Great British Bake Off, 2014, Week Two - Biscuit Week

Great British Bake Off, 2014, Week Two - Biscuit Week

by Urvashi Roe 14 August 2014

Week two of The Great British Bake Off brought us biscuit week. So much scope for creativity. So much room for error. There have still been no tears from anyone. No-one is standing out as a clear leader of the biscuit packet either, so would this week change that?

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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. She is a freelance writer and stylist for various publications including Good Things Magazine, and The Foodie Bugle. She was also a former contestant on BBC2's Great British Bake Off. She shares vegetarian and allotment inspired recipes on her Botanical Kitchen and Gujarati Girl blogs.

A Cracker of Signature Challenge

The contestants started with a dream challenge in my humble opinion - Biscuits for cheese. Something for everyone to show their baking personality. The challenge was to bake 36 savoury biscuits which could accompany cheese. This was a task about uniformity and attention to detail as well as flavour. Each biscuit needed to be a consistent size and bake and colour. They needed to snap to attention or crumble in the mouth.

I loved every single combo this week. I could quite happily buy a selection box containing all the wonderful flavours below. Perhaps the producers and the BBC could bring out a box just in time for Christmas? Which would you go for first with a nice glass of port?

So hard to pick a favourite among those but the prettiest were by far Kate's with a stunning dried apple ring on the top. If she had perhaps baked them separately and sandwiched it on top, she would have avoided a soft middle.

It was also lovely to see a traditional Gujarati 'Patlo, Velun' on screen from Chetna. This is the little, round wooden board (patlo) that she was rolling on with the thin rolling pin (velun) which I also used in week three for rolling elements of my bread basket. These rolling pins enable you to roll pastry or dough very thinly so worth investing in. Any good Indian grocer will sell these.

I think Nancy is going to bring us different gadgets every week and is destined to have her own business in kitchen equipment after the show as we saw the debut of the 'biscuit iron maiden'. An ingenious device that looked rather like an Ikebana kenzan and was used for pricking the biscuits before they went into the oven. Most of us use a fork but I liked her contraption much more.

Almost all were praised for their flavours. Jordan's were criticised for being burnt and of course he disagreed. Iain's had gone a bit 'overboard' with the za'atar, Diana's were 'too irregular'.

Those that stood out on the cooling rack were Nancy's which were 'exactly right', Norman's which were 'perfection' and received a man to man handshake from Paul and Richard's which were simply 'sorted!'.

Ice Cream Cone Interlude

I have missed the interludes. This week we learned about the development of the ice cream cone. In the early 19th century, many Italians who had moved to England in search of a better life, ran businesses making Gelato.

A scoop would be served in a 'Pennylick' - a short, sherry sized glass that would enable the customer to literally lick the ice cream and then give the glass back. Ewwwwwww! was what came to my mind and ewwwwww indeed as these glasses were banned in 1899 for causing spread of diseases. So a very clever Italian man invented a biscuit cone to put the ice cream in instead. It was made with a batter of flour, water and treacle and cooked like a crepe on a hot cast iron plate. As soon as it was cooked it would be twisted and rolled around a wooden peg to make a cone as it cooled and hardened. Genius!

A Technically Tricky Challenge with an Italian Flavour

When I found out the challenge was Florentines this week I didn't think it was a challenge at all. They aren't difficult to make. I made them at school a few times I think but I should know better than to doubt Mary Berry as this challenge was laced with problems from the start.

Mary's recipe uses a caramel base for the nuts and fruit and so it was a dilemma from outset. How thick to make the caramel, ensuring it would not burn, stirring while trying to chop and not not run out of time. They all only had 1 1/4 hours for this challenge which with baking time, cooling time and perfecting time is really not very long at all.

These challenges are supposed to be in 'exam conditions' but there was much peeking over shoulders to see what others were doing and seeking of reassurance. How finely were people chopping? How were people measuring out 18 perfect portions? How were people putting the chocolate on?

It was very surprising to see such a mixed batch of Florentines. Mary was looking for a delicate, lacey, appearance with an even chocolate distribution that had not seeped through and there had to be a nice 'forking' too. (And here was me thinking the baking innuendos had gone this year!)

Poor Iain came bottom of the pile this week though I'm not sure why as they didn't seem that bad to me compared to some others. Richard's were spot on and it was lovely to see a little confidence start to rise in him.

An Upright, 3D Biscuit Showstopper

This challenge was a slight twist on one we saw on series three with the gingerbread structures and James Morton's epic barn. The contestants had to bake a 3D scene out of biscuits and had 4 hours to do so. Paul was looking for something rigid that tasted good.

I don't think any of the contestants disappointed on their ideas for the scenes. We had merry go rounds, space moon adventures, pirates, trains, a ski village and monsters among others.

I loved the idea from Luis of George and the Dragon. The dragon was made with chocolate and chilli biscuit dough while other elements were baked from orange and cardamom. His construction was superb as it all hinged together without any fondant or icing glue.

I also rather liked the Zulu scene from Norman and I wish he had tried a little harder on his flavours and presentation because the idea was really unusual.

Iain knew he was in the danger zone but his Wild West scene using wholemeal, oatmeal, pistachio and rose and chocolate and chilli flavours really was quite stunning.

Jordan would not be Jordan without a few disasters and despite his whole final presentation being 'a mess', Paul was wowed by his custard and Bourbon biscuits.

It was however the mermaids and pirates that triumphed this week for Richard. Gingerbread boats, cute looking iced mermaids, treasure chests and a peanut butter island brought him in as a the judges favourite this week. He won Star Baker which was very rightly deserved.

Sadly some one does need to leave and this week I am not sure it was the right decision.

This person had not been at the bottom of the league in either of the first two rounds but was the only one to have had soggy biscuits for the final Showstopper. He also received the Mary Berry stare not once but twice for using ready made fondant.

Enwezor was the second baker to leave the tent. What a great baker he was in his short time in there. Such a shame we could not have seen more of his ideas. Best of luck Enwezor!