Claire seems to be making her presence felt more this week, which isn’t easy when you’re teamed with the incendiary personalities that are the smouldering Benoit and sparky Cherish. Striding out in fiery orange, she boldly claims a little more airtime, progressing nicely from last week’s ‘Claire consults her notes’ and ‘Claire gives a knowing nod’. She announces that this week’s showpiece challenge is a spectacular reworking of lemon meringue pie. Then she steps back.
Benoit thinks that Christophe’s team is playing it safe, with delicate sugar coils that he says are easy to achieve. What does he want, I wonder? Julien thinks he has the answer – pumping air into a tube of sugar to craft the body of a swan. It’s a tense moment as he and George ease its gossamer wings from a silicone mat, like sugar veterinarians, whilst Tom flaps around trying not to distract them.
The sugar bird perches above a flock of miniature swans, some with hazelnut-topped tonka bean (again) pastry shells and others with a raspberry, rose and lychee sorbet. Tragically, by judgement time, there’s a little swan lake of dripping sorbet. Claire is pleasantly surprised, but Benoit thinks they’ve just served lemon meringue pies with sorbet. Cherish says she won’t remember it and, along with the team’s hopes, the sugar swan comes crashing to the ground.
So has Christophe’s team fared any better? Well the ‘playing it safe’ sugar coils look lovely atop glazed lemony domes of mousse and curd. Stunning marbled sugar plinths support their desserts. Benoit thinks there’s too much acidity and Cherish complains about gelatine again but she says that Christophe’s trick of hiding plastic bottles of raspberry coulis in leftover lemon skins has brightened her day. I wonder how she reacts to a squeezy Jif lemon on Pancake Day.
Finally, Neil and his team produce a tower of abstract sugar work with four large lemon meringue entremets. With lemon curd, yuzu mallow and a sablé Breton biscuit, their desserts come with pipettes of flavoured gels including cassis and avocado. The judges are confused by the flavours and I’m left wondering what the stuff that looks like bits of bathroom sponge is.
As the scores are announced, Julien’s team fails to rise from third place, Neil and the Gleneagles gang stay second and Christophe, Valeria and Josua set off for the semi-finals. Josua musters a smile, safe in the knowledge that he can make a sugar cake stand if he doesn’t ultimately win. Oh, and Christophe’s happy to brighten anyone’s day with a squeeze of his raspberry coulis.