Oh, the news outside is frightful, but the tent is so delightful. And since quarantine means there's nowhere to go, it's a good thing it's time for The Great British Baking Show. As per usual, this season is starting with the Major Trio in the baking arcana. Last week was Cake; this week, Biscuits, and (spoiler alert) next week, the bakers will tackle Bread. And the tent gods smile on as Noel and Matt remind us that for Netflix viewers, they're not even called biscuits. But then again, Cookie Week doesn't have the same ring to it.
This week's Signature challenge is Florentines: 36 of them, and they must involve chocolate (either dipped, coated, or otherwise infused with in some way). For those who might not be familiar with them, Florentines are not a soft, chewy cookie; they're a baked good that puts the "Biscuit" in "Biscuit Week." They are crunchy and usually filled with nuts and candied cherries. That's because they come from the same portion of the Italian world that gave us the biscotti. In the U.K., they're vaguely thought of as a Christmas treat.
Let's see which bakers are better in the Biscuit portion than the Cake one. As always, the Signature is judged on a pass/fail metric.
- Dave Feathered Chocolate Mango Florentines (Pass): They look great, they're well iced, and they snap like someone broke something.
- Mark Mango Lassi Florentines (Fail): They're lumpy, and they're not uniform, but they snap great. Unfortunately, they taste of nothing but white chocolate.
- Laura Salted Caramel Florentines (Pass): They are pretty and classic looking, and Paul loves the flavors, though he wishes for a bit more dark chocolate for balance.
- Rowan Waistcoat Florentines (Fail): The first to make a non-traditional shape, he only managed to decorate half his waistcoats on the biscuits he finished, which was only 23.
- Sura Sohan Florentines (Pass): They look like boats rather than large flat discs, and they don't snap because they're so thick. But her Iranian flavor combo is a hit.
- Peter Sticky Toffee Florentines (Pass): They look the part, and though they don't snap, Paul and Prue marvel at the flavor, with Paul declaring it unique.
- Hermine Mango and Coconut Florentines (Fail): They're scruffy looking and underbaked, and the mango is tough.
- Marc Ginger, Cherry and Pistachio Florentines (Pass): They look gorgeous, but they're too thick to snap. But the ruby chocolate and cherries are a hit.
- Linda Flower Topped Florentines (Fail): The ginger flavor is excellent, but they look nothing like florentines, to the point that Prue declares them just 'a delicious biscuit."
- Mak Mango and Cumin Florentines (Fail): These were supposed to form a Peacock's tail, but he only managed 24 of the 36. Also, too thick and gooey. "Not a florentine," says Paul.
- Lottie Quarantine Florentines (Pass): She went with the classic and hit the mark. The first Hollywood Handshake of the season arrives, and Paul steals two biscuits on his way out the door.
On to the Technical! This week's challenge is set by Prue (because we all know Paul does Bread Week). She wants one dozen coconut macaroons, hand-shaped. Six must be "drizzled" and filled with chocolate, the other six filled with mango curd. Matt says this sounds too hard and suggests going out to the shops instead.
Fans might be confused that no one has made macaroons before, since macarons are a regular staple of the Baking Show kitchen. That's because there's a huge difference that one "O" makes. Macarons are the circular french sandwich cookie filled with buttercream and made with meringue and almond flour and are associated with Kings like Louis XVI. Macaroons are Italian and are crushed almond paste and egg whites, coated with coconut or other flakey stuff. They date back to monasteries in the 800s, and today are mainly associated with Jewish traditions like Passover.
Did everyone make the right cookie? (Yes, thank god.) Did they get them the right size to fit on Prue's designated plate? Not all of them, no. Let's run through the failures and success stories.
11. Rowan: Super underbaked, and they look a right mess
10. Peter: Way too pale and underbaked.
9. Marc: The chocolate drizzle is untidy, and they're all different sizes
8. Lottie: Underbaked, but looks nice
7. Laura: Uniform, but slightly underbaked
6. Sura: Very different sizes, but tody looking
5. Hermine: Well baked, but hard to cut and chewy
4. Linda: Over mixed, so a little thick
3. Mak: They are correctly cooked and good flavor
2. Mark: Coconut is just right, as are the toppings
1. Dave: These are perfect, with Prue praising the curd
With the lack of any Elbowgate, Dave landed first place in the Technical. As for those who are not doing well, one can see Rowan is falling behind the pack badly due to his utter lack of time management. Mak and Hermine are also in a bad way, having failed the Signature and mid-packing the Technical. But even so, the real question is who survives another Showstopper asking for insanity from amateurs. The judges are asking for a 3D Biscuit Table Setting, aka a Tea or Coffee set for afternoon tea, all out of edibles biscuits.
Paul is desperate for Rowan to finish in the four hours given, going as far as demanding it during the station visits. But sculpting biscuit dough, in general, is stressing everyone out, to the point that one baker, Mak, is making more of a gingerbread house building.
Let's see if these results are any better than the Cake Week bust-up.
Rowan's "Worse Things Happen At Sea" It's "mostly finished," and the cupcake wrapper top of his lighthouse blinks and everything. It's a bit of a mess, but it is finished, though the lemon biscuit was super overworked to achieve the hardness to make the damn thing stand up.
Marc's "Morning Coffee' n' Toast" The "toast" biscuits are hilarious. Paul declares it looks brilliant, and the texture even works.
Hermine's "Sakura Tea Set" Her pottery edges are rough, and Paul calls it "clumsy," but her pattern is lovely. Prue declares it looks sprayed on. The taste isn't there, though.
Laura's "Celebration Afternoon Tea" She never meant to make biscuits to put on the tea stand; the tea stand was the point. But because she used a real tea stand and then covered it with a biscuit overlay, Paul is not convinced it counts, and it certainly doesn't look impressive for four hours of work, even if the biscuits taste good.
Linda's "High Tea in Amsterdam" her piping is exquisite. Her biscuit dough has been overworked, but the design sells it.
Mark's "Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony" It's a bit ragged. But his "charcoal" biscuits and dry ice smoke is a nice touch. But the coffee flavor is so strong, Prue starts coughing.
Dave's "Waiting for Tacos" This is the first thing we've seen this season that can properly be called a Showstopper. The decor is perfect, the sculpting is on point, and the presentation is spot-on. Paul calls it remarkable. And the biscuits are delicious too.
Mak's "Indian Chai Service" It's childlike, and Paul feels it doesn't meet the criteria because he wanted a molded tea set, and Mak basically made a bunch of flat biscuits and glued them together with icing. The plate pulls apart, but the flavor is slight.
Sura's "Speculaas Ramadan Tea Time" It's an uneven design, the teapot itself looks unfinished, and the icing to cover it is clumsy. Paul loves the flavors.
Peter's "Biscuit Burns Supper" As usual, it's very neat, the design is "witty" as Prue puts it, and the flavor is so good, she stops talking and moans at how good it is.
Lottie's "Viking Victuals" She made a Viking Boat filled with dry ice., but it isn't finished, and the goblet is wonky.
Dave is the obvious shoo-in for Star Baker this week, between coming in first on the Technical and delivering the only Showstopper so far in the competition. As for whose going home, one would think Rowan should be the one out, but Paul is super irritated about Mak's Showstopper, and Prue doesn't think his designs are exciting, so he's out. It should be noted, though, that Paul and Prue get in Rowan's face as soon as they've bid Mak a farewell and says this is his absolute last chance.