BOTANICAL WEEK (GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF RECAP)
Welcome to botanical week. We’re down to seven bakers--Bakey, Flaky, Shaky, Achy, Cakey, awful lot at Stakey and….Andrew. This week’s drinking words are stiff, crisp, wet, sheathes, and herbal.
Mary, Jane, Mel and Selasi have all dressed for the week with jaunty floral numbers, and I love them all.
Jane’s very excited about this week, because she’s a gardener, so she thinks/hopes she should do well. Tom, as usual, has a very broad interpretation of what is “botanical” so I’m sure that will go well for him.
The botanical week signature bake is to make a large citrus meringue pie in two hours. Paul reminds us that citrus includes lemons, limes, oranges, etc. The curd should be sharp to contrast with the sweet meringue, and the sweet short-crust pastry should be perfectly baked. Mary prefers her meringue to be baked in the oven so it is crisp. I mean, she’s thirsty as hell for a crispy meringue.
Tom’s not a “fan” of sweet short crust pastry so he’s adding pecans to his dough. MAYBE IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU TOM YOU’RE NOT THE ONE EATING AND JUDGING THE PIE. He’s making a blood orange pumpkin Halloween pie because of course he is.
Selasi and Benjamina are both making grapefruit meringue pie, Selasi’s with mint and Benjamina’s with ginger. Andrew is ripping off his mother’s key lime pie (maybe Andrew’s parents should have been on the show?) while adding stem ginger to his pastry base. Rav’s making a mandarin tequila pie with mandarin zest in the pastry. And he’s one of the many bakers not baking his meringue, only blowtorching it.
Jane’s lime in the coconut pie is inspired by the Harry Nillson song, and I hope that’s in your head now. Candice is also doing a lime and coconut pie, and she’s planning on decorating her meringue by adding a stripe of green in her piping bag. Jane and Candice are both putting theirs in the oven, and Mary looks so happy about that.
Again, consistency is key with the curd. Too thin and it won’t set, too thick and it will be lumpy. Benjamina says you can’t rush your curd, no, you’ll just have to wait--thick don’t come easy, it’s just a game of whisk and wait. Selasi, however, is not patient and just adds more corn flour to his curd to thicken it.
Tom’s pie looks disgusting but he’s happy with it, because of course he is. SO SELF-SATISFIED. Tom. Tom. TOM. It’s got blood orange syrup thrown all over it which doesn’t add anything to anything.
Everyone’s having stiffness problems with their meringue. It’s the saddest meringue party I’ve ever been witness to. Andrew has the right idea with a cold bowl. When I whip cream, I alway stick my bowl and whip attachment in the freezer for a bit, and try and make sure my heavy cream is straight from the fridge.
Your meringue is stiff enough when you can turn it over. As demonstrated by adorable Selasi and cinnamon roll Benjamina.
Jane has two layers of meringue, one with coconut and one without--because the coconut meringue is hard to pipe-- while Candice just tries to pipe her coconut meringue and it gets stuck in the nozzle, leading to it looking absolutely awful. And her green is ridiculously bright as well. Poor Candice.
Time is called and the judging starts, and everyone looks nervous. Benjamina’s grapefruit pie is good. Selasi’s curd is too stiff even though the flavor is good! So Benjamina wins this pie off. Rav needed more height on his meringue and the overall flavor could be stronger. Andrew’s pastry is too thick and he ran out of meringue, but his curd is tasty and his flavors balance well. My initial reaction to Tom’s judging was “What the fuck Tom?” and I stand by it. Tom’s pumpkin pie with meringue has underdone pastry and I can’t even feel bad for him. He insists his pie was a citrus pie and all I can say is SHUT UP TOM. Jane’s pie is a winner. Candice’s pie disappoints Paul with its appearance but the curd and meringue has a good flavor. Jane wins this time.
The technical is set by Paul, and his super helpful advice is “Be patient and remember the shaping.” The bakers are given two hours to make an herbal fougasse, which is a leaf shaped bread with a springy middle and crispy exterior, redolent of fresh herbs (the recipe I linked is to a more holiday/citrus interpretation).
Selasi has heard of a fougasse, Rav knows what it should look like, and Tom loves fougasse. It’s one of his favorite things! HE EATS IT AT THE CINEMA IT’S HIS CINEMA SNACK. Just don’t try putting something weird in it, Tom, and maybe you’ll do okay on this challenge.
Step one, make the dough. The dough is very wet, which freaks out some of the bakers, while other bakers go with it. They add their herbs. Then they make their best guess on how long to prove, some going longer than others. Forty minutes, forty five minutes, an hour.
