PATISSERIE WEEK (GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF RECAP)
Break out your berets and long cigarettes: it’s patisserie week, and it’s also the semi-final, which means EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO END. For this series of the Great British Baking Show. Not the world. Of course not the world. *sobs with fistsfuls of cake*
We’re down to four bakers: Jane, Candice, Selasi and Andrew. I feel good about Andrew, now that Andrew knows that jousting poles go on hands, and not crotches. He’s got his problems figured out. He’s in a good place to win this. Of course, I also I want Selasi to make it to the final and wear a fetching frock while he bakes. For...reasons. Completely wholesome, normal reasons.
The signature bake for patisserie week is twenty four savory palmiers, two flavors and styles, twelve of each, in three hours. According to wikipedia, a palmier is “[...] a French pastry in a palm leaf shape or a butterfly shape” made from puff pastry. Everyone’s feeling the pressure except Selasi. He’s never made a palmier before but he’s not worried. Of course he’s not. Selasi never worries.
The judges tell us that a perfect palmier should have lots of layers, and it is flat, not too puffy (too puffy and it’s a pastry, not a palmier), meaning you can’t cram too much into it, so whatever flavors you use need to pack a punch.
There’s a discussion of strong versus plain flour, which is a British thing. Jane and Candice are using half strong and half plain, while Andrew is using only plain flour. (Strong flour is bread flour to Americans.) Paul has very STRONG opinions about what type of flour to use for this challenge, and it’s not plain flour.
Candice is using half strong and half plain flour for her pastry, which Paul clearly thinks is a mistake. Her flavors will include red onion, blue cheese and walnut leaf shaped palmiers, and streaky bacon and mushroom heart shaped palmiers. She’s not blitzing her filling, only dicing, which also leads Paul (and me!) to think her palmiers will be too stuffed. The dramatic irony!
Jane’s palmiers are pesto and sun dried tomato flowers (she calls them flowers, Sue calls them puffy hands, and I call them tiny turkeys), and goat’s cheese, olive, and ham elephant ear shaped palmiers. She’s been having trouble with her pastry at home--butter leakage--and is hoping that today she’ll be more successful.
To have a successful palmier, you need to get the puff pastry right. The key to getting your puff right is chilling, says Selasi. This keeps the butter from poking out as you turn and fold the dough.
Andrew must be lacking Selasi’s chill becausae his pastry is showing butter all over the place. It’s like a teenager’s face suffering from bad acne. He surmises that it’s too dry. He’s only using plain flour. COINCIDENCE?
You should heed the face he makes when you say you’re only using plain flour, Andrew. HEED THE FACE.
Andrew’s two palmiers are elephant ears with roasted red peppers and goat cheese, and herby bread crumb treble clefs. When he mentions adding dry bread crumbs to what is likely dry pastry, Mary and Paul lose their damn minds. Come on, Andrew. Get it together.
Once the dough is chilling, the bakers turn to prepare their fillings. Selasi is roasting a salmon for one of his fillings. Selasi is making sundried tomato, pepper and parmesan butterflies, and salmon, spinach and mushroom elephant ears. Mary is concerned about his pastry staying crisp; Selasi is confident that it will all be fine.
An hour into the bake, Andrew decides to start over with his pastry. Selasi, Candice and Jane are adding their fillings. Candice is on filling overload, while Selasi is more judicious. With his new pastry, Andrew then has to contend with his complicated treble clef shape. He decides to “Keep calm and carry on because that’s the British thing to do.”
“I’m just rolling in my nuts,” Candice says, tossing some palmiers about in crushed walnuts. Innocently. Nuts and balls, those are Candice’s calling cards.
The bakers won’t know how their lamination has gone until their palmiers start to bake, and at that point, they can’t change anything, so most everyone is a bit nervous.
Selasi and Jane both have a hell of a time removing their parchment lined baking sheets from the oven, scattering several of their palmiers hell to breakfast.
Selasi is scared, for probably the first time. This makes me deeply uneasy. Selasi can’t worry! The bake ends, with more than one baker worrying about underbaked palmiers.
The judges start with Jane. Her palmiers are not quite done, but both have good flavor. Candice’s are both a bit thick, but well baked and a good flavor. Paul would call them pastries, not palmiers, due to the thickness. Selasi’s are underbaked, with some verging on raw, but again, good flavor. Andrew’s second chance palmiers are crispy, but not buttery enough, and Paul loves the goat cheese flavored ones.
The semi-final technical bake is set by Paul, and his advice is “Remember it’s the semi-finals, so it’s not only got to taste good, it needs to look good, too.” So the challenge is: one high end savarin in two and a half hours. A savarin is a yeasted cake with some fancy pants decoration, including caramel and a chocolate label, and it needs to be soaked in orange liquor.
Now that’s a fancy ass cake.
None of the bakers are completely certain about what a savarin should look like. The bakers need to decide whether to use the paddle or the dough hook their dough; whether or not to cream the butter or melt it; all in one method, or the creaming method? Is it more of a cake batter, or an enriched dough? There are no answers, and the bakers all make different choices.
