Bonjour messieurs et mesdames! We’ve reached the semi-final of the Great British Bake Off. This week’s challenges have a French theme, giving Mel and Sue the opportunity to do some seriously hammy accents. Thankfully nobody has turned up wearing a Breton top, a beret and a moustache, but it wouldn’t be entirely implausible for someone to bake themselves one, such is the standard we’ve now come to expect.
Anyway, it’s now getting pretty hard to choose between the final foursome of Brendan, Danny, James and John – they’ve all had triumphs and disasters, and all have their strengths and weaknesses. The first challenge is twelve petit fours – each baker must make three different types. These are supposed to be enjoyed with a coffee after a meal, so the idea is that you should be able to fit the whole thing in your gob in one go, undignified though that might seem.
The highlight of Brendan’s contribution to this task is undoubtedly his lime curd and choux pastry cygnets, which actually are in the shape of baby swans complete with jutting necks and wings (so thankfully not the type of swan that will have your arm off.).
‘Will they be floating on a blue buttercream sea?’, says Paul drolly. He clearly hasn’t forgotten Brendan’s multicoloured uber-twee birdhouse from last week.
Danny, James and John all making macaroons, despite the fact that Paul doesn’t think they’ve been given enough time to do a macaroon justice. But macaroons seem to be quite fashionable at the moment, having come a long way since the days of Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques, so if you can’t make them now, then when?
Never one to do things by the book, James is putting chilli in his lime and raspberry examples. Zut alors! John is doing lemon madelines, the boat-shaped biscuits that you might recall from French holidays. Unfortunately they’re massive, and rather than being possible to eat in one mouthful, they’re more likely to leave you asking for a cake fork.
Amongst her other bakes Danny is also making something called ‘langues du chat’, literally ‘cat’s tongues’, but she hasn’t got confused and done a Halloween theme, they’re a French tradition apparently.
James and Brendan come out on top for this one, although if you ask me it’s debatable whether you could fit a whole one of Brendan’s cygnets in your mouth in one go. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.
This week’s technical challenge is a fraisier cake: a strawberry and crème patissière thing sandwiched between a light sponge and topped with marzipan. Fiendishly, they’ve hardly given the contestants any instructions on how to make it.
Danny, a woman who makes crème patissière so often she refers to it as ‘crème pat’, is having trouble as her crème is too runny. This is not good news as it has to be piped around the strawberries so that it can set them in place. John’s and James’s both look amazing, like something you’d pay good money for from a proper cake shop but Danny’s crème is indeed so runny that it doesn’t set meaning that it can’t contain the strawberries and the cake collapses.
Brendan, surprisingly, is having similar problems, but they’re not as critical. So James just nudges first place, with John in second and Danny, unsurprisingly, last.
This week’s showstopper bake is a choux pastry gateau. Everyone except James is doing something called a Gâteau St. Honoré, which means that not only do they have to make the main gateau with their choice of filling, but also separate choux buns and cream to sit on top.
Danny is obviously a glutton for punishment as she has decided to fill hers with ‘crème pat’, clearly looking for vindication after her earlier failure. She’s also adding rosewater and lychee flavouring. John’s flavouring his with passion fruit, and Brendan thinks that this type of gateau is too classic to mess around with so he’s adding very little flavour at all, just some kirsch to personalise it and some chocolate wafers for decoration.
James is doing a Paris-Brest, which is usually a circular gateau with cream in the middle, but of course he has deconstructed it and is thinking of making it into a bike shape instead, errr, obviously.
As she suspected, it’s Danny for the chop this week. Her final bake was good, but she added so much rosewater that it completely took over – I can only imagine it ended up tasting like an elderly person’s soap. Personally I thought that James’s bike, whilst impressive, was rather lacking in colour, but the judges are seriously impressed by the flavouring of his filling, if not the volume of his choux. He still gets star baker though, for the second week in a row, which has got to mean he’s a pretty hot contender.
So, it’s an all-male final, with John, James and elder statesman Brendan. I’d find it difficult to pick a favourite, so make sure you tune in!