This week, the Great British Bake Off returned to its slightly bizarre themes, with this week all about festivals.
In terms of theming, I can see where they were going with it but it still seemed like quite a loose concept. For instance, Easter isn't really a festival, is it? It is a religious festival, if we're being pedantic about it, but still many bakers decided to make hot cross buns in the first challenge, in order to sort of stick to the theme. I would much rather the producers reintroduced old favourites, like countries or ingredients, rather than these odd themes.
The Signature Challenge
First up, the bakers were challenged to create 24 yeasted buns that represent any country or festival in the world. As I mentioned, the majority of the bakers stuck to hot cross buns, focusing on Easter. As always, there were ups and downs in this round for a lot of the bakers. Yeasted buns require proper proving before they're baked, which can be inhibited by the additional ingredients added to the dough for flavour, like citrus.
From the get-go, it seemed that Michael would be in trouble with his figgy pudding-themed hot cross buns. Adding 500g of dried fruit to a 200g mix was such a risky move that even Paul Hollywood could barely hide his shocked expression, but Michael ploughed on, resulting in a tight, tough bun that didn't impress the judges.
Another contestant who failed to impress was usually perky Alice, who admitted she had graded hundreds of exams in work that week and was absolutely exhausted, so it was no real surprise that her bakes were less-than-impressive. Her blueberry-flavoured hot cross buns didn't go down well with the judges, which marked her as an early candidate for elimination along with Michael.
On the opposite end of the scale, both Henry and Steph impressed Prue and Paul this week. Henry's chocolate kardemummabullar (twisted Swedish buns, which are usually cinnamon flavoured) were so good that they earned him a Hollywood handshake, to which he hilariously told Paul to shut up! Luckily, the steely-eyed iceman took it quite well, laughing off Henry's charming awkwardness.
Steph also impressed again this week – marking herself as an early contender for star baker, for the fourth time in a row – with citrus-flavoured buns that were deemed so delicious that Paul gave out his second Hollywood handshake of the episode.
The Technical Challenge
The ever-feared Technical Challenge didn't let me down this week, proving just wacky enough to challenge the bakers, but accessible enough that they wouldn't crash and burn too badly. This week, Paul challenged the bakers to create 12 perfect cassatelle, which is a Sicilian pastry crescent stuffed with a creamy ricotta filling, before being deep-fried.
Surprisingly, Rosie came out on top in this challenge, producing near-perfect pastries, which is a real turnaround from some of her previous creations – remember her smashed tart? As always, David came in second place, never quite able to reach the top of the pile.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, both Michael and Alice ran into some trouble in this challenge. Each rolled out their pastry super thickly, which resulted in them basically exploding in the deep-fryer, resembling tacos according to Michael. These failures furthered the pair's positions in the danger zone as they went into the Showstopper Challenge.
The Showstopper Challenge
This week's Signature Challenge was based around Kek Lapis Sarawak, which is a grilled, multi-coloured Malaysian layer cake served at religious and cultural celebrations. This bright cake proved to be particularly challenging for the bakers as each layer was a different colour, grilled on top of one another, then sliced and stacked to produce aesthetically pleasing shapes. The judges don't ask for much, do they?
The remaining bakers each put their own spin on their cakes, with Rosie, in particular, pulling out all the stops to produce a diamond-shaped cake which was impressively technical. Alice also saved herself in the Signature Challenge, thanks to her vibrant, carnival-themed layer cake, complete with isomalt fireworks.
Henry, again, proved himself the people's champion in this round; when Paul remarked that his cake looked like a stack of egg sandwiches, Henry explained humorously that was the look he was going for, much to Sandi and Noel's amusement. His tasty bake resulted in him being named Star Baker for the first time, much to everyone in the tent's delight.
Unfortunately, somebody always has to go at the end of Bake Off and as we near the pointy end of the season, it gets harder and harder to see a contestant leave the show. Sadly, this week was Michael's time as his Jamaican-themed layer cake failed to redeem him. He is such a character that we have high hopes for his post-Bake Off career.
Innuendo Of The Week
Of course, this week's innuendo has to go to buns! Between the "tight, dense buns", David having “nice buns” and Henry being “lord of the buns”, this week's innuendo really was low-hanging fruit, but we loved it anyway.
Tune in next week for our recap of The Great British Bake Off semi-final, which is all about pastry.