In a series which will be the last as we know it (although no one knew that at the time of filming) we had yet another first in the Bake Off tent as the bakers were asked to take inspiration from nature in Botanical Week.
As a gardener by trade, Jane was feeling very optimistic, and along with Selasi decided to fully embrace the theme by wearing a floral shirt. Meanwhile, Tom put his best foot forward stating ‘anything that grows goes’.
For this week’s signature challenge, the bakers were asked to make a citrus meringue pie with a pastry base.
We had a battle of flavours, with Selasi and Benjamina both choosing to use grapefruit, while Jane and Candice were both using coconut and lime. Rav chose manderin and tequila, Tom went for pumpkin, and Andrew for lime and ginger.
After making the rounds to find out what each baker was making, Mary was disappointed to note that nearly all the bakers were planning to finish their meringue with a blow torch.
Despite it’s return last week, none of the bakers wanted a soggy bottom and so all chose to blind bake to try and avoid this, however as the baking continued we begin to see some variation, with Rav and Andrew choosing to chill their curd filled pastry while the rest put theirs in the oven.
Next came the moment every baker making meringue dreads just a little bit… Tipping the bowl above your head to check if the meringue mixture was ready, or in Selasi’s case holding it above Benjamina’s head.
While the mixture may have seemed thick enough in the bowl, as the bakers began topping their pies we saw the doubts begin to creep in. Candice was particularly disappointed with her pie’s appearance, having had to give her meringue another mix after piping to ensure her coconut was more evenly distributed. As time was called, both Tom and Andrew lamented that their pies weren’t at their best.
They both seemed to have to have a point, with Mary questioning where the citrus was in Tom’s pie, while Andrew’s pastry was deemed too thick and their wasn’t enough meringue in the middle of his pie, however the judges did praise his curd. Rav’s meringue was lacking volume and was too soft, and unfortunately the tequila flavour wasn’t strong enough.
In the pie battles, Benjamina was praised for the proportions of her pie, and Paul said her grapefruit flavour came through well, while Selasi was also praised for his flavours, but his curd was a bit too dry according to Paul.
Meanwhile, Jane just edged in front of Candice with a good flavours and a well-finished meringue. Candice was also praised for her flavours, but her pie’s appearance let her down.
The technical challenge was Paul’s choice this week, and he asked for two herb fougasse* – Rav and Selasi were ahead of me knowing what fougasse was, and as it turn out it was basically a leaf shaped bread filled with herbs.
The making was a fairly simple task for our bakers, it was when we came to the proving that we began to get some variation. Having simply been told to prove, the bakers had to use their gut instinct for timings. For the first prove Jane went for 40 minutes, Tom for an hour, and Selasi for 35 minutes, and then after shaping their breads Benjamina went for a 20 minute prove, Candice for 25 minutes and Selasi for around 30 minutes.
In an effort to make their fougasse more authentic, Selasi, Andrew and Tom added a tray of water to bottom of their ovens, as traditional french ovens use steam. As we approached the finish line, we saw the bakers engage in some frantic wafting to try and cool their bread ahead of judging.
In the end, the judges placed Selasi 7th, Andrew 6th, Candice 5th, Jane 4th, Rav 3rd, Benjamina 2nd, and Bread Week Star Baker Tom took the crown.
Finally the showstopper. Paul and Mary requested a floral cake consisting of at least three tiers. Immediately we saw each baker approaching the challenge in different ways, with Candice being the only baker to do more than three tiers, choosing to base her showstopper around the four seasons.
Other intriguing decoration ideas came from Benjamina, who was choosing to do a ‘semi-naked’ cake (icing it so you could still see come of the cake through it), while Jane was making chocolate flowers and floral collars to go around her cakes (she’d need the temperature to be quite cold, and I was worried that the Bake Off tent may get a bit too hot for her chocolate to set).
As the decorating and cake assembling began, I was immediately impressed by both Selasi and Tom’s piping and Candice’s decoration – something which was echoed by the judges, although unfortunately one of Candice’s cakes did disappoint.
Meanwhile, Benjamina’s cake’s semi-naked appearance didn’t impress Paul, and neither Andrew not Rav wowed the judges with their cake decoration. Paul described Jane’s cake as looking a mess, and unfortunately her cakes were over-baked.
In the end, Tom’s triumph in the technical challenge and piping skills in the showstopper saw him crowned Star Baker for a second time, while unfortunately Rav was sent home.
Next week, the bakers take on desserts…
*once again, many thanks to Wikipedia
Photos from BBC show ‘The Great British Bake Off’, no copyright infringement intended.