There was a distinctly sombre mood this week from the start. The music was slower. The bakers looked tense and agitated. There was some light humour with exaggerated accents from Mel and Sue and I loved the lingering shots of snails as the show went all French in theme.
Perfect petit fours
First up were Petit Fours. In the last series this was one of the final bakes so I was really interested to see what the contestants would come up with. They were tasked with three different baking styles and had to present twelve of each. I thought this was a tough one and as Paul and Mary both said, it was all about time management. Paul was looking for flavoursome, little mouthfuls – small, exquisite and perfect.
Perfection has been the name of the game with Brendan and his objective was uniformity, great flavours and contrast. He certainly delivered this with his amazing Choux Pastry Cygnets. These were pure class and raised the game in the tent to a new level. His Coffee Meringues with Hazelnut Cream and Apricot Friands looked equally amazing. Real showstopper quality.
The other three semi finalists opted to include macarons of some variation. Chilli, Lime and Raspberry for James, Blackberry and Peppermint for Danny and Chocolate and Cherry for John. I think after last year’s macaron shenanigans, avid viewers will know how tricky these little blighters are and it was great to see no disasters.
There was an even spread of ‘Mmmmm’ and ‘great flavours’ married with a few ‘nice bake’ and ‘scrummy’ comments but overall all the contestants did well except John. His presentation ‘looked terrible’ according Paul and it wasn’t ‘exciting’ enough for Mary which was a shame as the idea of ‘bejewelled’ Madeleines was something I was looking forward to seeing.
The grandfather of the home oven and the patron saint of baking
They really pulled out some great interludes this week. I was fascinated to learn about Alexis Soyer – the man who brought the gas oven into British homes and kept those soldiers well fed during the Crimean war. He even had time to create soup kitchens and some of the first recipe books of the time.
And Saint Honore – the 6th Century bishop who got the title of ‘Patron Saint’ of Baking after a miracle witnessed by his nanny. She refused to believe that this 6 year old boy would become a bishop. She said she’d only believe it if the orange peel she was baking sprouted flowers which of course they did.