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Great British Bake Off 2017: forgotten bakes recap

Great British Bake Off 2017: forgotten bakes recap

by Howard Middleton 18 October 2017

The quarter-final of this year's Bake Off sees the five remaining bakers tackle the cakes and pies that time forgot. Howard Middleton lets us know how they fared.

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It’s unknown territory but Liam is confident the route to success is to ‘just bang out three good bakes’. Not an easy task when unfamiliarity is your travelling companion. Sustenance for the journey comes in the form of this week’s signature bake – four Bedfordshire clangers with a suet crust – savoury at one end and sweet at the other.

Kate says her Bedfordshire clangers have gone on holiday as Mexican bean burrito flavour is partnered with a Caribbean banana, rum and raisin. Liam thinks his perfect pastry should have a ‘melt in the mouth sort of situation’. With fillings inspired by takeaway pizza toppings, he’s stuffing his crust with pesto chicken, sundried tomatoes and pine nuts and adding an apple and plum dessert. Paul and Prue look on in disbelief as he tells them he always dunks his slice in a dipping sauce.

Sophie’s take on a takeaway favours Chinese, with char siu marinated pork loin and a banana fritter-ish section with pecan praline and chocolate. Stacey sandwiches Camembert with caramelised onion and rocket for her ‘posh cheese and pickle’. Risking a river of ridicule from the judges, she bravely injects creamy cinnamon custard into fresh apple and blueberry but later weeps ‘they’re all bloody leaking!’

Steven’s Mediterranean flavours pair feta, onions and sweet potato with a sweet and sticky baklava of figs, dates and orange blossom. He sticks to traditional proportions of one third sweet to two thirds savoury whilst everyone else goes half and half. Sandi describes his doughy division as a ‘little Berlin Wall of pastry’. Steven worries it’s more of a Trump wall, then observes ‘I’ve got a huge clanger’, which sounds scarily like one of the president’s more subtle chat-up lines.

Too short on time to decorate, Kate predictably predicts another ‘disaster’ then literally drops a clanger. The judges decide that even those that haven’t been rescued from the carpet still ‘look a bit of a mess’. Under-baked and needing more seasoning, Kate’s clangers are favourably rebalanced by a good sweet end.

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Sophie’s pastry is ‘well baked but a little too thick’ and Prue is disappointed by the savoury filling’s ‘predominantly soy flavour’. Her sweet side fares slightly better – Prue gives a surprising wink like a classy costermonger and says ‘lovely flavour – a bit dry’.

Paul critiques Steven’s delicate clanger – it’s ‘not very robust if you’re carrying that into a field’, perhaps forgetting that every Bake Off bake is essentially field-based, albeit the toil of a very gentile meadow. Taking a bite, Paul admires the ‘beautiful flavour’ and Prue adds that the baklava is ‘absolutely delicious’.

Liam’s fragile pastry also fails the clanger banging resistance test but Prue admires his fillings – ‘so good at flavour’. The little dips prove to be superfluous. Stacey, however, achieves a perfect balance with firm but flaky pastry and ‘beautiful flavours’. Prue praises, ‘I’m amazed that you got such good texture’ and Paul seals his admiration with a handshake.

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Technical challenge

Heavy showers herald the onset of this week’s technical challenge of Cumberland Rum Nicky. Steven pithily summarises – ‘an alcoholic tart with a lattice top – sounds like a perfect drag queen’. Having been advised by Paul that it’s ‘all about precision’, the bakers discover they have no measuring jug or spoons. Steven inexplicably resorts to estimating fifty millilitres of rum in the cup of his hand, like a man with some experience of palm-based calibration.

Fortunately still equipped with rulers, the bakers score out the required fourteen pastry lengths and begin to weave their ways to a criss-cross lattice. Steven however attempts a precisely slashed and stretched lattice, which frankly flops. Abandoning his individual approach, he hurriedly chases the criss-cross crowd and produces a slightly scrappy but well-baked tart, magically transforming his fate from Nicky novice to Cumberland sorcerer. Stacey bites back at Paul when told she has too many strips on her lattice, then has to eat her words at a recount. Poor Liam’s pale offering seals the raw deal of last place.

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The showstopper

This week’s showstopper is an elaborately shaped and sugar-crusted Savoy cake, which, along with the Prince Albert party ring, is a now forgotten feature of the Victorian buffet table. ‘Traditionally seldom eaten’, our bakers must craft an edible edifice rising from a cake base. I could listen to Sandi Toksvig say ‘sponge plinth’ all day.

In a budget-conscious staycation version of the historical segment, Sandi narrates a brief history of the Savoy cake whilst the camera fixes on a rotating exemplar that appears to be ‘sometimes lightly decorated’ with bits of paper doily.

Steven is dispensing with the doily in favour of a decorative bouquet of handcrafted fondant flowers. They’re skilfully arranged on a modest but stylish cake flavoured with chestnut purée, rum and orange that has a moist core of cinnamon apples. Precisely studded with candied walnuts, Steven tosses his pan and warns of the danger of a face full of hot nuts.

Stacey’s cake is anything but restrained as she crams her lemon and orange sponges with macarons, madeleines, jellies and meringues. Attacking her mammoth task with feisty fervour she even manages to unhinge her oven door.

Topped with a silver fondant Liver bird, Kate’s towering homage to her home city’s architecture features enough eggs to make a chicken wince. With over sixty in her bowl, Kate plans to ‘go big or go home’.

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Sophie’s citrus cake is sandwiched with yuzu buttercream and encircled by a croquembouche of choux balls filled with green apple diplomat cream. Topped by a chocolate flower, Prue calls it ‘a perfect shape’ and says it’s ‘spectacular to look at’. Despite being ‘quite chewy’ Prue decides the flavour is ‘very pleasant’ and Paul adds ‘love that green apple flavour’.

Hoping for a magical comeback with his lemon and elderflower cake, Liam crafts chocolate wands and adds potion bottles of bourbon caramel sauce. Cloaking his cake in a wizardly web of spun sugar he watches his dreams dissolve into dampness. With faint flavours too, Prue calls it ‘a really great idea’ but adds ‘I don’t think you quite pulled it off’.

Kate suffers even more of her self-proclaimed ‘disasters’ along the way, with a crumbling plinth cake and a broken Liver bird, but she improvises with a little restorative chocolate. ‘Lightly decorated’ in the classic Savoy style, Paul decides it’s ‘a bit simplistic’ and most layers are ‘a bit dry’ but Kate’s pecan cake is ‘delicious’.

Steven’s cake also gets a ‘delicious’ from Paul, who adds it’s ‘very pretty’. The judges look at Stacey’s monumental sugar fest and admit the cakes are good. ‘Overall you’ve gone slightly OTT on the decoration’ says Paul, whilst Prue suggests ‘probably a titch overambitious’. Nevertheless, Stacey’s over-ambition wins the day as she’s made Star Baker.

I begin to wonder if my baker bias is an unwitting curse as loveable Liam is the latest to follow in my favourites’ footsteps. I vow not to disclose any preference for who is left.

Liam bravely blubs that this is not the end, promising that in a couple of years ‘I’m coming for Paul Hollywood’s job’. And in a tantalising insight of next week’s episode Paul promises ‘the hardest decision that I’ve been involved with in eight years of the Bake Off’. Could it be retirement? Liam, you may be back sooner than you thought.

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