The bakers shape their dough, trying to figure out what leaf looks like. The bakers are having a hell of a time figuring out what exactly “consecutive” means. Andrew, the engineer, tells us that “consecutive” means one on top of the other, and he’s right. Tom confuses consecutive with sequential. (WHO KNEW BAKING HAD SO MUCH MATHS.) Candice, Jane, Selasi, and Rav slash wrong, while Benjamina, Andrew, and Tom slash correctly. Post-shaping, they sheathe their bakes for a second prove.
“I’ve never been so stressed about dough in my life,” Tom says in a monotone. Later, he says, “I’m excited by bread.” Tom has a complicated relationship with bread.
At thirty minutes, several bakers put their fougasse in the oven. At twenty minutes, all the fougasse are baking except for Selasi. Selasi sits, waiting. Then, at the fifteen minute mark, he puts it in the oven, says, “It might be underbaked.” Oh Selasi you dear sweet lamb, it is totally going to be underbaked. Completely.
At the end of the judging, we end up with Selasi, Andrew, and Candice in the bottom three, with Rav, Benjamina, and Tom in the top spots. Tom always look like he’s about to throw up when he does well, which is supremely annoying.
Their showstopper challenge is to make a three tier floral cake, with flowers in it, on it, in the filling, the icing, flower decorations--the cake just needs to be hella floral. The judges tell us floral flavors--rose, lavender, elderflower--are tricky to get right. You need to taste it, but you don’t want it to be overpowering and cloying.
Andrew’s making a fruity spring elderflower cake and decorating with real flowers. Rav is piping his own buttercream flowers and is pretty nervous about it. All three of his tiers will be the same flavor. Tom is making three tea flavored tiers using a genoise sponge and covering it with elderflower buttercream.
Candice’s cake will have four tiers, with a “four seasons” theme. Her top tier is her Nan’s boiled fruitcake, which she baked from her Nan’s handwritten recipe.
Jane is not using any real flowers for decoration, and she’s not having any floral flavors in her bake, which earns her some serious tsk tsking from the judges. You should have known better, Jane.
Selasi is making three different flavors for his tiers, and decorating the entire thing with piped rosettes. Benjamina is making chamomile sponges, and doing a semi-naked icing with fresh flowers.
Everyone’s worried about their timing, because with many of their decorations they need adequate cooling time. And with three tiers, getting their baking times and temperatures correct are very important. Jane thinks her oven was too hot so she starts over with her sponges. As many of the bakes begin coming out, bakers are finding some are overdone, some are baked perfectly, and others are underdone.
The bakers move to focusing on their decorations. Rav is absolutely miserable because he hates fiddly decorations and he doesn’t do “pretty” bakes. Jane is molding flowers out of sugar paste. Other bakers are trying to get their frosting flavors right.
“We don’t have all daisy!” Sue calls at the thirty minute mark.
The final touches begin to happen. Stacking of layers, frosting, Selasi’s piping a shit ton of flowers, and Rav’s attaching his buttercream flowers. Jane is desperately painting her chocolate collars.
Finally, mercifully, time is called and the misery and relief is palpable. The judging begins. Candice’s four tier cake was overall well done, but Paul didn’t care for her carrot cake layer.
Andrew’s decoration was a bit of a let down. On the first tier, Mary says, “I’m looking for the flavor.”
“It should be quite subtle.”
“It’s so subtle I can’t find it.” YA BURNT ANDREW. YOU AND YOUR CAKE ARE BURNT I’m so sorry please don’t make that face.
Paul doesn’t understand Benjamina’s “naked cake” decorating style. She has some unbaked bits on her top layer, but her middle layer tastes good. Rav’s cake is a bit of a mess, and the cake is slightly overbaked. Jane’s cake didn’t go completely to plan and looks like a mess, and her cake is overbaked.
Selasi’s cake looks like a showstopper, and all his layers are perfect.
Tom’s three layered genoise succeeds in imparting all of the tea flavors in the sponge. Tom did really well with this bake and for some reason this fills me with an absolutely blinding white hot rage.
Andrew has all of the (bad) feels. He and Rav are both in danger of leaving, while Selasi, Candice, and Tom are in the running for star baker.
Tom is announced star baker with a lot of “Tom Baker” wordplay, and Rav is sent home. Andrew has a meltdown even though he’s not the one going home! Poor Andrew.
That’s it for botanical week, my buttery babies. Next time we’ll tackle desserts. Until then, may all your meringues be stiff and may your baking cuddle buddies all be as cuddly as Rav.