Great British Bake Off 2013, Week 6 - Sweet Bun Bonanza!

Great British Bake Off 2013, Week 6 - Sweet Bun Bonanza!

by Urvashi Roe 25 September 2013

Sweet dough was this week’s theme on Great British Bake Off with tea loaves, beautiful buns and brioche and a twirly whirly technical challenge in the form of an Apricot Couronne . Urvashi Roe, food writer and contestant from 2011, gives us a recap of what happened.

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Urvashi finds food, baking, cooking and eating a therapeutic relief from every day work and family life.

Urvashi finds food, baking, cooking and eating a therapeutic relief from every day work and family life.

The tent was looking decidedly empty this week with only 7 benches remaining. There was an air of stress as the contestants entered. Rightly so. Sweet dough week. One of the toughest doughs to make. All dependent on a good rise and with the rain outside the tent, it didn’t look hopeful.

The Signature Bake was a Sweet Tea Loaf which could be in a tin or free form but had to be completed in a couple of hours. Mary was looking for a loaf that would of course be full of flavour and Paul cautioned the bakers to use their time perfectly to get an even bake.

I love the creativity of all the bakers in this series. They are all coming up with some fabulous combos and dare I say, daring ingredients. Howard rocked the boat this week with his Hemp Loaf. Twitter was awash with comments and images of Mary have a sniff and a snuff. It really was rather funny but she showed no signs of amusement. She seemed rather fascinated in the ingredient itself. Good for Mary!

Tea was an inspiration for many. Christine with an Assam Tea flavouring which I loved and Chai spiced loaves were the preference for Frances and Kimberley. I preferred the way Frances added this as a ‘swirl in a teacup’ vs Kimberley’s ‘ripples of spices’ but was worried for both of them as the combination of cardamom and cinnamon is hard to get right.

Glenn chose to make Panetonne which seemed to get Paul all critical and questioning about time, and turning things over to cool and even distribution of fruit etc etc etc. which of course makes you want to root for Glenn to nail it! His teaching side came out this week with some kind of DIY cooling contraption using sticks and string. Brilliant. This is what we want to see teachers doing on bake off!

The Welsh contingent on social media was long Beca last night with her Grandmother’s recipe for Bara Brith - literally translated as ‘speck of bread’. The loaf came about when workers flocked to the industrial centres being set up in Wales to set up a new life in the purpose built houses. These towns would have communal ovens where women would prepare bread for the week and at the end of the week, with the dough that was left, fruit and tea would be added for a treat.

I think they should bring back communal ovens and put Beca in charge. I love her direct, forthright demeanour and I loved the look of her loaf. Sadly Paul did not and gave her a bit of an unfair telling off about not mixing properly.

The one I wanted to eat this week though was Ruby’s Citrus Loaf topped with marmalade and peel. I think we need smellovision invented soon as that workbench must have smelled amazing!

There was lots of prodding and poking from Paul - well more so than usual. Much undertaking across the board - Kimberley, Glenn and Ruby to a certain extent but poor Christine didn’t even manage to get her loaf tasted as it was so raw. France’s seemed to be the best of the bunch with her on,y critique being that it was too plain??! A first for Frances!

Peach buns
Howard had carefully laid spoon handles across his buns so that they would bake to look like peaches
Sweet dough
The Signature Bake was a Sweet Tea Loaf which could be in a tin or free form but had to be completed in a couple of hours

Twirly Whirly Technical Challenge

A twisted challenge from Paul - An Apricot Couronne - a ‘twisted round thing’ as one of the contestants described it. Most seemed not to have heard of it and Glenn thought blindfolding himself might make a difference. I think he would need to take it off to see though Paul’s instructions as there were not many. No times for proving, no temperatures for baking, no instructions for folding, no sizes for rolling. Yes this is the way of the technical challenge. A bit of Blankety Blank Baking!

Despite their lack of experience with this one, I think all the couronnes looked amazing. They were all baked well. All tasted good. Some with icing too thin or too thick. Some were a bit thinner than others but I think Paul was clutching at straws with his feedback. Ruby came top which was so lovely to see. I hope it gave her some much needed confidence in herself.

Skolebrods and Showstoppers

The bakers must have been exhausted with all the nervous energy but the pub would have to wait as they were launched straight into the last challenge and tasked with making their third batch of sweet dough if the weekend for two different sets of European Sweet Buns. There was a nice mix of flavours being added to the base doughs - saffron from Glenn, Chocolate from Kimberley, Citrus from Beca and then it was time to kiss the dough goodnight and leave it to rest and rise.

I doubt many of the contestants got a good sleep and I wonder how many we’re tempted to sneak down and have a peek at their fridges but they all seemed fresh faced and chatty the next day as they prepped their fillings. All the ideas were lovely. I do think this is the most creative batch of bakers we’ve seen on bake off. Prune and Chocolate Brioche, Lemon and Cardamom Iced Buns from Beca, Peachy Buns from Howard, Cherry and Raisin from Christine, Chocolate and Kumquat from Kimberley (who had factored in time to make her own marmalade!).

This all paled into insignificance as Sue debated the various baking personalities left in the tent with Kimberley’s expert knowledge. Beca the Solid and Dependable, Ruby the Baking Ninja, Glenn the Flavour Machine, Howard The Maverick, Christine The Consistent and Frances The Artist. Please someone make a comic spin off. It would be brilliant!

The presentation of these Showstoppers is starting to improve. I think Frances must be rubbing off on them all.

Howard was my favourite. He had carefully laid spoon handles across his buns so that they would bake to look like peaches and they were bloody marvelous. He presented them in a crate to boot. Sadly neither Paul not Mary could taste the peach and any hopes Howard had of getting back in their good books seemed to melt away.

Christine had covered the sides of her Norwegian buns in jam and coconut and they looked stunning. Top marks with an ‘Impressed’ from Paul. Well done Christine. Saved by the Skolebrod! Frances had opted for a noughts and crosses theme which looked great as always and tasted great too. Joining Howard in the underbaked, overcooked or tasteless camp were Glenn and Kimberley.

The shining star this week was Ruby who approached the table with her usual sense of nervousness and proceeded to tell them judges all the faults of her baking as the nation shouted ‘Sssssssssssshhhhhhhh!’ She really needed not have been so fearful as the judges both loved her flavours helping her nail that Star Baker. She seems to have the nation on her side with her demeanour and you cannot help but smile when she does well.

It was a choice between Howard and Glenn this week and it must have been hard to let either go. Both have so much potential and are so entertaining to watch. Both looked tearful and emotional and it’s a reminder how stressful it is in that tent. It’s hard work but it’s the nerves and the tension that are the true tests for this competition. It was to be the end for Howard. He must have had a million virtual hugs from the nation as none of us wanted to see him leave. I’m sure he will draw crowds at the many food festivals we will see him at this autumn. Good luck Howard and a big virtual hug from me xx