‘The Great British Baking Show’ Season 10, Episode Nine Recap: “Semi-Finals”

Image courtesy of 'The Great British Bake Off.'

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If you have not seen this episode, there are spoilers ahead.

The competition is very tight this year and this was particularly evident during the semi-finals. This week saw the bakers tackle the challenge of patisserie week, to earn the title of star baker and to earn a place in the finals. Patisserie baking is usually associated with delicate pastries. The judges, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, were looking for precision, exquisite design and above all, delicious bakes that display the range of the bakers’ talents.

The episode started with an amusing yet moving tribute to Henry, the young baker who was eliminated last week. Henry was known for being the best dressed contestant, wearing a shirt and tie no matter how hot it got in the tent. All of the bakers and host Sandi Toksvig all wore ties at the beginning of the episode.

Image courtesy of ‘The Great British Bake Off.’

Signature Challenge

The signature challenge asked the bakers to produce a domed tartlet. They had two and a half hours to make eight identical tartlets that had to use a sweet pastry case and be exquisitely decorated. Other than those directives, the bakers were allowed to experiment with their own signature flavors and fillings. This meant that there were mousses, pastries, jellies, mirror glazes and more, all being produced in the tent during this challenge. It looked like an absolute nightmare in terms of organisation and multi-tasking.

The other major challenge in this task was to create the perfect dome covered in mirror glaze. The bakers had to produce a perfectly smooth mousse dome in a mold as the mirror glaze would show any imperfections. To do this the bakers needed to make sure that their mousse was frozen solid – no easy feat with the heat in the tent – and carefully demold them. It was very tense to watch the bakers try to gently prise the mousse out with shaky hands.

The only baker who had any issues with demolding was Steph. For some reason, her mousse mixture was very soft and hadn’t frozen properly. Despite how soft it was, she did a fairly good job with demolding them intact but they were much rougher domes than the other bakers’. This left her raspberry, lemon and white chocolate domed tartlets criticised by the judges for their softness. However, they were praised for their taste and the design, although as Steph commented they ended up looking a bit like breasts.

Image courtesy of ‘The Great British Bake Off.’

The innuendo continued as David’s aperitif domed tartlets, flavored with rhubarb and hazelnut, were criticised because his nuts were too big. Apparently, fancy patisserie tarts call for smaller nuts. The tarts were delicious though and the judges loved his rhubarb. This may have been helped by the fact that he served the tarts with an aperitif. Plying the judges and host Noel Fielding with alcohol can only help your cause.

Rosie’s lemon, raspberry and mint tartlets were praised for being a good color and size. Although the tarts were delicious, her crème patissiere hadn’t set properly. A tartlet oozing thick purple liquid when you cut into it doesn’t look particularly appetising unfortunately.

Alice seemed to come out on top in this challenge with her mocha, orange and hazelnut domed tartlets. This may have been helped by the fact that judge Paul had confessed that chocolate hazelnut is one of his favorite flavors (how many chocolate hazelnut bakes do you think we will see during next year’s season?) The judges praised Alice’s mirror glaze, pastry, flavors and textures. The only fault that the judges could find was that her piping work on some of her tartlets was very messy. This was due to the fact that the hosts had said the bakers had one minute left on the challenge and Alice seemed to have two or three tartlets left to decorate. So her piping work was very good considering her timing issue.

Technical Challenge

For the technical challenge this week, bakers were given a recipe they had never seen before and were asked to produce a rectangular Gateau St. Honore. The bakers had three and a half hours to produce the gateau which consists of two layers of puff pastry with choux buns filled with chiboust cream and dipped in caramel and decorated with chantilly cream.

This recipe was set by judge Prue and she said that it was very difficult not to make the dessert look a mess. I totally agreed with this as even the example dessert made by Prue, which was shown to the audience, didn’t look particularly appetising to me.

Image courtesy of ‘The Great British Bake Off.’

There were several very difficult elements to this recipe. The main task being that the bakers were asked to produce full puff pastry, which is very challenging and time-consuming. Full puff pastry is produced by folding flattened layers of butter into pastry dough. This recipe was made more challenging by asking the bakers to do very few turns and folds of pastry. This meant there was a much larger danger of butter poking through the pastry dough, which means it will melt out of the pastry during baking, which is what happened to both Steph and David.

Although I don’t think it was meant to be a big challenge, all of the bakers seemed to struggle with their choux pastry mixture as they all had very different consistencies. David’s mixture was so firm that host Noel Fielding managed to stand a wooden spoon up in it. Rosie’s was so runny that it wouldn’t hold a shape at all and Alice’s and Steph’s mixtures seemed to fall somewhere in the middle.

Rosie did not have an easy bake at all. After her first attempt at the choux mixture was too runny, she remade it and it was even worse! Simultaneously, she realized that her puff pastry had too much butter poking through and she wanted to remake that as well. When making her chiboust cream she forgot to add gelatine and so had to remake that. She really didn’t have much time left and it looked as though she might not have anything to present to the judges. Rosie looked on the verge of crying but was reassured by host Sandi. She decided to stick with her original pastry and her third attempt at the choux pastry, although still not right, was better. Somehow, she still managed to pull everything together and produce the full dessert.

