Tarts, biscuit bars, and an elaborate dome put the bakers through twists and turns.
Things get sticky on The Great British Baking Show week seven, as it’s all about caramel. We’re down to six bakers, who spend the episode swirling, melting, and molding the molten-sugar treat. Most of them are terrified, except for George, who seems oddly confident. Will his confidence carry him through? Or will he get burned at the end?
First up is the signature challenge: a highly decorative caramel tart. The judges are looking for the caramel to be the bake’s star. But the bakers need to blind bake their tart dough first before filling it with decadent interiors. The blind bakes also help to prevent soggy bottoms. The bakers are split into two camps: baked fillings (Lizzie, George, and Jürgen) and straight chill fillings (Crystelle, Giuseppe, and Chigs). Those with baked fillings risk running out of chilling time, as they’ll need enough time to properly cool down their tarts before crafting their highly decorated toppings.
Timing is also of the essence when making caramel. Whether they use the wet method (adding water to sugar) or dry caramel (just heating sugar to melt), the bakers must keep an eye on their pots, as they risk the caramel turning too hard (think toffee), too soft (which could lead to a soggy bottom) or burning (thus leaving a bitter taste).
Lizzie, George, and Jürgen are all rushed for time topping their hot tarts—their cream, and other decorations soon fall flat. Poor George, whose custard has curdled, seems the most at risk when the judges make their rounds. Paul and Prue don’t hold back with their comments. They seem to be a bit nitpicky, but this close to the semifinals, they’ve got to step up their critiques.
Lizzie’s bake still lacks finesse, but her flavors are delicious. Crystelle’s looked neat, but her caramel was slightly bitter. Chigs’ looked lovely, but his chocolate overpowered the caramel. Giuseppe’s had a beautiful look, but his caramel was too liquidy. Jürgen lost decor with heat, and his caramel was too chewy. It’s a tough round for all contestants—everyone had some sort of fault in their tarts.
Next is the technical challenge: 10 identical caramel biscuit bars (aka Twix). None of the bakers have attempted to make this store-bought favorite bar. I think it’s a clever test on Paul’s part, asking the bakers to make a mass-produced candy bar. He also reveals he’s a dunker and encourages Prue to dunk her bar into her tea. This is the tea we want on Paul Hollywood!
As the bakers crack on with the challenge, Noel does a bit of improv and goes around the tent, summarizing the bakers with bizarre comparisons. The best summarization was of Lizzie: “Princess Leia dressed up as a children’s bullfighter.” After this episode’s awkward cold open (did we really need a joke comparing controversial Mel Gibson to caramel, and Danny Glover to an oven glove?), it’s nice to see Noel around the tent doing his own thing. Fewer scripted, more Matt and Noel improvising on their own, I say.
Paul and Prue don’t hold back with their comments. They seem to be a bit nitpicky, but this close to the semifinals, they’ve got to step up their critiques.
Back to the bakes. The bakers all seem to be in a mad rush to pipe their caramel onto the shortbread biscuits, coating them with chocolate all the while. There are a few ways to attempt chocolate coating: pour over the biscuits (Chigs does this and honestly, they don’t look that bad), dip them (George tries this and loses pieces of the biscuit), or try piping (which seems the least likely to cover the entire biscuit). Regardless of the coating method, everyone’s caramel biscuits look downright messy. The technical challenge rankings are as follows: George (6), Lizzie (5), Crystelle (4), Chigs (3), Jürgen (2), and Giuseppe (1). Paul says that all the biscuits were miserable, but Giuseppe’s ticked the most boxes.
And finally, the showstopper challenge: a visually spectacular dessert featuring a spherical caramel dome. I’d say “caramel dome” is a loose descriptor, as in practice it just needs to be made of either sugar or isomalt. Each dessert must also feature a second caramel element. The judges are looking for both design and substance. While Prue mentions that these sugar domes aren’t a common occurrence in bakeries, she still expects the bakers to know their way around creating this highly fragile decoration.
The bakers get to it and for the most part, their actual bakes turn out ok. It’s the sugar dome that has everyone is on pins and needles. There are multiple methods to create the domes. Some use a balloon method: pouring isomalt over a water balloon, then popping the balloon once the sugar has cooled. Jürgen and George use a plastic wrap/bowl contraption that requires them to hold the melted sugar in place for at least ten minutes.
Crystelle deploys a silicon dome mold, but the dome breaks every time she attempts to remove it. It takes her near ten attempts to successfully make the dome, before she ultimately opts to switch to the balloon method. With the assistance of Lizzie (yes, bakers helping bakers in the tent!), she finally produces a useable dome. Group heart attack aside, everyone is ready to present their showstoppers.
First at the table is Crystelle. It’s obvious her dome had issues, but her cake had good flavors, even if the mousse filling was a bit stodgy. Jürgen’s multi-layered cake looked spectacular, and every layer had a taste to match the looks. Giuseppe had a lovely dome, but the caramel in his cake was gluey. Chigs’ showstopper looked messy, and his isomalt dome had a misty look, but he had delicious flavors underneath. George got points for being the only baker to make a dome out of sugar (everyone else opted for isomalt), and he had some tasty flavors, but Paul didn’t think the textures were quite right.
Lizzie’s floral vase-inspired showstopper finally hit the finesse marks, but the cake inside the sugar bowl didn’t look nice. Everyone is on edge, waiting to hear the Star Baker/Departing Baker news. Jürgen, or Jürgs if you’re Matt, gets crowned Star Baker. He’s excited to be back on top, humble that this is his third Star Baker title of the season. Sadly, the baker to leave the tent is George. I think it’s hardly a surprise he was the one to leave this episode, as the strong showstopper wasn’t enough to save him from the mistakes made in the signature and technical challenges.
Predictions and Other Thoughts:
- I still anticipate the final three bakers will be Chigs, Jürgen, and Giuseppe. While I liked Crystelle’s Star Baker win last week, I don’t know if it’s enough to keep adding miso to her bakes.
- I’m also going to be bold and predict Jürgen will be the winner of The Great British Baking Show. #TeamJürgen
- I predict the next baker to leave will be Lizzie. She’s fun in the tent, but Paul and Prue are starting to pick apart the bakes, and hers have been a bit too messy.