We’re at the halfway point of this season’s Great British Baking Show and the competition is heating up for sure. This week our bakers must find ways to substitute ingredients they’ve been asked to subtract; namely sugar, gluten and dairy. While this is a very common dietary situation for many, it presents a unique set of challenges for the eight remaining bakers who must create tasty and attractive bakes regardless of the recipe restrictions.
Before we move into the alternative baking reality that dominates this week’s episode, let’s review the nitty gritty of last week’s dessert-themed competition.
Ian pulled off a hat trick by winning three Star Baker titles in a row for his above average crème brûlées and spanische windtorte as well as his spicy and herby baked cheesecakes which Mary declared were “heaven on a plate.” Sandy left the c-mpetition after a tough weekend of runny crème brûlées , middling meringue and a disastrous cheesecake showstopper. Alas, I was sad to see this fun-loving, easy going baker depart.
This week's signature challenge required our bakers to make a cake sans sugar. They were given two and a half hours to complete the task which included finding a surrogate sweetener. Paul issued the technical challenge to make twelve identical gluten-free pita breads (pronounced “pitta” by the British apparently) in two hours. The showstopper featured the always treacherous ice cream roll. Remember “bin gate” a few seasons back? This time the bakers were asked to create a dairy-free ice-cream and were given four and a half hours to complete the project.
Highlights: In the signature round, the judges favored the flavors of Tamal’s honey and grapefruit polenta cake, Nadiya’s naked blueberry and caraway crunch cake, Paul’s carrot and pecan cake and Alvin’s pineapple upside-down cake.
Nadiya and Paul came in one and two in the technical pita bake. This was particularly gratifying for Nadiya considering in the four previous weeks she had always placed at or near the bottom of the technical results.
The showstopper proved a good one for Ian and his tropical “dessert’” island themed roll with mango and ginger ice cream and an additional core of mango sauce inserted in center. Paul and Mary deemed it ingenious with knock out flavors and textures. Baker Paul also fared well with an island theme. His coconut, lime and mango ice cream was by a sponge cake decorated with palm trees and a sassy fondant sunbather. Tamal’s passion fruit and pineapple ice cream roll got excellent marks for flavor, appearance and textures.
But it was Nadiya whose henna decorated chocolate and strawberry lime mousse ice cream roll was a deemed an overall great package. This in addition to her long awaited first place technical finish and the daring flavors of her signature sugar-free cake ended Ian’s winning streak and gave Nadiya the hard fought and very emotional Star Baker title this week.
Missteps: Fruit choices were the downfall of several bakers in their signature challenge this week. Paul found Ian’s use of pear in his honey and flowers cake not sweet enough and rather simple flavor-wise. Flora’s pistachio, apple and cardamom madeleine cake looked good but was too moist with the apple being considered a bad choice in the end. Ugne, on the other hand, made the challenge more difficult than it had to be by omitting not only sugar but gluten as well. The structure of her chocolate and hazelnut cake didn’t hold together and her chocolate sponge was close textured and bitter though she was commended on her hazelnut cream.
In the gluten-free technical round, Alvin came in last with the thickest pitas of the bunch. Tamal’s pitas were also thick and very light in color perhaps due in part to the excess dusting of flour on the outside.
The dairy-free ice cream roll showstopper tested Flora and the judges found her chocolate and pear bûche wanting. Her choice to shave her sponge cake thinner proved to be a mistake as it seemed to disappear altogether. Mat had a similar problem with his raspberry and coconut ice cream Swiss roll, a technique which made his ice cream melty and seep into his sponge.
Ugne’s chocolate peanut butter and grape jelly roll, however, had multiple issues in texture and appearance. Mary called it sad and Paul said her roll looked like it had been dropped. Though Mr. Hollywood found her peanut flavors fantastic, folding grape jam into the ice cream made it run. This messy result along with her sixth place finish in the technical and her poor showing in the signature round made Ugne the judges choice for elimination. Though she showed great potential, Ugne tried to do too much and that was her downfall this week.
Another trio of challenges has been met head on by our intrepid bakers and one has left the tent. I found this week to be a turning point of sorts. Our contestants have become more relaxed and comfortable with one another – Tamal playfully scolding Nadiya to keep her eyes front; Mel teasing Paul about his sunbather’s lack of gusset and Ian confusing the word for marzipan with parmesan. Also it was so encouraging to witness Paul step in to help Alvin with his overly stuffed ice cream roll. Rare behavior for a reality competition show to be sure but it happens on the Great British Baking Show!
We’ve got five more episodes to go. How do you see this competition shaking out? Which three bakers would you like to see in the final? Please join in as we prattle about pastry and babble about bread in the comments section below.