September 4, 2019 11:03 am Leave your thoughts
Biscuits were the business of the house (and the tent) last night. Many of the contestants had already passed a vote of no confidence in their own abilities (‘Biscuit week is the nightmare for everyone’ fretted Michael). Noel cheered them up by depicting their night-terrors on his actual jumper.
But why should biscuits be difficult? They’re just about the first thing anyone learns to bake as a child. And with a generous two-and-a-half hours to get the first lot done, no-one needed to ask for an extension.
But of course, these weren’t just any old biscuits. These were biscuits that well, took the biscuit.
Pimp my twix
The Signature Bake asked for 12 identical chocolate bars. The contestants threw everything in the storecupboard at the challenge: semolina, ground pistachios, caramel macchiato, mojitos, barfi, fingernails made out of almonds.
Many plumped for shortbread, but gave it a twist, adding lemon, rosemary, snippets of Earl Grey tea. Ever made your own shortbread? It’s ridiculously easy. The recipe at the end of this blog makes the best we’ve tasted. Throw in some herbs and chopped-up tea bags if you must.
In a heart-warming display of cross-contestant co-operation, several people crossed the (cooking) benches to help out their struggling competitors, mixing, drizzling and generally disguising disasters ‘They’re a little bit….not solid’, grinned Jamie, whose efforts were suffering from a constitutional crisis. ‘They look like biscuits after an earthquake’, Sandi commented, thoughtfully.
Michelle’s chocolate bars, however, were ‘exceptional, unique, exquisite’. Henry’s had ‘a beautiful shine’, just like his Prefect badge. Alice (this year’s poised, effortless and yet modest contestant) excelled. Paul’s arm twitched towards a Hollywood handshake several times. Not yet, Paul, not yet.
Get your monkey testicles from us
Continuing their corner-shop teatime-treats theme from last week, the judges asked for 12 fig rolls in the Technical Challenge. ‘Contentious’, mused Sandi, raising the prospect of a cake/biscuit legal challenge further down the line. Fig rolls, it transpires, were Paul’s Dad’s favourite nibble, ‘whilst watching the wrestling’ (an image, once contemplated, it’s impossible to unsee).
I don’t care a fig for Noel’s view of this undersung dried fruit (see above). At Naturally Good Food we sell dried figs – mostly organic – by the boxful. They’re richly floral, juicy and chewy, and of course, remarkably good for you. One of the first plants ever cultivated by humans, figs are packed with fibre, potassium, manganese and vitamin B6 and are one of the richest plant sources of calcium. Quite simply, they’re full of sunshine, nutrients and taste.
Occasionally, when figs are dried, sugar crystals form on the surface of the fruit. This sprinkling of white is, as proved by Paul Hollywood’s hair, an additional attractive feature.
You can eat figs as a snack, serve them as an accompaniment to tangy, salty cheese, or poach them and add them to yoghurt in a compote. Diced (and we sell them ready-cut, relieving you from that fiendishly difficult task), they’re a fantastic addition to flapjacks, cookies, cakes, muffins and bakes of all kinds. They’re equally at home in savoury dishes, mixed with onions in a relish or thrown into a meaty casserole. Polenta, blue cheese and fig tarts, anyone? Or Persian quail, fig and pomegranate salad? You’ll find those and others in this collection of recipes here.
In the tent this week, figs had a humbler outcome. Mixed with stem ginger and cinnamon in the perfect balance, they needed to be encased in a cakey, crumbly dough. Jamie egg-washed his (‘It’s not a sausage roll’ growled Paul, bringing back unpleasant memories for anyone who’s ever made that mistake in a kitchen in the dark.).
Alice rolled in to victory. Helena, however, lost the twelfth roll, leaving her one short of a majority. It can happen to the best of people.
As the end-of-show deadline approached, the Showstopper Challenge moved into that little-known intersection between construction and baking, with the contestants asked to produce An Edible Masterpiece: A 3-D Biscuit Sculpture.
‘This is a really jolly challenge!’ asserted Prue, as if Enid Blyton had just asked her to catch some robbers in a secret mountain tunnel. ‘You could pretty much make anything in biscuit!’ lied Paul. You can’t make love. Or clouds. Or a silk purse.
Fortunately, there were no sow’s ears tonight – but instead, a whole host of homages to other animals. The bakers sculpted, moulded and imagined tortoises, Highland cows, cats, sheep and ‘a really big chicken’. It was Henry’s organ we were all busting to see, however, with its promise of towering brandy snap pipes and jelly-stained-glass windows. Unfortunately, he failed to deliver on his manifesto.
‘Where’s the keyboard?’ queried Paul. The keyboard, Paul? Where were the stops, the pedals and the little mirror for watching what the vicar’s up to behind you? (I know my organs.)
Rosie’s chicken required a very precise 212 individual biscuits. David (a bit of a dark horse) flowered with an other-worldly bouquet, fragrant with fennel, lime, citrus and cardamom. Helena’s spider, later adopted by Noel, rested on a delicate sugar-spun web.
Alice commanded the confidence of the judges with her Big Sheep in a Small Field, becoming this week’s Star Baker. Jamie, to the despair of much of twitter, crashed out.
Next week, it’s Bread Week. Don’t go away. After all, a week’s a long time in baking.
Easy Shortbread Recipe
250g (9 oz) plain flour
75g (3 oz) caster sugar
175g (6 oz) butter
Heat the oven to 160C and grease a baking tray.
Mix the flour and sugar together and then rub in the butter.
Press the mixture together into a dough and flatten it into your baking tray.
Bake for around 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Tags: almonds, Biscuit Week, biscuits, cardamom, diced figs, fennel seed, figs, GBBO2, Great British Bake Off, organic figs, pistachios, plain flour, semolina, shortbread recipe, stem ginger
This post was written by Yzanne