Great British Bake Off 2014 – Series 5 – Semi Finals: Patisserie

I don’t want to write this blog post.

Not because I didn’t enjoy The Great British Bake Off, but because I am sad that writing it means that it is all nearly over for another year.

I suspect that I mean sad in all senses of the word, as it is clearly a pretty wonderful life a person is having if they’ve got time to indulge in a spot of sadness about a baking show, but there you have it. I am a lucky bitch with time to indulge in melancholy about buns.

There are various reasons. Firstly it was the semi-final, which means that now there is only one episode left. One.

How can that be? It seems only yesterday that it started.

Secondly, my friend reminded me that the end of Bake Off means that we can no longer pretend it is late summer, and that we must face the fact that we are creeping inexorably nearer to the dreaded annual festivities that begin with the C word that I really don’t want to mention.

Thirdly, I really didn’t want anyone to go home from the tent today.

To be fair, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the bakers in this series, and didn’t want any of them to go any week, but as they whittle down further, you begin to worry about them more, and every parting is such sweet sorrow.

Plus, it is getting to serious baking time, which means less mistakes, more concentration and less stuff for me to blog about that amused me. Because we are now at the stage where things are not really very amusing any more. There is everything to play for.

I have had a migraine since five this morning. I have steeled myself against succumbing all day, and by the time Bake Off started I had a dull pounding in the temples, but was otherwise fine. An hour of gritting my teeth and worrying about whether everyone’s mousse will set, and my head is splitting again.

Let us begin, however. I am a martyr to the baking.

This week was all about patisserie. You can check out the episode here if you missed it.

I love patisserie. I take enormous and heartfelt delight in walking into a Patisserie and ordering mouthfuls of deliciousness. One of the greatest moments of my life was finding out that I worked within walking distance of the two, original Patisserie Valerie, when I started my working life in London many, many years ago. It made the hideousness of my job bearable, knowing that if I speed walked down Brompton Road as soon as the clock hit twelve, I was in with a shout of an apricot Danish, and if they’d all gone I’d got seventy eight more varieties of deliciousness to choose from.

This week though, we had dispensed with the Scandinavians and their pastry based temptations. In the signature round it was all about baklava. I’m not sure if I class this as patisserie, but until they appoint me as chief advisor for the show, there isn’t a lot I can do about it.

For the uninitiated, baklava consist of layers upon layers of filo pastry, stuffed with chopped nuts and honey. Each piece is so small you feel that you have been cheated, until you actually eat it, and it magically expands on contact with your mouth, taking you twenty minutes to get through it. You will inevitably be picking bits of walnut out of your teeth three weeks hence.

I have never been a huge fan of baklava, which is good, as they are five trillion calories per square millimetre. I have certainly never attempted to make any. In fact I have never made anything which requires me to hand make filo pastry. I took to heart, very early in my baking life, Nigella’s advice to use shop bought filo pastry. If it’s good enough for Nigella. It’s good enough for me.

All the bakers in the tent obviously took the same advice, as none of them had ever made filo pastry from scratch before, and you could tell that the week of practicing had put severe strain on their love for the pastry.

I think the technical phrase is: ‘It’s a bit of a bastard.’

As usual, Richard did marvellous things to great applause. Nancy managed to pull off muesli filled baklava, much to Paul’s amazement, and indeed her own at one point. Luis didn’t have such a good time with his absolutely stunning looking baklava flowers, which Paul didn’t think were technically baklava, and which turned out to be dry. Chetna had good results with flavours, but not so much with getting her layers right.

I’m amazed anyone could talk after testing eight different types of baklava. I wonder if they had an emergency dentist on hand?

Definitely an emergency diabetes specialist.

The technical round this week involved making something called a schichttorte. It sounded rude. It looked weird. It was bound to be German.

I have nothing against the Germans, but it is fair to say that their cuisine is about on a par with ours when it comes to patisserie. It is not their strong suit. One hundred exciting ways with pickled cabbage and a pig? Absolutely. Patisserie. Non.

A schichttorte, it appears, is actually made under the grill. Yes. You heard me right there. A grill.

You grill thin layers of cake, sandwich them all together with nothing at all, and then cover them in apricot jam and chocolate glaze.

Firstly I do not want to grill a cake. Ever. Even though the cake did look cool. It was still fundamentally wrong. Like eating beef flavoured yogurt. I suspect it is possible, but it is not desirable.

Secondly, I ruddy hate apricot glaze. It reminds me of the Seventies in which many, delicious looking cakes were absolutely ruined by the indiscriminate addition of fruit/jam and marzipan. Thirdly there is no filling. So you are eating grilled Victoria sponge, neat.


And the one they showed you being made in the traditional manner in some rustic German town, looked like a cross between a doner kebab of cake, and a small intestine.

Which is no fun at all.

Luis made an absolutely triumphant grilled intestine cake which Paul said was near perfect. Nancy and Richard made adequate bowels, and poor Chetna made a lumpy, malformed duodenum.

She had my complete and utter sympathy, frankly.

The show stopper this week was to make twenty four delectable morsels of French patisserie goodness called entremets. This is French for showing off like a fiend. Paul told us that it is the making of entremets that brings good pastry chefs to their knees.

Probably in layers.

Because that’s basically what entremets are. They are cakes made up of tons of fiddly layers of different things that no rational person would ever think to put together in a cake, but which, when sandwiched together and swallowed by someone like me, produce rapturous vapours and raised eyebrows of delight.

Luis did inventive things with pomegranates and pistachios which I did not like because I can’t really like pomegranates except in salads. They looked amazing, if slightly lurid, and as if you might have to turn the colour down on the telly.

Nancy made heavenly layers with squares of jelly and mousse and all sorts, hidden away inside like a jack in a box of flavours. It was a shame that the outsides of her cakes looked a bit dented, due to the fact that her glazes hadn’t had time to cool properly.

Richard produced technical wonders of cakes that looked like they had come down with some terrible disease, but in a cool way. His practically perfect polka dots won him star baker for the fifth time in a row. All hail Richard.

And Chetna? My lovely, lovely Chetna, with her brilliant taste in shoes, and her brilliant taste in tastes, went home.

And I can see why they sent her home, but it still made me sad, and I will miss her grumbling at her cakes, and exhorting her mixer, and pulling faces, and making food which looks like it tastes like heaven in a springform tin.

Next week is the final, and if Danish hotels don’t have access to BBC channels I will miss all the excitement and you will all be done and dusted and I will come home next Friday to mere crumbs.


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