'The Great British Baking Show' Series 3 Episode 2 Recap: Biscuit Week

Paul Hollywood's artlettes were 'The Great British Baking Show's' Technical Challenge (Photo: Love Productions)
Paul Hollywood's artlettes were 'The Great British Baking Show's' Technical Challenge (Photo: Love Productions)

Welcome back to another tasty Great British Baking Show recap! Eleven competitors returned to the tent this week to prove their baking acumen in the category of biscuit making. But before we get down to the newest trio of challenges, let’s quickly review the results from the last round.

Retiree Marie was named Star Baker for her solid performance across all three challenges from a zingy Madeira cake, third place finish in the technical, and a perfect example of the traditional Black Forest gateau. Musician Stu, on the other hand, was all over the place with his flavors (bitter chocolate and lime Madeira and beetroot Black Forest) and caramel was a fickle friend appearing when he didn’t need it and failing to show up when required. Needless to say Stu was eliminated in week one.

Now on to the cookies at hand!


For the signature challenge, the contestants were given two hours to bake twenty-four crunchy, identical biscotti. This variety of biscuit is twice baked and therefore a danger to dental work if left in the oven too long. In the technical challenge, judge Paul Hollywood momentarily threw the bakers for a loop with a request for eight arlettes, an apparently obscure puff pastry-like cinnamon flavored biscuit. Finally for the show stopper, they were set the task of making three dozen biscuits to be presented in an edible box made of a different kind of biscuit dough. Paul cited precision and architecture skills as the key to success in this challenge.

Highlights: In the signature bake, everyone seemed to get some sort of positive feedback about their biscotti efforts. Sandy, Ugne and Naydia were particularly praised for their flavors, crunch and texture. Ian got extra kudos for his bold use of rosemary.

Dorret came in at the head of the technical challenge pack for her exemplary arlettes. Flora too had a good round; the only complaint being her biscuits tasted too strongly of cinnamon.

The showstopper was a test of organizational skills as much as culinary know-how. Mat’s fun gingerbread fire engine and Earl Grey tea biscuits was a favorite of the judges as was Sandy’s savory sun-dried tomato and oregano biscuit hamper with  parmesan and cream cheese biscuits. Ian even fashioned a form out of bent aluminum to make his cylindrical shortbread box with perfect pink macarons nestled inside.

Ian, who also came in third in the technical challenge, was named this week’s Star Baker for his meticulous techniques and excellent flavors. Oddly enough, he said that at home he has yet to win the title of best male baker in his tiny Cambridgeshire village.

Missteps: The bakers emerged from the signature round largely unscathed. The amber sugar crystals on Dorret’s biscotti failed to make an impression on Paul and Mary and Marie’s irregular sized Italian inspired biscotti also disappointed in the scarcity of ingredients. Tamal, on the other hand, had too many flavors going on without one coming to the forefront.

In the technical challenge Marie was only able to salvage half the arlettes from her batch and therefore came in last place in the round. Apparently her oven setting was wrong; however, the ones she brought up for judging were quite good. Contestant Paul placed second from the bottom for the small size and poorly laminated layers of his arlettes.

Lots of small catastrophes popped up on showstopper day. Sue Perkins broke the dome to Naydia’s cayenne gingerbread fortune cookie box which prevented her from decorating it. The lid of Flora’s lemon and honey shortbread tea chest snapped it two. And who didn’t feel for poor Alvin when he choked up in front of the judges whilst explaining why he had to abandon his gingerbread casket in favor of finishing his brandy snaps.  All these situations were construction issues and the judges were complementary about the textures and flavors of these bakes.

Dorret got graded down for using a cut out to create the frog biscuits in her box. In addition, Paul found the green tea and cocoa bean shortbread bitter. Mary Berry thought Unge’s honeycake jar too garish and, to be honest, I couldn’t make out the fondant baby legs that were supposed to hang over the side.

But it was last week’s Star Baker Marie who was sent home. Mary said that Marie tended towards the simple and plain and had not shown she could lift out of her comfort zone with her Russian gingerbread box with traditional Scottish shortbread inside. To her credit, Marie was very gracious and appreciative of her brief time in the competition. Just goes to show that Star Baker status in no way provides immunity from future elimination.

So that’s two weeks down and eight to go!  At this point we’re getting to know the contestants a bit better – their strengths, weaknesses and personalities are becoming more apparent.

 I’m really liking Sandy’s energy, sense of humor and attitude to the competition. I just enjoy watching her. She reminds me of Becca from last season.

Anyone else get Ian and Mat confused at the beginning?  While both are good bakers, I believe Ian is really gaining confidence and coming into his own.

I think Naydia is a tough contender and that she showed quite a bit of class when Sue accidentally disfigured her biscuit dome . If only she’d stop looking so stricken every time Paul and Mary come round to judge her bakes.  She did say she was all about the drama though, right?

Here’s hoping our bakers will rise to the occasion with their crusty creations for bread week. Until then feel free to share your thoughts about the competition so far in the comments below.