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Great British Bake Off 2018: Dessert Week

Great British Bake Off 2018: Dessert Week

by Howard Middleton 19 September 2018

The fourth episode of this year's Bake Off sees the remaining bakers have a go at all manner desserts, with chocolate domes, meringues and even blancmange making an appearance. Howard Middleton gives us the juicy details.

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Though I’m not a fan of slapstick (or food waste), there’s something strangely satisfying about seeing Sandi Toksvig introduce dessert week by slapping a custard pie in Paul Hollywood’s mush. He’s a good sport and whatever he’s being paid… it’s probably enough.

Sandi tells us that baker Terry is ill but will be back next week. I turn to my long-suffering partner, Peter and predict that nobody will be eliminated this week, detailing previous examples in series three and five. Peter looks like a man who wants his partner to get on with writing so he can watch something else on TV. I get on with writing.

A meringue roulade ‘with a perfect swirl’ is the bakers’ signature. Paul says there’s ‘nowhere to hide’ with this challenge. Considering the bakers’ every move, murmur and mishap is recorded for national TV, there’s precious room to hide on any challenge.

Ignoring Prue’s advice that the sugary roulade needs a sharp filling, Briony fills her pecan meringue with treacle tart sweetness, pears and mascarpone cream. Karen dips into her favourite chocolate box flavours for a coffee cream and hazelnut praline dessert.

Kim-Joy is doing what she does best – rocking the rainbow eye shadow and drifting off into a lullaby of her own making. ‘Meringues are like clouds… and they make you think of dreams,’ she explains. Her ‘Sweet Dreams’ roulade is filled with fresh raspberries, softly whipped cream and passion fruit curd. Prue adds her own risqué take on the bedtime story – ‘You go sleep, wake up… and passion follows’.

Dan’s coconut, lime and strawberry roulade is inspired by cocktails he sipped in Florida. Ruby rolls closer to home with piña colada-flavoured memories of a night out in Liverpool. I thought the whole point of a good night out in Liverpool was that you’re not meant to remember it. Anyway her roulade is filled with coconut rum, cream and chunks of roasted pineapple.

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Rebel-rousing Rahul tells us that he starts each day with a glass of milk, then illustrates this fascinating fact by sipping one. He explains ‘I was introduced to rhubarb when I first came here’ (Rahul this is Rhubarb, Rhubarb meet Rahul), then goes on to say ‘I hated it’. Apparently the arrival of Rhubarb’s friend Custard improved the relationship immeasurably and he packs the pair into his roulade. Rahul thinks he’ll under-bake his meringue so it’s ‘slightly rollable’. He’s really not sure.

Confident Manon is heating her sugar in the oven to help it dissolve better. Pairing amarena cherries with their kirsch-soaked counterparts, she hopes to create a winning combination. Mascarpone cream and meringue lollipops complete her sweet treat.

Jon tops his roulade of fresh mango, passion fruit, lime curd and white chocolate cream with ingeniously crafted spheres of mango puree that look like soft-boiled egg yolks.

Inexplicably rolling his meringue lengthways, Rahul disappointingly achieves what Paul describes as a ‘massive meringue with a little fold’. His cautious under-baking is another mistake and though the flavours are ‘lovely’, Prue admits it’s ‘quite chewy’.

Paul says that Ruby’s roulade also has a ‘fold rather than a swirl’ but he admits it tastes ‘fantastic’ and Manon’s ‘broken spiral’ is ‘delicious’ too.

Despite a little ‘golden syrup seepage’, Paul tells Briony she’s ‘ticked every box on flavours’ though he adds that her meringue is too thick. Prue thinks that Kim-Joy has successfully offset her ‘clumsy roulade’ with ‘exquisite piping’. Karen fares less well – ‘sad’ says Paul and ‘flat’ says Prue.

Jon’s mango ‘egg yolks’ are deemed to be ‘a triumph’ and with a deliciously flavoured meringue he’s awarded a Hollywood handshake. It’s another handshake too for Dan as his ‘good spiral’ and ‘perfect balance of flavours’ get a Toksvig hug to boot.

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On to the technical challenge and Prue sets the task of a fresh raspberry blancmange with twelve langues du chat biscuits.

