We’ve reached the Quarter finals. In honor of that milestone, PBS has calmed the hell down about two episodes a night and allowed us to basked in a single hour of Baking Show this weekend, with the Finals scheduled for next week. But as always, this was only a suggestions, so only about half the PBS stations across the country are anywhere near this point. If your local station is one of those who is still rolling along on Sunday evenings, doing one episode a week, as god a the BBC intended, the recap for your episode episode 6, “Pastry” can be found here.)
We’re down to the Top Four, and though I have seen several complaints that poor little Flora should not have made it this far, I have to say that this Top Four is a very good Top Four. Remember, neither Flora nor Paul had ever won Star Baker, so either of them would be walking in this week at a disadvantage. Everyone else has at least won it once. Though with five Star Baker awards between them, it’s not hard to view Ian and Nadiya as the favorites for the finals.
Our Quarter Finals are focusing on Chocolate. Chocolate Tarts for the Signature, Chocolate Soufflé for the Technical and Chocolate Centrepieces for the Showstopper. Now, let’s pretend that Sue and Mel did not just do that terrible American accent and that Forrest Gump reference and get to the bakes.
Chocolate surprisingly seems to intimate our Top Four, or perhaps that’s just so that everyone in the audience will take Chocolate seriously. This is a little difficult, especially since Tamal is doing something that’s very familiar to the PBS audience, the New York Chocolate Pie. Flora at least seems out to impress, even if her refusal to stop straying from the brief with unnecessary decorations seems to seal her downfall this episode.
As for our leading contestants, Ian has gone back to what worked, by bringing herbs from home to flavor his pie. (No, not chocolate herbs.) Nadiya is sticking to what has been working for her, which is doing really weird ways to capture flavors out of scientific experimentation and then adding them to desserts you would expect. Though considering this is peanut butter and chocolate, and Reese’s has been advertising how well this works for most of our lives, perhaps the judges won’t be as impressed.
Let’s try these tarts.
Tamal: Chocolate New York Pie Pass. Mary praises the contrast of textures.
Ian: Chocolate&Bay Tart Fail. Mary says she couldn’t taste the bayleaf. Paul calls it a flavor fail.
Nadiya: Peanut Salted Caramel&Chocolate Tart Pass. Even Mary loves it, and she hates peanuts. Paul gives her the Hollywood Handshake.
Flora: Passion Fruit&Chocolate Tart Pass on the tart and Fail on the Macaroons. Good thing it was a tart challenge.
Now, on to the Technical. Back when I watched this on the BBC, the way they did this Soufflé challenge was so dramatic, since you didn’t actually know at first that’s what the Technical was–you just knew they sent everyone out of the tent and then let the bakers back in one at a time. It did not help that they started with Flora, who is the resident Scottish contestant, it almost seemed like the Scottish contestant would be made to work independently of everyone else, due to the upcoming vote at the time.
But knowing now what’s coming, the drama of the one at a time had diminished, but only a small bit. For those at home with me who had not seen it, this was as dramatic for them as it was the first time for me. And at least this way we know that no one can really look at each other’s station, since as the contestants are let in one at a time, they are not anywhere near each other in terms of steps. And the choice also makes sense, since in order to keep the soufflé from collapsing, they need to not all sit out on a table and wait for Mary and Paul to go through their deliberations.
Instead they sit with their backs to the bakers, and try each soufflé delivered by Sue and Mel piping hot out of the ovens.
4th Nadiya: She’s never made a soufflé and it showed.
3rd Ian: He panicked and couldn’t remember how to do anything.
2nd Tamal: He got the height, but not the mix.
1st Flora: Accidentally perfect! What a time to win her first Technical.
And now our Showstopper, Chocolate Centerpieces. Some of the rules–the centerpiece must be three-dimensional. it must feature a “Biscuit” element (meaning chocolate cookies) and above all, it had to feature the most terrifying thing of all: white chocolate, as well as regular. Nadiya seems convinced she’s about to go home, since she came in last on the technical, while Flora is convinced she’s going home, despite coming in first. Tamal apparently hadn’t actually practiced his bake while timing it, which is risky and a bit worrying for the semi-final. Only Ian seems to exude confidence, which is interesting, since the judges consider him the underdog coming in today.
All four go all out for this, since it is the Semi Final, though if I had to pick the one I find the most nerve-wracking it would be Nadiya’s fifty modeling chocolate peacock feathers, followed by Flora’s carousel horses. Flora also seems to have time not on her side, as by the hour call from Sue she’s an hour behind where she wanted to be. Tamal also doubts the scope of his ambition will be realized by when time is called. Once again, only Ian seems to march confidentially through his well creation.
Let’s see who goes up and who falls down.
Tamal’s Chocolate Bell Tower Mary says it thusly: From afar it looks amazing. Close up though, you can see everywhere he rushed, where some of his biscuits were overdone and the messiness of the piping. Still, his technique with the chocolate and his flavors pass muster.
Ian’s Chocolate Well He gets full marks for presentation, and the fact that the bucket works and will pull up a mouthful of white chocolate….until the handle breaks off in Paul’s hand. Oops. They do get the bucket back up using the crankshaft and the flavors are “first-rate,” but thit is all a little too minimalist modern for Mary, who says rather that having the bucket effect he should have shown them more chocolate skills.
Flora’s Cocoa Carousel Mary’s first complaint is that her tempered chocolate bloomed, so nothing is shiny. Everything on the carousel looks flat. But it’s the taste where her work really fails–her chocolate tastes of rising agent, not chocolate.
But when Paul cuts into the roof, that’s when the true fail happens as the walls, which had collapsed several times during assembly, give way all together. Calamity!
Nadiya’s Peacock in Nan’s Door It’s a stunner. It’s the only one with color. Paul calls it a great piece of art, and it only gets better when Mary and Paul discover it tastes as good as it looks.
Even though she came in 4th in the Technical, Nadiya is declared semifinal Star Baker. Ian’s well might have lost his crank, but Flora’s complete collapse was far worse. Flora is out just before the final, leaving us with Nadiya, Ian and Tamal for next week’s finale.