If you have not seen this episode, there are spoilers ahead.
It’s “Pastry Week” on The Great British Baking Show and only five bakers remain in the competition. This week they are competing to earn the title of “star baker” and to secure a spot in the semi-finals next week. At least the bakers all seem to be on an even footing as they all despair about how they hate pastry and fear the dreaded soggy bottom. The infamous soggy bottom is when moisture from the fillings of a pie make the bottom of the pastry soggy and has plagued bakers throughout the seasons of the show. This week the bakers had the added challenge of trying to make perfect pastry — which likes the cold — in a tent, in the middle of a heatwave. This meant that the freezers were being used in full force and the poor bakers were trying to keep cool with fans and wet towels on their heads.
The signature challenge saw the bakers asked to make a savory Tarte Tatin. They had two and a half hours to make their tarts and they could use either full or rough puff pastry. Except for those directions, the bakers were free to use any flavors or fillings to create their own signature dish.
Tarte Tatin is constructed in a very interesting way where the top of the tart is constructed in the bottom of a frying pan and then the filling is allowed to caramelize. The pastry is placed on top later and the pan is put in the oven. At the end, the entire tart is flipped over. The judges, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, were looking for golden caramelization on the top, which the bakers wouldn’t see if they had achieved until the very end of the process.
Paul mentioned that if the fillings of the tart were too wet then the moisture would leak downwards and leave the pastry with a soggy bottom. However, you want to leave some moistness to the filling and so it is a difficult balance that the bakers face. The audience could see that several of the bakers were already having issues with this. Alice’s leek, apple and goat’s cheese Tarte Tatin was causing problems as her leeks weren’t caramelizing. However, even worse, Rosie’s shallot, aubergine and goat cheese spiced Tarte Tatin looked like she had given it a bath in butter, some of which she had tried to blot away while it was in the pan. She later told the judges that she had accidentally put double the amount of butter in than she should have done.
Unsurprisingly, Rosie received poor feedback from the judges. Her tart had a soggy middle — the moisture wasn’t quite bad enough to cause a soggy bottom — due to the amount of moisture from her toppings. Her flavor of garlic was too strong and the judges thought that the tart didn’t look appetizing due to the black garlic making it look burnt. Similarly, David’s walnut caramelly carroty Tarte Tatin didn’t go down well with the judges. His pastry had good layers and a crisp base but his purple carrots made the tart look burnt and his fillings were very dry. He had attempted to prevent a soggy bottom by removing moisture from his toppings but this left his tart very dry. He had countered this by making sauces that were served separately but the judges said they had to judge the tart alone.
Alice received mixed feedback as her leeks weren’t caramelized and were too wet which had led to a soggy middle. However, she had woven her leeks into a lattice which looked great and the judges thought her tart was delicious. Steph’s goat’s cheese and caramelized onion Tarte Tatin received good feedback from the judges due to its good flavor and caramelization, however the judges thought the pastry was a bit too thin and the fact that the goat cheese was just “plonked” on top of the tart didn’t make it look too appetizing.
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) October 15, 2019
Henry’s crab, new potato and tomato Tarte Tatin seemed to receive the best feedback as Prue and Paul loved his flavors and thought it was a very original idea. His only criticism was that they thought his potatoes could have been caramelized slightly more.
The technical challenge gives the bakers a recipe that they have never seen before and leaves certain elements purposefully vague to test the bakers’ knowledge and skills. This week’s technical challenge saw the bakers given a recipe to make a Moroccan pie, which involved the bakers making 12 sheets of warka pastry wrapped around a spiced chicken filling. Most of the bakers were left baffled, having never heard of this type of pastry before. Henry even claimed that if any of the other bakers had heard of the obscure pastry before, he would get naked. This was promptly followed by David saying that he had seen it on a travel program. However, there was no time for stripping and Henry remained as well-dressed as normal and his shirt and tie stayed in place.
This challenge proved very difficult as the bakers struggled with the tricky pastry. Warka pastry is made by brushing a thin layer of the batter onto a hot plate. It has to be thin enough to be delicious and cooked properly but thick enough that it won’t disintegrate or break apart when the filling is added to the pie. Henry in particular struggled with the pastry and threw away several sheets of pastry which left him having to make more batter and so he was slightly short on time. Steph also struggled with getting the pastry right and was in tears fearing that she wouldn’t have anything to present to the judges. She was given some gentle encouragement by host Noel Fielding and soldiered on.
Once the filling was done, wrapped in the pastry and put in the oven, there was nothing left to do but wait. This gave the bakers a chance to play an amusing game of catch with a lime that Henry had.
