*Ding-ding!* The half-time bell rings as we now pass the half-way point of the competition…but it still doesn’t feel like a competition to me! That tent is filled with 6 other amazingly talented bakers who share the same passion for baking as I do. Don’t get me wrong though, I am in full competition mode with my game face and head on at all times and I am doing my very best to stay in that tent for as long as possible!!
Hurrah for another bread week, and hopefully a chance to redeem myself following my ‘blip’ in week 2. We started the very long weekend of baking with a Signature tea loaf that needed to be yeasted and completed in 3 hours. Paul was ready and chomping at the bit to hear what we all had planned and if it would all turn out as we’d hoped! There was no doubt in my mind that Bara Brith would be my choice of tea loaf for this challenge. I dug out our family recipe and tweaked it so that it would meet the brief of the signature challenge. I then set about making sure that I could complete the loaf to a good enough standard within the time frame of 3 hours – a very tight turnaround but it needed to be done, and thankfully my Bara Brith was one of the loaves that was just about proved and baked in the time given. Both Paul and Mary loved the flavour, especially the addition of cranberries to the mix. I think I definitely made my family and Wales proud with that result. If you fancy having a go, you can find the recipe on the BBC Food website here:
Next up, as always was the technical challenge but I no longer worried about the challenge and would just crack on with it as best as I could…bring it on Bake Off!! Of course we knew before even stepping inside the tent that it would be a Paul recipe and we set about trying our best to guess what it could be. A Couronne it is then…erm, thank you Paul!! I had never made one before, but knew what it looked like and what I needed to do so just went at it and hoped it would be ok. Incidentally Couronne or Crown in Welsh is Coron, #fact. I was happy with the bake and went about icing my Couronne and presented it up at the altar of baking doom. To our surprise, Paul praised all the bakes even before he tried them…and then he praised them all again after trying them!! I was placed 6th in the line-up, so not at the bottom but still not great, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would and took on board the comments that Mary and Paul gave me and moved on. At the end of the day, it’s not personal – it’s patisserie.
Usually at the end of the technical challenge we’re released back to the safe haven of our hotel bar to discuss and dissect the day’s activities over several large glasses of wine; but not just yet! As it’s Sweet Dough week, the Showstopper challenge was to bake and present 24 European sweet buns and we were given half an hour at the end of day one to make any dough that may need to prove slowly over night – hallelujah for a long slow prove! I decided to concentrate on making my brioche dough only as I knew that it would take up the full half hour.
Freshly baked test batch of plain brioche for breakfast? Yes please!
The following morning, we were all praying that our dough had proved nicely over night, but wouldn’t know until we could start the challenge again. Thankfully my dough looked beautiful which put me in a good mood for the challenge and I really enjoyed the 4 hours of sweet bun making that followed. Everything went to plan! I was really happy with my Prune, Rum & Chocolate Brioche Buns – inspiration for this came from gorging on Prunes soaked in rum whilst attending a course with Monsieur Bertinet! And my Lemon and Cardamom Spiced Iced Buns were beautiful. I couldn’t have done anything better and proudly presented my buns to Paul and Mary feeling confident that I had done enough to stay in the competition for another week. Paul commented that the bake and structure on both buns were good and that he and Mary liked the iced buns, apart from the icing (again!), but he wasn’t too keen on the prunes in the brioche. I can live with that comment and proudly walked back to my unit feeling very pleased with myself.
Sadly, someone again had to leave our Merry Band of Bakers and both Howard and Glenn were convinced they were leaving. It was another sad goodbye as Howard was asked to leave the competition. Howard has an amazing talent for bringing together fantastic flavour combinations and I know he will continue to bake up a storm in Sheffield and further afield. Ruby once again was ‘Couronned’ star baker, with all the girls proving that the girls were a force to be reckoned with in the tent this year.
And then there were 6…Next week it’s Suet Puddings and proper Puff Pastry, what could possibly go wrong?!