It’s Week 7 on The Great British Baking Show and the remaining six bakers are going back in time to the Victorian Era, where they will use techniques that defined modern baking.
Signature Challenge: Raised Game Pie
The bakers will make game pie with hot water crust pastry and their choice of filling, jelly is optional. The Victorian middle class loved their pie; it was a dinner table status symbol and a way to emulate higher classes as game meat was very expensive. The pies were ornately decorated with thin bases, sides, and top.
Paul II goes with Not a Boaring pie, which includes venison, pheasant, pigeon, and wild boar. Mat has a genuine antique tin, and he’s adding pork belly and bacon to his venison and pigeon pie. He plans on decorating this menagerie with antlers on top.
Tamal goes with a Middle Eastern flavored theme and fries his meat in a spice mix. His pie will have rabbit, pigeon, venison, and minced lamb; the fat of the lamb will help it hold together. Nadiya is also spicing up her meat — pheasant, venison, and duck — with a mix of orange, star anise, ginger, fennel and cassia bark. Mary is quick to point out many of these spices were not available in the Victorian Era.
Flora tells the story that she cooked pheasant in a school competition, Highland Chef, and not only won it, but earned the nickname Bird Girl. Her pie will have pheasant, pigeon, rabbit, and pork belly. It will be seasoned with shallot and decorated with a lattice on top.
Ian says his inspiration is from a dead hare he found on the road that he took home to cook. This became somewhat of a habit, picking up animals that were “bumped on the road, not pancaked.” Wtf, Ian. His pie has the very unappetizing name of Roadkill pie and will have venison, partridge, guinea fowl, and steaky bacon. The pie itself will be shaped like a bird and relatively simple.
The pies are baked at a high temperature to get a crisp crust, and then the heat is turned down so the game isn’t overcooked. In order for the game to be cooked through, it needs to reach 65 degrees. Flora packs her pie to the gills, and when she sticks in a meat thermometer, it only reads 26 degrees. Even if you convert that to Fahrenheit, that is very off. She decides to up her over temperature while Paul and Mat look on, concerned she’ll burn her pastry. With one minute to go, she finally gets her filling temperature to 65.3.
On to the judging. Mat’s looks classic but his antlers look like dolphins. Paul says it’s just alright and needs more bacon. Ian’s bird shaped pie is a little too simple; Mel does try to jump in and say he added a foot…and a wing…and an eye. But his meat is tender and the accompanying jelly is “the real thing,”
Nadiya’s pie looks extremely delicate and has a good bake but the spices are too strong. Tamal’s pie, on the other hand, has a gentle blend of spices and Paul enjoys it so much that he give Tamal a coveted handshake. Paul II’s pie is overbaked and the meat is tough. Flora’s pie is overfilled and the pigeon is tough, but the rest of the meat is tender, and Mary likes the crisp of the pastry. Flora was expected to be hung, drawn, and quartered during the judging, so she’s both surprised and relieved.
Technical Challenge: Tennis Cake
Next, the bakers are to make an 1890s recipe: the tennis cake, a rich fruit cake decorated with an icing that became royal after Queen Victoria used it on her own wedding cake. The cake is decorated with an almond paste (marzipan) tennis court, with royal icing nets, rackets, and border. Mary’s advice is that timing is extremely important and they should all get going.
Cut to Paul and Mary, who slyly laugh at this challenge, as the trick isn’t baking the cake but the cooling of it. A dense cake needs to be baked for several hours and the bakers will need to get their cakes into the oven as quickly as possible. This, of course, is not specified in the recipe. Paul then goes on to say that something can go wrong with the almond paste, sugar paste, coloring of the sugar paste, piping, net…so basically, everything.
The surface of the tennis court is made from sugar paste, and gelatin is the key ingredient. Flora notices that Victorian food has a lot of gelatin and has visions that Victorians used to worship it. The gelatin is melted over a gentle heat and then icing sugar is added slowly until the paste can be rolled out. Mat’s sugar paste is slime green and sticky, and he notices that his does not look like everyone else’s. He gets frustrated, but Sue tells him, “Don’t let a fondant tennis court be the end of you.”