The bakers need to decide on how much time to let their dough rise-- forty minutes? Thirty? Fifty? They all make their decisions, and then move onto making the orange booze flavored syrup, and their chocolate discs for their “savarin” labels. After the first rise, they put the dough/batter into the tin for a second rise.
Andrew’s been learning about making caramel, and has sifted his sugar and cleaned the pan very well this time. Jane is not looking forward to making caramel, and Selasi is having a little trouble, too.
“Pour and then I’ll shard afterwards,” Andrew says, which I totally heard as shart.
The bakers all practice piping the word “savarin” in white chocolate onto their chocolate discs, then decide how long to bake their cakes. While the cake bakes, they need to cut their fruit for the decoration.
The savarins start coming out of the oven, and the bakers start applying their syrup. If it were me I’d poke holes in the bottom and pour the syrup over and let it soak in that way, but all the bakers seem to be brush theirs over the top. We’ll see how that works out for them. It looks like a lot of syrup is dripping off the cake, and sweat is dripping off Selasi.
Sue pocketed that sweaty cloth, and can you blame her?
Jane’s still having a caramel crisis while everyone else starts applying fruit and cream to their cakes. It’s a mad dash to decorate with the last few minutes, and the bakers all finish.
As he gazes at the cakes, Paul very graciously allows for melting cream in the heat. Thank you, oh dear benevolent Paul!
Candice’s cake is too dark and underproved and the liquor hasn’t penetrated completely. Andrew’s cake is also underproved and overbaked. The decoration is good, but there’s a lack of syrup in the middle. Selasi’s savarin is lacking finesse in decoration, and has an inconsistent color, and is also not soaked through. Jane’s is good color, but slightly underproved, with crystalized shards. She’s also lacking syrup in the middle.
The ranking is Selasi, Candice, Andrew, and Jane comes out on top.
The showstopper for patisserie week is to make 36 fondant fancies, two different types. They have 4.5 hours. Paul wants glossy and smooth fancies, and Mary wants neat, sharp shapes. In the real world, the genoise sponge would be baked the day before.
Jane is making pistachio and raspberry heart shaped fancies as well as lemon curd surprise fancies, which are all flavors that her family is fond of. She dips her cakes into the fondant using her potato masher to lower the cake into the fondant.
Andrew’s making a Victoria sponge fancy with vanilla cake and raspberry jam, as well as mocha fancies. Both will be decorated with a musical theme. He’s struggled with the timing at home, so he’s trying to get his sponges done quickly. Most bakers are baking their sponges are baked in shallow tins to allow for a quicker cooling time, allowing for more for shaping and decorating.
Jane, however, is not using shallow tins, which could spell trouble for her getting her fancies done in time.
Candice is making a chocolate genoise and an almond genoise for her chocolate praline fancies and Cherry Bakewell fancies that will have a boozy cherry in the middle of each one.
Paul tells Selasi the bake off version of “I just can’t quit you” which is equal parts endearing and creepy. Selasi is making lime and ginger fancies and pink velvet and raspberry prosecco fancies. As the judges look at his pink velvet sponges fresh from the oven, the judges notice a split on top, and Mary asks if he sieved his flour; he says he never sieves, and Mary tells him that can lead to bits of unincorporated flour in the sponge, which just will not do for the semi-final. There is a pregnant pause. This leads Selasi learns a hard lesson about sieving flour, and makes his sponge again. This puts him behind, but he’s not too worried. As usual.
Selasi concentrates with buttercream on his nose.
They’re down to 2.5 hours, and the bakers begin covering their fancies with a “crumb coat” of buttercream, so that the fondant will go on smoothly. I also wear crumb coat most weekends after eating a bag of doritos on my couch.
Andrew’s crumb coat stance is impressive.
At the thirty minute mark, the bakers enter a fugue state of draping their tiny little cakes in fondant, then rush to the end of time desperately trying to add some decoration to their thirty six tiny cakes.
They all look kind of awful, nowhere near as good as the ones from Swiss Colony that I devoured as a child.
Candice is judged first. The appearance is pretty good, but a bit messy. The praline chocolate fancy is good. “There’s naught wrong with that!” Mary says. Mary also loves the flavor of her almond fancy with the hidden cherry surprise.
Selasi is told his fancies are too small, which, come on, last time his little bakes were too big! They deem his pink velvet fancy isn’t exciting, just very sweet, but with a perfectly baked sponge. His butterfly lime and ginger fancies are a good flavor. Jane’s sides are showing every single crumb. Her pistachio and raspberry heart shaped fancies are neat on the inside, and a good rise on the sponge. Her lemon fancies taste good as well. Good on flavors, not a great outside appearance. Andrew’s presentation is stunning with a good finish on the fondant of his coffee fancies, but the jam is peeking through on his vanilla fancies. The vanilla do have a good flavor and good textures. The mocha fancies also have a good flavor but too much buttercream for Mary’s taste.
After a thorough discussion by the judges, Andrew is named star baker, and Selasi is sent home, which is the worst thing in the world. Mel and Sue fight over Selasi hugs, which is how anyone would act. At least you have his sweat rag, Sue.
So we have Jane, Andrew and Candice heading into the final. Who will win? Who will cry over dough? Only time will tell.