This week’s showpiece dessert calls up the creative juices to flow in the direction of a sticky toffee pudding. Mark’s team’s offering starts with a single chocolate tree, but he intends to recreate the Lake District as a tribute to the pudding’s reputed birthplace. Edible mushrooms and foliage flank a caramel lake, whilst the individual puddings rest on a white-chocolate-coated bank of (ahem) polystyrene. The puddings sound delicious – date sponges with a toffee mousse and vanilla cream, served with phials of local whisky. Dry ice adds a little morning mist to the landscape but it still looks like this Cumbrian excursion’s had a bad trip. Mark looks disappointed. Benoit calls it a big chunk, Cherish says ‘less is more’ and Claire thinks it hasn’t got ‘the flavour profile’, which I suspect is a posh way of saying it’s nothing like a sticky toffee pudding. James from the Hilton team carps that the pudding didn’t really originate in the Lake District anyway. If I were James, I’d avoid walking too close to Ullswater.
Sajeela’s showpiece is a toffee tower made from giant brandy snaps and sugar work. The team’s desserts are date sponge with caramel and plum jelly and vanilla mousse. Sam is crafting sugar petals – an admiring Benoit says ‘pulling sugar is my thing’, adding it gives him goosebumps. Who knew that sugar pullers have such fun? Toffee smoke threatens to choke the lot of them, but Cherish says it’s ‘very sexily done’. (Responsible public health warning – smoking is not sexy.)
The French team are flying some distance from the original pudding with a black treacle dacquoise, date and apricot compote and caramel mousse. Sebastien blows a flamingo, which is not something you hear very often, but its flaccid form has all the finesse of a rubber chicken. Benoit asks, ‘Have you worked with sugar before?’ Cherish isn’t content with their sweet confections either, saying ‘crystallisation is a no-no in the sugar world’. I love the notion that she lives on a different planet.
Inspecting their gateaux, Claire complements the team on how clean they are around the bottoms, which is always a relief to discover, but sadly they finish in bottom place. So it’s Sajeela, James and Sam who get a pass to the semi-final, but Mark, Helen and Samantha are still in with a chance as they take the lead as the highest scoring runners-up so far. It would be a nail-biting week of waiting for them if it hadn’t all been recorded months ago.
But let’s give the final word to the bidet-fresh trio from Comptoir Gourmand, who, in the time-honoured tradition of game show contestants who’ve just lost the jackpot, asked if they’ve had a lovely day anyway, say it was ‘une bonne experience’.