The Great British Baking Show decided to go a little off the beaten path for this weekend’s first of another double episode week. Instead of “Bread” or “Cake’ this week’s theme was “Victorian.” One would have thought this a perfect moment to tie in PBS’ upcoming drama series Victoria into things, but sadly, this was taped for the BBC in 2015, and that doesn’t even begin to air until September of this year on rival ITV. So much for potential cross overs.
As a reminder, for those whose PBS stations are airing these shows on Sundays, once a week like god and the BBC originally intended, the recap for your episode (episode 5, “Pastry” can be found here.) For the rest of us, let’s get on with this historical bakes.
The Signature Challenge this week was Raised Game Pie. The Technical was a “Tennis Cake” which is just as ludicrous as it sounds, and really could have done with Mrs. Patmore wandering around lecturing the bakers. The Showstopper really was a showstopper. A 19th century dessert known as a “Charlotte Russe,” which has zero relation to the fashion design house of the same name. On the other hand, it much be a pretty tasty dessert, as Paul Hollywood at one point stopped the proceedings to declare this challenge “Best. Idea. Ever.”
The Raised Game Pie was a dinner table status symbol for the middle classes, and yet no one thought to put four or twenty blackbirds in any of their creations. Instead they took the form of different sorts of meat pies from rabbit to pheasant to Ian’s pie, which was “roadkill.” (I suppose it was the only way he could bring the ingredients from his own property, but I do hope from now on he sticks to bringing stuff from the garden instead.) Mat mistook this as a chance to go all Antiques Roadshow on the proceedings and brought in a tin to bake it in from 1850. (No one appraised it for him though.)
Meanwhile, Flora’s anxiety reached Peak Oven Kneeling Freakout as she overstuffed her pie and spent most of the time opening and closing the oven so she could freak out over the thermometer readings, letting the heat out of the oven and prolonging her needed baking times even further.
- Mat: Raised Venison&Pigeon Pie Pass. Mary praised it as looking the part, which was entirely due to the tin, not Mat.
- Ian: Roadkill Pie Fail. His pie was in the shape of a Twitter bird and deemed not decorated enough.
- Nadiya: Aromatic Game Pie Pass. Paul called it a strong bake, but too spiced.
- Tamal: Middle Eastern Game Pie Pass. So good it earned a Hollywood handshake.
- Paul: Not a Boaring Pie Fail. It was called a great concept, but it fell down in execution.
- Flora: Game Pie with Shallot&Apple Chutney Should Have Failed. In order to get the middle done, she burnt the pastry. The judges were surprisingly light on her though.
The technical was a Tennis Cake, and I cannot begin to explain the sheer level of anal that making this cake was. In fact, I’m not even going to go into major detail, you can see the recipe on the BBC website here. Suffice to say it is a fruit cake, which takes forever to bake, topped with Almond Paste, covered in Fondant and then topped with Royal Icing to make a 3D net, tennis rackets and the court lines.
For some–well, Mat–the sheer amount of skills required for this cake were overwhelming. But more to the point was the sheer scale of Mat’s failures over the course of the afternoon. Where everyone else made fondant you could roll out for the green tennis court, he made actual wet icing (that was far more grass-green than the tennis courts lighter green.) Though Sue tried to help (“Mate, don’t let a fondant tennis court be the end of you”), at every turn he seemed to guess wrong, leading to the best and funniest exchange of the season between him and Nadiya, who nailed the cake despite not having clue one what a tennis court looked like. (Don’t these people watch Andy Murray? For gods sake!)
Nadiya: Is this your… Icing?
Mat: Yeah… I probably left it in the oven too long.
6th: Mat: Icing. Yellow. Oven. Fail.
5th: Ian: No net, underbaked
4th: Flora: Net fell down, overbaked
3rd: Tamal: No net, center collasped
2nd: Paul: Net partly collapsed
1st: Nadiya: Like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.
Onward to the Charlotte Russe. Paul Hollywood was so excited describing it to the audience at home, he bounced up and down like a kid counting down to Christmas. Unlike some Showstoppers, this confection came with some very standardized details that everyone had to follow. The outside had to be made of ladyfingers, the inside had to have Bavarois (known in the US as Bavarian cream) and the equivalent of 1800s jello in layers. Outside of that, the details were up to the bakers, who went from simple fruit decor–or in the case of Paul, not so simple, as he carved apples and oranges into swans. And then there was Ian, who decided the only way not to go home this week was to bake an entire crown for his Charlotte Russe and have a coronation for his dessert for the judges.
Let’s get right to them.
Flora’s Raspberry, Pomegranate&Champagne Charlotte Russe Why do the bakers insist on using pomegranate when they know Paul Hollywood hates it? The judges would have graded her dessert higher, but for the pomegranate.
Nadiya’s Mango&Raspberry Charlotte Russe The judges loved it, though he ladyfingers were deemed a little flat.
Paul’s Charlotte Rose His jelly wasn’t set…it looked like a blood river when they cut it open. Those carved fruits earned high marks though.
Ian’s Victoria’s Crown Charlotte Russe Mary called it spectacular. And indeed it was, making up for his poor showings in the first two rounds.
Mat’s Strawberry Charlotte Russe So many things went wrong, including his outer sponge finger layer cracking. Inside wasn’t set, and the decor was just simple yet rushed. Even so, the flavor was so good, it caused Paul Hollywood to call this the “Best Challenge Ever.”
Tamal’s Spiced Blackberry, Raspberry&Cardamom Charlotte Russe The judges were bowled over by his desert’s outer appearance, with the swirls on the ladyfingers and the piled high toppings of berries and macaroons.
But it was the inside, where he had managed to do something no one else had: a bottom jelly layer that was set so perfectly it held the cream layer, that even Sue let out an “Oh, Sir!” of pride and delight.
Nadiya may have come in first on the Technical this week, but the Hollywood handshake, and the ultra impressive Russe were too much for her to overcome. Tamal finally gets the Star Baker he deserves. Sadly, mat, for his utter collapse in the back half of the day left the tent.
Tomorrow: The Quarter Finals.