Homemade chicken pie

Great British Bake Off 2014, Week Four - Pies and Tarts Week

by Urvashi Roe 4 September 2014

After last week’s drama of #bingate, things were a little more sane on Great British Bake Off. There were pies and tarts a-plenty for this week's episode.

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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.

So after last week’s MASSIVE media outcry on #bingate #freezergate #bakedalaskagate it appears Diana has fallen ill and is no longer on the show. Has she really lost her sense of taste? Is it all just a big media ploy? Whatever anyone’s view, the remaining contestants did look rather, genuinely sad. Martha went so far as to say she’d lost her grandma. Oh well. The show must go on and there were pies and tarts to be made for it was pastry week.

I was hoping they would secretly bring in an extra judge this week and go all French. Perhaps Messieurs Lanlard or Bertinet? Sadly no. I do love pastry week and it is interesting to see how the producers evolve the show every year to keep things fresh for avid series viewers.

A Signature Custard Tart

Oh dear was my first thought when Mel and Sue announced this challenge. Would we get #custardgate all over again? The contestants had to bake a family sized custard tart. There were only two rules.

No tarts in the bin

The tart had to be made in 2 ½ hours

They could use any pastry, any filling, any design.

I was disappointed the tarts were all round. There are some beautiful square and rectangular bases nowadays and it would have been great to see a little variety. But I concluded that they must have been given a specific size to work to.

So this was all about pastry tips. Here’s a few I gathered while watching in case you missed them…

Don’t overwork the pastry lest it get too tough – you want a crumble not a chew.

Roll the pastry as thin as you dare so it’s nice and ‘short’ (that’s pastry speak for a good crunch. We know Mary loves a good crunch).

Always blind bake shortcrust pastry bases to avoid a soggy bottom.

You don’t need to blind bake hot water crust pastry bases as they won’t get a soggy bottom

Pastry will shrink in the oven as it cooks so use baking beans to weight it down when blind baking.

To avoid pastry shrinking too much in the oven let it rest in the fridge (at least 30 mins) or freezer (max 15 mins) before baking.

Use a piece of leftover pastry to push the rolled pastry to the edge of the tart tin so you don’t break or tear it with your nails.

I couldn’t see who made pastry by hand and who used a mixer.

I use a mixer and my foolproof base is 200g plain flour, 100g cold butter, 2tbsp icing sugar, 1 medium beaten egg which has been in the fridge to get cold like the butter. Blitz everything except the egg on pulse setting so you lift it up and down to get air in. Three pulses is usually enough. Then slowly pour in the egg til the pastry rolls up into a ball. That’s it. Ready to use after 30 mins in the fridge.

I liked most of the flavour combos this week.

Rhubarb and custard
Kate chose Rhubarb and Custard
Tropical fruit tart
The Mancunian Tropical Fruit Tart from Luis also sounded amazing

Apricot and Pistachio Tart from Martha – looked stunning with the apricots presented in halves circling the baed and a scattering of green but sadly the judges thought it was a bit too wet and the custard was missing a nice shine. Also her pastry was underdone. It was overall too much of a tart apricot tart and not to the judges' tastebuds.

A Tarte Au Citron from Norman – I think he was either brave or silly to opt for this. We made this as our technical challenge in series two so unless his version was going to have been spectacularly building on that or have a little twist on the traditional he was surely going to meet disapproval from the judges? And yes he did. There was no finesse in his presentation. I think it looked perfectly traditional and as a homebake anyone would have been proud of it. It hadn’t cracked. It didn’t have the big air holes rushing to the top. It seemed perfectly baked and it was. Paul thought the flavour was stunning but also commented that it looked a mess.

The Coconut and Passionfruit Tart with a Chocolate pastry base sounded gorgeous. Nancy was the only one who opted for a chocolate pastry. Brownie points went to her for that for sure. It’s hard to get chocolate pastry right but this is a woman who has clearly made a lot of pastry. Both judges thought it was original and attractive. I’m going to be making this one at the weekend.

Kate chose Rhubarb and Custard. What a classic combo and I loved the swirl of decoration she bravely piped on half way through. She really impressed Paul with this simple but not so simple idea. However Paul wasn’t happy with the lack of custard flavour coming through with the sharp rhubarb. What a shame.

The Mancunian Tropical Fruit Tart from Luis also sounded amazing. A passionfruit, lime and orange custard in a pastry case of precision. He didn’t cut his overhanging pastry like the others. He had precisely weighed out his moong beans to fit all up to the edges and laid this on cling film which in my opinion is the way to do it. The cling film gets closer to the pastry than paper and the small beans fill up every edge making sure all aspects of the base are weighted down. His decoration was also stunning with a stencilled coconut sun and fruits placed carefully on top. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Paul said there wasn’t much he could critique.

Richard made an Almond Pastry for his Fig and Orange Tart. He was clearly using figs out of season but cleverly flavouring these by poaching them in spiced liquid prior to using them. Would this make them seep into the custard? Paul was looking forward to tasting this one but was disappointed as the orange flavour was not sharp enough for him plus as suspected the figs had made the whole thing rather soggy.

Chetna looked to her Indian roots again for inspiration this week with a tart incorporating my all time favourite dessert – kheer and mangoes. Kheer is a rice pudding and she incorporated this with her custard as well as mangoes and raspberries. She kept the flavours too subtle though and Paul thought she’d missed it with them.

So all in all not a bad round. Martha, Norman and Richard firmly at the bottom and the first tears of the series. Poor Martha.