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Great British Bake Off 2018: Danish Week

Great British Bake Off 2018: Danish Week

by Howard Middleton 17 October 2018

Hej! It’s another first in the Bake Off tent as the remaining bakers channel their inner hygge and tackle Danish Week. Howard Middleton shares all the details.

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Another Bake Off debut as the warm, friendly embrace of a little Scandinavian welcomes us to the tent’s first Danish Week. Some bakers seem a little unsure at what’s in store. Rahul asks ‘are crawshaws Danish?’ Crawshaws? ‘Crawshaws,’ Rahul repeats. Oh, croissants! No. Paul announces this is the ‘quarter finals now – any problems, I’ll be on them’. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t waited until week eight to be critical.

For their Signature Challenge, the bakers must bake a rye bread, then cut off two slices to produce a pair of perfect open sandwiches called smørrebrød. Prue says she’s looking for ‘beauty combined with simplicity – a little piece of art on a small piece of very thin rye bread’.

Briony is making two contrasting doughs to marble into one loaf and she’s planning to craft little gardens on her bread slices – a Spanish-inspired Iberico ham and chorizo and a West Country one with flaked mackerel. Kim-Joy has typically taken Prue’s demands for ‘art’ to heart; producing a pickled cucumber and radish fish on smoked salmon, and egg and nori bumblebees on Havarti cheese flowers.

The judges’ eyes glaze over as they begin to wish they’d never asked Rahul to tell them about his smørrebrød – ‘one with smoked salmon… I’m going to serve it with a remoulade… basically carrot, celeriac and shallots, chopped up really nicely and reduced down… little bit of curry powder with mayonnaise and then I’m going to pickle some cucumber as well, with lemon, a few asparagus spears and some dill leaves, make some homemade cheese, pickle some candy beetroot, golden beetroot and normal beetroot and just arrange it on the top’. Noel tells him ‘times up now you’ve explained all that’ but Rahul is oblivious to the joke.

Manon is channelling classic cheeseboard combinations of fruit and nuts. Her creamy gorgonzola, pear and walnut sandwich is paired with a goat’s cheese, beetroot and strawberry one.

Sandi tells Ruby her father Claus Toksvig has a sandwich named after him. Ruby is unwilling to give the same honour to Paul, preferring instead to celebrate post-gym sustenance with her Mediterranean breakfast of avocado, asparagus, eggs and chorizo and a Tandoori chicken lunch.

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Rahul’s dough isn’t rising and he’s worried he’s put too much rye in it. He asks Sandi whose turn it is to announce the baker leaving. Sandi says she’ll alert Noel. As Briony eases her pair of tomato swans into place, they take a dive and silently sing their swansong on the carpet. (They were mute swans.)

Kim-Joy’s smørrebrød are judged to be ‘beautiful looking sandwiches’ and though a little under-seasoned the ‘flavours are good’. Despite questioning the amount of water in Ruby’s dough, Paul eats his words when he praises the ‘good structure’ of her lightly seeded rye bread and Prue adds ‘I like it all’.

The judges are less complimentary about Manon’s bake – it ‘lacks savouriness’ says Prue, and Paul says he was looking for ‘more colour, more dense, filled with seeds’. He tells the French baker ‘it’s a pain de campagne – you made a French loaf’.

Rahul has spent weeks looking anxious without much cause – now he has something to worry about. Paul says his bread is ‘so dense – more like a cake’ and Prue says it’s all ‘a bit of a mess’. Trying to find something to praise in the sandwich topping, Paul has to reaffirm ‘the bread’s awful’ and Prue adds it’s ‘very heavy and gluey’. Paul says he thinks that Rahul ‘tried too hard’. Manon whispers ‘it’s okay – they’re really harsh today’.

With no time to cool her impressively large loaf, Briony must resort to hacking chunky slabs of warm bread. Prue says it ‘doesn’t taste much of rye’ and Paul adds it’s ‘more like a malted loaf’. Then Prue visibly decides she’s in the mood for a little sneering tirade. ‘It’s not dry enough, it’s not dense enough – it’s not at all like an open sandwich, so… you’re in another challenge’. Briony says ‘okay’ but it clearly isn’t. She nods and her face says ‘please stop now’.

