Complex pastry was the name of the game this week. The remaining contestants pulled out all the stops for their savoury pastries and choux-stoppers…
A three and a half hour technical challenge, savoury pastry parcels and challenging choux pastry got the better of more than one of the bakers this week…
The signature challenge
Who doesn’t love a pasty? Those portable stuffed pillows of pastry are all that is right with baking. The remaining six bakers had to make 12, watertight savoury parcels of delight to present to the judges. I liked the sound of Nancy’s spicy Chinese duck in flaky pastry, as well as Chetna’s kachori. Kachori is an Indian street food of pastry stuffed with spiced lentils and deep fried – and was one of my favourite bakes of the weekend. Kate also headed to Southeast Asia for the inspiration for her spinach and paneer samosas, but a fryer malfunction left her parcels pale and not the deep golden colour of a good samosa. Luis recreated the beef and chorizo empanadas he remembered eating as a child, which were, according to the judges, ‘very, very tasty but underdone.’ Martha made an effort to be original by making mini beef Wellingtons that tasted ‘fantastic’ and Richard’s traditional lamb and mint pasties received good marks all round.
What would Kimberley do…
I’d make miniature calzones filled with nduja (a soft spicy Italian sausage) burrata (an Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream) and roasted red peppers.
The technical challenge
One of the trickiest parts of this week’s technical challenge was saying it. The bakers should have received extra credit for just being able to properly pronounce kouign amann, the obscure, buttery pastry from Brittany. The judges were looking for good lamination (delectable layers of pastry - achieved by folding cold butter into the yeasted dough) as well as good flavour and uniformity of size across the batch. Considering none of the bakers had ever even heard of it before, let alone attempted the recipe they all managed to do a pretty good job. Richard was the only one to correctly add the sugar at the last step and was duly granted first place, which must have been a huge relief after scraping through the previous two weeks of the competition. Chetna came last and was visibly disappointed as she walked out of the interview at the end of the challenge a little early – a result of the pressure of trying to get through to the quarter-finals perhaps starting to show.
The showstopper *spoiler alert*
The showstopper challenge read like a fantasy afternoon tea party. The bakers delivered stacks of colourful éclairs that were imaginative and worthy of sitting in a patisserie window – well most of them. Chetna made chocolate flavoured choux that she filled with praline cream and topped with fresh mango and sugar work. Luis’ made American inspired blueberry cheesecake and peanut butter and jello éclairs that were lurid but delicious. Nancy was the only baker to present a savoury éclair (points for daring and originality) filled with smoked salmon and horseradish, followed up by more traditional raspberry ripple that was deemed a little sweet but ‘close to perfection’. Despite having written 8000 words on profiteroles for her AS Levels, Martha had problems with her custard that set her back and may not have presented anything were it not for the A-Team style intervention of her fellow bakers. In the end, her pretty rhubarb and custard pastries crumbled on contact and her candied bacon and maple syrup offerings didn’t quite work.
Chetna and Kate both made lemon meringue éclairs – with Chetna receiving praised for having a good balance of flavour. Unfortunately, Mary couldn’t taste the basil in Kate’s choux, though Paul said that it worked quite well.
- When making choux, once you’ve transferred the dough to a piping bag, place it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. It will help it to keep its shape when baking.
- An open star tip (rather than a plain one) on the piping bag will create ridges in the dough that help create an even expansion when it bakes.
What would Kimberley do…
For my first 12 éclairs I would have created a spiced choux and filled them with coconut and ginger custard, topped with lemon icing and toasted coconut flakes.
For the second batch I would have made a chocolate choux with chocolate custard filling topped with toasted sesame praline.
Kimberley’s star bakers…
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. After the reprieve they were granted last week it was imperative that Kate and Richard did well this week to remove any doubt that might be hanging over them and move them safely out of the danger zone. Richard did this in emphatic style by balancing the floral flavours in his éclairs and securing his third Star Baker badge of the series. One more and he beats the record. At the other end of the scale, Kate hung up her apron this week as she was sent home leaving the rest to fight to get to the semi-finals.
Kimberley 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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