Bake Off Frances cream horns.PNGPreviously on The Great British Bakeoff: Howard’s amazing looking peachy buns weren’t enough to keep him in the game, while Ruby’s whiny self-deprecation was rewarded with a scolding from Mary and the title of Star Baker for the week.

Sue and Mel start off by chatting about the seven deadly sins and how many of them we’ve already seen covered this series. All of them, it seems.

It’s pastry week (also, did you know there are six different types of pastry?), and for their first challenge, the Bakewells need to make a sweet or savoury suet pudding. Ruby’s kind of a suet pudding novice, while Christine seems an old hand and says these puddings are pretty easy, really, you just have to be careful it’s not too heavy. Mary interviews that too much liquid makes the pudding hard to handle, whereas too little makes it too dry and crumbly.

Frances is doing a figgy roly poly pudding with caramelized walnut and honey ice cream. Mmm, walnut and honey ice cream sounds delicious. Oh, wait, she’s throwing goat cheese in there. I’m not against savoury items in sweets like ice cream, but that’s all sounding a bit much. Then again, goat cheese does go well with both honey and fig, so it could work.

Ruby’s making a veggie plum jam roly poly with ginger ice cream. She tells us about how much fun she’s been having with her new cat, Rupert, and says she always knew she’d turn into a crazy cat lady, and now it’s finally happened. Heh.

Christine’s making spotted dick, her husband’s favourite dessert, with vanilla custard ice cream. Was ice cream a requirement of this challenge?

Kim’s also doing spotted dick, but with a twist: she replaced the currants with barberries. She’s serving it with a custard, instead of an ice cream. Custard. One of the few foods over here I can’t reconcile myself with. Unless it’s really good, homemade custard. I tried the stuff you get at Waitrose once and it was absolutely disgusting.

Glen’s using prunes and Armagnac in his pudding. The way he says Armagnac is hilarious—like Joey Tribbiani saying ‘How you doin?’

Beca’s the only one doing a savoury pudding: spring lamb and vegetable suet pudding with redcurrant gravy. Interesting. Paul wonders how she’s going to keep all the juices in the crust and she explains that cooking everything ahead of time helps.

Puddings are being shaped and rolled. Glenn’s buttering and sugaring the inside of his pan before pouring in his pudding, which is really wet compared to the others. His prune and Armagnac pudding is going to be served with a boozy butterscotch sauce. That sounds like a lot of alcohol in one dessert. Paul asks if he really thinks the pudding is going to rise enough to fill the whole tin. He hopes so.

Now shaped, puddings are popped into ovens and steamers.

History lesson: the Isle of Mull is a great example of crofting—families would rent bits of land called ‘crofts’ to raise crops and animals.  They also shared land that was only suitable for grazing and foraging, thus fostering a strong sense of community. Community celebrations were typically marked with a clootie dumpling. Ugh, I tried one of those at the Christmas lunch last year, and let me tell you, that’s not a dessert you want on an already full stomach. As one local woman explains, the ingredients are basically flour, sugar, suet, and raisins. It’s just a ball of dough that clumps into your stomach. Back to our lesson: other ingredients started to be added (spices, treacle), but the traditional way of baking it, wrapped in a cloth (‘clootie’ actually means ‘cloth’) remains the same. The dumpling is boiled for 3 hours and then dried in front of a fire and served at a party. And I have to admit, the one the woman in the show has looks pretty good. Maybe I just didn’t have a very good one.

Kim gets started on her custard and the others get their ice creams and sauces going. Glenn says he doesn’t really mind the raw alcohol flavor, but he’s tamping that down for Paul, who hates it. Sue swings by Christine and asks what her earliest suet pudding memory is. It’s of her grandmother making a spotted dick, of course.

Puddings come out and the Bakewells seem pleased. Glenn’s has, in fact, risen to fill the pan. Some of it sticks to the top half of the pan, though, so to cover it up, he sifts some sugar over the top and pops it back in the oven to glaze, but it looks like he just manages to burn most of it, while some of it remains resolutely white. He takes a blowtorch to it, then makes some rather clever caramel spirals and decorates the top with them. That’s better, Glenn.

Time is called, and pudings are presented. Glenn’s first. Mary thinks there’s too much alcohol, but Paul loves it. Well, that’s unusual. Usually Paul hates alcohol flavor. Mary does compliment the texture. Ruby: beautifully flavoured, and Paul adores the ice cream. Frances’s roly poly looks quite pretty and the flavours all work together well. Beca’s lamb and veggie pudding is quite nice, but Mary thinks the suet crust is a tad thick. Kim’s twist on the spotted dick has very good flavours according to Mary, and Paul really likes the sour barberries and the sweet custard together. Christine’s classic dick has a beautiful texture and is moist and nicely cooked, despite having split a little. Wow, everyone did really well on this one. Well done, everybody!

So, spirits are high as they receive their technical challenge: Mary Berry’s religieuses. Basically, what they are is crème puffs filled with crème patissiere, covered in ganache and decorated with whipped cream, so they resemble little nuns. ‘I’ve never eaten a nun before,’ Sue says. Glenn’s face says, ‘I have no idea how to respond to that.’ They begin. Nobody’s really all that confident about these, except for Kim. In their tent, Mary and Paul talk about how hard this is: they have to get the choux pastry and the crème patissiere just right, and then it’s really hard to get the right glaze on the ganache.

