Chouxnuts, baklava, and terrine pie see the bakers step outside their comfort zones and deliver their share of surprises.
Episode six of The Great British Baking Show contains perhaps the most cringe-worthy cold open of them yet: Noel and Matt stand outside the tent, announcing that this week is Pastry Week. Matt holds up his “Pastry Shoe,” then takes a bite out of it. It brings back bad memories for those of us who suffered through the never-ending barrage of the “Everything is Cake” meme that swept the world into chaos—that bleak time when cakes were made in the shape of objects from shoes to toilet paper to damn near everything.
It’s a frightening opening, appropriate for an episode that drops close to Halloween. But beyond Matt’s shoe, this week’s episode of The Great British Baking Show boasts a few other shocking, twisted moments.
The bakers head to the tent for the signature challenge: 12 chouxnuts. A chouxnut combines a classic choux pastry with the form of a donut and deep-fried to a golden hue. The bakers also need to top and fill their chouxnuts, which adds to the pressure as they risk soggy choux with their jammy, custard fillings, and syrupy toppings. Timing is of the essence when proving their dough, frying it, and then filling/topping with sweet concoctions.
The bakers get on and for the most part, everyone gets their chouxnuts done in time. In a meme-able moment, Prue comments on George’s unevenly filling chouxnuts that “Quite often, I need two holes so that I can squirt.” For viewers, much like Paul and Matt, it proves quite difficult to shake this moment. No other baker’s critique will live up to this scene, but nevertheless, we persist.
Jürgen’s ube-flavored (and 70s colored) chouxnuts are well received, and his yuzu flavored batch has great taste. Chigs’s Paris Brest hit all the marks on their Paris Brest-ness (viewers, I still have no idea what a Paris Brest is after this episode). Giuseppe’s has great texture, but there’s too much limoncello in one batch (come on, is there even such a thing?). Crystelle’s got umami flavor with miso-caramel and passionfruit, but her choux proves too tight.
Amanda’s maple-bacon chouxnuts need more bacon, which is particularly unfortunate since Amanda mentions she had leftovers. Amanda, if you have leftover bacon, you’ve missed the mark! Lizzie, who hates chouxnuts, manages to produce a lovely bake with her hibiscus and raspberry treats.
These moments of baker helping baker are the heart of The Great British Baking Show. It’s a competition, but it doesn’t have to be vile and vindictive.
This week’s technical, set by Paul, will in his words “push them to their limits.” He tasks the bakers with making a large baklava with filo pastry. They’ll need to make their filo with its traditional laminating technique. There’s also an intricate diamond pattern with pistachio toppings that might separate the design bakers from the “just wing it” bakers. They have just two hours and 45 minutes to push their limits with this classic Greek bake.
Most of the bakers have never made baklava. George feels it’s in his DNA because after all, he’s Greek. Amanda suddenly wishes she spent more time with her Greek grandmother in the kitchen. None of them have made filo pastry, but everyone seems to successfully laminate their dough. They get their layers, stuff the baklava, and layer the rest of their filo on top.
Where the bakers run into trouble is the intricate design on top. Paul’s provided a template, but it seems to be smaller than the tin. Jürgen figures it out easy peasy. Other bakers like Lizzie wing it. Chigs talks to himself (or God, or Noel) about how to proceed with cutting the top of his large baklava.
Overall, all of the bakes have nice lamination and good flavors. What sets them apart is their varying degrees of design (like Lizzie’s freestyle, clumsy topping), and a case of undercooked dough (not our guy Giuseppe!). The ratings are as follows: Lizzie (7), George (6), Amanda (5), Giuseppe (4), Chigs (3), Crystelle (2), and Jürgen (1). In Jürgen’s words, “The Jürgenator seems to be back.” Crystelle, who has never placed high in technicals, is excited at her second-place ranking. On the other end, George isn’t too worried, as his signature was good, and Lizzie feels her technical is best represented by the rain happing outside: a wash.
Crystelle, who has never placed high in technicals, is excited at her second-place ranking.
It’s time for the final challenge of the episode: an intricate terrine pie showstopper.
The bakes must have ornate pastry decoration outside, and a neat design inside of their fillings. This challenge will also test the bakers’ cooking skills, as a terrine is traditionally filled with meat. Another tradition is the time-pressing hot water crust, leaving the bakers to race against the clock to build their crust. They need to let their pies cool after being cooked or the crust will crack, risking a soggy bottom from liquid filling seeping out of their pies.
Poor Freya would have been in hell in the tent this week, as all the bakers are stuffing their pies with meat. As the showstoppers bake on, George and Amanda have the most issues. Both fall behind, as George’s bacon-wrapped sausage ends up frozen, and it required additional time to defrost so it was usable (i.e. not causing food poisoning) when baked. Amanda got distracted with decorations, falling behind on baking time.
There’s a tense moment where George makes an impulse decision and takes his pie out of the oven to correct the breaking crust on top. Impulse decisions are hard in The Great British Baking Show – sometimes they work out, but sometimes they fall utterly flat. No amount of dancing in the tent will distract George from his pie.
Poor Amanda, when she tries to pull out her pie from the tin, has some major breakage (the top gets stuck to the tin). Chigs, always the gentleman, rushes to help her free her pie. These moments of baker helping baker are the heart of The Great British Baking Show. It’s a competition, but it doesn’t have to be vile and vindictive. They don’t knock a baker down when they’re having issues, they jump in and help them complete the task.
It’s showstopper judgment time. Paul and Prue liked Lizzie’s bold design, but her pastry is too thick. Giuseppe’s pastry was good and firm, yet crumbly to eat, and his flavors blended well. Chigs had some slight cracks, and the judges found his design inside uninspiring.
I love to see a baker come back from behind to wow the judges this late in the game.
Jürgen’s pie looked beautiful, but the beef inside was dry. Amanda’s collapsing pie also missed the mark on flavor, as the inside was bone dry. George’s two-tone pastry design was nice, but it was severely underbaked, and Paul questioned if the sausage inside was cooked all the way through.
Last up is Crystelle. Her pie was a beautiful cottage, topped with pastry flowers, and filled with delicious curry. Paul sternly points to a corner of the pie and asks her if she saw this. Crystelle timidly approaches. Paul Hollywood then sticks his hand out for yes, viewers, A HOLLYWOOD HANDSHAKE DURING A SHOWSTOPPER! What a twist to the episode! Handshakes are rarely dealt out during showstoppers, so all involved were quite shocked. Crystelle is overjoyed, as the judges found her pie perfection in pastry, fillings, and ornate decorations.
At the end of the episode, it’s Crystelle who takes Star Baker this week. She got that sweet Hollywood Handshake in a showstopper, and she placed second in the technical. A well-earned star baker this week! Sadly, the baker to leave the tent is Amanda. She had a rough week with all challenges, and her collapsing showstopper may have put the final nail in the coffin for her fate. She closes out her run by saying she had a good time, that “it was fun stress” to be in the tent.
Predictions and Other Thoughts:
- Good for Crystelle for getting Star Baker! I love to see a baker come back from behind to wow the judges this late in the game. If she can keep up the momentum, I think she’d be a fun semifinalist. Could she knock out Chigs and be amongst Jürgen and Giuseppe?
- While it is not shocking that Amanda left, I did think they’d kick George out, as they questioned the cooking of his filling in his pie. George’s previous flavors may have kept him in, as he tended to incorporate exciting combinations, where Amanda played it safer. I do think George is in danger of leaving next week.
- I’ve not had the chance to write about Matt and Noel, the quirky hosts. They’ve really hit their stride this season, as both seem more comfortable mingling amongst the bakers in the tent.