‘The Great British Baking Show’ Recap: Sweet Dough

The baking theme of the week: Sweet dough! (Photo: Love Productions)
The baking theme of the week: Sweet dough! (Photo: Love Productions)
At the end of last week’s episode of The Great British Baking Show, Christine was declared Star Baker for her tasty trio of traybake, tuiles and biscuit tower. Robert, on the other hand, was ejected from the tent when his Dalek tower failed to exterminate the competition. If you’d like to refresh your memory, come this way for a full recap.

But even as we mourn the losses and celebrate the triumphs of the previous round, Paul and Mary have devised three more tests of skill and baking ingenuity all to do with sweet dough. Who will emerge victorious and who will face a tearful exit? It’s any “bun’s” guess! Sorry, Sue and Mel already warned us that, according to a new BBC rule, there are to be no puns about buns…

For the signature challenge, the bakers were directed to make a sweet tea loaf. Fruits and spices flavor this loaf which could be free form or baked in a tin and it had to include yeast.

In the technical challenge (otherwise known as the round where the bakers constantly sneak peeks around the tent to see how everyone else is doing things), the contestants were required to fashion an apricot couronne using Paul's recipe. Basically a crown-shaped, fruity bread ring, several bakers referenced the couronne’s similarity to a Chelsea bun which I thought was like a cinnamon roll with raisins, but what do I know?

Finally for this week’s showstopper, the judges wanted to see two different varieties of European sweet buns, a dozen of each. The bakers were allotted a half an hour at the end of day one to prepare their dough so that it could slowly prove in the refrigerator overnight. 

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Highlights: Before I start in on individual bakers’ performances, I wanted to mention psychologist Kimberley’s delightful discussion with Sue Perkins about the different baking personalities of her competitors. She identified Beca as solid all the way through, Ruby as a baking ninja, Glenn as a flavor machine with lots of skill, Frances as an art/design guru, and Christine as always consistent. Kimberley mentioned Howard’s strength for coming up with interesting flavor combinations which Sue took to mean that he was a maverick, never to be tamed. Bless him!

Of the signature bakes, the judges enjoyed Frances’ chai tea loaf placed in a large tea cup, one of her more understated designs. Beca’s Welsh bara brith also got solid praise especially considering the amount of time she had for proving.

No one had a disastrous showing in the technical round this week. Ruby came in first with Frances close behind for their attractive and well-executed apricot couronnes. 

In the showstopper, consistent Christine’s cherry and raisin schnecken buns and vanilla custard skolebrød were pronounced scrummy by Mary Berry herself. Beca was praised for her cardamom-spiced lemon iced buns and the quality of her chocolate and rum-soaked prune brioches (though I’m still not sure whether Paul and Mary were being positive or negative about the inclusion of the prunes in this bake).

However it was Ruby who tipped the scales with her twisted Swedish kanelbullar and saffron St. Lucia buns. Her habit of warning the judges she’s done poorly sets them up for low expectations which are then no doubt exceeded when they taste her bakes. It’s one of her little ninja tricks, I suspect, and perhaps the key to winning her second Star Baker title this week.

Missteps: Many of the bakers had hiccups with their tea loaves. Howard’s maverick date and hemp tea loaf’s flavor was too pungent for the judges. Christine’s Oxford nutty fruit loaf was so doughy Paul wouldn’t even taste test it. And Kimberley’s chai-spiced ginger and date tea loaf was underbaked and underproved. Maybe she spent too much time analyzing everyone else and lost track of her own baking personality.

Howard came last in the technical as his ring was judged too thin. Beca’s couronne was graded down for looking clumsy.

The showstopper round proved difficult as well. Kimberley’s Danish kanelsnurrer needed more rise and more flavor while her double chocolate and hazelnut brioches were overbaked. Frances’ hot cross brioches grew to a monstrous size due to overproving. And Howard’s peachy buns, though wonderful in appearance, had no discernable peach flavor while his German baumschnecken turned out dry and biscuit-like.

It was our flavor machine, Glenn, who encountered the direst results from his bake.  His sticky caramel kanelbullens wouldn’t come out of the tins in one piece and Paul commented on the bad cinnamon flavor. Additionally, his almond and apricot brioches were dry and overcooked. Poor Glenn was so disappointed and emotional he couldn’t speak in his talking head segment.

Therefore, he was more than a little shocked when it was Howard who was sent home at the end of this week’s competition. Glenn vowed to work harder in the coming weeks to make it up to Howard for the extra chance he’d been given. And Howard, our sweet little snail, left with only good things to say about his fellow bakers and his experience in the competition.

Howard was my favorite from the very first episode so I am gutted to see him go. Nevertheless, the baking must go on and with only three episodes left it’s anyone’s competition to win. Glenn, Ruby, Frances, Christine, Beca and Kimberley remain. Who is your pick for champion of The Great British Baking Show?

Carmen Croghan

Carmen Croghan often looks at the state of her British addiction and wonders how it got so out of hand.  Was it the re-runs of Monty Python on PBS, that second British Invasion in the 80’s or the royal pomp and pageantry of Charles and Diana’s wedding? Whatever the culprit, it led her to a college semester abroad in London and over 25 years of wishing she could get back to the UK again.  Until she is able, she fills the void with British telly, some of her favorites being comedies such as The Office, The IT Crowd, Gavin and Stacey, Alan Partridge, Miranda and Green Wing. Her all-time favorite series, however, is Life On Mars. A part-time reference library staffer, she spends an inordinate amount of time watching just about any British series she can track down which she then writes about for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK, I Learned from the BBC.  She is excited to be contributing to Telly Visions and endeavors to share her Anglo-zeal with its readers.

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