The third episode of the third series of The Great British Bake Off aired last night and the nation tuned in to see amateur bakers from across the country compete in the infamous baking tent. Former contestant Urvashi Roe aka The Botanical Baker is back to give her views on the series from the other side of the screen. Let’s see what she thought of week three.
Blog post for Great British Chefs by Urvashi Roe
Pastry perfection was the objective this week. We saw rough puff, shortcrust, sweetcrust, pistachio crust, some with egg, some without and of course some falling out and sticking to tins. All brightening our Tuesday evening.
A tricky Tart Tatin to start
Tarte Tatin was first in the running order this week. Mary Berry was looking for “crisp pastry with enough syrup and shiny caramel to cover but not soak the fruit toppings. For Paul Hollywood it was of course all about “the bake”. Bake it for too short a time and it would be too pale and undercooked. He also warned, in his now ubiquitous cautionary tone, about adding too much liquid which would soak into the dough and make it soggy.
There were some lovely flavours this week. James won my heart with his Apple and Lavender combination. I love the use of flowers in anything and lavender was a flavour I toyed with using for pastry week last year but opted for Elderflower and Honeycomb offset with an edible viola flower. I also loved the simplicity of Sarah Jane’s Banana and Ryan’s Spiced Pear and was so pleased they both got great feedback.
Some savoury cropped in too with Victoria’s Fig, Walnut and Peppercorn Tart and Danny’s Pear and Roquefort. I have to admit, neither appealed to me.
Of course there were some disasters. Manisha’s sugar crystallised because she stirred at the wrong time. Caramel is one of those things that needs the wait and despite how patient you are at home, when the clock is ticking in that tent, the temptation to stir and hurry things along are just too overwhelming.
The historical interlude – an Invalid Fruit Tart.
This was my favourite part of the show this week! I loved those early ‘dietetics’. What a fabulous job they were doing with a tasty dish that gave a balanced intake of nutrients to aid the path to recovery. I think there are some simple lessons for their modern day counterparts to take away.
A Treacle Tart to technically challenge
For those not familiar with this part of the show. The contestants are given the same recipe and the same set of instructions. These are however rather poor in places so the bakers must use their intuition and skill to get the best results. In this case as Sue pointed out the bakers were not given the baking time. They were also unlikely to have been told how big the breadcrumbs or how thin the syrup should be, or even how long to cool the syrup for.
The recipe was a classic Mary Berry recipe and what she was looking for was thin pastry, a lattice that interweaves and a moist filling.
“Pastry is a cruel mistress if you don’t treat her well” as my wonderful co-contestant Ian stated last year. Most of the contestants seemed to do well on that front and it was the filling that seemed to mystify. As James quite rightly pointed out, this was a Treacle Tart with no treacle! Working at the right pace with the breadcrumb and syrup mixture looked tough but was even tougher was the lattice.
Thin strips melted the butter, twisted strips did not meet the brief and some were simply not interwoven. Mary’s keen eye noticed of course. Sarah Jane was caught out and we saw the first tears on the show. As she said, “It’s a bloody Treacle Tart!” Poor Sarah Jane. I know exactly how she feels. It’s really surprising how much of an emotional rollercoaster this show is when you’re in that tent and get one chance to prove yourself.
A large showstopping Designer Fruit Tart fit for a window display
This final challenge was a gift in my view. Three elements that you could be as creative as you liked with.
First off pastry. Would it be underbaked or overbaked? A nice even bake, or a consistent bake? A good strong bake or a poor bake?
The choice of filling was left to the contestants too and most chose crème patisserie and frangipane but there were some lovely unusual ideas from Manisha with a layer of sponge and Stuart with this triple textured layers of chocolate running through.
The toppings were very inventive. Lovely Isfahan - flavours of Turkish Delight – from James, Dragonfruit with Florentines from Brendan and a gorgeous flower on a pool of jelly from Stuart. Beautiful.
“I’m going home. I think that’s very clear”. It was Victoria who said it and sadly after the wondrous blackbird cake creation in episode one, she was the third to go. No double eviction like in our third episode and no tears. She was very matter of fact and stoic I thought and in need of a much needed hug from Sue and Mel. They do give the best hugs.
The Star Baker badge was awarded to the person with “superb flavours across the board, fine technical skills and the best tank top in the tent”. Of course it was James. (He’s my favourite!)
Next week holds all manner of sweet desserts in store. Am salivating already!
Inspired by last night’s episode? We have a whole collection of tart recipes on Great British Chefs for you to try at home.
Who was your favourite baker last night? What fruit tart would you have made in the showstopper round? Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.