It’s the quarter finals on The Great British Baking Show: Only five bakers remain, and it’s Pâtisserie Week.
A pâtisserie is a bakery, only better, because it’s a French (or Belgian) bakery. And if there’s anything the French do well (other than drink wine and stay skinny), it’s create buttery, flakey, delicious baked goods. This week, the bakers are tasked with creating a number of delicious pastries.
Signature Challenge: Cream Horns
The bakers will make 12 creamed horns of two different flavors each, totaling 24 horns. A cream horn is a spiral of pastry with cream filling all the way to the bottom, so you “enjoy it to the last mouthful,” says Mary.
Ian thinks there’s not that much that can go wrong with them. We shall see, Ian, we shall see.
Right away, the bakers have a choice of using rough puff pastry or full puff pastry, and we hope everyone chooses the rough version just so we can hear people say “rough puff” as many times as possible. Three of the five do go rough — Paul II, Ian, and Nadiya, while Flora and Tamal choose full puff.
Tamal is creating a lime mascarpone and malt cream horn. When he tells Paul he’s using plain flour, Paul stares him down with his icy blue eyes and silently judges him while saying he would’ve mixed it with strong. Ian’s Mont Blanc and Black Forest Gateau horn requires two flavors of rough puff. He says that he’s heard things can go wrong with this, but he’s got 99 problems, and cocoa puff pastry isn’t one them. Again, we shall see.
Paul II’s cafe tipple and banana crunch-away horn combines cream and bananas together, a flavor Paul remembers as a treat from his childhood. Paul says the flavors will be “perfect.” No pressure, Paul II.
Flora goes avant-garde, using peach and lemon thyme, as well as smoked almond and butterscotch cream. She’s going for an ice cream cone look and in addition to her horns, she’s making caramel wafers and tuile cigars.
Nadiya’s making a rose, pistachio, and mocha hazelnut flavored cream, and Paul warns her that rose is a tricky flavor because you can overdo it easily.
The bakers have to take care to keep the pastry light and fluffy and to carefully plan the overlap of the spirals — too much overlap will prevent the horns from cooking through, and not enough will cause them to separate.
Flora is watching everyone shape their horns while she fusses with her non-essential tuile cigars and immediately regrets her decision. Later, her cream drips out the bottom of the horns and she runs around frantically looking for a freezer to stop it. Nadiya has made about 200 cream horns in the past, but will tell you flat out she does not like them. Ian adds kirsch to his cream by taste but says he can only taste fear in his mouth. Then he takes his horns out of the oven and says they look like a dog’s dinner. He also drops one on the floor and puts it back with the rest (five-second rule). And on that positive note, it’s time for judging.
Nadiya’s horns have a nice flake and the flavor is “quite something.” Paul II’s spirals are very even but the cream doesn’t go all the way to the bottom. The banana flavor also isn’t strong enough, causing Angry Baby Paul (as Sue calls him) to be very upset. Tamal’s done a “cracking job” per Mary. Flora’s dripping horns get points for fun but critiqued for lack of flavor and too much time spent on the extras. Ian’s horns were ambitious, but the chocolate and regular puff didn’t bond, the pastry is raw, and the cherry liqueur is too strong. Ian admits the pastry was trickier than he thought and he “really got it wrong.”
Technical Challenge: Mokatines
In the technical challenge, the bakers are given vague instructions to make nine identical mokatines, delicate squares of sponge covered in buttercream and a coffee icing. Mary says they should be “sheer perfection, sort of things you would find in a pâtisserie window.” Good luck, everyone.
Nadiya did happen to see the mokatine in Mary’s recipe book but didn’t read it because she never thought she would be making something so fiddly. Paul II has never heard of it. Ian says his fundamental flaw is being not very good at making cake.
The first part of the recipe is to make a Genoise sponge, which is difficult because it contains no chemical raising agent and instead relies on eggs for rise. The heat from the oven causes the air in the cake mix to rise and give the sponge its height. Paul II has never made a Genoise sponge, so he’s just going to make a sponge and hope it’s the right one.
The mokatines also require three different types of frosting — a fondant topping, piped creme au beurre, and a coffee buttercream for the center.
Poor Paul II brings out his guesswork sponge from the oven, and it’s flat and raw, and he looks for the nearest exit out of the room. But he doesn’t give up, and with an hour left to go, he attempts another cake from scratch. Tamal’s sponge also hasn’t risen quite enough, but he says maybe his mokatines will be in the window of a French pâtisserie that’s down on its luck but is plucky and keeps on going. Oh Mr. Half Glass Full Tamal, we’d go to that bakery in a heartbeat.
