Olive and rosemary bread

Great British Bake Off 2014, Week Three - Bread Week

by Urvashi Roe 21 August 2014

Why is it that Bread Week is the one they fear the most? You can sense the terror in the tent through the TV screen. Paul isn't that scary is he? Damn right he is! Here's former Great British Bake Off contestant Urvashi's round up of the show.

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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, lovefood.com 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.

There is a metamorphosis Paul Hollywood goes through for Bread Week. The eyes become more observing. The mouth purses knowingly. The smile has it's usual twinkle but there is nothing playful about it. Nay the bakers were right to be scared and those that survived did very, very well. It was a tough week.

12 Right Royal Rye Rolls

Well this was an interesting one which at first did not seem that difficult. Bake a batch of 12 rolls using rye flour as a key ingredient. How hard could that be? Getting them identical would present a challenge agreed but other than that what could go wrong?

The challenge was of course all about gluten - or the director had decided everyone needed a right good workout to stay warm in that tent as there was an awful lot of huffing and puffing as the kneading commenced. Did you notice how no-one was using a mixer either? Perhaps this was an unstated element of the challenge?

Rye flour has low gluten levels which means that you have to put in a lot of work to activate the protein that will build the gluten and create the air pockets that make the dough rise. These bakers are pros though and none seemed at all phased except perhaps Chetna who was shooting many doubting looks around. Hmmmm could this be a sign for later?

Once the kneading and proving was out of the way, the waiting, doubting, pacing, watching started. Long lingering shots of eyes boring into the proving drawer willing the dough to rise.

Onwards to spotlight flavour combinations. The ones that stood out for me were Kate's Orange and Cardamom, Richard's Pumperknickel with Cranberries and Cinnamon and Nancy's Pear, Cider and Walnut Rolls - particularly the way she had soaked the pear in the cider. What a delicious sounding snack in itself.

Iain was the only one to use a sourdough starter which he combined with Walnut and Cranberries. I'd like some of those for my breakfast tomorrow morning if you please Iain.

Then all attention turned to rolling and finishing techniques. Hats off to Luis here for a double layered roll of pale dough using parsnips and a very dark dough using cocoa. The end result was beautiful. Nancy also went a little extra with some cracking glaze on top of each roll which gave a stunning effect.

The smirking smile from Paul was reserved for Martha who was advised that egg wash was dangerous but of course he would not indulge why and let her sweat it out for the rest of the challenge. During judging he shared that an egg wash adds a false sense of security to dark flour and can lead to under baked buns. Of course he was right. Though delicious Martha's buns were underbaked and "I told you so" was written all over Paul's face.

Chetna's doubting earlier was reconfirmed. She had flat balls vs domes and this was a direct result of not working the gluten enough. However it was great to see her onion and pine nut combination receive much praise.

Paul didn't actually like Diana's rolls either. They were not 'appealing' to look at but the flavours seemed to compensate for that.

Winners were Kate's knotted rolls which looked very 'appealing with a lovely bake' to boot. Luis received a very manly handshake for his perfect rolls which were 'pure alchemy' and Iain came top with a 'good, good, good' all round. We all cheered for Iain. It's nice to see him doing well with the judges finally.

A Patient Technical Challenge

"Be patient" were the two words Paul let the tent with. This could surely only mean one thing. A sloppy, wet dough that would take a while to come together (like the focaccia we were challenged to in series 2) but I was wrong.

The technical challenge this week was Ciabatta. Indeed the dough was wet but the challenge was with the prove. Ciabatta needs to rest at room temperature and this was very clear on the instructions as read out by Richard. The contestants had to make four perfect and identical loaves so there was a lot of dough and many worried looks around as the bakers decided whether or not they had time to leave the proving to room temperature in a tent that was being rained upon. Hmmmmm. Again much waiting and pacing and deliberating. Those ovens must be the most stared at ovens in the world or perhaps there is a certain amount of sponsored airtime they have to get each week?

The challenge seemed rather in the getting the dough to the baking tray than getting the dough right. They all had beautiful looking doughs with huge air bubbles but the sloppy wet mixture needed strategies to cut and shift it. Chetna sprayed her cutter with water which seemed to cut well but how to move it once cut? Iain used a long palette knife to flatten and swivel his rolls onto the baking tray.

The big air bubbles had lulled them into a false sense of security. Those who had ignored Paul's recipe for room temperature had flat rolls or 'pitta breads' as Paul put it. Kate was the only one who had heeded the advice and this put her firmly at the top of the technical leaderboard this week. What a beautiful smile of relief she gave us. Well done Kate! Always best to listen to the master baker word for word.

Rosco de Reyes
Luis stood out for his Rosco de Reyes inspiration which was the prettiest of the lot
The technical challenge this week was Ciabatta

A Showstopping Bread Based Centrepiece

Great challenge. Finally something to get creative with this week. Different doughs. Different fillings. Different shapes. Lots to show off with but list of pitfalls nonetheless.

Pitfall 1: Adding fillings adds moisture

I did do a little cringe as Jordan explained his very, very wet fillings of strawberries, raspberries and cream cheese. It sounded delicious but what a sloppy, soggy bottomed nightmare that could be. Eeeek! He seemed unphased.

Pitfall 2 : Adding fillings in layers prevents the dough rising and cooking in between them.

Another eeeek for Kate as she explained how she wanted to swirl her prosciutto in which her coriander and olives.

Pitfall 3 : An even bake across the centrepiece

Many bakers went with flamboyant bakes of twists and rolls, plaits and rolls, rolls on rolls but some played it safe with a long loaf to ensure an even bake. Norman was one of these and I wanted to reach into the screen and shake him by the shoulders with a "no no no Norman. Didn't you listen to the last two weeks??!!!" He opted for a long picnic loaf with chicken and pesto with a rosemary glaze. I hoped that glaze would keep the flavours complex enough for Paul because I did not want to see the end of what I think could be a Norman conquest.

Pitfall 4 : Adding heavy fillings leaves large pockets of air between the filling and the crust and an uncooked dough on the base. Chetna was in danger of this with a bread stuffed with spiced cauliflower and peas. Worried looks again.

Flavours were varied and personal. Nancy's Full English Stromboli reminded me of Jo Wheatley's recipe in my series. Richard's family favourite of Pesto, Feta and Walnut sounded delicious too.

Our household however was lusting after Martha's Epoisse Cheese Sunflower. Melted cheeeeeeeese. That is going to be a new Friday night must have with the red Rioja even if as Sue pointed out 'it smells like 1000 student socks'.

Designs were elaborate and showstopper worthy. Those who did attempt a round bake did so very, very well. Luis stood out for his Rosco de Reyes inspiration which was the prettiest of the lot. Diana's twirls have a beautiful end result as did Iain's four strand plait of black olives. And Jordan's messy looking cheesecake creation actually looked stunning once baked with twists of pink and cream peeking through the dough.

Sadly there were many pitfalls this week and it was hard to see who would be next to leave the tent. Jordan's was raw. Norman's was raw. Kate's was raw. Chetna's was messy. Nancy's was too plain. Diana, Iain, Martha and Richard were commended with excellent bakes and excellent flavours.

Star baker candidates this week were firmly Kate and Luis and the bashful graphic designer snuck in there this week and was chuffed and humbled.

Sadly Jordan left the group this week. Mary seemed genuinely sad to see his 'inventive and innovative' style go. He has been flamboyant and fun on screen. All the best Jordan!