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Great British Bake Off 2018: Bread Week

Great British Bake Off 2018: Bread Week

by Howard Middleton 12 September 2018

Loaves, buns and korovai – there was plenty of kneading, proving and nervous oven-watching in the Bake Off tent this week. Read Howard Middleton’s recap and see what went on.

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Breathe deeply folks for the Berkshire breeze carries the unmistakable aroma of freshly-baked bread and Paul Hollywood dousing himself with ‘Smugness’ – the new fragrance by Calvin Klein.

For their signature challenge the ten bakers must produce a dozen batch-baked Chelsea buns. Enriched dough and teary-sharey touching sides are mandatory.

Brandy-soaked sultanas roll through Dan’s spiced orange buns but he says he’s ‘a little bit worried it’s a little bit simple on the flavours’. Briony soaks her strawberry filling in vintage balsamic vinegar and drizzles her bake with mascarpone icing.

‘Decadent breakfast’ is on the menu for Antony who manages to cram rum-soaked raisins, boozy caramel sauce, maple syrup and crispy bacon into his buns. Those who’d like to share breakfast with Antony are forming an orderly queue.

Ever the nervy pessimist, Rahul’s hands shake as he flavours his dough with Bengali five-spice, and fruits his buns with mango and cranberry. Terry tries his hand at a little optimism, claiming ‘This could be my week’.

Noel tells us Terry is using ‘home-cured, locally-sourced Amalfi lemons’ with his chopped apricots and dates. Unfortunately, what Terry’s not using is the little bowl of spiced sugar that’s still untouched after he’s rolled up his Chelseas. He patiently unrolls, sprinkles and re-rolls, reconsidering his previously positive outlook.

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Karen thinks the Bake Off tent is in need of a little Christmas kitsch, adding bright marzipan baubles and a liberal sprinkling of glitter to her Bakewell flavoured buns. Topping off her own outré outfit this week with a scarlet beret she claims she’s ‘always been a bit garish – lacking taste’. Paul thinks she’s lacking new ideas too, warning her ‘I love Bakewell but I’ve had it a few times from you’.

Manon infuses her dough with chai tea and crafts pretty heart-shaped buns, filled with apricots, cranberries and marzipan. Jon pitches Chelsea against his beloved Cardiff City in a foodie football fusion of salted caramel, pecan brittle and a marshmallow topping. Its premiership prospects are poor with Prue, who thinks it sounds ‘really disgusting’.

Kim-Joy introduces us (and Paul) to the tangzhong technique of bread-making – an Asian roux-based method that’s meant to produce a lighter loaf. It works a treat – Paul munches on the pistachio, cardamom and lemon buns and declares the dough ‘delicate’ and ‘soft’.

There’s a little repetitive run from the judges as Manon’s buns are judged to be ‘overbaked’ but her flavours are ‘fantastic’, Antony’s are ‘overbaked’ but his flavours are ‘fantastic’, Jon’s are ‘overbaked’ but… you get the picture.

Ruby’s Gujarela buns have a sweet carrot filling, dates, almonds and raisins and are drizzled with dark chocolate. Sadly, Paul decides they’re too ‘hard and crusty’ to be a Chelsea bun and Prue agrees they ‘lack stickiness’. Briony nods nervously through her critique as Paul tells her ‘it’s a shame it looks the way it does’. Prue adds it’s ‘delicious’. Dan’s buns are ‘absolutely delicious’ and he’s rewarded with another Hollywood handshake.

Terry’s earlier efforts to rescue his bake have paid off as Paul claims they ‘look like the ones I make’. It’s puffed-up praise indeed and Prue adds the filling is ‘perfect’.

In a last minute act of nervous desperation, Rahul hides his buns under a carpet of chopped mango. The judges agree it ‘looks messy’ but it’s ‘baked to perfection’. Outside the tent and reflecting on his success, Rahul gets distracted by a pair of pheasants.

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On to the technical challenge and speed is of the essence as we’re told this is the shortest technical challenge ever. With just one hour on the clock, the bakers must produce eight non-yeasted garlic naan breads. With some bakers coming unstuck on the sticky dough, it’s a last minute rush to grill the required number, then brush with garlic ghee and scatter on chopped coriander.

Kim-Joy comes tenth and cries ‘I can’t go out on bread week’. Terry is ‘quite ecstatic’ to finish on top.

Outside for more chat with the judges and… ooh, Paul’s got a new coat! It’s beautifully tailored and he looks all broodingly smart and manly and masterful and military and… well, I absolutely don’t still have a crush on him. No.

From the shortest challenge ever, we now head into one of the longest. Five hours for the bakers to wow us with a three (or more) tiered korovai – a traditional braided bread that often makes an appearance at eastern European weddings.

Prue wants the decorations to ‘mean something to the bakers’. Dan bakes his korovai with pride, calling it ‘gay bread’ and assuring us the traditional topper of two lovebirds are both male. It’s not easy to assign gender in decorative dough but if anyone can, Dan’s your man.

Ruby crafts her bread as a belated wedding cake for her parents. Four tiers of couronne-style rings are packed with apricots, cherries and almond liqueur, whilst Antony’s wedding bread is for his brother – a Himalayan-inspired chocolate and orange affair.

With debate raging about which way to place a flaked almond in order to achieve the desired beak, Karen agrees her turtledoves look more like turtles… or seals. Kim-Joy’s ‘kit-ovai’ creation is completely bird-free, thanks to an abundance of her beloved cats.

Briony bakes little turrets into the sides of her Rapunzel-inspired bread, called ‘Happily Ever After’. Dragons land on Jon’s St David’s Day bara brith, which he calls ‘Korovai Dydd Dewi Sant’.

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Manon hints at a bohemian (and potentially aristocratic) upbringing when she tells us her family all have Fabergé tattoos. Rahul’s childhood sounds a little less thrilling: ‘I used to play with dough as a child. Never an outdoor sort of person’.

Terry’s good week begins to take a turn for the worse as his carefully crafted dough balls start to stick to the surface of his terracotta baking cloches. His under-proved tiers fail to rise to the occasion. What is rising is the tension – Antony’s decorations are dropping before our eyes and Rahul claims ‘Inside me it’s just like a pressure cooker – I can burst anytime’.

Fortunately judging begins before Rahul has time to explode. Prue thinks that Kim-Joy’s kitty litter of orange, cinnamon and cranberry is ‘charming’ and Paul is suitably impressed by Ruby’s skilful bake, calling it ‘perfection’.

Karen, Briony and Manon score highly on looks but lose marks on their baking. Prue says Manon’s orange blossom flavouring is too strong and tastes ‘like bath bubbles’. Dan’s spiced rum, orange and lemon zest bread isn’t strong enough on flavour but is ‘beautifully baked’ and ‘exquisitely decorated’.

Jon achieves ‘fantastic flavour’ with his Welsh wonder but Prue calls it ‘colourful but clumsy’. Antony’s too is ‘a bit heavy’ and ‘not your best’.

Paul reserves his best praise for reserved Rahul, whom he calls ‘a little genius’. His ‘fantastic’ orange and lemon koravai wins him Star Baker for the second week running. Prue says it ‘really is a showstopper’.

Animated Antony is sent home crying ‘happy tears’. I’m sorely tempted to just sneak one more look at Paul in his new coat.

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