Week seven of The Great British Bake Off saw the contestants & presenters grapple with sweet dough in the shape of buns, doughnuts and celebration loaves. After last week’s episode when no one left the show, this week was going to see two of the bakers leave. Former contestant Urvashi Roe, the Botanical Baker, gave her thoughts on how the seven would turn to five.
Buns and baps were the name of the game this week. Sweet ones, gooey ones, jammy ones and bit fat ones but it was “nice firm buns” that Mary Berry was after in the Signature Sweet Bake. The bakers were asked to make 24 buns using an “enriched dough” which is a flour, salt, yeast and water mixture but with added eggs, fat, milk or sugar. I think 24 was quite a tall order within the timeframe. Paul was looking for perfection with a base dough that was soft and bordering on wet so the buns would be lovely and soft rather than crusty.
Cathryn was trying hard to distinguish herself this week with her version of a local and historical recipe for Lady Arundel Manchet Buns filled with cream and jam. Ryan opted for Lardy Bunds inspired by Bake boy Tom Herbert.
Most of the bakers however decided to go with a Chelsea Bun variation. Brendan’s Bunskis had a poppy seed twist, John’s a Cherry, Almond and Saffron focus.
Some did look decidedly burned and overcooked and as the judges cut into each one by one, there was some underbaking and under proving but there was also a lot of bland and poor flavours. Cathryn, John, James and Sarah Jane all produced less than perfection.
Ryan did so well that he got a hearty hand shake from Paul. Brendan’s were unusual and delicious. The ones that stole the show for me and the judges were Danny’s Bakewell Buns flavoured with sour cherries and almonds. They looked so lovely but what made it all worthwhile was the huge smile on Danny’s face. I’ve loved watching her gain confidence week by week and was keeping fingers crossed it wouldn’t go pear shaped for her as the weekend wore on.
Cornish Saffron Buns - a saviour for the local community
How amazed I was that a humble sweet bun could curb problematic drunken locals. Mel’s narrative related how these simple buns were handed out to the local community after a procession marking the ascension of Christ. The buns were flavoured with currants, sultanas and saffron brought over by Venetian traders.
A Jammy Technical Challenge for James
The technical challenge this week also took inspiration from history. In 1942 The Amercian GIs were treated to a taste of home with doughnuts served at the Service Clubs to boost their morale. Better still they were served by “Doughnut Dollies” who were specially hired to be an entertaining and sympathetic ear. The whole idea was so successful that it was repeated during WW2 and special Clubmobiles were created taking the Douhghnut Dollies on the road.
Would the bakers live up to the doughnuts made by these wonderful Doughnut Dollies?
James was the only one who’d made doughnuts before and he was very confident with the technique Paul was looking for. Soft dough which was wet enough to produce a bouncy, round doughnut, light in colour and fully cooked inside.
Sadly none except Brendan and James managed this task well. Most were undercooked and even raw in Sarah Jane’s case. Ryan’s were the opposite – over proved , flat and chewy.
A Showstopping Celebratory Loaf to finish
I don’t think this was a particularly interesting challenge. None of the bakes were very showstopper in my view and so meeting the judge’s brief of producing something spectacular which also tasted great was going to be hard.
Some of the bakers opted for an overnight rise or starter dough which would produce a more intense flavour but others relied on the flavour combinations to win the judges over. The only two who succeeded were Danny with her lovely sounding but rustic looking Christmas Wreath, and Brendan with a Black Forest Stollen baked in a bundt tin.
Sarah Jane’s was burned on the outside and raw on the inside which was a shame as I rather liked her idea of a plaited loaf – each strand a different flavour. Ryan had the great, original idea of making a savoury Char Sui Bau – A large pork bun traditionally served at Chinese New Year but sadly it was not cooked and squidgy inside.
James struggled to get his whisky balance right, John’s was flat and stodgy and Cathryn produced a cake (again).
There was lots of talk of no flavour this week which really hit a nerve with me. Those were the comments from the judges that hurt the most because after all food does need to taste amazing as well as look good. Presentation isn’t everything sometimes.
Despite Brendan’s consistent performance he missed a hat-trick of the Star Baker accolade and Danny scooped the win which was wonderful to see.
This week two contestants were up for “eviction” and I thought it would be Sarah-Jane and Cathryn. Both had received poor comments throughout the baking and the flavours had not been too inspired either so I was very shocked when Ryan’s name was called. He’d done so well in the first round that I thought he’d be safe! Sadly no. The Key Lime Pie Magic would forever be remembered though. Sarah -Jane left in the floods of tears we’ve seen over the last few weeks. I can relate to that though so did rather empathise with her. It’s a combination of relief, exhaustion, disappointment and fatigue all rolled into big fat teardrops!
Both were lovely contestants and I’m sure they’ll do well with their respective baking futures but now the tension really begins. Quarter finals next week!