Halfway Through and its Pastry Week.

As news of the apparent demise of Bake Off continues to hit the press I can’t help but savour this current series. We now know that Mel, Sue and Mary herself will not be moving over to Channel 4, and if you believe the social media hype even the tent has said no!!! It will only be Mr Hollywood himself in the new show, with questions abounded as to who will become the new Mary. I wish BBC had managed to retain it but I will give Channel 4 the benefit of the doubt and watch the new version. Who knows it may be revamped in a positive way or alternatively I’ll watch whatever new creation comes about on BBC inevitably involving Mel, Sue and Mary.

Back to more pressing matters – pastry week. Exactly half way through and we are down to 8 bakers. I always think pastry week is one of the hardest, and I find it one of the hardest too. We have all experienced a soggy bottom or two; or had pastry that wouldn’t come together. I really think pastry is a science that is easy to get wrong and never envy the bakers. This year the challenges would be breakfast pastries, bakewell tarts and filo amuse bouche. Walk in the park really. 

Signature Bake

24 breakfast pastries, 12 of two different styles, using a puff pastry. Speed is always crucial with this type of pastry so that it can be in for the first prove with ample time for a second. To make their lives that much easier all bar Jane chose to make one batch of dough and then split it into two batches to add different flavours. Jane made things twice as hard for herself by making two different doughs for her orange pain au raisin and her raspberry, chocolate and almond danish. Good effort but unnecessarily making things harder for herself if you ask me. Now breakfast pastries are not a quick hit. They are the equivalent of a marathon in the world of pastry with the bakers taking part in a long lamination process, bashing the butter to make it flat and help with the layering process. Then begins the long and arduous task of folding, all the while multi tasking and making the chosen filing. The formula for the folding process is folds plus one to the power of how many times its turned. Yep I’m lost too! And don’t forget you must ensure there is no butter leakage. There is an art to the folding. Most opted for the envelope fold so each folding makes three layers. But not Andrew – Andrew chose the book fold so each folding made four layers, thereby shortening the process or ensuring more layers in the same time! 

Now one of the best things I have learnt this season on bake off is to keep some dental floss in your baking cupboard. Having rolled her apple, sultana and cinnamon swirls Val brought out her secret weapon that is dental floss. The speed in which she cut those swirls using the dental floss was a work of art – truly! There was some truly scrumptious flavours on parade for breakfast – Andrews pear and chocolate; Rav’s cinnamon swirls with lemon icing; Benjamina’s good morning America swirls with maple bacon. Unfortunately not everyones pastry met the mark. Jane’s pastries overfilled and so burnt; Tom’s had raw layers and Paul didn’t even try them; Benjamina’s didn’t prove properly and so there was again raw pastry; Rav forgot to plait one and so only baked 12; Selasi’s weren’t quite baked; and poor Val’s just fell apart. No amount of watching her oven and praying could help her. Candice’s apple rose danish’s looked lovely and tasted delicious but again needed a little more baking. Few of the bakers had a good day today.

Technical Bake

Mary’s technical challenge this week came in the form of the Bakewell tart – which everyone needed to bake well, a challenge for many of them following the signature bake. Mary was looking for sheer perfection, her only tip for the occupants of the tent was to keep their cool!! Now Val, why she makes a Bakewell every week, so she was vying for top spot. That is until she realised that she had missed the first page of ingredients!!! Selasi was slightly ageist when he felt that the older contestants would bake this well. I love baking Bakewell tarts – can’t go wrong with a classic and I’m not old!! Mary’s instructions were very minimal – make a jam…make a frangipane..make a pastry. Dead simple right!! 
Mistakes were once again rife. Andrew forgot to turn his oven on and didn’t realise for 15 minutes. Rav’s collapsed and he had to serve it still on the metal base. Expert Bakewell tart maker Val had the dreaded soggy bottom which no-one likes to see. Jane and Candice came out top of the tarts, while Andrew, Val and Rav were the bottom three and were in jeopardy going into day two!

Showstopper Bake
This showstopper was a mammoth task, yet in bitesize!!! Im often asked to make my cakes smaller and I really struggle – surely bigger is better where cake/food is concerned? Not for Mary and Paul this week. They wanted to see 48 filo amuse bouche, 24 of a sweet filling and 24 of a savoury filling. All within 4 hours. And the biggest challenge here was they had to make their own filo pastry. Now Val tried this once 35 years ago and never bothered again! Filo pastry is notoriously hard to make so many don’t bother! The trick is to get it wafer thin so that you can almost see through it. You use a basic dough but its all about the resting time and the stretching process that produces filo.
And here comes the weekly baking history lesson!!! Baklava is the reason why filo pastry exists, dating back to the Ottoman Empire. It was a process of rolling and stretching pastry to create filo, and the number of sheets became a sign of wealth. The Sultan’s kitchen  sandwiched pistachio between the sheets and added butter to produce the first baklava. In the baklava procession the Sultan would give gifts of baklava to thank their subjects for their service. The Ottoman Empire is no more but baklava is one of the lasting treasures from this now defunct empire. 

Once again the flavours all sounded amazing. Tom’s spicy chocolate coated sirloin steak; Benjamina’s plantain and spinach samosas; Selasi’s parma ham, asparagus and cheese filo cigars; or Candice’s banoffee whiskey cups. Yummy. Once again twinkle toes Val was on form with her handy hints – this time her hint was to use a (clean) broom handle to help roll out the filo thin enough to see through it. It unfortunately wasn’t enough to save her this week. Candice also had a handy hint to roll using a pasta machine. This rolling process had to be repeated and then when the bakers had cut out their filo shapes, they had to layer it with butter, and repeat the process 48 times! Never had the tent been so quite. Poor Val was having an awful time of it as she didn’t use enough cornflour to separate her layers when rolling them so they all clumped up and she only put up 12 of the 24 in her second bake.
One of the main criticisms of bakers was that they weren’t amuse bouche – Val and her Yorkshire gobfuls, Jane and her cones – all too big for Mary and Paul. Candice’s performance in this last challenge, with her apple shaped sausage and black pudding, cemented her obvious choice for star baker, narrowly pushing Jane out of the way. But unfortunately it seemed pastry sealed the fate of one of my favourites ole twinkle toes. The tent will truly not be the same without our Val who departed with some truly inspiring words.
When you bake, you always bake for a reason. You’re giving it to people, so you make it the best you can. And you make it with love. Well said Val….well said. 
The tent will be a sadder place next week without your dancing. Next week is another newbie for GBBO – botanical week – really not sure what to expect so no predictions this week!!!! Can’t wait though.

(Image courtesy of bake off twitter)
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