We’ve reached the quarter finals, and we’re down to five bakers. The phrase ‘if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen’ has never been more appropriate this week as it’s apparently thirty degrees in the GBBO tent. Well, at least it makes a change from the previous constant drizzle.
This week, it’s biscuit week. Each contestant must make forty-eight crackers or crispbreads of some description. Mary reckons the secret is crispiness and even baking.
James is doing smoky cayenne, cumin and chilli crackers. ‘It’s very spicy’ says Mary, who seems to think his dough could produce something more along the lines of some bombay mix. He’s also putting in yeast, which may be a big mistake.
Cathryn is also using yeast for her cheese and pickle crackers – but isn’t that what you’re supposed to put on them?
John and Danny are both at the spices too. John is doing Asian spice crackers, hoping to recapture some of the flavour that was missing from his efforts last week by blowing everyone’s heads off with heat instead, and Danny is doing spicy almond crackers which, worryingly, feature dessicated parmesan in a retro seventies move which is more typical of one of Brendan’s efforts.
Speaking of Brendan, he’s doing multi-seed savoury crackers which look a bit like something you’d feed to a pampered budgie, but because the crackers must all be the same size and shape, he’s going at them with a ruler and a pizza cutter.
Obviously with fewer bakers we can spend a lot longer on each challenge, so there is even more footage devoted to people frowning at ovens than there is usually. Worryingly, I also spotted Brendan touching the inside of his oven with his bare hands at one point – not only is the man an incredibly precise baker, his hands are in fact made of asbestos.
Danny, Brendan and James are commended for the consistency of their batches of crackers and the taste they’ve achieved, despite the fact none of them looking particularly appetising to me.
Cathryn, however, has burnt some crackers and some which are undercooked, and she only has forty six – it’s not clear what happened to the others. John hasn’t done too badly, but has also suffered from a bit of overbaking.
This week’s technical challenge is chocolate teacakes. Before you start to think that’s easy, these are the ‘Tunnocks’ teacakes type with the marshmallow inside, rather than the flat raisin-y things you find toasted in tearooms. You have to make your own base digestive biscuit for this, before you even think about the marshmallow and chocolate dome.
Everyone struggles with the marshmallow, except for Brendan who as usual takes to it like a duck to water even though he’s never made it before. His batch is worryingly neat when he takes it out.
Cathryn’s chocolate wouldn’t set in her moulds, so she makes the decision to put the rest of the components in prematurely then puts the whole lot in the fridge. This turns out to have disastrous consequences as none of them are set properly and they pretty much all fall to bits. It’s not really her week, is it?
Danny’s marshmallow is too much like cream, and so is John’s. Brendan’s, despite looking perfect, have a bit too much chocolate surrounding them. James wins this one for doing the best all-round job and unsurprisingly Cathryn is last.
I should mention that it’s James’s birthday, and guess how old he is? Twenty-one. Sickening, isn’t it?
The showstopper bake is probably the best yet – it’s a gingerbread ‘structure’ – it’s not allowed to be the archetypal house apparently. What I don’t get about these is that they’re a bit style over substance at a point where the focus should be geared more towards taste, but it’s undoubtedly good fun, and the bakers have indeed thought about their combinations of ingredients rather than just their structures.
So, what did they come up with?
Cathryn makes a chocolate and orange spiced gingerbread Buckingham Palace, although the finished effort seems to be unintentionally re imagined as a medieval fortress. Mary likes the flavour but Paul thinks Cathryn should have picked one flavour or the other.
Danny gives us a ginger and pomegranate Big Ben. It’s 2 ft tall, appears to be suffering from subsidence and could have done with longer in the oven, but it’s nonetheless an impressive effort.
There’s only one person who’d make a gingerbread birdhouse with fondant birds and iced details, and a weird shredded wheat ‘thatched’ roof, and that’s Brendan. It looks amazing, if very twee – ‘it’s a bit much’, says Paul. Brendan has very crisp gingerbread but the roof, being made of dried shredded wheat after all, is disappointing on the flavour front, and also the whole thing could have been more structurally demanding, especially in comparison with John’s effort.
Yes, John has made a black treacle and spice Roman colosseum. It’s very good, and so is his gingerbread.
James has done a seriously impressive gingerbread biscuit dilapidated barn with soft gingerbread cladding, even complete with ‘cobwebs’ of spun sugar – it’s massive, delicious, and very brave.
So, it’s not surprising that James gets star baker – a birthday treat, but one which he’s thoroughly earned. Having had a dreadful week this week, and an iffy one last time, it’s no surprise to anybody that we’re saying goodbye to Cathryn, despite a strong start in earlier stages of the competition.
Mary said earlier in the episode that Cathryn is a true ‘home baker’ – this doesn’t mean that she’s only capable of butterfly cakes and jam tarts, but that she goes on instinct rather than using the thermometers and instruments that allow for the precision of the bakes in the later rounds. So if you can’t embrace the gadgets, then you’re always going to struggle.
Next week, the semi final – and a French theme. Ooh la la!