We have had an absolute baking bonanza in the Boo household this week, so by the time we were poised for The Great British Bake Off I had so many baked goods to choose from to accompany my viewing delight I was almost as stressed about that as I was about the prospect of what desserts might be in store for me visually.
In the end you will all be hugely relieved to know that I plumped for a slice of the apricot and sultana loaf I made in a fit of excitement yesterday, mostly due to the excitement of thinking that if I didn’t do something with the apricots in the fruit bowl stat, they might actually rise up and kill me in the night.
It provided a very pleasant accompaniment to my viewing activities, although I did have to hoik a few stray crumbs out of my cleavage during the technical. This was due to the fact that I was gesticulating rather wildly in a panic about meringue and things went a bit off piste.
This week it was all about the desserts. First up was the signature round, where the bakers had to create creme brûlées of varying flavours. The flavours were not so much the problem here as the quantities. There were buckets and buckets of creme brûlées to be made. Last year I bandied about the idea that Mary and Paul might be doing a side line in outside catering. Some sort of tuck shop, possibly in a hedge, or cream teas in their tiny tent of judging joy. I don’t know, but it looked like they were catering for coach trips this week. You could have bathed a rugby team in the amount of creme brûlée washing around that tent. With the amount of alcohol also sloshing around this week I suspect Mary would have been totally game for that, had the chance come up.
I can just see her sharing the soap with a prop forward.
If you want the perfect brûlée you must cook them using a bain marie, which is French for a bucket of water. Obviously, you put the water in the oven first, rather than just dumping a lot of custard in a fire bucket full of tap water and praying a lot. We’re not talking about invoking St. Therese of Lisieux here.
NO MIRACLES OCCURED DURING THE BAKING OF THIS BRULEE.
Once the ramekins of custardy delight are floating about in their bain, full of Marie, you have to keep a beady eye on them. They need to wobble. The wobble must be just so. Like that, but not like that. Sandy, who I love with undying passion, spent a great deal of time trying to perfect her wobble, both in her bain and out in the tent, with Sue. Sadly it was a lost wobble, given that her custard was more soupstard and her choice of Pontefract cakes as a flavouring was too evil even for me. I have never forgiven Pontefract cakes for the facts that a) they are made of liquorice and b) they’re not ruddy cakes. What a swiz.
The other thing you need for a perfect brûlée is a nice crusty caramel topping you can crack with the spoon in the manner of a dippy egg, only more exciting. To make things more tricky, Mary had banned the use of chef’s blow torches for this. She fears change. All the contestants had to crisp up their caramel under the grill. This was not a popular move, and the word granulated was used a lot by the judges. Not in a good way. Tamal did brilliantly with his. Ian’s custard rated a mention, but Paul was not impressed by his frivolous use of pomegranates as a surprise ingredient. Paul who was not Hollywood also had a surprise, being the only person who had overcooked his brûlée so much that it had actually turned into alcoholic scrambled egg flavoured with almond.
Yes. I am absolutely sure that this is as disgusting as it sounded. Even Bernard Black, who eats scrambled egg out of a shoe with a comb, would be hard pushed to love that.
The technical was to make something called a Spanische Windtorte. Apparently, a Spanish Wind Cake actually comes from Austria. This sentence tells you everything you need to know about Spanische Windtorte. They are tricky, deceptive and foreign.
To be fair, one made by someone who isn’t baking for their life under fourteen metric tonnes of soggy canvas sounds delightful. It is basically French meringue with Swiss meringue made into a giant hatbox style cake, filled with whipped cream and strawberries. I mean, what’s not to like?
Having said that, I would rather stick red hot needles in my eyes than have to actually make one. You create the component parts, the LEGO bricks of the confection, with French meringue. You glue these together with Swiss meringue, fill the whole thing with cream, and then pipe it all over with more Swiss meringue. It is a giant accident waiting to happen. One sneeze and the whole lot could be blown over into next door’s garden soon as look at you.
Also, where is the Spanish bit? Is it made by Spanish chefs, in Austria, from Swiss and French meringue? It’s an EU plot. Someone should report it to Nigel Farage. I’m sure he will say that it is a cunning ploy to get more immigrants into the country in hollowed out meringue kisses or something.
Anyway. It was a very tense round as you will already know from the fact that I got crumbs down my bosom in the third paragraph. Sandy had another disaster, with a lid for her cake that looked rather like an avant garde hat. Also she was very lucky that her cake stand didn’t explode when she put it back in the oven. It was a bold move, and had it not been meringue, and cooking on a very low setting, we would probably still be picking shards of ceramic out of Paul’s beard.
The show stopper round this week was another mammoth task, in which the contestants had to create a triple decker monolith of baked cheesecakes. NOT SAVOURY.
I never dreamed you could have a savoury cheesecake. My first question if asked if I wanted some savoury cheesecake would be: What’s the point of that then? My second question would be: Have you forgotten the word for quiche? I quite often do things like that. I could not remember the term rear view mirror for an entire day last week.
Tamal and Ian went head to head with semi savoury quiches. They were both using rosemary, which as we know, tastes like hand soap, in their cheese cakes. This disturbed me rather. Then Ian went further to create a tarragon and apple cheesecake. I was highly suspicious of this. His third one was pink. I can’t remember what it was flavoured with. I suspect it was tea tree oil.
Matt redeemed himself in this bake with three cheesecakes based on chocolate bars, which is entirely right and proper. Nadiya made a rather spectacular one in homage to fizzy pop, and Sandy absolutely buggered it right up with leaky cheesecakes that wouldn’t stack and weren’t baked in the middle.
This meant that Sandy had to go home. I was gutted. Absolutely gutted. Sandy was my favourite and my best.
Ian got star baker for the third week running, despite the fact that I thought that Tamal edged it this week. Tamal took this in good grace. If it had been me, I would have been tying together an Ian voodoo doll using sprigs of rosemary and a spatula behind one of the tent folds stat.
Another reason I’m not on Bake Off, and am lucky not to be in prison, frankly.
Next week sounds intriguing. It is the Free From Bake week. It will certainly be free from Sandy.
You can watch this week’s episode here.