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Great British Bake Off 2015, Week 5 - Alternative Ingredients Week

Great British Bake Off 2015, Week 5 - Alternative Ingredients Week

by Howard Middleton 03 September 2015

With the somewhat left field theme of 'alternative ingredients' this week on Bake Off, who better to take us through the episode than Howard Middleton, a former contestant and himself a master of gluten-free baking.

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This week Bake Off has gone all alternative. Well it still came on at 8pm, on BBC1, and the theme music hadn’t been replaced with The Age of Aquarius, so I await new avant garde developments in the tent. Hmm, it all looks the same – Mary appears composed in her vibrant pastel, Paul bristles in his provocatively unbuttoned shirt.

It turns out this is ‘alternative ingredients’ week. Yes, it’s back – the week that nobody really knows what to call. First introduced in the quarter final of series 4 (I’m still smarting at getting kicked out before then), this is the episode that aims to show you can take something out without missing it. If only you could say the same about the tent now that Sandy’s gone.

The signature challenge is a ‘sugar-free’ cake, by which the producers mean a cake without sugar from a bag - which is not the same thing in my book. (Incidentally, my book’s out next week, rrp £16.99).

Several bakers sweeten with honey, while others go for agave nectar. Nadiya is championing the alternative by using mulberry molasses. She’s also making a blueberry jam thickened with basil seeds. The unconventional has been unconditionally unleashed.

Ugne is also going off-piste with a cake that’s gluten-free too. She mentions quinoa flour. Mary looks like she may not sleep tonight. Ugne is aiming for a harlequin pattern. It’s ambitious, but I like that. Sadly, she doesn’t quite pull it off and takes refuge in the fridge trying to rescue her molten creation. She describes it as ‘One ugly cake’.

With his rings glazed with plenty of time to spare, Alvin warily eyes the other, still busy bakers
With his rings glazed with plenty of time to spare, Alvin warily eyes the other, still busy bakers
Ugne's cake
Ugne regrets basing her signature bake on Dorret's mousse cake recipe

Mary thinks that Mat’s carrot cake looks like Christmas pudding. Paul contradicts her and decides it’s ‘really nice’. However, when it comes to triple star baker Ian, Paul chides his pears for bringing nothing to the party. The pears feel royally rebuked and shamefully skulk to the nearest off licence.

Tamal’s grapefruit polenta cake gets the thumbs up, as does Paul’s carrot creation. Flora goes overboard with decorative honey madeleines. It looks pretty but is judged stodgy.

Alvin plumps for a fairly classic pineapple upside down cake. As everyone else is whipping up cheesy frostings, he glazes his rings and looks uncomfortable. He worries it’s too simple. He says ‘Oh dear’. It turns out to be ‘superb’.

For the technical challenge, the bakers are tasked to produce gluten-free pittas. It’s bread, but not as they know it. They sniffily sniff their jugs of psyllium husk powder, then switch to autopilot and feel the need to knead. Amateur Paul wisely realises that all this effort is never going to build up the gluten strands when the gluten has gone off for a weekend city break.

Flora won't be investing a bottle of Paul Hollywood's aftershave, L'eau de Psyllium Husk, anytime soon
Flora is not a fan of Tamal's aftershave, L'eau de Psyllium Husk
Nadiya pockets the pitta victory and is simply overjoyed
Nadiya pockets the pitta victory and is simply overjoyed

Mary’s ‘correct’ pronunciation sets everyone searching for that elusive Dickensian character, Peter Pocket.

Anxious Alvin can’t remember what a pitta looks like. He considers oblong and triangular, but settles for circles. Sadly, he finishes in last place. Nadiya shows her natural know-how and nabs the top spot.

The showstopper is a dairy-free ice cream roll. Presumably for copyright reasons, nobody dares to say Arctic Roll and with chilling memories of last year’s Alaskagate, everyone now has their own personal freezer. Mary’s in a carefree mood when she says, ‘We’re really throwing it at them’. Well, it’s one step up from throwing it in a bin.

Pandan ice cream
Alvin attempts to wrap his small sponge around an enormous slab of pandan ice cream
Paul's horror
'Horror has a face ...': Paul watches Alvin's pandan struggles with fear before bravely offering to help

Several bakers are piping intricate decorations onto their Swiss roll tins. Nadiya goes for a pretty henna-inspired paisley batik, Ugne a heavy brocade, and Paul has chosen palm trees… and an unexplained rectangle… with spots. Ever the optimist, Mat is hoping that less is more. He pipes red diagonal lines, and then stops. He can almost hear Mr Hollywood saying ‘neat’, crisply emphasising the ‘t’ in that way only he can. Instead Paul worries him by saying that basics have got to be good.

Ian feels the pressure and thinks he’s planting his palm tree sugar stick into a lump of Parmesan. He means marzipan. Bless. Flora favours a chocolate bûche and Alvin introduces us to the delights of vibrant buko pandan – a Filipino flavouring that looks like Elphaba Thropp’s favourite tipple.

Paul’s unexplained piped rectangle turns out to be a beach towel for a bathing beauty. There’s much hilarity as he tries to perfect her pink bikini gusset.

Mel and Sue advise Paul on creating the perfect gusset
Ugne's roll
Ugne's take on the Arctic Roll pays homage to the plight of the polar ice caps

Mat loses his ice cream and Flora misplaces her sponge, but in those fateful final minutes, an emotional Nadiya is deservedly revered as the guru of the alternative and poor Ugne is set ‘free-from’ the tent.

We finish with a preview of next week’s pastry episode, which shows Paul licking his lips and saying, ‘Your plums aren’t cooked, either’. I suspect I’ll have sweet dreams tonight.

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