Baking Batter

GBBO Episode 4 - Batter Week: 'It's a Batter of Life and Death...'

We all feel like we’ve had a bit of a battering this week. With the news that the GBBO is to move to Channel 4, and that the heart and soul of the programme, Mel and Sue will be leaving, bake-off fans everywhere have been feeling as flat as Tom’s Yorkshire puddings. And, as if to rub salt in the wound, this week’s edition (filmed months ago) was particularly light and sparkling, with the innuendo laden wit of the departing pair gloriously on form, Mary smilingly relaxed and Paul back to his happy place having recovered from last week’s grumpy moments. We watched with a sharpened sense of appreciation, knowing that an uncertain future lies ahead for our favourite programme, as the bakers got to grips with batter.

Yorkshire puddings – hot stuff

It all went so well to start with. “I feel quite happy about this bake,” said a cheery Tom, still glowing in the aftermath of winning star baker last week. A smiling Benjamina had no qualms, “I’ve got a good feeling about this week,” she accurately predicted, and Yorkshire lass Val was confident with her mother’s recipe. 

We were full of confidence too - if they could crack dampfnudel then surely they would walk Yorkshire puddings. The variety in the recipes was interesting – some rested the batter in the fridge, others at room temperature, some used dripping, some oil. The quantity of ingredients varied widely too, and Tom’s recipe was particularly intriguing. Crack eight eggs then weigh them and add the same amount of flour – I was quite interested in that idea – until I saw the results.

In the end, as your mother will have taught you and as Mary and Paul pointed out, good Yorkshires depend on heat to rise. They like the oven to be positively tropical and the fat needs to be smoking hot before the mixture is added. Several bakers ignored this basic advice and ended up with Yorkshire biscuits. Some even made the same mistake twice – I’m looking at you Tom.

Selasi had no problems with the rise on his puddings -  infact they were enormous, “Look at the puff on that,” said Sue admiringly. His porky puddings complete with crackling put a huge smile on Paul’s face and he was awarded a Hollywood handshake. 

Andrew who took his Yorkshires on holiday to Spain with tapas inspired flavours, also received good comments. “I like the way you’ve toasted your nuts,” twinkled Paul, and Mary kept it ladylike saying “I think you’ve done very well Andrew.” How he didn’t reply “Thank-you Nanny,” I’ll never know.

Home Chef can help…

  • Muffin tins - Size became an issue in the great Yorkshire pudding bake. Some bakers plumped for muffin sized baking tins, others for more delicate fairy cake size.
  • Ladle - Kate decided to ladle her mixture into her tins to ensure that she had the same amount in each one. Rather a good idea I thought. Ladles are useful for all sorts of tasks.

Lacy pancakes – pretty perfect

Candice (sporting a raspberry pink pout this week – if you’re interested) was stumped. “I’ve not even got any lacy pants,” she informed us as she tried to come up with the design for her pancakes. Infact she managed to create a very pretty lacy pattern whilst others struggled to find their inner artist. Not Val though, she was channelling Jackson Pollack and Selasi’s attempt could have been inspired by Banksy with an alien face as a centrepiece.

A cheeky Mel declared that they were looking for lacy pancakes “like a doily in Carol Middleton’s guest bedroom.” Naughty but nice one Mel – a joke perfectly atuned to the bake-off audience. Oh how we’re going to miss you.

The twelve lacy pancakes required in the technical challenge needed to be heart shaped and identical. Opinions on whether tossing or flipping was the most appropriate method of turning the delicate creations were divided. “Are you a tosser or a flipper,” asked Mel of Candice. “A tosser all the way,” she replied while Selasi demonstrated, hurling his pancakes into the air with skill and celebrating with air punches. Sadly his finished pancakes didn’t quite live up to the standard of his tossing.

Rav, whose quietly self-deprecating and cheerful manner is winning over many fans, made a disastrous decision to put all the sugar in at once. Oh dear – the finished results were “bone dry and overcooked.” But many of the bakers made a very good show indeed of their lacy hearts and the judges found it difficult to decide the winner, with Benjamina just pipping Candice to the post.

Home Chef can help…

  • Sauce dispensers - Our bakers used these to pipe their pancake mixture into their pans. If you’re a fan of the Great British Menu you will have seen endless sauces, jus’s and flourishes delivered to the plate through one of these plastic piping bottles.
  • Frying pan - Serious chefs are picky about their frying pans. They need to be good quality, well-seasoned on purchase and their interiors must be protected and cherished so that that they don’t become damaged so allowing food to stick. 

Spanish doughnuts – que?

Yes, the showstopper challenge was all about churros – a sort of Spanish doughnut which required the use of a deep fat fryer to create quite frankly scrumptious-looking sweet and  crispy fingers of sugary deliciousness.

Again, the variety of methods used was interesting. Some of the braver bakers – Tom and Rav – decided to make their churros in the traditional fashion, piping and cutting them directly into the hot oil. Most were more cautious and piped their shapes onto baking parchment before dropping them in.
However, many of the bakers seemed to get a bit carried away with this challenge, introducing weird flavours and two or even three dipping sauces when only one was required.

Even usually relaxed Selasi fell victim to the desire to shock, with a revolutionary choice to freeze before frying – a move that only resulted in a burnt exterior and a raw interior. Tom also pushed boundaries, introducing fennel into his sweet mixture – it didn’t meet with approval – and Rav ventured a white chocolate and wasbi dipping sauce. Yes you did hear right – wasabi and chocolate. Really Rav?

But it was lovely Benjamina who this week stole the title of ‘coolest baker’ from Selasi, and proved that less is most definitely more by delivering crispy, elegant churros flavoured with coconut, beautifully cooked and simply shaped with one single delicious passion fruit and mango dipping sauce. “Well done you’ve cracked it,” beamed Paul.

Sadly, and perhaps before her time, it was country Kate whose “shabby chic” pancakes had disappointed and whose bunny shaped churros were inedible, who finally paid the ultimate price and was sent home.

The remaining eight will tackle pastry next week. Hurrah – we love a pie.

Home Chef can help…

  • Zester - Citrus flavours are great in cakes and all forms of baking. We noticed Val taking the zest off her orange with a knife in the churros challenge – we recommend she tries a zester. Quick and easy to use and they leave you with really finely shredded zest.  
  • Hot fat fryer - Mary made some rather disparaging remarks about these recently. But as the bake-off proved, they do have their uses and they are much safer to use than an ordinary pan full of boiling oil. For great chips, crunchy samosas, tempting tempura, delicious doughnuts and a whole host of other treats, there is no safer and easier alternative. 
Follow our GBBO blog every week on the website and on our Home Chef Facebook page – @HomeChefUKDon’t forget to post your ideas and comments on the unfolding Bake-Off story, we’d love to hear from you!   

Photo credit: juantiagues via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

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