A classic theme returned to The Great British Bake Off this week, as the bakers tackled Pastry Week.
Pastry week sounds like a suitably appropriate challenge for the quarter-final of The Great British Bake Off 2019. At this stage, the contestants should be able to whip up near-perfect pastry, but the task seemed too great for some this week and, between a challenging technical and an odd showstopper, one of our favourites was eliminated – perhaps unjustly.
The Signature Challenge
Steph, Rosie, David, Alice and Henry were the top five last night fighting it out for a place in the semi-finals last night, which meant the tent looked quite bare. However, we did get to see a lot more of each individual baker which was both a blessing and a curse.
This week, the bakers were challenged to create a savoury tarte tatin with either rough-puff or full puff pastry. Due to this summer's heatwave in the UK (the show is filmed well ahead of time), the bakers really struggled to keep their butter cool, which is crucial when making good puff pastry.
However, there were some successes: Henry's potato, tomato and crab salad tarte tatin was a total triumph, with great layers and delicious flavours. So far, so good for last week's Star Baker. Fellow bakers Steph and David were also commended for their efforts: while David's heritage carrot was dry as a bone, his pastry looked wonderful with multiple layers. While Steph was reprimanded for her lack of imagination and for just plonking some sliced goats cheese on top of her shallot tarte tatin, Paul noted that the flavours were spot on, so he couldn't fully criticise her, which was a big change for the Ice King.
On the other end of the scale, both Rosie and Alice marked themselves as early contenders for elimination as the pair served up soggy tarts. Rosie, who tried to blame the dark colour of her aubergine and onion tart on the addition of black garlic, had somehow managed to burn the top of her tart and undercook the bottom, which is a mysterious feat. She also added double the butter when sautéeing her already-wet ingredients (aubergine releases so much water when cooked!), which ultimately added to her damp woes. Alice also failed to produce a satisfactory tart, thanks to her soggy leeks, which seemed to be a big shock to the doe-eyed teacher. While her latticed leeks looked well, they were under-caramelised and produced far too much moisture, resulting in a problematic tart.
The Technical Challenge
It really seems that Paul Hollywood delights in torturing the contestants, while Prue Leith easily plays the role of jolly, possibly tipsy great aunt. It's a weird combination that makes me yearn for the Mary Berry days of Bake Off but alas, we are stuck with this odd couple. Paul seems to be creating far more Technical Challenges that Prue of late, resulting in genuine strife for the bakers, and this week was no different.
Paul challenged the bakers to create a Moroccan pastilla, which is a savoury pie made with werqa or brik pastry, stuffed with spiced chicken and veg, then baked until crispy. The pressure points throughout this challenge were too numerous to count and even though everyone eventually presented some form of pie, there were some mini breakdowns and disasters along the way.
On the plus side, David broke his 'always the bridesmaid' curse last night by finally coming out on top in the Technical. To everyone's surprise, Rosie, whose pie had split in half by the time it reached the plate, came second. Her pie literally had no base, so I can't understand how she came second or, to be quite frank, is even still in the competition.
Alice and Henry both had lovely pastry but poor fillings, resulting in bad grades for both of them, especially Henry, whose pie exploded like Rosie's. Unlike Rosie, Henry came last, to the bafflement of us all.
The Showstopper Challenge
Judging by Paul, Prue, Noel and Sandi's pre-Showstopper chat, this round was sort of an all-or-nothing for most of the contestants, who needed to impress in order to save themselves. In another weird brief, the judges decided they wanted the bakers to produce a vertical tower of pies, perfectly decorated and flavoured. The pies could be any flavour the bakers liked and made with whichever pastry they preferred, which resulted in everyone, except Alice and David, going with sturdy hot water pastry.
This really was a challenging brief and to be honest, I couldn't really fathom the point of it. The judges didn't specify that they wanted a covered or latticed pie, but when David's overly salty, nautical-themed pie appeared without one, they were thoroughly disgruntled.
Alice's combination of sweet and savoury pies wasn't well-received, due to her tough pastry, however her cutesy treehouse design impressed, saving her skin for another week. Steph was back in flying form, producing a tasty pie decorated like a carousel that secured her position as Star Baker for a historic fourth time. To be honest, she was lucky to receive the title, as David was chomping at her heels and in any other previous season, the contestants were far better at this stage, leaving me to wonder whether she would have been given the title again at all.
Rosie impressed with her haphazard, fairytale-themed tower, complete with a Camembert dragon, however her filling was super dry and lacklustre. Surely it was finally time for Rosie's overdue departure? Unfortunately, the judges didn't agree and sent home fan-favourite Henry for his disappointingly decorated chandelier. Having won Star Baker last week and impressed with his gorgeous Signature Bake, I thought he would have scraped through; the judges sadly had other plans.
Innuendo Of The Week
They were thin on the ground this week, but this week's title goes to soggy bottom. It's always entertaining when soggy bottom becomes the sole focus of the judges and bakers, so it was fairly enjoyable to watch them have a giggle at the term.