Bake Off Pastry Week was neither short nor crusty, with some stunning flourishes from our eight remaining bakers.
The signature bake
Before the competition, Jane indicated that her strong suit was classic bakes, and from the beginning of this episode you sensed that she was on familiar territory. In the signature challenge to produce 24 Danish pastries, Mary asked her if she was really intending to use two separate doughs? Jane did not flinch; she simply replied with the steely “Yes” of a woman who has previously wrestled with two doughs and emerged victorious. She looked like the person to beat.
The awkward character in any Danish pastry saga is butter, masses of butter, loads of it – indeed, if you enjoy Danish pastries and weren’t aware of quite how much butter is involved in their preparation, you’d have been clutching your chest in horror. (“Grevious butterly harm,” as Sue put it.) Inaccuracies in the folding procedure can lead to a calamitous escape of butter during the bake, with molten yellow liquid cascading to the bottom of the oven and quickly causing a fire hazard. So as the bakers attempted to produce perfect pinwheels, swirls, plaits and kites, they used various algebraic methods to devise the right number of folds – but Val, bless her, just ended up adopting her usual position: “Sat in front of the oven, praying.”
“This is going to be fascinating,” said Paul as he judged Tom’s granola-topped pastry. It’s the Bake Off equivalent of the death rattle, and it evidently struck fear into Tom’s heart. “Dry as a bone,” was the verdict, and Tom looked crushed (“I’ll probably go away and brood for a little while.”) Benjamina, last week’s star baker, also suffered from a Butter Exit, or Brexit – oh, ok, let’s call it Buxit – but Jane and Candice put in strong performances, with Mel nabbing a batch of Candice’s pastries to take home, guilt written all over her face as she did so.
The technical challenge
Mary’s request for “sheer perfection” in the technical challenge (a classic Bakewell tart) sent predictable shockwaves of 'frangipanic' through the tent – except of course in the case of the ever-calm Selasi, who did a few backflips, jumped into a waiting limo and headed off to the races. (Not really.) It was an unusual technical challenge in that the bakers at least knew what the finished product should look like – so how hard could it be? The answer: very hard indeed. Val failed to realise that there were two sides to the instruction sheet and ended up freestyling it. Several bakers were left short of time and were obliged to apply icing to hot frangipane, while Andrew, confused as to why his pastry wasn't baking, suddenly realised that his oven hadn’t been on for the previous 15 minutes. Ovens needing to be switched on is the second rule of Bake Off, after the whole “no soggy bottoms” thing. In the end, Andrew came a miraculous 6th out of eight, with Rav coming last in the technical for yet another week. He would have to go some in the showstopper to lever himself out of last place, but Jane and Candice were once again the golden girls, taking first and second place respectively.
Brimming with confidence, these two always looked like they were going to ace the showstopper, so for the rest it was a battle to avoid relegation. 48 filo pastry amuse bouches was the challenge, with huge expanses of pastry needing to be stretched to the thinnest possible consistency, virtually see-through, less than wafer-thin. Tom used his knuckles, Val used a broom handle, Candice used a pasta machine, but everyone used a bucketload of emotional energy. Rav’s white chocolate samosas and Tom’s combination of steak and chocolate mousse were the flavour surprises, but this challenge was really characterised by the eerie silence and intense concentration. Candice ultimately pipped Jane to star baker with her stunning rounds containing sausage meat, black pudding and apple. But every exit from the tent feels emotional now – there’s a lot of camaraderie there, from Selasi helping Jane out with her presentation, to Candice’s whoops of encouragement to Benji. So it was genuinely sad to see Val leave. Her side-steppin’, dough-kneadin’ good humour has relieved a lot of the tension during this series of Bake Off. How will the others fare next week without her?
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