October 16, 2019 11:56 am Leave your thoughts
If you want to be the best, if you want to beat the rest, ooo-ooh lamination is what you need. Or at least you do for this week’s Signature Challenge.
Yes, it’s the dreaded Pastry Week. Before they even enter the hallowed marquee of competitive baking, the contestants are fearing a soggy bottom. Aren’t we all?
A savoury tarte tatin is the first challenge of the day, which all the bakers have had a chance to practice at home. Not that you could tell as not one contestant had a truly stand-out tarte. Henry needed more caramelisation; David’s rather dry tarte was saved only by its sauce and Paul wasn’t convinced by Rosie’s excuse of black garlic for her charred creation. Not usually one to pile on in times of baking misery, Sandi added that the soggy bottom of Rosie’s tarte was “like a membrane”. I’m no Michelin-starred chef but I’m fairly certain that wasn’t a compliment.
Alice somehow managed to knit some leeks into her tarte creating a pleasing lattice pattern, earning her Prue’s approval, but the tart was overall too wet with – you guessed it, a soggy bottom. Steph’s caramelised onion and goats’ cheese version of this week’s Signature Challenge impressed with its ‘good flavours’ but the judges weren’t overwhelmed with its appearance.
Not unlike the base of Alice and Rosie’s tartes, in summary, it was a rather damp start to pastry week.
So, on to the Technical Challenge, which this week was to create a Moroccan Pie using warqa or brick pastry. Unsurprisingly, this was met with more than one blank face.
“Consistency really matters” was the glimmer of advice Paul offered the bakers before he and Prue were ushered out of the tent by Noel, who had sadly succumbed to the heat of the tent and removed his truly magnificent cobra-clad jumper. Key to this challenge it transpired, was fiendishly thin and flaky pastry. “Would we have given them this challenge knowing the weather was going to be as hot as it was?” Paul pondered. “Yes”, he confirmed, to no one’s surprise.
Thankfully Henry didn’t follow through with his threat to “get naked” if anybody had heard of this week’s technical challenge, when David revealed he did know what a Moroccan Pie was, having seen one on a travel program. See, tv is educational.
Paul, ever the evil villain, didn’t reveal how much of each spice to use, which left some bakers being a little heavy-handed.
For those not in the know, Sandi helpfully explained that ‘warqa’ (or ‘white warqa’ as Henry referred to them – clearly a Game of Thrones fan) is the Arabic word for sheet, which explained why at one point during this week’s technical challenge, it looked more like an episode of DIY SOS than GBBO, with the contestants trying to paint what looked like wallpaper paste onto a hot paddle. Twelve times. The whole debacle brought the normally rock-solid, three-times-star-baker-Steph to tears. And we thought last week’s castatelles were difficult!
If you did want to try your hand at warqa or brick pastry, you’ll need durum or semolina flour, which you can find here. If you’d rather have a go at making a slightly easier Moroccan Pie using a simpler rough puff pastry, you’ll need plain flour which you can find here.
Despite Rosie’s initial reservations and surprisingly, an exploding pie, she came second overall being pipped to the top spot only by David, who was delighted to have finally won a Technical Challenge on the eighth attempt.
In a brief stint as this seasons ‘Mystic Meg’, Henry admitted that he felt like Jesus on Maundy Thursday heading towards crucifixion. Dramatic, yes. Unfounded, it would transpire not.
For this week’s final and Showstopper Challenge, the contestants had to make a ‘Vertical Pie’ which consisted of at least three stacked pies that could be made using any kind of pastry (bar each other’s and, presumably, shop bought), but in the words of Prue, “thin enough to be delicious but firm enough to hold the whole thing together”. As Paul put it, the choice of pastry was critical.
Steph, Rosie and Henry went for a hot water crust pastry whilst Alice and David opted for a crumblier shortcrust pastry which not only brought concerns over stability, but in the case of David, raised the issue of whether a pie without a lid is indeed a pie. Whilst they debated such a serious and complex issue (Brexit, schmexit), the rest of the bakers got on with preparing their pie fillings.
Steph created a filling of curried chickpea and potato, with Rosie opting for similar spices in her curried vegetable version, albeit rather more ambitiously, aiming to create not three but NINE pies. Something she would later start to regret.
Henry ventured forth with a mix of sweet and savoury pies, which he credited his Mum for when Paul questioned his reasoning. In for a penny in for a pound was clearly his motto when considering the meat quantity for his two savoury pies, cutting up what looked like a Christmas Day-sized piece of ham and half a dozen chorizo sausages. Alice kept her ‘Tree House Pie’ meat-free and fruity, with a three apple and blackberry recipe, with added toasted pecans.
Dry pies but not a dry eye in the house
After much brow-mopping, oven-watching and mutterings of ‘structural integrity’, the challenge was over and it was time for the contestants to present their ‘Vertical Pie’ showstoppers. Sadly, and perhaps a result of the bakers’ desperate bid to avoid the curse of the ‘moist derrière’, all but one showstopper was deemed dry – in some cases ‘bone dry’ or even ‘tough as old boots’. The shame. It would seem that in an attempt to create fantastical tree houses and fairy tale towers, some of the bakers had succumbed to the classic ‘style over substance’. Great ideas, poor execution. Oh dear.
Thankfully Steph had put the previous day’s Technical Challenge behind her and presented a simple but elegant ‘Carousel Pie’, which Prue and Paul exclaimed was delicious, with wonderfully thin and flaky pastry. It would seem the only mistake Steph made was not calling it a ‘Currysel Pie’. *groan*
In the end, it came as a surprise to no one that she was named Star Baker for the fourth time, meaning Steph will surely head into next week’s semi-final as the favourite.
Who to send home was a much more closely debated decision, with Rosie and Henry both being considered for the chop. Sadly for Henry, a decent offering in the Signature Challenge was not enough to counter a poor performance in the Technical Challenge and a poorly designed AND executed showstopper in the final challenge, and so we bode farewell to the lovely Henry and his smart-shirt-and-tie-whatever-the-weather outlook on life. Still, he got the last laugh, being able to remind Paul that he met him outside the Bake Off tent when he was only 12.
So, who will hold their nerve next week and make it through to the final? And more importantly, what will Noel wear for semi-final week?!
If you’ve been inspired into pie-making but don’t fancy the faff of warqa or full-puff (frankly, who does?) then why not try Yzanne’s fool-proof* shortcrust pastry recipe below.
*NGF cannot be held responsible for too thick, too thin, too dry, too soggy, too weak, too tough, too-not-an-actual-pie pastry.
Simple, perfect shortcrust pastry
This makes a family-sized pie, with enough for the bottom and the lid.
225g plain white flour
50g baking margarine
(if making sweet pastry: 25g caster sugar too)
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and rub in the fat. If using sugar, add this now.
Using a knife, mix it with cold water, a spoonful or two at a time, until it all sticks together in a firm dough.
Wrap in foil or clingfilm and put in the fridge for a while (from 5 minutes to overnight: you’ll be OK whatever).
When you’re ready to use it, cut it in half and roll both halves out on a floured surface. One half can form the bottom of your pie, the other the lid. Alternatively, cut into other shapes and use as you wish.chickpeas, cumin seeds, dried fruit, fennel seeds, flour, GBBO, gbbo8, ginger, Great British Bake Off, ground cinnamon, Nuts, Organic, organic dried fruit, organic nuts, Pastry Week, pecans, Recipe, rough puff pastry, Seeds, shortcrust pastry, spices, sugar, Wholefoods
This post was written by Sue