This week’s episode of The great British pastry fair features an elusive signature, buggy technique and 3-D showstopper.
After a strong opening for Season 10 with “Cake Week,” bakers have their eye on cookies in the second week of The great British pastry fair. Biscuit Week can separate the pros from the true amateurs, as this week proves just how deceptively complex basic baking can be. Not to be outdone, Paul and Prue are throwing some interesting baker challenges this week, seeing which baker can rise to the occasion like a perfectly domed macaroon, and which one might crumble like an overcooked ginger.
First of all, it’s the signature challenge. Paul and Prue tasked the bakers with making 12 macaroons in 2 hours, with one twist – their macaroons must look like something other than macaroons. There are a few duplicate patterns, such as “burgers” (Sandro and Carole), “ice cream cones” (Kevin and Abdul), and “animals” (James and Rebs). Janusz’s Watermelon Macaroons, “King of Flavors,” are intriguing because they’ll both have the flavor and shape of summer fruits.
Also, Jürgen was the king of flavors from the previous season… Could Janusz be the new Jürgen? Dawn looks to hit the judges with strawberry-flavored “yo-yo” cookies. And Syabira rocks out with a salty macaron, a tofu-satay cookie, much to Paul’s dismay. Can Syabira charm Paul Hollywood, who hates tofu, with her treat?
Last week, we had no Hollywood handshakes. This week, I am happy to announce that we are receiving two! The first handshake of the season goes to Dawn, as her strawberry, yo-yo-shaped cookies hit all the flavor notes and the judges’ design preferences. The second handshake went to Maxy, as her daisy-shaped cookies were sharp as a pin, and her light and airy macaroons were baked to perfection. The bakers who failed to impress were, unsurprisingly, Rebs and Maisam, as both had issues with their pastries and wasted time correcting their issues.
Prue took on this week’s technical challenge, and in her own words, it’s “an absolute classic.” Bakers have 1h45 to bake 12 Garibaldi biscuits. They are also known as mouth-watering “squished fly” cookies, due to the chopped fruit in the mixture resembling dead insects. Prue’s has also added a twist to the classic Garibaldi, requiring bakers to dip half the cookie in a chocolate/white chocolate feather pattern.
Most bakers had a Garibaldi cookie; however, it is a common cookie in stores, not one they regularly make. Adding a layer of complexity to baking is that it requires contestants to do “calculations” to determine the measurements to divide their dough into 12 identical cookies. Poor Janusz accidentally cuts 24 cookies, but he just forces the dough together on his cut treats, hoping he won’t get too many points deducted. There are also some interesting versions of “feathered” chocolate, as Syabira and Abdul build real feathers out of white chocolate and place them on the cookies.
The technique rankings are as follows: Abdul (11), Syabira (10), Dawn (9), Kevin (8), Maisam (7), Janusz (6), Maxy (5), Carole (4), Sandro ( 3), James (2) and Rebs (1). Rebs may have redeemed herself with a high placement in technique, as her Garibaldi cookies hit the mark on both the design (she had nice chocolate nibs) and the baking (her cookies may have been a little soft, but they were nice and thin). Maisam is still in a tough spot, as she is still among the last of the bakers, as her Garibaldi’s were just okay in taste and decoration.
The final challenge of the Biscuit Week is the Showstopper, and bakers have 4 hours to create a 3-D cookie mask. These are fashionable masks for carnival, masquerade or even a plunge into the horror genre. Judges are looking for spectacular designs and the 3D mask must be able to stand on a stand at the end of the challenge. These stars are always tense to watch, because it’s not just about baking, but also the design strengths of bakers.
There are fun and whimsical designs among bakers. Abdul bakes about 90 cookies of different varieties to imitate the feathers of a beloved family parrot. Janusz opts for a unique cubist artistic mask, a design that rivals Noel’s artistic skills. Carole worries the judges because her masquerade-inspired mask will feature a gingerbread cookie made from lard. The lard could compromise the structural integrity of the mask; she’s going to need a strong bake to make sure her mask doesn’t fall apart.
There are a few issues that occur during Showstopper cooking. Reb has to restart his gingerbread, because the first bake cracks in the oven. It might also be worth noting that using a hammered dog water bowl as a mold might not be the strongest move. Maisam gets along better with her cooking, as she finishes with about 30 minutes to spare. She wonders if her mask isn’t too simple, as all the other bakers furiously add intricate designs to the final breaking point. And unfortunately, Carole’s mask falls apart moments after she places it on its stand. She is a bit emotional but is consoled by Noel and Maisam, as her mask is still mostly intact.
It’s judgment time for their elaborate Showstoppers. Humorous moments include Paul wearing Sandro’s mask (judges also enjoy his strawberry and elderflower cookies), Janusz’s Polish spice cookies reminiscent of the Christmas judges, and sugar and Florentine cookies from Maxy that hit all the marks on the taste. The bakers down the challenge were Carole’s crumbly ginger cookies (the lard ultimately failed to support the structure of the mask), Maisam’s mask was too simple, and Rebs’ mask was a bit too small.
At the end of the episode, Maxy is crowned Star Baker this week. Another week of a strong signing and a showstopper beating a mid-range technique. Maxy is thrilled to have won the Star Baker title. Unfortunately, the baker leaving this week is Maisam. She didn’t have any epic failures, but her pastries just didn’t impress the judges. However, she is proud to have been able to participate in the show at 18 and knows that her baking journey will continue long after the show.
Predictions and other thoughts
I love that Maxy won Star Baker this week! She seemed to really wow Paul and Prue with a strong signature. I still think Sandro is going to get Star Baker, and I’m going with week three as his week to win it. And I still think he will complete the top three bakers, Janusz and Syabira joining him.
Also, kudos to James for stepping up his baking this week. I predicted last week that he would be the next to go. I think next week we’ll see Carole coming out of the tent. She hasn’t had a good week here, and if she can’t redeem herself next week, she could be the next to go.
Most heartwarming moment – Noel approaching Carole as her mask broke! It was a sweet, genuine moment that felt like a throwback to the days of Mel and Sue (remember that?!).
Cold open cringe note – I’m going with 4, because the cold open saw Noel asking Paul what kind of cookie Matt was holding (the twist – Matt was holding a little dog). A light level of cringe compared to last week star wars opening, which was a ten.