From fruity, free-form loaves to sweet filled buns, this week the contestants had to step up to the challenge and prove their worth with advanced dough techniques….
It looked like a close contest when the bakers presented their complex creations in the signature challenge, but as the competition progressed clear favourites began to emerge…
The signature challenge
I’ll declare my reservations about the signature challenge upfront - two and a half hours is nowhere near enough time to create a full-flavoured, well-formed loaf of bread, let alone an enriched dough that also has to contend with eggs, butter, sugar and fruit. Compromises had to be made, be it the flavour, texture or the bake. That’s why I commend Nancy’s rather ingenious fast-track microwave technique. It’s not what you’d do given the time – a slow ferment is needed for the best flavour – but under the circumstances, I think she was very clever.
Luis was full of originality. He used sugar cubes soaked in liqueur to carry the flavour in the individual buns of his tear-and-share loaf. The technique divided judges’ opinion but it really showed that he had thought about how to add flavour without adding too much moisture.
The flavours in Martha’s loaf sounded delicious - plum, cassis, star anise and cloves made for a rich and comforting bake. Sadly, it was considered a little underdone on judging, as was Nancy’s zesty plum bread.
Scalding the milk in an enriched dough, bringing it just under a boil and then allowing it to cool to room temperature will help to improve the rise.
What would Kimberley do…
My signature bake would have been a Cozonac - a Romanian bread similar in style to a povitica - filled with a paste made of amaretto-soaked prunes.
The technical challenge
Povitica is a swirly-whirly loaf, filled with spiced walnut paste. The bakers didn’t really have enough time to complete the challenge, which was evident in that four out of five of them were underbaked, with only Chetna having had sufficient experience with the recipe to get a good result, coming first in the challenge. Martha successfully solved the problem of how to spread the walnut paste over the paper thin dough by rolling the filling between two layers of cling film and then layering over the top, which is a tip I’ll be using. Unfortunately, the perfectly even distribution of her filling was not enough to save her from coming last in the task, as her loaf was ‘totally raw’ in the middle. Luis, Nancy and Richard came second, third and fourth, respectively.
The showstopper *spoiler alert*
The bakers made their final bid for a semi-final place by producing 36 doughnuts in two different flavours in just four hours; a real challenge of consistency and timing.
Chetna and Luis created really original showstopper creations - Chetna going for South African koeksisters, which are braided, deep fried and then soaked in syrup, and a round doughnut filled with chocolate mousse. Luis received tonight’s standing ovation after he threw caution to the wind and added a Baileys-filled straw to the top of his cocktail-inspired doughnuts. Martha and Richard went with more familiar flavours. Martha choosing chocolate and passionfruit, and lemon and poppy seed while Richard opted for fairground-inspired toffee apple doughnuts topped with salted caramel, and rhubarb and custard. Paul said that Richard’s doughnuts were ‘very professional’ while Martha struggled with doughnuts that, though delicious, were overproved, leaving them flat and with an uneven crumb. Nancy’s limoncello, and chocolate orange doughnuts were ‘slightly overdone’ but in the end she had done just enough to pull her through.
What would Kimberley do?
I would have gone with double chocolate doughnuts rolled in almond praline, and vanilla doughnuts filled with vanilla custard and damson compote.
Sadly, it was a teary farewell this week to the incredibly talented Martha, but a huge congratulations to Richard who was named star baker for the fourth time - a new Bake Off record!
Kimberely Wilson was a finalist on the 2013 series of The Great British Bake Off and will be with us every week to reflect on the happenings in this year's kitchen.
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