Ian is weighing out his frosting. Paul II takes out sponge #2 and it’s still flat, but at least not raw. Mel suggests he just put a lot of icing and nuts on it. Paul II looks concerned.
Once the bakers start icing, Nadiya says hers actually looks like the ones in Mary’s book. Flora says hers are a mess and looks for a freezer to set her icing, claiming this is her worst baking day to date. Paul II is right there with her, looking concerned once again.
We move on to the blind tasting. Ian’s fondant isn’t shiny and the piping is not good, but the sponge is well-risen. Nadiya’s has good height, pipework, and flavor. Paul II’s isn’t cooked through. Mary tries to complement the coffee flavor in his icing, but Paul says that’s the only good thing about it and the cake tastes like rubber.
Tamal’s cake is only iced on the top, the fondant icing is too runny, and the sponge layers are uneven. Mary does say the bottom layer is good. Flora’s icing hasn’t set, and her sponge is overbaked.
Paul II finishes last, and then it’s Tamal, Flora, Ian, and Nadiya wins it. Apparently glancing at a Mary Berry recipe is a huge advantage in this competition. After the challenge, Paul comments that he thought it went really well and then laughs maniacally and corrects himself, “No, that was a complete disaster.” But he’s not giving up yet and plans to bake his heart out for the showstopper.
Showstopper Challenge: Religieuse à L’Ancienne
The final challenge goes big — it’s a choux mountain in the shape of a nun. The bakers have four hours to create at least three free standing layers of éclairs decorated with buttercream. Each layer is supported by a shortcrust pastry disc and the entire thing is designed to be an impressive centerpiece at a party, which means it must be able to stand for a number of hours. Paul says they are looking for a “structural marvel baked to perfection.” So much pressure to be perfect this week.
Nadiya says what everyone else is probably thinking, “I’ve been absolutely dreading this one.”
The éclairs start with a choux pastry that creates an airy bun. But since the éclairs will be stacked on top of other éclairs, stacked on an additional third level of éclairs, the bakers must find a way to reinforce their standing pastries.
Tamal uses bread flour and chooses a passionfruit and mango, as well as pistachio and raspberry, flavor. Ian is also using passionfruit, calling his creation a nun with hidden passions. He’s also adding cardamom, coffee, and pistachio. Flora uses half plain and half strong flour and flavors hers with lime and basil, plus coconut and white chocolate. Paul II is determined to redeem himself and chooses to double down on banana, adding both fresh fruit and extract.
Nadiya, who loves candy and sweets, is the only baker not doing a fruit flavor and opts to go with bubblegum and peppermint cream.
Everyone is dreading construction. Tamal gives a little pep talk to his shortcrust pastry, saying they’ve a lot to carry on their little pastry shoulders, so “big responsibility, guys!” Nadiya admits while practicing at home, she had some nun disasters, nun landslides, and nun explosions.
Once time’s up, everyone takes a two-hour lunch break and will come back to see which nuns are still standing at the judges table.
Paul and Mary take no time in demolishing everyone’s painstaking constructed creations. They tell Tamal that his piping is a little haphazard, but the flavors are lovely and punch you in between the teeth (in a good way). Nadiya’s blue bubblegum nun is leaning heavily, and the choux buns are good, but the flavors are over the top. Paul II’s nun has collapsed into pieces, and Paul does taste the banana flavor this time around, but it’s a little artificial. Flora’s nun is also in pieces, but none of her flavors are coming through. Ian’s is holding strong; Mary says it would look great at a celebration and the flavor is very good.
Star Baker is awarded to Nadiya, whose oddly flavored, day-glow nun didn’t counteract her nailing the other two challenges. Paul II, who struggled in every bake this week, is the one sent home. Flora feels like she dodged a bullet.
Tamal: “I feel like we’re a herd of gazelles that’s been picked off one by one by lions. Mary and Paul are the lions. And they’re hungry for bakers.”
Sue: “Okay bakers, just 15 minutes until you give Paul the horn.”
Mel: “Is it Geno-easy or Geno-difficult?”
Tamal, being a cheerleader for his shortcrust pastry.
Next week, it’s everyone’s favorite food group, Chocolate.