Great British Bake Off 2015, Week 8 - Patisserie Week

Great British Bake Off 2015, Week 8 - Patisserie Week

by Howard Middleton 24 September 2015

It's piping bags at dawn this week in the tent as the bakers are set a host of patisserie challenges. Bake Off series four legend Howard Middleton takes us through the highs, lows and tragic collapses of the quarter finals.

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Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients. He now demonstrates his creative approach to gluten-free baking at numerous food festivals and shows and by teaching baking classes around the country, including at corporate events, commercial promotions and private parties. Howard continues to entertain audiences as a public speaker, compere and broadcaster.

It’s the quarter-final and our canvas congregation has dwindled, leaving us with a faithful five.

We begin this week with a signature challenge that has a touch of the pagan. It’s horns – cream horns. Twenty-four pastry horns in two different flavours.

The bakers are free to choose rough puff or full puff. Mr Hollywood shows he is the baking successor to Rodgers and Hammerstein as we’re treated to the mantra of his lyrical lamination, "Dough, butter, dough, butter, dough".

Now, I think all this pastry winding can be devilishly difficult but Ian assures us that not much can go wrong. You just know he’s going to eat his words. He’s taken inspiration from classic desserts of Mont Blanc and Black Forest gateaux, striping alternate strands of chocolate pastry. Sadly he can’t keep it all together and is left with a collection of holey relics. Mary’s head spins at the strength of his kirsch and she all but calls for an exorcist.

Paul J has chosen a coffee tipple with banana and custard. Paul H looks positively ecstatic at such nostalgic prospects but, when he can’t find his beloved banana, he’s soon possessed by the spirit of a petulant child.

Flora is also treading a retro path, styling her horns like ice cream cones. Not content with her choice of peach, lemon and thyme and smoked almond and butterscotch, she spends time making flake-like decorations of tuile biscuits. No amount of last minute freezing can prevent her cones from dripping like a lolly in the heat of Lourdes and her penitent face takes cold comfort in the warmth of her hands.

Flora passes out, exhausted, after the 117th horn related innuendo from Mel and Sue
After earlier displays of cream horn hubris Ian discovers his pastry innovation has failed

Tamal bakes with lime and mascarpone and malted honeycomb, which are judged to be safe but produce “a cracking job”. Nadiya delights with perfect pastry and full fillings of rose, pistachio and white chocolate and mocha with hazelnut.

This week’s educational excursion introduces us to the origins of macarons by way of the enterprising nuns of Nancy. (That’s the city in France, not a convent-based sideline from last year’s champion).

Paul wastes time playing a tiny yellow bagpipe instead of ensuring his banana flavour comes through ...
... a mistake which leaves Paul Hollywood feeling betrayed

The technical challenge is Mokatines - a recipe from the appropriately titled, Baking Bible, by Our Lady of the Immaculate Confection. Actually it originally appeared in Mary’s Ultimate Cake Book, but recycled recipes play havoc with a theme.

It’s a fiddly little coffee concoction. Once again, Mary says she is looking for “sheer perfection”. I feel sure she’ll have a branded range of hosiery by the end of the year.

Paul J hasn’t genned up on his genoise, first separating his eggs and then starting again from scratch. At the gingham altar it’s a highly critical Mass. Mary explains what she’s looking for. The cake should be light, the layers equal, the decoration consistent. Buttercream becomes “crème au beurre”, which Mary pronounces with the confident aplomb of a pastry Piaf. Despite his best efforts, Paul finishes last and Nadiya triumphs again – oddly claiming her success has been the result of an out of body experience.

On the plus side Paul's failed first genoise could stand in for the shortcrust base required in the showstopper challenge
The quarter finalists line up like a sad Westlife tribute act to listen to the judges' feedback

For the showstopper, the bakers must create religieuse a l’ancienne. For those who remember the ‘ugly nuns’ of series four’s religieuse challenge, this is the Mother Superior – a towering stack of éclairs. In short, it’s a choux shrine.

Paul J compensates for round one’s missing banana by adding extra banana extract to his vanilla, raspberry and basil construction. The spirit is willing, but the frame is weak. It’s not the only one to collapse.

Nadiya surprises with sweet flavours of bubblegum and peppermint cream, which are judged a little overpowering. Her icing is pretty intense too – she coordinates it with a turquoise tin tea tray and her tower leans under chromatic pressure.

Oh, Paul
Flora is justifiably concerned that her creation looks more like a spirit level than éclairs

Flora’s lime, basil and coconut steeple is in need of a restoration fund. Oh and the divine Paul can’t taste the lime… or the basil… or the coconut.

Ian’s mildly risqué ‘nun with hidden passion’ includes passion fruit with cardamom and coffee. It’s judged to be very good. Tamal’s also getting passionate with passion fruit, adding mango, raspberry and pistachios. He prays for strength when his sugar syrup adhesive starts crystallising.

As the judges prepare to decide the bakers’ fates, Mary seeks spiritual guidance and Sue offers a hip flask.

So who’s about to be blessed by St Honoré and who’s about to be St Home? Well, it’s Nadiya who retakes her place on the patisserie pedestal and poor Paul J has his personal exodus.

Next week, it is foretold that the tent will run with rivers of chocolate. Saints preserve us.