After nine weeks of entertaining baking, we were down to the final episode of Great British Bake Off. For the first time ever there was an all male final and over 6.5 million people were on the edge of their seats as the results were announced. Former contestant Urvashi Roe has a round up of the show and reveals who would take home the prize & title of Britain’s best amateur baker for 2012.
It’s been a summer of creativity and entertaining baking but we were down to the final three. All very different styles and all very different types of people. I think Paul did a really good job of summing them up.
Brendan – the most knowledgeable baker creating nostalgic home baking with a classic style and great flavours.
James – the most innovative baker always trying to reach the pinnacle of what can be done.
John - perhaps the most passionate out of the whole group this year defined by his bold, modern designs influenced by French patisserie.
The Final Signature Bake
The bakers were put through their pastry paces for the last time with the signature bake requiring them to make a Savoury Pithivier – a round ‘pie’ made with two discs of puff pastry. The filling is piled into a mound shape in the middle and the pastry enclosed over it. It’s traditionally decorated with spiral lines drawn from the top downwards and a scalloping of the edges.
Paul was looking for a good flake with the rough puff pastry and impressive layers. Mary wanted to see the traditional lines and a good shiny finish.
All three finalists looked incredibly nervous. Even James who is usually smiley and bubbly from the start seemed to have caught the nerves. He had decided on a Spanish themed bake using chorizo, chicken and red peppers.
John opted for Italian with Taleggio cheese, Italian sausage and roasted vegetables. My favourite however was Brendan’s vegetarian idea using caramelised garlic – lots of garlic! – with potato, pepper and spinach with goat’s cheese to bulk up the filling and avoid any juices seeping into the pastry. Brendan’s was also the best looking in my opinion. Beautifully scalloped edges and lovely clean lines marked on top of the pastry. One for our lunch table this Saturday I think!
All three received praise for their great flavours but whilst Brendan and John could breathe easy with perfect pastry, poor James produced the final soggy bottom of the series. How would this impact his nerves going into the technical challenge? He’s usually incredibly calm and laid back but would his ‘winging it’ style pay off this week?
Technically the worst fondant fancies the judges had ever seen
25 perfect Fondant Fancies. I thought this was a brilliant final, technical challenge. Fiddly, delicate and time sensitive. As expected, all three produced excellent cake but then there was the dilemma of how to cut 25 perfect squares.
The ruler was out for Brendan – the man of precision. James too. John decided to go smaller than the other two and left a large chunk of wasted cake. I could understand his logic as all the fondant fancies I’ve seen are petite but Mary was to chastise him for this later.
Who knew that buttercream would bring so many decisions? How soft? Cold or warm? How to paste on etc etc. So many dilemmas! Perhaps these were just distractions for the bakers from the fiddling with fondant to come. All three had differing ‘techniques’.
1. Plopping the cake square into the bowl of fondant and attempting to scoop it out.
2. Dipping the cake square into the fondant and trying to keep hold while coating it evenly.
3. Holding the cake square and pouring fondant over the top praying for an even finish.
Which one would you had opted for?
With credit to the three finalists, they all finished and displayed 25 fondant fancies but Mel and Sue did comment it was more like being on the set of The Generation Game than the Great British Bake Off Final.
The judges weren’t too impressed either. The comments were harsh …. Too small, too wet, sloppy – in general it was ‘a bit of a mess across the board’ according to Paul.
Oh dear. How would this impact the last bake for each of them?
Creative Chiffon Cakes For The Final Showstopper Bake
I loved this last challenge. I think it was really interesting to see a difficult bake at this stage in the competition paired with the opportunity to let us into each of the finalist’s personalities.
There was a wobbly moment for Brendan as he described his idea of ‘Reunion’. He talked about a cake to bring different parts of his family together after 30 years apart which I think was very brave to do in front of the millions of viewers last night. I loved that he’d stayed true to his traditional flavours with a raspberry and almond combination. It looked beautiful with a lovely heart shaped cake just sitting perfectly at the top. A really worthy final bake.
John described how the ups and downs of 2012 had led to his idea of a ‘Heaven and Hell’ cake. A base layer of chocolate and orange chiffon cake topped with smaller cloud like cakes using lemon curd and coconut. This was the one I would have been keen to taste. It sounded and looked utterly amazing. Another worthy final bake.
James opted for a theme of ‘United’ and shocked everyone when he announced he’d be making five different cakes representing the momentous year 2012 had been for Great Britain. An ambitious idea from the innovative baker. Sadly though this time he didn’t pull it off. As Paul highlighted, the final creation had little unity and so the requirement of the challenge for one cake was rather missed. The decoration paled into insignificance compared to the other two cakes as did the taste. Paul commented that the dry crumb was welding his mouth together and Mary just had that look of utter disappointment. But was this the twist? Would the judges base their decision on all the previous weeks or go with these three, final challenges?
And the winner is ……
Paul and Mary said they were unanimous in their decision on the winner.
Twitter was undecided between #teamjames and #teamjohn. Poland’s waterlogged pitch had even driven football fans to the final. 6.5 million viewers waited tensely for Sue to announce the winner.
It was John!
John Whaite - A Law Student from Manchester. Humble, hardworking and honest all the way through the competition had wowed the judges and claimed the 2012 title.
Both previous winners, Edd and Jo, have gone on to write well received, baking books showing off their unique styles. John’s style is very different to both and the final credits explained how he wants to save up to attend a Parisian Patisserie School. It will be interesting to see what his chosen path will be and as a young man he has so much time to decide. Good luck John!
But not forgetting James and Brendan. Both brilliant bakers who will also no doubt go on to do great things in the baking business as the other finalists have done. For starters, all three will be at The BBC Good Food Show in November. Good luck to them all!
What did you think of the finals? Did your favourite win?