Baking GBBO

GBBO Episode 8 - Tudor Week: “We’re like the Spice Girls before Ginger left”

“We’ve gone hysterical,” announced Mel at the start of the programme. Or did she say historical? It could have been either - this was after all the quarter finals of the nation’s favourite baking show. Our famous five, Andrew, Jane, Selasi, Benjamina and Candice were back for the episode which was to determine our semi-finalists and they were about to feel the heat as they tackled Tudor Week. Paul and Mary were gleefully proud of their latest challenges all loosely based on Tudor skills with pastry and sugar. There was a slightly surreal atmosphere of fiercely intense concentration in the tent, but we were gripped. This was a quarter final and a half – only the strongest would survive.

To the power of pie

“We’re like the Spice Girls before Ginger left,” declared an anxious Candice, striking fear into the heart of a nervous Andrew who was determined to buck the curse of the Star Baker. Selasi was dressed for the occasion in fiesty chilli-pepper red – almost as red as Andrew’s cheeks which were flushed scarlet in anticipation - and Benjamina was pinching herself “Am I really here?,” she smiled nervously. 

Whilst Jane, flying the flag for the country’s more mature bakers, was wearing her habitual very worried expression that we know hides a steely determination to make it to the final. “Selasi thinks I was born in Tudor times,” she said through gritted teeth.

The pressure was indeed on. A display of individual, shaped savoury pies was the requirement. Four of the bakers made one type of pastry so of course Candice made two. Her parsley suet crust pastry was to be filled with ox cheek and oysters, and her hot water crust pies with macaroni cheese. 

Oysters were apparently traditional fare as she grew up in a London pub with market stalls selling their wares outside on the street – hang on a minute does this remind you of anywhere? Eastenders was momentarily transported to the bake-off tent – can’t you just see a magnificent Candice roaring a high pitched ‘Rickyyy’ across the marquee? And Mary would make a cracking landlady of the Queen Vic – she does love a tipple after all…

Ok, back to real life. Well the bake-off anyway. As you would expect at this stage of the competition the standard was high. Selasi who this week was distracted enough by his baking to have a conversation of several minutes with Sue without realising she had rosemary sprigs stuffed up her nose, created delicious flavours of Ghana with guinea fowl.

Jane scored well with her ‘exceedingly good’ Tudor rose pies but it was Andrew who was top of the class with his masterpiece of da Vinci inspired pies that rotated on his specially built geared turntable. The first mechanical pie ever in the bake-off. Genius.

Home Chef can help…

Pie moulds - The bakers baked perfect individual pies with hot water crust pastry. It’s not quite as difficult as it sounds if you have a reliable recipe – but you will need pie moulds.

Cutlery - Well you just can’t do without it. Choose from our wide and inspirational selection.

Grumbles about Jumbles

Yes, there were a lot of sighs and groans and sucking of teeth over this one. It was the shapes you see – a knot ball and a Celtic knot were required– decidedly tricky, and one shape required more baking than the other. “My heart sinks when they say it’s a Paul technical,” sighed a despondent Jane. Selasi was realistic about his chances – the technical has previously been his downfall. “I hate technical,” he groaned.

Presiding over the tent like a silver fox King Henry VIII, Paul was rather enjoying the struggles of the bakers as they tried to work out his very sparse recipe notes. The Jumbles needed to be crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, “Exactly like me Mary,” said HRH. 

Before this series of the bake-off I hadn’t realised how much maths the bakers are required to do. Even Andrew struggled to do the sums. In the end they all weighed their biscuits to ensure they were an even size. Good idea. 

Candice shot from the bottom of the previous challenge to the top of this one with her golden brown and well-shaped Jumbles. She was the only one to put the sugar on the biscuits at the start of the bake – a decision that proved key as her Jumbles emerged from the oven exactly the right appetising colour. Paul was quick to spot the bakers who had tried to add sugar half way through the bake while Mary was a stickler for a correctly shaped biscuit.

At the end of the technical there was much to play for, and no clear leader. The judgely huddle put Benjamina and Selasi in the drop zone – the atmosphere was tense in the tents.

Home Chef can help…

Pestle and mortar - Sweetly the bakers seemed rather amused and bemused by the pestle and mortar supplied for them to crush their spices. Anyone who has done any Indian cooking will have used one of these to create freshly crushed spice mixes, and indeed they have been used for centuries in many styles of cooking. We have different versions at Home Chef, but my advice would be to go for the heaviest you can afford – the weight of the mortar helps the crushing process. 

Tea towels - We don’t do the ones with pretty pictures on, but we do sell the ones chefs like to use in their professional kitchens. Look the part with one of these draped across your shoulder.

Much pain over Marchpane

Apparently at a Tudor banquet you were served only sweet dishes. Sounds like my kind of feast. Sugar was the must have status symbol for all the lords and ladies of the Tudor court – and the centrepiece of all this was the Marchpane.

Our bakers set to – they were tasked with creating Marchpane masterpieces that would grace the table of Queen Elizabeth 1st herself. The lady was apparently so fond of sugar that all her suitors tried to woo her with it. That explains the black teeth. 

Anyway, I digress. Our plucky five pulled out all the stops to create extraordinary structures from marzipan. It has to be said that perhaps one or two of them pulled out too many stops. Andrew’s jousting knights looked a little too much like Michelin men with caramel codpieces, and the hedges of Benjamina’s maze resembled rather plump and freckled worms. 

However, for once, Candice resisted the temptation to do too much in the time, whilst wholeheartedly embracing the urge to go over the top with the decoration. Her multi-coloured peacock cake, complete with blueberry surprise and extravagant peacock tail feathers was “incredible work” according to Mary. “As a challenge – exceptional,” enthused Paul. The girl’s an inspiration and must come out of this week’s episode as bookies favourite for the title.

Lovely Benjamina was the unlucky loser. She smiled through her tears “It wasn’t my week. I knew it, but I’ve done something really cool and I’m really proud,” she said. We agree and so did Selasi who will miss her. “She’s a proper sister to me,” he said. “She thinks I’m really funny when no-one else does.” That really is a sign of true friendship.

Patisserie awaits the four remaining semi-finalists. If they think it’s been hard thus far – I fear worse awaits. Watch this space.

Home Chef can help…

Whisks - Whisk yourself away to a baking wonderland called Home Chef. Who knew there were so many whisks to choose from? 

Measuring spoons - One of those useful little tools that make your life easier. Simple as that.

Follow our GBBO blog every week on the website and on our Home Chef Facebook page – @HomeChefUK. Don’t forget to post your ideas and comments on the unfolding Bake-Off story, we’d love to hear from you!   

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