Desserts. Well, that can mean a number of different things so I was rather surprised at the challenges this week.
Tortes vs Tarts
This week the bakers’ first brief was to create a torte – a multiple layered dessert over 20cm in diameter. Mary Berry was looking for something that “looks special, has lots of different layers and flavours that compliment”.
I must say, the ‘brief’ is something I must have read at least a dozen times to make sure I was encompassing all of the elements the judges were looking for. Cathryn and Sarah-Jane should perhaps have done the same as their tortes were rather lacking in layerage!
The bakers also had an additional challenge as they were not allowed to use ordinary wheat flour. My heroes in this round were Danny and Brendan. Danny with her wonderful use of potato flour and blackberry curd which is a favourite in my house too. And Brendan for his chestnut flour and lemon verbena. I think Paul was being very harsh in his critical comments about 70’s styling! They both looked stunning in my view.
‘Clever and cosy’ James had a gorgeous combo too – Passion Fruit and Dark Chocolate but poor John this week who created ‘an intimidating cake’ which looked like a “chocolate breeze block” in Paul’s opinion. Again, I think this was very harsh but agree that it was rather on the large side.
Who knew there was so much history and scandal involving sugar? This week Sue Perkins talked us through sweet poisoning, politics and the pioneering reforms of then Prime Minister William Gladstone who abolished sugar taxes and brought prices within the means of the ordinary citizen and this is when dessert making really kicked off in the UK. I for one, am glad it did as without that would we indeed have The Great British Bake Off at all?
Crème Caramel, or "Whole eggs or egg yolks?"
Mary chose a classic dessert for the technical challenge this week: a crème caramel. It required the bakers to “make a custard” which to my surprise confused so many of them. I learned how to make custard at school in home economics and remember being utterly bored at the waiting and then suddenly panicking at the sheer speed at which the thickening process happened. The younger contestants could perhaps have done with my teacher Mrs Evans breathing down their necks because most completely messed this challenge up. I guess the confusion was how much to let the custard thicken and for crème caramel the answer is not at all. It gets poured into the ramekins straight away.