Well, week 8 – or should I say the Quarter Final was a little emotional to say the least. Thinking back to that hot weekend earlier this year, I remember the atmosphere in the tent still not feeling that competitive. We were 5 brilliant bakers who just wanted to do our best and see if we could get through to the next stage of this crazy baking competition in a tent, in a field, in the middle of nowhere. I can promise you that we did have perspective as to what else was going on in the World at that time, but you do go into a little bubble when you’re there and you actually forget about everything else.
I found the challenges this weekend quite fun and interesting, especially the Signature Challenge and really enjoyed recipe testing the focaccia. It needed to have the correct structure for Paul and also needed to taste amazing and I was tweaking it up until the day before filming. I had experimented with using gluten free flour and was given lots of brilliant advice from my best friend’s Mum as her husband/Beth’s Dad is Coeliac. I used a combination of potato, rice and corn flours along with xantham gum; the recipe also consisted of potato, rosemary and olive oil. I was quite impressed with myself that I’d managed to create a tasty gluten free loaf, but felt that I needed more time to develop the recipe before I was happy to use it in the Bake Off.
My Gluten free Potato & Rosemary Loaf…didn’t quite make it to the tent!
I then went down the spelt route and decided to make a focaccia, using the potato and rosemary flavours, I experimented a little more and came up with the finished recipe that I used in the tent. I was really happy with how the challenge went and was pleased with the loaf – and so were Paul and Mary! Mary said it was scrummy and Paul said the crumb structure was ‘good’…high praise indeed from Mr Hollywood! If you fancy having a go at making the focaccia, you can find the recipe on the BBC Food website via this link:
Next up as always was the Technical Challenge and we had guessed that it might be a gluten free bake, but we weren’t expecting yet more custard!! I’d never made a Dacquoise before, but I had an idea of what it looked like and what all the components were for the finished product. It’s such a surreal thing to do; bake something in a strict time limit and then get judged then ranked on your efforts. In reality – anyone would have lapped up all of the bakes in the technical, but it’s a competition and so to set a level playing field, we’re all given the same recipe to follow which is meant to ‘rank’ us effectively and possibly be used to decide who will be leaving the group at the end of the weekend. Having never made the Dacquoise before, I thought I did an ok job, but I wasn’t happy with my custard (damn the custard) and my ganache was just not set enough. The little mistakes you do really do make a huge difference to the end product and where you’re placed in the line-up. If you fancy having a go at Mary’s recipe, here it is:
Finally, we reached the Showstopper Challenge and we were all so excited to see each other’s designs and ideas. It was great seeing everyone’s cakes come to life during those 4 hours and when time was called we all had a wonder around each other’s units and admired each other’s handy work. We were all blown away by each other’s cakes and felt very positive going into the judging.
Boy were we wrong. It wasn’t nice hearing some of the comments and also seeing each other getting upset. We knew that the judges were going to be much more strict on how they critiqued each bake, but I honestly don’t think we were ready to hear some of the comments. At the end of the day, both Paul and Mary are there as judges because they are very highly regarded within in the industry and they both approach the bakes from there own point of view. Although we did have some positive comments, the negatives are always going to be the hardest ones to hear and accept and also both Paul and Mary know how good we all are and are giving us the feedback because they want us to do better. It’s tough. It really is. But at the end of the day it’s cake and they were all pretty damn yummy.
We knew that whoever was leaving us this weekend would really affect all of us left in the tent. Ruby was crowned Star Baker yet again…she is one very talented little Miss and I think she’s now starting to believe in her natural ability to bake. Well done Ruby!
The most amazing lady left our baking side that weekend. Christine is a phenomenal woman and her breadth of knowledge on baking could easily rival Mary’s! We were all crying at the end…what can I say, we were 5 women – it was bound to happen! But we were truly upset that anyone had to leave and even more so that it was Christine. I know that she will continue to bake and I know that she has also inspired many others to bake. Love you Aunty Christine!
Next week – the Final 4, it’s the Semi-Finals and we’re going all French!