It's dessert week and the heat is on. As the bakers grapple with slippery mousses for a place in the quarter final, Rhodri Marsden documents the calorie-laden odyssey every step of the way...
Following a sketchy performance during botanical week, Andrew hung in there by the feuille of his mille-feuille, and couldn’t quite stop the tears flowing when he managed to do so. This week, however, it was a different Andrew, an Andrew with a swagger, a wink and a bag of sugar. “I am a desserts man through and through,” he said, breezily – which under normal circumstances would be a odd thing for a bloke to say, but this week was Desserts Week. So fair enough.
Only six bakers were left, making for plenty of space in the tent (each baker could probably do a three-metre moonwalk from a standing start if they felt like doing so) but the competition is fiercer now, and every mistake could prove disastrous.
The signature bake
The signature bake was a roulade, with everyone aiming for light sponge, even layers and a perfect swirl when rolled up. The danger, however, was the thing cracking during the rolling process. What could be done to prevent such an almighty catastrophe? Selasi went for a Genoese sponge (more “tolerant” of rolling, apparently) with added butter for even more safety. Benjamina, meanwhile, was more sanguine about the prospect of cracking. “It’s all part of the charm,” she said nonchantly. (That may have been masking a terrified internal dialogue, we’re never quite sure with Benji.)
Tom started badly with his “millionaire’s roulade”, deciding to scrap his first sponge and go again (“Good enough isn’t good enough”) while Jane asserted her credentials with the annoucement that she makes roulade “reasonably frequently”. But Andrew was oozing confidence with his tropical roulade (his dad’s recipe, incredibly – how many of your dads have a recipe for tropical roulade, eh?) and he scored highly in the judging, along with Jane and Benji. But Selasi, Candice and Tom looked to be in trouble.
The technical challenge
Marjolaine was the technical challenge, the announcement of which saw Selasi looking perturbed for the first time in the series. (A friend of mine described him earlier this week as “like the Fonz, but with a whisk”.) If you’re not familiar with the marjolaine, it was perhaps best described by Andrew as “like a Vienetta but posher” (“But nothing is posher than a Vienetta” – Sue).
The combination of dacquoise, praline, cream and ganache would bring all the calories to the tent, a calorie party, a calorie annual conference if you will. It was also a multi-stage, multi-tasking nightmare, and Tom once again looked vulnerable after last week’s star baker triumph. “I’ve never made a praline, I’ve never made a caramel,” he said disconsolately – but no one found this challenge easy, from Andrew failing to cut his meringue with the requisite precision, to Selasi’s distinctly chewy finished product. But Andrew, once again, emerged as golden boy.
Tom, Selasi and Jane had it all to do in the showstopper: 24 mini mousse cakes. As they began, Jane said “Good luck, everybody” with the solemn tone of an officer ordering his troops over the top at Ypres. In a blisteringly hot kitchen, the main problem would be getting the mousses to set and, sure enough, mousse after mousse chose to slowly spread outwards and stubbornly refuse to stack. Tom never seemed confident about his “hipster picnic” (essentially mousse sandwiched with sponge) and even less so when he realised he was the only one not using a mould. “This is where it’s all gone wrong,” he said as he wearily reached for his piping bag.
The workload across the benches was phenomenal, from Andrew balancing his “seaside” mousses precariously on a ferris wheel to Jane’s efforts with chocolate that left her looking like she’d fought her mousse hand-to-antler in a Canadian forest. The results, however, were stunning; Jane’s fleur de lis chocolate sponges, Candice’s delicate creations suspended in champagne glasses – but even the ones that didn’t look so great made up for with their flavour; Benji in particular managed to provoke an “oh wow” from Paul, a phrase he normally reserves for his newly-valeted Aston Martin. But it was Andrew who came through to win star baker, and Tom made his way home. It was no shock; even Tom knew already. But he’ll always have his bread week crown to look back on – an accolade that’s the envy of many a Bake Off competitor.