry recipe. As the judges depart, Sue growls about a ‘derriere comme une pêche.’ Hee! The Bakewells have to make a Charlotte Royale: slices of Swiss roll that form a dome over a set fruit filling called a bavarois. They get to do this one over two days, because it has to set overnight. They start chopping fruit and Kim says this one sounds like fun.

Mary talks about how hard this is to do: you need a perfect Swiss roll, and then you need to have this lovely mousse inside. Paul tells her she’d better serve this the next time he comes to her house. She says they’ll have to see. I’ll bet she hates faffing around with stuff like this regularly, even if it did make her famous.

Swiss roll sponge is popped in the oven while cooked fruit cools. The sponges come out of the oven and Kim rolls hers up right away, before it cools, as a sort of practice roll. She explains that it helps when it comes to rolling it later, because the layer has already been done up, so it rolls up more easily. Clever girl. Ruby’s jam is going all over the place as she rolls hers up.

Bavarois time. It’s essentially a custard cream set with gelatine. It has to be cooked to just the right point, because otherwise it won’t set and it’ll collapse. They take a guess on cooking length, then fold in whipped cream. Ruby’s looking a bit flustered.

The Bakewells start slicing up their Swiss rolls to line the bowl this will all be setting in. Kim’s looks perfect, as does Frances’s. Ruby’s filling was clearly a little too thin. Kim ad Beca line their bowls with clingfilm before starting to add the Swiss roll, and Mel tells Sue that if you don’t line the bowl, it’s really hard to get this out. Frances is just buttering hers. Ruby’s pouting, because she realizes she didn’t line the bowl, and her Swiss rolls look a huge mess, frankly. She starts crying and Mel and Sue rush over to try their comforting double team. Bavarois gets poured in and more rolls are put on top. Ruby’s basically just given up as she throws hers into the fridge to set. Kim realizes she forgot to put chopped fruit in her filling and hastily adds it.

The next day, the Bakewells return and pull their Charlottes out of the fridge. Frances’s set and comes out of the bowl easily (she added clingfilm after all), but she’s clearly got a lot of the bavarois seeping through the rolls. The others manage to get theirs out as well, so they can all make a glaze and finish these puppies off. Everyone laughs over the gluey glaze, then get to piping some whipped cream around the base and dotting it with strawberries. Time’s up!

Paul and Mary come in to check out the bakes. Kim’s looks absolutely perfect. If it tastes halfway decent, she’s got this in the bag. Frances has too much roll on the bottom, and a lot of bavarois seepage. Good taste, though. Mary says that Kim’s is basically perfect. The fruit isn’t evenly distributed in Beca’s, and it needed more sponge on the top and more fruit inside. Ruby’s clearly has terrible issues. It really looks like hell, and inside the mousse kind of disappeared. Ranking: Ruby, Beca, Frances, and Kim. Woo hoo! (For Kim, not Ruby being last).

Time for the showstopper. This week, they need to make opera cakes, which consists of seven layers of sponge with ganache, buttercream, syrup, and glaze to represent the four acts of the opera. They have two and a half hours, which doesn’t sound like much time at all to make all those layers and fillings. They scramble to start while Mary talks about how grand and lovely opera cakes are. Paul says that a lot can go wrong and this is all about timing, because everything needs time to cool, or the fillings will melt and ruin the whole effect.

Ruby’s making a chocolate, almond praline, and saffron cake, but when the judges ask her about it, she’s really subdued and doesn’t sound confident at all. Oh dear. Paul questions her use of saffron and she weakly says she just likes it. He warns her it’ll probably fight with all the other flavours.

Layers start to go into the oven. Kim, as usual, is totally calm and gets started on her ganache. Frances is doing something a bit unusual and making a white chocolate ganache to go in her lemon sponge. It’ll be paired with a lavender buttercream. Ooooh, sounds good. And I’m not even a fan of white chocolate (which isn’t even chocolate, but we can talk about that some other time). Paul worries about the lavender overwhelming everything, but I think it’ll be fine. In a syrup, like what she’s using, it can actually be quite subdued, especially against something as acidic as lemon.

