To recap why they were in that tent on that rainy day is easy. They are all so different but equally worthy of finalist status:
Richard has oodles of positivity and precision and of course we'll never forget him being Star Baker a phenomenal five times.
Luis is one of the most creative and imaginative bakers I've seen in that tent. He is a true artist with his flavour combinations and his bakes.
Nancy is experienced, down to earth, unphased by anything and consistently brilliant. Plus I love how she refuses to call the male judge anything but the male judge.
The Final Signature - Viennoiserie
What a wonderful challenge to end the show. The finalists had to bake 2 different types of Viennoiserie in just 3 and 1/2 hours. Bonkers! How the heck do you make laminated pastry with fillings in that timeframe?? As Luis said, I'm sure Paul would know how having spent so much of his life churning these lovelies out. Paul was all about the layers and the flakes and the bounce. I think Mary just wanted to join Mel and Sue in a nibble off.
Luis has chosen Chassons for his first bake. Little semi circular puffs filled with apple, walnut, raisins and cheese. An unusual addition with the cheese but I liked it. His second choice was Pain Au White Chocolat with Raspberries. Pain Au White Chocolat. Genius name.
Nancy was making Almond and Raspberry Croissants and Lemon and Apple Kites. Great ideas which were met with nods of much approval from the judges.
Richard was keeping it simple this week. Too simple according to Paul. Dangerously simple in fact. He was inspired by childhood tastes and chose a Pain Au Lait and then Pain Au Chocolats with Pears.
After this intro there followed much butter bashing as the contestants rolled it straight and thin to wrap pastry around. Well two of them anyway. Richard was pasting his butter on with what looked suspiciously like a wallpaper brush but that's by the by. He was met with the eyes from Paul critically looking on from the sidelines. This could make it doughy we learned. And indeed it did. His speciality pain au chocolats were buttery dough without any layers at all despite having a great bake on the outside and great flavours. Paul could also not get over the fact that Richard's Pain Au Lait had joined together while baking. "It is not a batch bake" He said. Oh dear.
Luis did really well with his chaussons. Great bake. Great flavour and beautifully uniform. BUT his raspberry and cream cheese were chalky and 'flakiness' had been impacted by the wet raspberries. Oh dear.
Nancy's kites soared with the judges. Great layers and beautiful flavours. I must try apple and lemon. Most intriguing combo. However her raspberry croissants had collapsed inside as they had not been proved enough so were a bit doughy. Oh dear.
Good and bad feedback for all. It was a tough one to choose a standout winner at this stage but I'd say Nancy just crept into the lead.
Well. We have only ever seen one bake per technical challenge right? This year for the final they went for three. Yes three completely different technical bakes. Basic bakes but three nonetheless. "It's a really nice one" says mary on her way out. Meaning it would be a really horrible one!
It wasn't too bad by the sounds of it. 12 mini victoria sandwiches. 12 scones. 12 tarte au citrons. Hmmm not difficult to bake for these pros. Then they announced the time limit. 2 hours. WHAAAAATTTT??!!! That's bloody impossible I thought! Of course there were no instructions but I think they did at least have some measures. Let's just look at what their "to do" list could have looked like.
- make pastry
- freeze pastry
- make jam - good not runny jam
- make scone dough
- make scone dough again - if you are Richard and added two eggs instead of saving one for glazing
- cut 12 scones
- refrigerate 12 scones
- bake 12 scones
- protect 12 scones from being scoffed by Crew and Mel and Sue
- make cake batter
- divide cake batter into twelve super equal portions
- watch cake batter in oven so it doesn't burn or sink or rise too much
- let cakes cool
- whip cream
- put whipped cream in piping bag
- pipe cream
- dollop jam
- rescue cakes from Mel and Sue and Crew
- eggwash scones
- bake scones
- cool scones
- arrange bakes on three tiered thingie
AND A WHOLE LOT MORE INBETWEEN AND WE HAVEN'T EVEN GOT TO THE TART FILLING AND CHOCOLATE PIPING YET!!!!
PHEW! I do think they should have done this bit to some Benny Hill music with Mel and Sue running through and around the tent with the crew in trail perhaps. They didn't but it was a flurry of activity nonetheless.
They all finished baking. They all presented bakes. They all looked knackered!
Luis was judged first. Pale scones. No glaze. No taste. Thick pastry. Overcooked pastry. No piping in cakes. Runny jam. Barely any lemoney filling. No chocolate piping. Oh dear.
Nancy next. Nice scones. Nice colour. Nice shine on tarts. Great piping on tarts but no piping in cakes. Hmmm not bad.
Richard last. Nice scones, Runny jam. Tarte Au Colons with scrambled egg filling. oh dear.
Richard the third, Luis the second and Nancy the first.
"They could have chosen a British bake for the final round" said Twitter. Well they could have but what they chose was a perfect mix of challenges to let the bakers show all their skills and their passions. The had to design and make a Piece Montee with a difference. They had to showcase cake, choux, sugar work and petit fours in a magnificent design - in 5 hours.
Luis was inspired by the town of Poynton. A mining town where he'd grown up. He created a mining wheel of choux buns on a cake of two layers - chocolate and orange and orange and almond. There was chocolate and hazelnut in there somewhere too as well as peppermint.
Nancy's cheeky side came out in this final showstopper. She chose Moulin Rouge. Burlesque and red and black. A 4 layer cake with a windmill body made of croquembouche, red caramel sails and gingerbread and shortbread decorations around the edges.
Richard also opted for a windmill inspired by his hometown of Mill Hill in North London. A sponge hill with meringue mushrooms, elderflower drizzle, ginger cake and orange cake, praline and choux.
Wow! There was an amazing flurry of activity (not least by Mel and Sue as they searched for scraps and leftovers)