Semi Final Time in the Tent and a Fond(ant) Farewell to my Favourite!

Say it isn’t so Selasi! Say it’s all just a nightmare!
This was the last time a baker would leave the tent with next week’s final looming but not even the promise of completing the final wearing a dress was enough to save poor Selasi. This caused absolute devastation across social media.
All in all it was the right decision on the day as the four remaining bakers faced three difficult patisserie challenges to prove their worthiness for the final. Firstly a signature bake of palmiers, followed by a technical savarin and finally a showstopper of fondant fancies. This week the girls were the ones to beat.

First up it was time to embrace your french side with 24 savoury palmiers, filled with two different flavours and a proper puff pastry – no rough puff shortcuts for this semi final. Tricks for palmiers include making sure they are cut quite thinly or they become more like a pastry (as Candice would find out) and by doing so its quite difficult to impart flavour. Key would be the chilling of the pastry to incorporate the butter so that it doesn’t leak when baked and the lamination needed to show. The biggest question facing the bakers was a question of flour. Andrew used only plain flour, which initially did not work out well for him, were as Candice and Jane opted for half plain and half strong white flour, more in sync with Paul.

The bakers opted for palmier hearts, treble clefs, elephant ears, flowers and even butterflies from Selasi. Candice baked red onion, cambozola and walnut elephant ears with mushroom, streaky bacon and parmesan hearts. Jane made flower shaped pesto, sun dried tomato and goats cheese palmiers and parma ham and olive elephant ears. Andrew kept things simple and baked cheesy elephant ears and herby treble clefs. Selasi baked a chilli infused salmon, spinach and mushroom elephant ear along with sun-dried tomato, onion, pepper and parmesan butterflies.

Andrew was so focused this week, focussing on what he normally does but he remarked that sometimes things just don’t work out the same in the tent. Also key is knowing when to start afresh and one hour into the bake Andrew decided to ditch his pastry and start again. He skipped a few turns, and did a extra few each round to speed up the process and somehow pulled it off!

Perhaps forecasting his departure Selasi seemed to begin an audition for the role of presenter this week. With two hours left to bake it was Selasi who announced this to the bakers, taking away Mel and Sue’s only role. In exchange they offered to do his half turns and book turns. He started to finish everyones sentences too.  Even cool as a cucumber Selasi felt the heat for the first time in the tent this week.
Every bakers’ biggest fear came true as several of the bakers had a soggy bottom, with most seeing undercooked pastry. Selasi left his palmiers in the oven for as long as possible but his pastry was raw and you could tell from then on that he was in trouble. Candice overfilled hers and Paul wouldn’t consider it a palmier. Jane’s were under-baked, acknowledging that she still didn’t compensate for the fact that the tent ovens cooked things slower than her oven back at home. Andrew, from being so far behind, miraculously pulled it out of the bag. Going into the technical Selasi was behind.

The technical challenge was set by Paul this week with a yeast, syrup, caramel and chocolate based cake – the Savarin. Its a yeast cake baked in a Bundt tin. It must be proved for the right amount of time, not too little and not too much as this proving will take the cake to the right level in the cake tin. An orange liquor is poured on top of the warm cake to soak throughout and a vanilla Chantilly cream compliments this. As the weeks have gone on the number of instructions seems to reduce in the technical and this week was no different as we saw all four bakers adopt a different method to bake this cake including different kitchen aid attachments be it a whisk, paddle or dough hook! Another tricky part this week was the writing of the Savarin disc, written in white chocolate on a dark chocolate disc of smooth chocolate and then on top of that they had to make caramel shards, Jane’s nemesis. Even after three attempts they weren’t up to Jane’s high standards!

Andrew’s engineering skills once again came to the fore as he artfully placed his fruit on the top of the savarin. His mango were radially coming out of the centre and the gaps filled with raspberries and strawberries. In contract Selasi was piping his cream whilst the cake was still in the fridge so as not to melt and the fruit all just placed on top. He even left the pith on the orange!
On to the results. Paul, for a change, became temporarily nice, and allowed the bakers some slack for melting cream but none of them proved their cakes correctly which meant the orange liquor syrup didn’t soak right through. Bringing up the bottom with their savarins were Selasi then Candice with Andrew piping Jane for first place.

The pressure going into the showstopper was all on Selasi to perform or face his exit and as it was the semi final Mary and Paul were taking no prisoners. Just 36 fondant fancies in four and a half hours – a genoise, buttercream and fondant all made from scratch into 36 delicately iced fancies. And Paul wanted to see shop bought quality fondant fancies! It was an unachievable task even to begin with as in an ideal world you would make the sponge the day before to allow the sponge to firm up. The question for the showstopper on everyones tongues – are you a dipper like Jane or a pourer like Mary??
Andrew made chocolate and coffee fancies along with Victorian sponge fancy, all decorated to be members of an orchestra. Jane made heart shaped pistachio and raspberry fancies along with a lemon curd surprise for her second batch. Candice made a chocolate praline fondant and a cherry Bakewell  with a liquor infused cherry centre. Finally Selasi made a lime and ginger fondant and a pink velvet raspberry and prosecco fondant.

Timing was crucial and so all bakers barJane opted for a swiss roll to speed up the cooling process, therefore allowing more time for decorating  But the shock of the series came in todays episode, and I’m not even sure I can bring myself to talk about it its that shocking a revelation. Selasi never sifts his flour!! This was met with utter disdain from Mary, and unsurprisingly resulted in Selasi re-doing his cake! Another controversial moment was when Jane opted not to coat her fondant fancies in buttercream which ensures smoother sides before you add the fondant – she just dipped them straight in.
Candice got praise for her flavour combinations and finish. Jane got praise for her flavour combinations but the finish on the sides was a let down whilst the insides were all nice and neat. Andrew had a simple and stunning finish and it was this that sealed his star baker status, even though he was the most surprised to find out!

Mel had to break the news to Selasi but his face said he knew it already – and my favourite is no more. So next time it the final. And its the final time we will see Mary, Sue, Mel and Paul together as part of the BBC GBBO Family – sad times.
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