Prue assures Paul this is very different to the packet mix dessert he hated as a child. For a start, the packet mix had clear instructions.

One hour in the freezer and an hour in the fridge should achieve a well-timed wobble, leaving the bakers enough time to diagonally dip and dribble their biscuits with white chocolate. However, at the moment of unmoulding, it’s clear that Manon’s is suffering seepage and Karen’s isn’t set at all. The pair take the wobbly bottom two places as Dan triumphs on top.

Promising a spectacularly spectacular showstopper, the bakers are tasked to produce a delicious dessert of their choosing, encased in a chocolate ball. As warm sauce is poured over, the sphere should melt to reveal a clandestine cake (or other pud).

Briony, Manon and Ruby have opted for white chocolate spheres, which we’re told are more temperamental than their tempered dark equivalents. Briony is hiding an amaretto and blood orange sticky toffee pudding tart in hers. It sounds pretty intense but Prue decides it’s Ruby’s mango Swiss meringue-topped offering with a shortcrust base and pistachio crumb that’s ‘quite a complicated little tart’.

Karen and Rahul inflate balloons on which to mould their chocolate shells. Hers is filled with layers of chocolate brownie and mascarpone and raspberry syllabub. She calls it Chateau du Chambord Framboise. The self-confessed Francophile admits the Gauloises of her youth have affected her puff-power. Rahul goes one better by blowing up two balloons to craft a kalash-inspired double-domed creation. Concealing an opera cake of chocolate and plain joconde sponges, he hopes his coffee crème anglaise will be a revelation.

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Jon’s opera cake is dedicated to his ballet-loving daughters, Lucy and Hannah. Kirsch-soaked joconde, white chocolate ganache and raspberry ganache are layered inside a ball that’s attended by a troupe of white chocolate dancers.

Dan’s kids have also inspired his dessert – a Giant Peach of chocolate containing alternating layers of peach mousse, hazelnut joconde and honey and vanilla-poached peaches. Sadly he runs out of time to give it a perfectly peachy finish but his last-minute drama is nothing compared to the collapsing spheres of Ruby and Briony.

Prue says that Briony’s creation looks ‘like a creature’. ‘Elegant it is not, but lovely, robust, family flavours,’ she adds as consolation. As Ruby presents her salvaged ‘dome’, Prue peers at her and asks ‘Do you understand the word sphere?’ Somewhere in the heart of the English countryside, Mary Berry pours herself another vodka on the rocks and grudgingly toasts her acerbic fellow graduate of the Joan Crawford Finishing School.

Karen manages to salvage some hope from Prue – ‘I wouldn’t say it’s elegant but it’s hugely decadent’. Fellow balloon-inflater Rahul runs out of sauce to melt his twin domes so Paul gleefully attacks it with a knife. ‘Fantastic flavour’ says Paul.

Dan’s unfinished peach melts dramatically and Prue says it’s ‘absolutely delicious’. Manon’s perfectly finished (and unbroken) white chocolate sphere reveals a raspberry entremet dessert on a crunchy dark chocolate praline base. Paul says it’s ‘delicate and sophisticated’ and Prue calls it ‘a triumph’.

Jon shows his delicate and sophisticated side by presenting his ballet ball dressed in a makeshift pink tutu. His cake stand is similarly clad with four spookily dismembered ballet feet in a supporting role. Nevertheless, it’s judged to be ‘really rich’ and ‘delicious’.

Kim-Joy saves the best to last with her stunning chocolate galaxy globe that melts to reveal… a colony of little choux ‘space turtles’. Kim-Joy really is on another planet but what a fabulously weird and wonderful place it is! Paul says the design is ‘flawless’ and Prue adds it’s ‘very delicious’.

Anticipating an imminent eviction, Paul, Prue, Sandi and Noel discuss who’s likely to leave and Sandi drops the hint that Terry might have been the one to go had he been here. Paul says that he and Prue have a lot to think about. I tell Peter that I still think nobody is going this week. Peter still wants to watch something else.

Delighted (but sometimes slightly desperate) Dan finally gets his just desserts and is made Star Baker and… nobody goes home this week! Dan phones his daughter who is happy for her dad but wants to play with her doll. Peter’s happy too, as I finally pour a glass of wine and change channels.

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