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Great British Bake Off 2018: Pastry Week

Great British Bake Off 2018: Pastry Week

by Howard Middleton 03 October 2018

Samosas, French pâtisserie and Tudor pies – the Bake Off’s Pastry Week saw the remaining contestants tackle all sorts of buttery beauties. Howard Middleton lets us in on what went on.

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Cool hands and cool heads are needed for pastry week, which isn’t easy when you’re baking against the clock in a tent in the heat of summer. Jon immediately warns us: ‘Pastry is possessed by the devil; you turn your back and it will eat you alive.’

Immediately turning up the heat even more, the deep-fat fryers are on for a Signature of a dozen samosas – six savoury and six sweet, each with a complementary dip.

Briony worries that her husband is putting on weight after sampling so many of her Bake Off experiments and practice runs. Her ‘Home Comforts’ samosas consist of six filled with beetroot, port-soaked cranberries and spinach and six with mascarpone and peanut butter.

Dan claims he’s ‘too posh to push’, ditching the rolling pin in favour of a pasta machine. Cheerfully chatting and turning, he realises too late that he’s overworked the pastry and has to start again. Rolling by hand a second time, he rushes to fill his samosas with chopped walnuts, pear and Stilton and caramelised hazelnut and banana.

Fondly recalling the halcyon days when he ‘wooed his wife’, that old-romantic Jon recreates a chicken, white wine and pesto dinner in his pastry parcels, followed by a dessert course of orange and vanilla crème patissiere. Manon also favours chicken, adding confit lemons and green olives to her savouries, with a tarte-Tatin-inspired batch of Cox’s apples and salted caramel.

Kim-Joy flavours Granny Smith’s apples with ginger and chai spices and tentatively adds a little Kashmiri chilli to her onions and paneer. Feeling more confident with her decoration, she inscribes her samosas with Pythagoras’ theorem.

Frustrated by the notion that an Indian baker ought to make samosas, Ruby says her family has better things to do. Nevertheless, she opts for the totally traditional filling of onion, peas and spiced potatoes, paired with a paste of orange-infused dates and almonds. Rahul’s family clearly does make samosas as he draws on his mother’s recipes for paneer singara and misti singara – the singara being a crispier sister of the samosa. Filling with potato, paneer and ground coriander and almonds, coconut, cashew nuts and ricotta, Rahul slashes the delicate pastry for a pretty finish.

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As the judges tuck in, Prue tells Jon his ‘chicken is delicious’ but Paul adds ‘the pastry is quite soggy in places’. With ‘more potato than chicken’, Prue informs Manon her shy chicken ‘has a hard time coming forward’. Paul decides the ‘sweet one is too dry’ and Prue coughs ‘disappointing’.

Despite her aversion to the samosa task, Ruby is praised for her ‘beautiful crispy pastry’ and what Paul calls ‘a juggernaut of flavour’, sealing his admiration with a handshake.

Prue decides that Briony’s bakes are ‘so beautiful you can hardly bear to eat them’ – but she does, disclosing ‘the sweet one is too gluey’, though Paul adds ‘the pastry’s perfect’. Dan’s samosas are also hard to eat, though for a different reason – too tough to cut or bite, Paul admits they’re ‘like leather’ but at least ‘the fillings are beautiful’.

Kim-Joy’s ‘pastry is beautiful and light’ though Paul hesitates and adds it’s ‘almost as if you’re missing something’. Kim-Joy begins to regret favouring style over substance and suggests flavouring with ‘more chilli?’ ‘That would have helped,’ says Paul. Prue adds the apple-filled ones are ‘absolutely lovely’.

Painfully over-anxious Rahul wrings his hands and hides his face (not easy to do in unison). Prue asks, ‘If I tell you they’re absolutely delicious quickly, will you start to look happier?’ She grasps the sheepish baker and exclaims they’re ‘faultless’, threatening to kill Paul if he doesn’t shake Rahul’s hand. Paul obeys and lives to shake another day.

Advising ‘there’s a lot to do, so keep calm and keep going’, Prue exits the tent to leave the bakers to tackle her Technical challenge – six puits d’amour. Translated as ‘well of love’, Noel informs us that the classic continental pastry was considered ‘scandalous due to the erotic connotations of its look and its name’. I can only guess he’s referring to an area of the female anatomy and needless to say I’m not familiar with it – either in pastry form or otherwise.

