It's Pastry Week in the tent on The Great British Baking Show, one of the standard-issue weeks that has been with the show almost since the dawn of the series. Pastry Week is one of those that always falls late in the game but is never quite so tough to be a semi-final. Notably, considering this week's challenges, the show's two seasons that didn't have a Pastry Week theme, the series replaced it wholesale with Pie Week. (Both seasons that skipped it were very early on: Series 2, which has never aired here, and Series 3, aka GBBO: The Beginnings.)
Perhaps the fundamental nature of something like Pastry Week is why Noel and Matt cannot even ruin it with a crappy opener, resorting to the sad sight of someone eating a shoe. (The less said about their other jokes, the better.) It's also another sign of how much this season has gone back to the basics when it comes to the challengers for the bakers, after realizing that the reason the show has remained popular lo this last decade is that they weren't messing with perfection. And is there really anything more perfect than pastry? I believe there is not.
The Signature Challenge for this week is chouxnuts, a blend of choux pastry and fried doughnuts. Choux is a fixture of the series, appearing almost every season, save Series 2 and last year's Series 11. But fans should note that usually, choux is reserved for the Pâtisserie semi-final. The last time the series had choux on Pastry Week, it was Series 5 (US Season 1)'s eclair showstopper. Coincidentally, that was one of the only two seasons (along with last year) where the series also had the bakers make doughnuts. (Though they were the showstopper in Advance Dough Week.) As always, the Signature is judged on a Pass/Fail metric.
- George 'Classic Chouxnuts' (Pass) They look surprisingly neat and tidy! His filled donuts aren't full, though, causing Prue to talk about dual holes and squirting, utterly unaware that Matt and Paul just silently died.
- Jürgen 'Exotic Flavour & 70's Colour' (Pass) They are 70s rainbow riots of color, and both delicate and delicious.
- Chigs 'Oo La La Chouxnuts' (Pass) He did chocolate doughnuts, which paul loves, and his filled ones are just to the point of bursting without going over.
- Giuseppe 'Bellissima Chouxnuts' (Pass) Well fried, good color, but the filled ones are overwhelmingly limoncello, which is great if you love limoncello (Prue) less so if you don't (Paul).
- Crystelle 'Mango Maracujá & Miso Caramel Chouxnuts' (Fail) The caramel doughnuts are too savory, too umami, while the filled donuts are too tight to hold a proper filling.
- Amanda 'Sweet & Savoury Chouxnuts' (Fail) Her sweet doughnuts are too sweet, her savory not savory enough.
- Lizzie 'Caramel & Floral Chouxnuts' (Pass) They're adorable considering how much Lizzie hated the process of frying, to the point that Prue is amazed she could hate making something so tasty.
Paul sets this week's Technical Challenge: To make a giant baklava in a pie shape. This is not the first time the show has asked the bakers to make baklava; it was the Signature Challenge in Series 5's Pâtisserie semi-final. They've also asked contestants to make phyllo dough before, in Series 4 (Season 2)'s phyllo pie showstopper and Series 7 (Season 4)'s phyllo amuse-bouche showstopper. But it is the first time it's ever been the blind Technical Challenge. I will note that Giuseppe's statement about it being a pain (hassle) is accurate. Currently, there is no American cooking competition show that has ever asked contestants to make phyllo dough. It is always storebought and provided.
7. Lizzie: The shape is a disaster, and the bottom is soggy
6. George: Too dark and too thick layers
5. Amanda: Clumsily decorated, clumsily laminated
4. Giuseppe: Neatly decorated but underbaked
3. Chigs: Nice and crisp on the bottom
2. Crystelle: The color is good, and so is the lamination
1. Jürgen: It's neat and tidy, with beautiful color and lamination
Crystelle came in determined to be in the Top Three because if she wasn't, she knew she'd be in trouble. She pulled it off, beaten only by Jürgen, the Jürgenator, as he terms himself. He was only short an "Hasta la bake-off, baby" to make it a truly iconic moment.
It's pouring on Day 2, which means it's damp in the tent. Hopefully, the Showstopper Challenge won't be too affected by the water in the air, as it's to make an intricate terrine pie, with intricate designs out of pie crust on the outer laters and then reveal an internal design when you cut into them far easier done in the cake than pie. Pies are a staple of Bake-Off, despite the famous season where the bakers were asked to make American Pies, and the resulting failures were legendary. There have been entire Pie Weeks (or Pie and Tart or Pie and Traybakes) in Series 2-5, and Pie Challenges in almost every other season, from Pie challenges in Series 1 and Series 8-10 to Victorian and Tudor Pies in Series 6 and 7 (Seasons 3 and 4).
Traditionally, terrine pies are cold meat pies, but the bakers can make whatever flavor they like. But cold meat in a solid pâté form will make doing an internal design far easier than, say, apple. So one should expect a lot of meat pies will be forthcoming. Also, there will be a lot of hot water crusts made with lard because those are far more stable for decorating (and are the traditional crust for meat pies to boot).
Lizzie "Neptune Pie" The sides are simple, but the fish on top is bold. Inside, the center has held together showing a fish swimming in water. The pastry is too thick, but considering everything checks all the boxes, this is a triumph.
Giuseppe "Laura's Terrine Pie" I am in love with the owl on top of Giuseppe's pie, and the inner design is fantastic, considering he went for a round pie that needed to have designs on both sides of the wedge
Chigs "Leicester Pork Pie" The top design is rather simplistic but effective. The internal design is practically nonexistent. The sides are cracked a bit, but the flavor is good.
Jürgen "Lunch in Freiburg" It's stunning. The pattern inside is also brilliant, but the beef is dry and overbaked.
Amanda "Fancy Terrine Pie" Her pie was overbaked and fell to bits when she finally got it out of the tin (which required Chigs assistance), but what's left of the top was an ambitious design. Her little pigs are adorable though
George "Christmas Dinner" George also struggled to get his pie out of the tin, and the bottom is still sitting in it because it's so underbaked. It didn't fall to bits upon taking the sides off, but it is bowed and wavy. Too bad because the two-tone pastry is pretty.
Crystelle "Lily Nana's Pickle Cottage" It's an adorable little cottage, and the pattern inside is brilliant with the curry color striations. Paul is so in love that he beckons Crystelle over to show her something and then whips out the first Showstopper level Hollywood Handshake.
Crystelle may have started with a failure at the top of the episode, but she more than made up for it in the showstopper, and her Star Baker is a long time coming and well deserved. (The screams from her family are GREAT.) As for who is leaving, Lizzie saved herself, so it's between Amanda and George. Amanda's was a more significant collapse than his, so she's heading home.