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) October 15, 2019
The bakers wanted to leave the pie in the oven for as long as possible, leaving themselves with just enough time to take the pie out and place it carefully onto a plate. This was nerve-wracking to watch as the pastry was so thin that it was at risk of tearing and the filling spilling out, which is exactly what happened to both Rosie and Henry.
Unfortunately, due to Henry’s struggle with the consistency of his pastry, his pastry was undercooked and his pie exploded, which meant he was ranked last in the blind technical judging. Steph came fourth due to her undercooked, tough pastry and Alice came fourth because although she had a soggy bottom and her spices were a bit overpowering, her pie was neat and solid. Rosie came second due to her pie being delicious but unfortunately it had burst. This meant that — always the bridesmaid, never the bride — David finally came first after coming second five times.
Going into the showstopper challenge, there was no clear indication of who was going to get star baker and who was going to be eliminated. At this point in the competition in previous seasons, the competition has been close but it has never been more obvious than in these five bakers.
The showstopper challenge this week called for the bakers to make a vertical pie, which is essentially stacked pies at least three tiers high. The bakers were given four hours to create a stunning tower of pies, where they could use any kind of pastry and filling they wanted as long as the stack was highly decorative. The challenge behind this task was that the pastry had to be firm enough to hold the weight of higher tiers but be thin enough that the pie was delicious and not dominated by pastry.
Watching the bakers craft artistic scenes out of baked goods is one of the joys of The Great British Baking Show. The imagination behind some of the pieces are astonishing. Rosie’s “Rapunzel’s Tower” pie flavored with curried vegetables was a stand out. It came complete with a slightly creepy Rapunzel, Camembert dragon and a charred outline of a knight on the side of the tower. Similarly, Alice’s apple pie tree house was stunning, with a “keep out” sign and pastry swing.
However, there was some debate surrounding David’s homage to Whitby — his hometown — through fish pies as he was baking pies without lids. Is that a tart or a pie? The judges didn’t appear too convinced but seemed to let it slide.
My biggest disappointment was Henry’s pie. Henry is my favorite baker and sadly his design just didn’t live up to the others. His concept was a chandelier picnic pie, where he mixed savory and sweet pies in an upside down chandelier shape. This ultimately looked like a standard tiered cake with some decoration on. There was nothing visually wrong with it and it may have been up to scratch for previous weeks, but the competition is so tight now that it just didn’t live up to the imagination of the other designs.
Most of the bakers received the same criticism from the judges. The bakers had been scared of having too much moisture in their pies resulting in a soggy bottom and so had dried out their pie fillings. This meant that their pies were much too dry, leaving the judges very disappointed in the taste.
Although Alice and Rosie had done amazingly on design, Rosie’s pie was criticized for the pastry being too thick. Her tower was also fairly unstable and there were terrifying moments during assembly where I was sure it was all going to collapse. Alice’s pastry was tough due to it being overworked and her filling wasn’t sweet enough. Similarly, although David’s Whitby design was lovely, his pastry was slightly undercooked, his fish pie too salty and Paul just wasn’t convinced by the open-topped pies.
Henry received the worst feedback by far. The judges thought his design was too unimaginative and simple. His pastry was very thick and so in places was still raw. He was also criticized on the fact that his pecan and chocolate pie tasted like a mince pie rather than pecan and chocolate. In his usual positive way, Henry tried to make the best of the situation by asking if Paul liked Christmas, to which Paul responded “humbug.”
The only baker who seemed to escape the judges scathing comments was Steph. Her curried chickpea and potato carousel pie was imaginative and very sweet with the painted pastry carousel horses. The judges thought it was delicious, that it had excellent thin pastry and that the pie held together well. The only criticism the judges could find was that the pastry squares around the bottom of her carousel were a bit clumsy.
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) October 15, 2019
Overall, none of the bakers had an easy week during Pastry Week. No baker excelled in every challenge. This week just showed how much emphasis the judges put on the showstopper challenge when the competition isn’t clear cut. This week, Steph was given the star baker title due to her outstanding carousel pie.
Unfortunately, this meant that Henry was eliminated this week. Prue’s love for his crab Tarte Tatin just wasn’t enough to save him after his poor performance in both the technical and showstopper challenge. He will definitely be missed from the show for his shirt and tie combo — even in a heatwave — and his positivity.
This leaves just four bakers left to compete in next weeks semi-finals. The semi-finals aren’t limited to a theme and so could see the bakers being asked to bake anything. I can’t imagine how the judges are going to continue to increase the difficulty of the bakes when the challenges seem to become more and more impossible. Whatever happens, I’m sure it will be entertaining! Make sure you check it out Netflix, then check back here for our latest recap!