In the sweltering heat of a summer heatwave middles melted, tempers frayed, and a nation was in uproar. Welcome to dessert week on The Great British Bake Off…
The stress of the fourth week of GBBO coincided with the hottest weekend of the year so far. Climbing temperatures inside the tent intensified with the heat of the ovens and lights, making desserts the last thing the contestants wanted to see on the menu….
The Signature Challenge
This week the bakers were asked to make eight individual self-saucing puddings, which they tackled by either incorporating a chilled liquid centre or creating a light batter that separated into a sponge and sauce underneath when baked. The judges were looking for clearly defined layers between the two elements rather than a slightly squidgy sponge cake. It would also be important for the pud to be in proportion, with enough sauce to keep the whole thing moist and enough cake for the pudding to be able to stand up unaided.
Norman had clearly been thinking about this when he informed Paul that his puddings would have about 60ml of sticky toffee sauce. That’s precision. However, I am starting to worry about Norman’s chances as the judges have started to comment on how traditional his recipes are. ‘Safe’ is not the way you want your baking described up against the more adventurous and experimental creations of your competitors. Most of the bakers in the first challenge (Martha, Nancy, Kate, Iain and Richard) chose to make a version of a chocolate fondant. It would have been nice to see some more variations on the self-saucing themes and flavours.
Luis had a rare failure with a very thin sauce and a cake devastatingly described as ‘claggy’. Richard’s black forest puddings with cherry filling looked perfect and Kate’s salted caramel chocolate beauties sounded delicious.
What would Kimberley do…
I would probably have tried to make a tonka bean or white chocolate sponge with a raspberry coulis filling, served on a praline or Florentine base.
The bakers went into the technical challenge with Martha, Luis and Norman all needing to impress. Fortunately, for Martha and Luis, they got the results they needed, coming in first and second, respectively. Mary expected ‘precision, even layers and finesse’ in the execution of her multi-layered tiramisu cake with its alternating layers of coffee-soaked sponge and mascarpone cream cheese. The bakers would also need to show skill and experience in cutting the thin sponge into even thinner layers.
Finely cutting sponges is most successfully done with a cake leveller, a kind of cheese wire for cake.
Norman had a bad round coming eighth out of nine and would have been in trouble were it not for what came next…
The Showstopper *Spoiler alert*
For their Showstopper Challenge the bakers had to make kitsch classic, baked Alaska, traditionally ice-cream on a sponge cake base and topped with meringue then either baked or blow torched for a toasted exterior. The bakers had four and half hours to make every element of their bake from scratch. Anyone who has ever watched a cookery programme knows that ice-cream is up there with chocolate fondants and soufflés in the ‘cross your fingers’ for success’ category of difficulty when under time pressure, let alone in a tent… in a heatwave.
As we learnt last year, the competition for fridge/freezer space is as hot as for the title itself. In emergencies, the fridges provided are used to try to rapidly cool cakes, chocolate, custard… everything. The frequent opening of the door and the hot contents means they aren’t working as efficiently as they should be, throwing your finely tuned times out of the window.
Iain was having trouble with his ice cream for all of the above reasons, and put it in another freezer to chill. At some point during the cooling chaos, Diana removed Iain’s masterpiece, resulting in an already frustrated Iain losing his cool and throwing his Alaska in the bin, storming out of the tent and simultaneously sealing his fate.
Had he stayed calm and had something to present, the crew would have informed the judges of what happened and he would have been granted a reprieve, particularly as he was having a pretty good week. As it was, he was penalised for his behaviour not his baking. And whilst we can all understand his passion and frustration, survival in the Bake Off tent is as much about how successfully you hold your nerve as your culinary skill. It was a real shame because his roasted sesame seed ice-cream, caramel and cocoa dessert sounded clever, interesting and delicious.
What would Kimberley do…
I think I would have opted for roasted plum ice cream on a ginger cake base with Italian meringue and amaretti biscuit crumbs.
Kimberley’s Star Bakers…
Martha’s key lime baked Alaska, the only showstopper with a biscuit base, was my stand out bake of the week. Had she received better feedback for her signature chocolate and peanut butter pudding (Paul found them too dry) Martha would have been a serious contender for star baker this week. Instead it went to ‘Mr consistent’, Richard. He’s looking very strong indeed.
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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