Bakewells work on the choux pastry and are a little surprised by how wet it is. Glenn starts over. Beca gets ready to start piping, and the instructions say to pipe round discs. She glances around at everyone else’s work, to see what they’re doing. Christine smoothes her pastry out a little and sends them off with a wing and a prayer. Wee choux bake and puff. Christine’s look a tiny bit on the flat side. She castigates herself for her rubbish pastry and says this has never happened at home. Beca pulls hers out and gives them all a nice little steam hole. Glenn’s crème is a little runny, while Mel thinks Christine’s looks great. Filled buns are dipped in chocolate before little buns are stacked on top of the bigger ones. The heads of Glenn’s little nuns keep falling off. They have one minute left. They frantically pipe whipped cream around the pastry necks. Time’s up, and it’s judgment time.

Mary and Paul come in and Mary says she thinks they have a decent batch. They start with Glenn’s. The crème comes pouring out when they cut into it, but the flavor and pastry are good. Beca’s are great. Frances’s have runny crème, and Christine’s are burnt. Kim’s are slightly irregular, Ruby’s taste good but have some inconsistent piping. Ranking worst to best: Christine, Frances, Kim, Glenn, Ruby, Beca.

Showstoppers: 3 types of puff pastry. One type filled, one iced, and twelve of each. They have four hours. And they’re off!

Ugh, puff pastry. I’ve never made it, because it’s an immense pain in the ass and takes forever. I’ve made croissants (which I guess is close), and that was quite enough for me. Bakewells beat butter flat, to fold into the dough.

Beca’s working on nectarine and frangipane squares, chocolate and hazelnut vol-au-vents and strawberries and cream mille-feuille. Sounds yummy.

Glen, again, is using the mixer instead of doing this by hand. Hey, whatever works for him. He’s doing caramelized apple and marzipan tartlets, chocolate elephant ears (loved those when I was a kid!) and passion fruit mille-feuille. Paul’s not really convinced that Glenn’s pastry is going to be any good.

Frances is making French framboise cream horns, sheet music mille-feuille, and bass clef palmiers. Is she going to make this look like a little orchestra? Also, I’m sensing a definite mille-feuille theme. Mary compliments her handling of the pastry and Frances says she really likes handling it.

Ruby marvels at how the dough comes together, looking all ugly for a while, but then suddenly coming together and looking lovely.

Ok, so Glenn’s apparently wrapping his pastry in the butter, instead of the other way around. Interesting.

While the dough is resting, the Bakewells work on fillings et cetera. Ruby momentarily forgets that she’s making raspberry and passion fruit mille-feuille, caramelized apple lattices and Portuguese custard tarts. She’s not sure if she’s going to assemble and then cut or cut and then assemble. Cut, then assemble, Ruby. Or you’ll have filling going everywhere.

Kim’s working on pear, malt and butterscotch mille-feuille (yes please!), blackberry and lemon verbena crème brulee custard tarts, and fig, orange and thyme galette. Ok, I want all of those things.

With two hours to go, the Bakewells start cutting up their pastry and getting it ready to bake. They start popping sheets in the oven, then get back to their fillings. Christine’s got some eccles cakes, fresh fruit baskets, and lemon cream Eton mess mille-feuille going.

Time is running out, and everyone’s getting serious and a bit tense. Pastry is cut and shaped and filled and, in France’s case, twirled into little cone shapes. Kim’s making sort of caramel circles with a verbena leaf in for decoration.

Mel urges Frances to pipe for Britain, which makes me giggle. It’s the last few minutes, so they’re frantically stacking and frosting. Glenn’s mille feuille starts to completely fall apart. Frances decorates hers to look like piano keys. Ruby starts to freak out and tells Mel she needs a talking to, so Mel, who’s holding a pastry bag while Frances fills it, dashes over and snaps at her to just get a grip already. Heh.

With 5 seconds left, Glenn yanks his palmiers out of the oven. Woah, cutting that a bit close. Time’s up, and the kitchen is well and truly trashed. Nobody seems terribly pleased with their results.

Glenn’s up first, and he thinks his should be enough to keep him in. Paul doesn’t seem to think so, because his puff didn’t puff at all. Seriously, the palmiers are flat as pancakes. The mille feuille flavours are ok, but they look terrible. The tarts look pretty, but they’re not very well baked underneath. Paul declares himself hugely disappointed.

Beca: she got an immense rise from her pastry, but Paul says she didn’t really finish anything well. Also, the pastry is a tiny bit wet inside. Vol-au-vents are yummy.

Frances’s pastries look quite beautiful, and her pastry has a good flake. Mary compliments her flavours and Paul agrees.

Kim’s also look really delicious and she got a great flake on her pastry. Mary likes the little crème brulees but thinks the tops are tricky to eat and suggests she just crumble the caramel on top.

Ruby’s look untidy, to Paul, but everything tastes good.

Christine gets high marks for her eccles cakes, though Mary’s not keen on raw fruit in the mille feuille. The baskets are beautiful and delicious, though.

In the judges’ tent, they talk about how disappointed they were in Beca, though they were really happy with Frances’s performance. Christine made a great comeback after a rough technical, but Glenn clearly fell on his face. He’s so going home. Who else could it be? Nobody else screwed up as much as he did on the signature.

This week’s star baker: it’s Frances, of course. No surprise there. And admittedly, her pastries did look and sound quite delicious. Glenn, of course, is going home. Again, no surprise. Last man standing, now it’s on to the quarter-finals with all ladies.

Next week: things get tense, and it looks like things get really fancy.

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