Prue’s French fancy consists of a disc of rough-puff pastry, piped with a ring of choux, filled with crimson berry compote and a mound of crème pat.

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This challenge ought to be right up Manon’s rue but she’s never heard of it either. Jon unexpectedly drowns his sorrows by downing a jug of egg whites. Ruby misreads the limited instructions and pipes numerous circles of choux instead of one per pastry, then burns the buns and resorts to some toast-like scraping. Singeing into seventh place, Ruby’s followed by Dan in sixth and Kim-Joy fifth. Briony is thrilled to win.

Moving on to the Showstopper, the bakers must shape and bake a sharing-sized savoury pie fit for a Tudor banquet. Some opt for a traditionally sturdy hot-water crust, whilst others favour the flaky finish of a full puff. Jon, Dan and Kim-Joy are in the latter category and Jon surprises nobody with his theme of a Welsh dragon pie, although the filling is unexpectedly not lamb (or dragon) but minced beef. Jon intends to colour his pastry green. The judges laugh. Dan’s salmon, rice and egg-filled coulibiac will be shaped like a fish and he tells Prue and Paul that he’s considering spraying the pastry silver. The judges laugh with a hint of despair. Kim-Joy is creating a vegetarian mermaid called Silke. The judges are speechless.

I’ve never thought of having a naming ceremony for a pie but it seems like a popular event in the Bake Off tent as Manon introduces us to Poppy the octopus. Hello Poppy. Poppy’s been busy ingesting various marine life forms and now her tummy is full of whiting, salmon and scallops. Unfortunately, unbeknown to Manon, Poppy also drank copious amounts of seawater and will be as salty as hell when the judges taste her later.

Whilst octopuses definitely have tentacles, Rahul is fervently arguing with Noel that his pastry butterfly does too and refuses to be corrected that they’re antennae. Rahul’s butterfly does not appear to have a name but it is partial to a nice lamb curry and rice.

Ruby packs her Kohinoor crown with chicken curry and rice whilst Briony stuffs mushrooms, sweet potato and venison into a Mad Hatter’s top hat, complete with playable croquet match and a pair of legs as Alice disappears down a rabbit hole.

Shaping pastry without tins or other forms of support does leave the bakes a little ‘informal’ and, though it’s sad to say, this is not the most impressively finished challenge the tent has ever seen. Prue decides Jon’s dragon ‘lost the fight’ and though the filling ‘tastes delicious’, Paul says the pastry is ‘really wet’. Hours of Jon’s hard work have resulted in what Prue describes as ‘a monster sausage roll’.

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Manon’s octopus isn’t recognisable as such and Paul says the salty sea creature ‘needed baking longer’. Kim-Joy’s mermaid has a peg-doll-perfect face and ‘beautifully made pastry’ but she’s still ‘too soggy’ in parts. Despite having flavours and spices that are ‘perfectly blended’, Paul notes that Rahul’s butterfly is still ‘a little wet inside’.

After soaking the cranberries in her signature samosas, Briony’s leftover port now finds its way into little bottles that implore ‘Drink Me’. The port’s journey quickly continues down Prue’s neck. Prue thinks the well-baked pie needed more sweet potato, explaining ‘that much venison is quite an ask’ but as the port hits the spot she exclaims ‘I am happy’.

Ruby joins Briony in achieving a well-baked pie – her golden crust, studded with nigella seeds is judged by Prue to be a ‘really good hot water crust pastry’ and Paul adds it’s ‘absolutely delicious’.

Dan’s desperate attempts to rise up again with a perfect pastry are sadly in vain. Paul says his silver salmon ‘looks more like a monkfish’ and is ‘raw all the way round’. Prue likes the filling and the coriander pancakes but Paul insists ‘this is not a celebration of pastry’. And so it’s left to Briony to celebrate as Star Baker whilst Dan’s disastrous week draws to a close as he’s sent home. When the tent gremlins decide they have it in for you, I know from personal experience, there’s very little you can do. Except, as dear Dan says, ‘have a drink’. Cheers Dan!

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