Friday, 31 August 2012

Great British Bake Off, Episode 3

Episode 3 saw the contestants tarting it up. We saw more of "Mary, Mary, Not In The Least Contrary", which gave the show a gentler and fluffier edge than bread week and thankfully we didn't see a repeat of last Tuesday's trial by sniffing. 

I had a proud moment too, when I managed to unlock the key to understanding some of the judges' stock phrases, which I feel duty-bound to share with you now. Mary uses the words, "that sounds interesting" synonymously with "I am suspicious of your proposed flavour combination and probably won't like it, but I am far too polite to say so". Hollywood uses the word,  "brave" similarly. When Hollywood says, "brave" he actually means, "idiotic". "Good luck" has a silent "you're going to need it" on the end. When Hollywood raises his eyebrows at the same time as saying the word, "brave", what he really means is, "idiotic" but in a scoffing tone that would suggest he is already getting excited about preparing his told-you-so speech. Which is, as I'm sure you'll agree, exactly the tone to take with an eclectic bunch of amateur sweethearts with a love of baked goods.

First up was the signature challenge. Contestants were given two and a half hours to create their own version of the French classic, Tarte Tatin. This week, intensive care consultant, Danny's take on the Tarte Tatin was a savoury pear, walnut, thyme and Roquefort combination. Hollywood seemed keener than Berry, but issued a warning to Danny not to "overwhelm the pears with Roquefort". Danny was given some extra focus in this week's episode and we saw her enthusiastically recreate that scene in When Harry Met Sally when she successfully turned out her tart in one piece. After describing her Tatin as "dark" and "inviting", Hollywood about-turned on his earlier comment: 

"You needed more Roquefort. Roquefort's quite a strong flavour, 
but don't be afraid to use it"

She probably wouldn't have been afraid to use it if Hollywood hadn't already put the wind up her.

Most of the contestants opted to make rough puff pastry as time was short, but sweet, bespectacled James opted to make proper puff pastry from scratch for his apple and lavender Tarte Tatin, because "to be quite honest, I've no idea what rough puff pastry is or how to make it, so this is the only one I knew". This decision proved fruitful as Mary declared he had really "conquered" his tart.

Victoria likes only a trace of flavour in her food (sounds awful), but decided to up the ante for the judges, who like "Flavour (said in a mockney accent for reasons unknown) with a capital F". She received a "good luck" from Hollywood when she revealed her chosen flavour combination of figs, walnuts and pink peppercorns, which didn't bode well from the off.

Ryan, Manisha and John opted for twists on tradition. Ryan made a delicious-sounding vanilla and cinnamon spiced pear tart, Manisha went for Cinnamon, apple and pear and John baked an apple and vanilla tart with walnut praline. Stuart placed a layer of marzipan in between his fruit and pastry, which, Hollywood warned, "could look very messy", but actually proved to be one of the judges' favourites. Sarah-Jane brought in her own special knife to make her grandmother's recipe for banana Tarte Tatin and Brendan went for apple and ginger, with enormous pieces of interlocking apple. Sue remarked, "that's not only the tart of France, that's the size of France". She wasn't wrong. The apples in Brendan's Tarte Tatin were so big, you could have been forgiven for mistaking them for giant Duplo. It's surprising that real-life silver haired Lego man, Hollywood, didn't take to it more eagerly.

After all the talk of "soggy bottoms" and varying standards of "the bake", Sarah-Jane's banana Tarte Tatin (which, although tasty-looking, oddly resembled cherry tomatoes) wowed the judges. She said it was "up there with one of [her] best life experiences" when Mary Berry "legend" said her tart was perfectly baked. Cathryn's plum, cherry and five-spice wasn't such a hit, but she decided to plough on through to the next challenge and "forget about it being a bit pants".

Sarah-Jane's cherry tomato banana Tarte Tatin
After a brief interlude about "invalid tarts" and "dietetics" - when special hospital recipes were designed to help their patients on the road to recovery - the contestants were given two hours to complete the technical challenge. Luckily, this week, Mary managed to get a word in edgewise and she was even allowed to use her own recipe for treacle tart for the technical challenge. I must admit, I was surprised when cake week used a Hollywood recipe for the technical challenge, but what does Mary Berry, author of over 70 cookbooks (mostly about baking), know about cake?

Mary's treacle tart called for a woven lattice top. The contestants struggled with this. Stuart misread the recipe, Victoria overworked her pastry and John was worried there wasn't enough water in it, but said, "I'm not going to fiddle with Mary Berry. She'll have me". Yet another "Ooh, Matron!" moment for the #GBBOinnuendos to have a field day with on Twitter.

Brendan's lattice looked good but his tart tasted "cloy-y", whereas Sarah-Jane was on the receiving end of some harsh words for not "bothering to lattice it". Hollywood described her twisted pastry design as "lazy" and we saw her sobbing her heart out in the garden:

"I can't believe I've actually cried. It's ridiculous!"

Don't worry, Sarah-Jane, we've all cried over a tart.

Once all tears had dried, the contestants made their way back into the tent for the show stopper round. Brilliant Sue addressed them with "Hello, hot stuffs" before Mel explained the task ahead. They each needed to make one large fruit tart, fit for a window display. Who had the flair of a pâtissier?

Cathryn had "worry behind the eyes" and Mel scandalised her with the suggestion that she try overcoming her nerves by imagining Hollywood naked. Thousands of hearts were a-flutter on Twitter at the very thought, while thousands more felt a lurching nausea perform a sharp flip in their stomachs. 

Brendan made a beautiful looking tart edged with florentines, while Manisha's rum and tropical fruit with a layer of coconut sponge impressed the judges with its originality. Danny made a pineapple and coconut tart which Hollywood described as a "gorgeous" flavour combination. Who would have thought Hollywood would be a piña colada man?

After hanging on by the skin of his teeth and only just scraping through for the last two weeks, Stuart shocked everyone (none more so than himself) when he upped his game with a raspberry and triple chocolate layer tart.  Stuart really does make a beautiful tart. Just look at it:

Victoria's soggy bottomed tropical fruit tart with black pepper pastry was too heavy handed on the lime and her creme patissiere was "loose and sour". It really wasn't Victoria's week this week.  It may have been because she wasn't wearing one of her trusty roll necks, but these last mistakes relegated her to the bottom of the bake off pile. 

When Sue delivered the bad news, Victoria said she was "relieved" and that it was "absolutely the right decision". She was impressively gracious in defeat:

"No case to answer. Guilty, m'lud"

Conversely, James could do no wrong this week and he was crowned star baker after producing an incredibly beautiful macaron-topped rose, lychee and raspberry Mascarpone tart. Hollywood said it tasted like "Turkish Delight" while Mary said it was like eating a "rose cream". Despite this, they really seemed to love it. Good work James! He does seem ever so sweet and I hope he and his woolly tank tops go far in this competition. 

Next week is all about puddings, from signature tortes, to creme caramels and quadruple layer show stopping meringues. I am literally champing at the bit to see who will make it through to week 5 and who will be left wiping tear stains off their aprons. 

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