On to Paul’s Technical Challenge, which he advises involves ‘a technique you’re going to have to learn… and learn quickly’. The ‘technique’ turns out to be one of tricky turning, as the bakers must carefully rotate balls of batter in order to create a cavity for a spoonful of apple and cinnamon (which Noel describes as ‘baby sick’), then rotate again to seal the spheres. These Danish delicacies are called Æbleskiver and there’s precious little time to learn the technique, produce fourteen of the little globes and make a strawberry dipping sauce to accompany them. Manon thinks she has an advantage – her sister dated a Danish guy and she knows what they are. Sadly that doesn’t necessarily mean she knows how to make them. Rahul is burning his balls, Ruby gives up trying to understand the recipe’s instructions and resorts to a little able skiving with her Æbleskiver – filling with apple after cooking. Hiding his shame under a flurry of icing sugar, Rahul takes the bottom spot, whilst Briony triumphs.

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This week’s Showstopper is a Danish pastry party piece. Taking the form of a female or male figure, it’s either called kagekone or kagemand… or in Briony’s case ‘Nana Pat’. Briony is dressing her nan in a 1940s outfit and filling Pat with pat of the ginger crème variety… and dried blueberries.

Ruby turns to her sister for inspiration, crafting a kagekone filled with frangipane and apricot and decorated with ginger honeycomb and chocolate truffles. Paul worries her by questioning if you’ll see the pastries under a layer of marzipan, then he moves on to worrying Manon by telling her she should have used French butter, not Danish. Prue chides him, for this is ‘no time to tell her – she’s made her pastry’.

Last man standing Rahul is creating the only kagemand today. His Indian king is flavoured with orange zest and salted caramel, which he plans to cover with buttercream because ‘the Danish shape can be a little bit up and down’. Paul warns him ‘remember to celebrate the Danish’.

Kim-Joy’s friend Charlotte is off to the opera in a beautiful ball gown. (That’s the theme of Kim-Joy’s kagekone, not just an update on Charlotte’s social life.) Worried that the warm tent is set to puff up her pastries, Kim-Joy rashly decides to start baking after just fifteen minutes proving time.

Charlotte makes it to the opera (and the judging table) looking magnificent. Prue says ‘I don’t thing I’ve ever seen more exquisite piping’. Then she tastes the pastry and declares it’s ‘under-baked’… and Paul says it’s ‘under-proved’… and the judges continue to prattle on because they’re consummate professionals and they’ve trained themselves to ignore the fact that Kim-Joy can no longer speak for tears. She sobs and tries to smile at the same time, in that brave heart-breaking way we all sometimes have of saying we’re alright when nothing could be further from the truth.

Briony’s Nana Pat fares better with some ‘lovely flavours’ and Paul says she is the ‘closest one to get the Danish pastries’. Ruby’s impressive pastries are ‘simple and effective’ and though the judges think a little apricot glaze would have helped sweeten the taste, Prue thinks the appearance is ‘absolutely sweet looking’.

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Manon and Rahul have both covered their bakes with a tempting array of sweets… but neither has impressed with their pastries. Manon’s are ‘a little overcooked on the outside and undercooked in the middle’. Rahul’s are ‘tough’, ‘very dry’ and ‘burnt’. Rahul admits ‘I don’t deserve to be here any more’.

Ruby is finally made Star Baker and… Rahul manages to hang in there as Manon is sent home. Prue ‘explains’ that Manon is a ‘really good French baker – not a good Danish one’ but it’s one of those episodes where the editing and continuity just seems a bit ‘unreliable’. I mean, it clearly looks like Rahul should have been the one to go… but then again, Briony was seen making a marzipan skirt for Nana Pat with her baked pastries clearly visible… several minutes before she put the raw dough in the oven. And so we must try to believe that ‘the powers that be’ know what they’re doing. Oh, who am I kidding? Bake Off’s secret ingredient is a little controversy!

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