Which contestants fluffed their Florentines and who triumphed over towering dough designs in GBBO's biscuit week? 2013 Great British Bake Off finalist, Kimberley Wilson gives her opinions on the second week of the competition…
‘Biscuit Week’ in The Great British Bake Off is code for intricacy, consistency and, increasingly, structural integrity. This week, we saw some incredible feats of baking prowess, and possibly the best showstoppers the competition has ever seen…
The Signature Challenge
Making biscuits at home is a fairly lo-fi affair – they are infinitely adaptable and very forgiving. However, in the tent of dreams, turning out an acceptable batch demands obsessive levels of precision. The tiny details that go unnoticed in your own kitchen become the dividing line between you and the other bakers. The judges were looking for uniformity across each of the 36 savoury biscuits, plus well-defined flavours and what I call an unambiguous texture (if you say it’s going to ‘snap’ it had better snap). This is probably why most of the bakers opted to use dry spices to flavour their biscuits, as adding moist ingredients can alter the proportions of the recipe and lead to a softer biscuit, as Kate found out with with her apple topping.
Jordan introduced two touches that I thought were very clever. He added sourdough starter to his dough, which can bring a deeper, more developed flavour to the biscuits (and it might even help to impress Mr. Hollywood!) He also used three types of chili, which if used properly can add layers of flavour not just heat.
Try using a few varieties of flavouring ingredients to add depth to a dish - for example, chilli flakes, fresh chilli and paprika in a chilli con carne or fresh portabella, dried porcini and a drop of truffle oil in a mushroom risotto.
Chetna added carom seeds (also known as ajwain) to her biscuits. Carom seeds are tiny and look like miniature cumin seeds. Small but mighty, they punch above their weight in the flavour stakes - very strong with a peppery, slightly bitter herbal taste. I add a little to a spice blend for masala chai and they are often used in Asia for flavouring bread. They can be found in Asian food stores or online.
I was worried for Norman when he said that he would not be adding any flavour to his biscuits, meaning that he would have absolutely no room for error – though he managed to pull it off. It was lovely to see him using lard in his recipe too. Unfashionable as it is, lard adds a crisp shortness to baking that butter (delicious as it is) can’t create.
What would Kimberley do…
One of my favourite things to eat is Roquefort on sourdough toast with a drizzle of honey, so I think I would have made a version of that for the Signature Challenge. A sourdough biscuit with Roquefort, a little fennel and honey running through it.
I love Florentines. Light, crisp, sweet and so pretty, they often feature in gift boxes at Christmas. The bakers had to make 18 with a traditional chocolate-coated underside. So they would need to get them in and out of the oven quickly enough to cool sufficiently for the chocolate coating to stay in place. Similarly, the chocolate would need to be cool enough to spread without dripping through the lacy biscuits. Despite some early jitters, all the bakers seemed to do a good job. There was a moment when Enwezor appeared intent on making just three gargantuan Florentines - not a problem for me but Mary might have had a thing or two to say.
Enwezor would have been in no doubt of his place in the danger zone when he confessed to Mary Berry that he hadn't made his own fondant icing. The shame, the scandal! Unfortunately, he also underbaked his biscuits in a showstopper challenge that featured some of the most impressive designs I think the show has ever seen. Luis’ George Versus the Dragon ensemble was, frankly, immense. In the end he was pipped to the post for Star Baker by Richard who gave us maritime feats of pirates, sea monsters and a cheerful looking mermaid.
What would Kimberley do…
I think I might have attempted a biscuit rendering of a consulting room, complete with couch and a Rich Tea Freud with a buttercream beard. All in citrus flavours: orange, lemon and lime.
*Spoiler alert* The result…
The standard was so high this week that it’s a shame anyone had to leave, but I think, ultimately, Enwezor sealed his fate by not making his own fondant - although nobody does in the real world.
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.
Are you watching The Great British Bake Off? Let us know who you’re rooting for and what you would have made in biscuit week…