The bakers have an hour left to decorate their cakes and try to remember what a tennis court looks like. Nadiya says it’s just something green with a rectangle. Everyone starts creating their nets and rackets, and Mat’s versions again look like no one else’s because he’s the only one that (incorrectly) puts his decorations in the oven.
Paul and Mary start the blind taste test of the cakes. Paul II’s only has a partial net, but it has a distribution of fruit and good taste. Nadiya’s net is straight, the piping is good, the fruit distribution is good, and Mary says it’s like “hot Christmas cake.” Paul calls Mat’s cake a tennis court from Hades, and it’s raw in the middle. Tamal’s has good flavor and pipework but no net. Flora’s has good piping, a collapsed net, and is slightly overcooked. Ian’s has good fruit distribution, but it’s underbaked and has no net. Clearly, most of these bakers have never played tennis or at least tennis with a net.
Mat finishes last, and Nadiya has an ace in the court, winning the challenge.
Showstopper Challenge: Charlotte Russe
The bakers have five and a half hours to bake the traditional Victorian dessert made of lady fingers, bavarois cream, and jelly. Mary says the most difficult thing is to get the bavarois and jelly to set, as well as adding the right amount of gelatin to get the correct consistency.
All the bakers are making traditional sponge fingers for their external structure. They need to whip the eggs to make the fingers light and airy. Most of the bakers are also using the sponge to create the base layer of their Russe.
Ian’s Russe will have rhubarb bavarois, ginger jelly, and a 3D crown on top to make up for his earlier lack of decorations. Paul II is making a strawberry bavarois cream and adding almond to his sponge fingers. He’s also doing fruit carvings, turning strawberries into roses and apples into swans. Yes, swans.
Instead of individual sponge fingers, Mat’s making a wall of them to prevent any leaks. His strawberry Charlotte Russe will have strawberry bavarois, strawberry jelly, and strawberry decorations. He wants to keep it simple so there’s less to go wrong.
Flora’s will have raspberry flavored sponge, champagne jelly with pomegranate juice and raspberries, and white chocolate bavarois. Paul questions the use of pomegranate because of its texture. Flora adds champagne for flavor and says, “My aim essentially is to just get them trollied.”
Tamal thinks sponge fingers are too plain on their own and decorates his. He’s also the only one using a jelly layer at the base instead of sponge fingers. His will have spiced blackberry, raspberry, and cardamom, with macarons as decoration.
Nadiya is adding Italian meringue in her mango and raspberry bavarois and planning on a simple decoration.
Bavarois starts as a custard, and then adding the right amount of gelatin sets it like a mousse. The final silky texture is created after delicately whipped cream is added. The bakers pour their bavarois into the mold, and each layer must set before the next one is added. While everyone is waiting for their bavarois to set, they begin to decorate. Everyone except Mat, that is, who looks around at people creating fruit and other intricate sculptures and starts snacking on some strawberries.
As everyone removes their mold, Mat can’t figure out how to move his unstable Russe onto the serving platter. Paul II and Nadiya graciously offer to add some extra hands to help, but his sponge finger wall breaks apart nonetheless. Oh, Mat.
It’s time for judging. Flora’s sponges look good, the layers are distinctive, the bavarois is creamy, but the jelly is quite boozy and overpowered by the pomegranate flavor. Nadiya’s has a good general appearance, the layers are fantastic, and Paul loves it. Paul II’s fruit designs are very Victorian, but the jelly is more of a sauce and very sweet. Ian’s looks spectacular, enough to make Queen Victoria proud, claims Mary. All the layers are excellent and Paul calls it “purely magical.”
Mat brings his slightly broken Russe up to the judges. His sponges are too close together, the piping is rushed, the jelly isn’t set, but the bavarois is good. Tamal’s Russe has lovely flavors, and Paul says it melts in the mouth. The jelly base is also praised as very clever.
Star Baker is awarded to Tamal and sadly, but not surprisingly, Mat is going home. But he’s a good sport and agrees that it’s definitely the right decision, and he’ll get back into baking.
Flora: “I know very few things about the Victorians…apart from they had really good frocks.”
Sue: “Fat is our friend.”
Poor Mat in every challenge. Or the nickname Bird Girl; why hasn’t this caught on with the other bakers?
Read on for the next episode, Pâtisserie.