One thing I will say for doing two episodes a week–the contestants are dropping like flies on The Great British Baking Show. We’re already to recapping Week 6, and most of our chaff has exited the tent. Meanwhile the strongest contenders seem to be chugging right along towards the finale: Ian, who is three-time Star Baker Winner, Nadiya, the only other person in the tent who has won that title besides him.
Along with them are Flora, who may never have won anything, but is always impressive, even if she over does, Paul, Tamal, and Mat who have had flashes of brilliance, and Alvin who….ok, maybe there’s some chaff left.
This is Pastry week, with a Signature challenge made up of Frangipane tarts, a Technical of Flaounes and a Show Stopper of two types of Vol-au-vents. Yes, everything this week is European, foreign foods I’ve never eaten, and most importantly, unpronounceable. How badly will our contestants stumble having to say Vol-au-vents five times fast? Has anyone even seen a Flaoune? And how many bad puns can Sue come up with from the word Frangipane?
A Frangipane tart is named actually for the tart filling, which is an almond paste type cream, but very thick. So everyone’s tarts are an almond paste type base and then a variety of fruit toppings. But just as you thought it was safe to assume that everyone knows what they’re doing, mat looks up in surprise that everyone is making their dough crust by using mixers. Somehow he’s never used one? I’m sorry, is this not the 21st century?
The crust involves “blind baking,” which somehow never has Sue making blind jokes–somehow, despite the 21st century nature of the competition, one might have thought she would. And of course, with blind baking versus non-blind bakings comes Paul and Mary’s favorite naughty double entendre to throw around the tent: the Soggy Bottom.
Let’s see who’s bottoms are clean and dry.
- Ian: Pear&Raspberry Frangipane Tart Pass, but Mary disapproved of the lack of glaze, and Paul said it looked unfinished
- Nadiya: Bay Leaf, Rong Tea&Pear Tart Pass, but her bottom was slightly soggy
- Mat: Piña Colada Frangipane Tart Pass, but Mary wanted more rum.
- Flora: Apricot&Rosemary Frangipane Tart Fail, Mary scolded her to stop trying to do so much, and Paul noticed where she tried to hide where it burnt.
- Paul: Christmas Frangipane Tart Pass, unequivocally.
- Alvin: Plum Frangipane Tart Fail. Overbaked crust, insides are underdone
- Tamal: Spiced Pear Frangipane Tart Pass. Paul wasn’t pleased with the design, but the tart was baked to perfection.
So the good news is that no one in the tent had ever heard of flaounes either. The bad news is that no one in the tent had ever heard of the thing they now had two hours to make. Turns out they’re a cheese filled pastry from Cyprus. And that Paul has not given them any details as to how to fold them up or what the final product should be shaped like. In fact the entire process was so confusing, Flora found that she had been transported back to bread week, and had to remind herself that we were nearly a month along from that Week 3 challenge.
So which flaounes flounced? (Do flaounes flounce?)
7. Tamal: So wrong, he didn’t manage sesame seeds on the outside
6. Alvin: Paul Hollywood called them “pizzas”
5. Paul: Too haphazard in shape
4. Nadiya: The pastry was too thick
3. Ian: The judges called them “cornish flaounes.”
2. Flora: Only issue was it was too flat
1. Mat: He swore this was sheer luck
On to the Show Stopper, in which our contestants had to make two sets of 24 Vol-au-vents. A Vol-au-vents, for those who are too young to remember, are a 1970s party staple of savory and sweet fillings inside a puff pastry shell. it’s a great day to be struggling to make one’s own puff pastry as well, as The Great British Summer Weather has decided to strike again. It is not just raining, but pouring cats and dogs outside the tent, to the point that even the judges can’t help but comment on how heavily it’s coming down. Good thing the tent magically doesn’t leak!
Now I feel the need to note that here in the US, Food Network regularly (and I mean *regularly*) tells the audience not to try making puff pastry at home. Even their stand and stir chefs (of which there are increasingly few on the main network as they are shifted to Cooking Channel) never make puff pastry in front of us, but pull out store-bought. That’s because of the butter and laminating difficulty of making the damn stuff. Here, not only are our amateur bakers making it from scratch and laminating, but they’re doing it in extremely wet and humid conditions. This causes the butter to harden and pucker, to the point that both Nadiya and Mat have dough that looks like cellulite. Mat decides time is more important and keeps going. Nadiya decided to remake.
“There’s always enough time,” says she. There isn’t. Nadiya’s choice to remake causes her to run straight into a trainwreck situation, and winds up serving the fillings in bowls and the puff pastries in a pile next to them, while Mat’s? Come out perfect, proving there was no need to remake to begin with. It was just the weather.
Let us consider the hits of the 70s as we consider the hits of the Vol-au-vents.
Mat’s His ‘n’ Hers Vol-au-vents Paul Hollywood loves them, calling them gorgeous and the flavors “Well thought out.”
Paul’s Savoury&Sweet Bouchées Some of his puff pastries were raw, but the flavors were deemed ok.
Flora’s Asparagus&Parma Ham/Praline&Chocolate Vol-au-vents Mary says they look a picture, and no extra things to distract from them.
Tamal’s Chicken&Coriander/Fennel&Rosemary Pulled Pork Vol-au-vents Mary called them topsy-turvy and pale, but “well filled.”
Ian’s Vol-au-vents “Terre et Mer” The black squid ink ones look like they’re filled with tar, and no one likes the flavor.
Nadiya’s Bengali Korma/Clementine with Cod Vol-au-vents Paul Hollywood is crushed that she started again and failed on her second round, because the flavors of her fillings are “the best in the tent.”
Alvin’s Salmon en Croûte/Chicken à la King Vol-au-Vents Wobbly looking and raw in the center. And the flavors aren’t strong.
Star Baker this week goes to Mat, who had a spectacular back to back with perfect vol-au-vents and winning the technical. Nadiya’s flavor’s save her from heading home, and instead or final wobbly contestant, Alvin, heads home.