Week six of The Great British Bake Off saw the contestants grapple with puddings, strudels and the right royal Queen of Puddings. How did the remaining magnificent seven fare? Former contestant Urvashi Roe, the Botanical Baker, gives a run-down of last night's episode.
After the “hot, saucey, spongey” dialogue from Mel and Sue to intro this programme, I’m starting to wonder if this is now about baking at all! In fact the innuendos have gone rather crazy on Twitter but it was rather gratifying to see #GBBO trending on Twitter last night. Who would have though baking would be so popular again.
The remaining “magnificent seven” were asked this week to make two types of mini sponges – either baked, boiled or steamed. Six of each. (It’s a baking show so personally I think allowing ‘boiling’ was a bit outside of the remit). The judges were looking for a “light sponge with a sticky topping or served with ice cream”. Any underbaking results in a gooey middle and over baking in a dry cake like mixture.
Personally I didn’t see the difficulty in this challenge other than time. Getting two different types done in two hours would require a lot of juggling and I think this challenge was there to catch the disorganised.
Sticky Toffee Puddings were the order of the day for John, Brendan and Sarah Jane as well as Chocolate Fondants for Ryan and Danny. I love the way James brings a little of Scotland into each week. This week it was Clooties which didn’t quite turn out as he expected. They looked like a sticky, gooey mess but I loved how he ingeniously used a blow torch to dry them out.
Danny was in despair as her chocolate fondants fell on the floor when coming out of the oven. Accidents happen. You all remember the lovely Rob from last year dropping his cake on the floor on week one? What I remember is lots of expletives and Paul Hollywood rushing to have a taste before it was swept away! Secretly I was incredibly grateful as I was having a chocolate disaster of my own at the time. The judges forgive accidents so I knew she’d be fine as long as they tasted great. But the judges were divided. Paul was adamant that she get marked down for puddings that were not bold and upright but Mary was insistent the flavours were there and all home cooks have accidents.
The most original were Cathryn’s Walnut whip inspired sponges. I loved Walnut Whips and though her rice pudding filling was undercooked, both judges loved the idea and taste.
Sugar Wizards of Days Gone By
The historical interlude focused on confectioners this week and was rather short, and not as interesting, as previous weeks in my view. I would have liked to have seen more of the contraptions used by these amazing “sugar wizards” as Sue called them. I loved the idea of the Cabinet Pudding. How thrifty the cooks of old were in using up bits of leftover sponge to make wonderful towers using custard or ice cream. I guess the modern day equivalent would be cake pops which is what I thought this was leading up to for the technical challenge.
The Queen of Baking Sets a Regal Technical Challenge
It was the turn of a Mary Berry recipe this week – The Queen of Puddings – Layers of baked custard, jam topped with crunchy and marshmallow like meringue. She was looking for three distinct layers and not a “right Royal mess”.
The challenge was of course to get the right setting point for the custard and the jam. Most had not made jam before so the instruction from Mary to “make the jam” was taken with bafflement and bewilderment.
And Now For The Science Bit!
There is a lot of great science in the show this year. Mel explained how the egg protein changes shape to set the custard but will crack if overheated. With meringue she explained how the protein molecules trap the air to stiffen the egg but over whipping weakens the structure so it collapses. I do hope teachers across the country embrace this national enthusiasm for baking and incorporate a little of this into their lesson planning!
Overall the results were good. The only Royal mess was from James who up until now has been consistent. Brendan came top followed by the lovely Danny and I was keeping my fingers crossed for her this week for the Star Baker accolade.
What a brilliant challenge this week. When I lived in Germany my flatmate used to bring home amazing strudel from her grandmother and I wish now I had gone with her to visit all those times. What a fabulous, therapeutic pastime it must be and I am compelled to give it a go despite even Mary admitting that it’s the one pastry she buys.
What the judges were looking for was crisp and wafer thin pastry with a soft and succulent filling. It was great to see some savoury fillings in the mix too because baking is now all about the sweet stuff as many tend to forget. Brendan’s Spinach, Cheese and Walnut was my favourite and he was as cool as a cucumber about the whole process too. Where others were grinding their teeth and falling into a sweat filled panic about the pastry, he was calmly oiling his arms to ensure the pastry didn’t get stuck and using his flowery tea towel as a guide to ensure his pastry was as thin as it should be. AND he still had time to make some lattice pastry to go on top of his strudel! I think Mary was standing at the back writing all this down to put in her next book!
Sarah Jane nearly got bashed by Paul as he showed her the correct way to knead – “Grab, Twist and Flick”. It reminded me of the scene in Absolutely Blonde 2 in the hairdresser salon and I half expected a shot of them all lined up doing this. Indeed as Sarah Jane demonstrated the technique afterwards to Cathryn, it was highly amusing to see her pastry shoot into the air and land near Danny. I think Danny would have totally lost it if it had hit any of her baking and this I would have liked to see but it was enough to hear Cathryn’s cries of “I’m not serving Mary Berry green carpet!” Fabulous!
More disaster with scenes of blood and dismay for poor John who was taken away from the challenge as the kneading had ruptured his cut. I remember Ian from my series badly cutting his hand during bread week. Blood everywhere. Just reinforces how dangerous the kitchen can be.
So the judges were really torn this week and there was lots of bickering between Mary and Paul. I love it when they argue!
Poor Sarah Jane stood with a tear filled face looking up at the “clouds of impending doom”. I was hoping they wouldn’t let her go this week as her exasperation at every task is becoming very endearing. But she was in the line-up along with James, John and Ryan. The twist was that none of them went out. The judges had both agreed it was too difficult to choose and there would have been a level of unfairness not to include John’s strudel in the mix. Hmmmm. I think they had enough contenders to make a decision and creating anticipation for next week won the pecking order.
Brendan was Star Baker which was pleased about because he had produced perfect and consistent bakes but Danny had done so well too I wished they’d given both of them a joint award this week. She’s getting better as the weeks progress so I think it will be an interesting final if she makes it all the way.
Blog post for Great British Chefs by Urvashi Roe
What did you think of last night's episode of The Great British Bake Off? Have any tips for making strudel or Queen of Puddings? What's your favourite hot sponge pudding? Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.