The judges rank the bakes without knowing which dessert belongs to which baker. Alice came in fourth as she had several problems including her chantilly cream being overwhipped, issues with her pastry and chiboust cream and she had burnt her first attempt at caramel but had dipped several buns in it before realising and remaking it. This left the judges with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Steph came in third as her dessert was untidy with her buns irregular in color. She had also lost butter from her pastry and her chiboust cream had split, Paul describing it as having the texture of scrambled egg although it tasted alright.

David came in second place due to also losing butter from his pastry which had left it slightly soggy. His chiboust cream had also split. Despite these faults his dessert tasted great and he had great color on his choux buns.

Very surprisingly, despite all of her problems during the bake, Rosie came in first! The only fault the judges could find was that in her haste to assemble the dessert at the end, she had put all of her choux buns on the dessert upside down.

Showstopper Challenge

Once again, the bakers seemed to have reversed fortunes between the signature and technical challenges and it all seemed to come down to the showstopper challenge. This week gave the bakers four and a half hours to create a sugar glass display case showcasing something edible inside that was a depiction of something precious to them. I loved the idea of this challenge. It gave the bakers a specific element to tackle but also complete creative control over what they produced as a centrepiece. It also gave us a chance to learn a bit more about the bakers and what was important to them. The judges were looking for patisserie inspired bakes that were a mixture of flavors and textures but that came together flawlessly. So no pressure at all!

Rosie created a piece inspired by ‘time with family’. She seemed to focus more on the patisserie style of her centrepiece and wanted to showcase a variety of skills, which included a chocolate tartlet, choux bun religieuse and brioche tarte tropezienne. Rosie’s sugar glass case seemed the most transparent of the cases, however she was criticized for the elements inside. Her tarte tropezienne was dry and boring and her design was rather simplistic. The judges thought the elements were drawn together by the concept rather than by their flavors.

I loved Alice’s concept for her cake. The geography teacher created a coral reef ‘save the oceans’ entremet cake, which included layers of lemon genoise sponge, lemon and honey custard and raspberry curd. Part of Alice’s glass case was coloured blue and then swirled with the transparent glass to make it look like waves. This would have been an amazing concept if her glass had been more transparent, although she joked that the murkiness was a reflection on the state of our oceans. Although the judges commented on the state of the glass, they loved her cake. It was stunning, brightly colored and her decoration of coral, starfish and shells was exquisite. It also tasted great although the flavor of her mousse was weak.

David decided to use the glass case challenge to create a terrarium. He had an interesting concept where he used natural flavors in his cake such as beetroot, parsnips and prunes. He did decide to stick to his guns and do spicy cake again despite being criticized for it the last two times he tried. The judges seemed not to mind the spicy cake this time but he was heavily criticized as his edible centrepiece was just a layered cake, although it was quite neat and patisserie-like. Although both Steph and Alice also did cakes, theirs both included many other elements and not just sponge. The best part of David’s bake was his glass case. It was art deco inspired and he had both pink and transparent sections that looked stunning.

Steph baked an opera cake inside her glass case. Her case was interesting as it looked like antique glass and Steph was the only baker who didn’t do a biscuit frame. She glued her sugar glass together without a frame at all, which to me seemed much more impressive. The judges were impressed with the neatness of her cake and how the layers held together, although they said the sponge was a bit dense.

Following the judges critiques, it seemed like elimination was between David and Rosie. Rosie’s bake better followed the brief and she attempted a lot of patisserie inspired elements, however they weren’t executed very well. On the other hand, David wondered whether he was going to be penalized for producing a bake that wasn’t very patisserie-like. However, his cake tasted much better than Rosie’s bakes. It seemed to be a battle of concept versus execution.

Results

Star baker seemed to be an easy decision for the judges as it went to Alice. She did very well with both her signature and showstopper challenge, despite coming last in the technical challenge.

After much deliberation, Rosie was eliminated this week. As she’s done before in previous weeks, she bit off more than she could chew. She wanted to show off a lot of her skills, unfortunately this came with the consequence of a few of them not coming out well. If her bakes had been perfect then it would definitely have been David that was sent home this week. I will miss Rosie for her amusing anecdotes about life as a vet and her banter with host Noel.

Next week sees David, Steph and Alice battle it out in the finals. Each of the bakers has different strengths and weaknesses and so this should be one of the closest finals yet. Make sure you check it out on Netflix next Friday and then check back here for our latest recap!

Lynette

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Lynette has been a lifelong nerd and over the last few years finally learned to let her freak flag fly. She likes to dip her toe into almost every fandom but is particularly passionate about Supernatural, Stranger Things, Marvel and Disney. When she isn’t binge watching programs, she loves to swim, sing and (true to her Ravenclaw nature) read. Lynette joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2019 and loves sharing her nerdy knowledge with the world.

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