Beca’s been inspired by banoffee flavours for her cake, so it’ll have banana flavoured sponge with banana and caramel buttercreams. I’d get excited about that, but I really don’t like banana flavours. I’m sure it’ll be good, though. Paul asks if there’ll be anything to give the cake some texture and Beca says she has banana flakes to go in.

Kim’s making lime jelly for her passion fruit and lime opera cake. Interesting. She’s going to decorate the top with some chocolate caramel tuiles filled with truffles. Wow.

Mel and Beca harmonise a new song about her cake and ingredients, which is actually pretty cute and funny. It’s nice that the Bakewells don’t take themselves so seriously they can’t play around a bit. It’s refreshingly different from a lot of competitive cooking shows.

Sponge layers come out and are set out to cool. Paul thinks there are some interesting flavours going on, but he’s concerned about the lavender in Frances’s cake. Mary is more concerned about Beca’s cake, wondering if it’ll have style and class, because apparently banoffee is not a classy inspiration. They both wonder what Ruby’s thinking.

History lesson: the opera cake got its inspiration Paris, from the Opera Garnier. It was the most expensive building constructed during the reign of Napoleon III and opened in 1875. It had 2000 seats and quickly became a place to see and be seen. The cake itself was invented in 1955 and combined chocolate and coffee to help people stay awake through the operas. Heh. The layers represented the tiers of the opera house. A French pastry chef has Mel try to write ‘opera’ on a cake and she realizes how hard it is to write on cakes. He’s really sweet about it.

With layers cool, they start adding fillings. Ruby’s buttercream seems awfully thick and she worries about getting it even. Kim pours tempered chocolate over some little dots to form the decorative top bit. Frances’s cake has apparently been inspired by soap opera. Ha ha!

As time starts counting down, the music gets a little more frantic and so do the Bakewells. Cakes continue to be built up and the sides are trimmed so they’re nice and neat. Ruby’s isn’t going well. There’s something not right about that buttercream, at least by sight. Frances’s piping on the top of her cake is maddeningly perfect. I’ll bet she has fab handwriting.

Time’s up!

Kim’s looks adorable and playful. Beca’s got one corner drooping. Ruby seems disappointed. Frances’s looks quite lovely and fresh. She’s up first. Paul tells her it looks great and all the layers are perfectly separate. He and Mary give a taste and he says the flavour is ok, but he’s not getting the lavender. After all that handwringing over it possibly overwhelming everything else. Mary thinks it could do with a little more lemon too. Paul adds that it’s pretty sickly sweet, which he didn’t expect, based on how it looks.

Kim’s up next. She even managed to get those truffles done, which is impressive. Mary likes the decoration, but Paul comments that the lustre’s been lost in the chocolate on the top. He slices it and lots of the filling comes out, because of how hard he had to press to get through the hard chocolate on the top. Flavour-wise, he says all he tastes is dark chocolate. Mary says she’s got some lovely textures in the cake.

Ruby. Oh, sorry, Beca, Ruby’s the one with the droopy corner. She’s lacking the sharp edge on the sides, which makes Mary sad. Mary likes the praline in there and Paul says the textures are great. Mary says it tastes really good but fell down on the finish.

And finally, Beca’s banoffee cake. Some of the layers are a bit too thick, which makes the cake appear slightly awkward. Mary says it’s very sweet, and Paul can’t taste real banana, it just tastes artificial.

Judges’ tent: Frances’s looks great, but didn’t taste as good. Kim’s is too bitter. Ruby’s had the best flavour but looks like hell. Beca’s looks good, but again, flavour’s a problem.

Time for the verdict. Ruby’s already crying a little. This week’s star baker is…Kim! Yay! Going home: Beca. Wow, I kind of expected Ruby to get the boot. And she clearly did as well. Beca cries in her post-judgment interview and says that she’s sure someday she’ll be proud of herself for making it this far, but at the moment, it’s terribly disappointing. Understandable. I’ll miss Beca, she was pretty fun. We should all harmonise a sad song in her memory. Ruby manages to make this about her by interviewing that it must have been super close between her and Beca. Ugh, be quiet, Ruby. Frances is pretty giddy at making it through to the final, and Kim calls her mum, I suppose, to tell her about her success and the woman squeals loudly and happily. Aww.

Next week: finals!

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