Nerves were fraught, tensions were high and tempering was had as the contestants went loco for cocoa in this week's Bake Off episode
Last night's Bake Off featured the sweetest week of all: gooey, melty, delectable chocolate was the theme of the remaining baker's bakes, and likely prompted a Dairy Milk shortage when half of the UK's population rose from their chairs to conduct a 9pm dash to the corner shop. (Or maybe that was just us. If so: embarrassing.)
With four bakers left in the tent – lovely Tamal, slightly smug Ian, country girl Flora and Nadiya, owner of the world's best face-pulling-face – things were already getting a tad tetchy.
Here's how it all went down.
Cue the tart remarks
A chocolate tart-based signature was always going to be a thing of lust-worthy wonder and the quartet's offerings did not let us down. Tamal's was to be a New York-style number with a rich, dense filling and a layer of raspberry to cut through the cocoa onslaught. "It's only slightly horribly tense," he whispered.
We could only imagine.
Flora did a classic Flora with more-is-more layers of mousse, ganache, passion fruit and macaroons to top her tart. But would it be a case of all frills, no thrills? Only time could tell.
Nadiya's creation involved a homemade peanut butter, salted caramel and nut powder-dusted truffles, and Ian infused his caramel layer with bay leaf for "an added sweetness." Right.
Judging time came round and Nadiya's wickedly sweet bake was a hit with Mary and Paul, who even gave her a coveted handshake. Tamal's super-rich offering was "saved by the raspberry layer," said Paul, while Ian's bay caramel was not to the gelled-one's taste – though Queen Berry found it inoffensive.
Flora got in trouble for going OTT – again – and was told, "If you're going to make a macaroon, do it properly. These are dry as a bone." Sting-a-ling.
Technical time. The real test. Time to separate the Madagascar Darks from the bags of Dairy Milk Buttons.
The challenge was a chocolate soufflé. But this was no standard test. Oh no. They were staggering the starts. So Flora was left alone to read her barely there 'recipe' while the other three were banished from the tent. "Number one: make a chocolate crème pât. Number two: make a meringue. Number three: make a soufflé," she read from her sheet.
This did not sound fun.
Ian was brought back into the tent where his mind went blank. "I can't remember anything," he wailed as he confessed to never having made a soufflé. Given the lack of direction, this was proving to be an issue.
Nadiya re-entered the tent followed by Tamal, and neither of them had made a soufflé either. At least it levelled out the playing field, hey Ian?
Everyone was fretting, folding, whipping and pouring with the looks of frightened bunny rabbits. "I would rather have another baby than do this," said Nadiya while watching her bake rise through the dim oven lights.
One by one, the desserts were brought to the judges. Flora's had done well with a "good rise" while Ian's was a little flat but with "good flavour", Tamal's was good but flecked with bits of meringue where his mixture hadn't been folded properly, and Nadiya's was a bit of a flop with heaps of unincorporated egg white and a barely there rise.
Flora took first place, Nads came last, and Tamal and Ian took second and third respectively. This prompted a massive freakout by Nadiya who started insisting, "I'm going to go home. I know I am."
Dah-dah-dah-dah. Showstopper time. Time to unleash rivers of liquid deliciousness, chocolate spun into the shape of doves and truffles dusted with angel breath. Or something like that.
Paul and Mary were after "exquisite artistry" and the bakers were on a mission to deliver. Nadiya went for a chocolate centrepiece peacock, decorated with melted blue colouring, a fan of magnificent tail feathers and a nest with eggs.
From Ian came a chocolate well with a little bucket that could be twisted by the chocolatey handle to fetch yet more chocolate from the pool below, into which you could dip chocolate biscuits.
Tamal made a chocolate bell tower and Flora tried a carousel on a base of cake, festooned with marshmallow horses brushed with white chocolate. She even went to the trouble of making her mould herself, but Paul told her it "looks like a dog." Unnecessary, Mr Hollywood. Unnecessary.
Time was up and Tamal got told that his tower looked "great from a distance" but the up-close-and-personal edition left something to be desired. "Your piping isn't straight," cried Paul. But it tasted good, his shortbread was well-baked and his star anise flavouring came through.
Mary Berry said Nadiya's peacock showed "a lot of skill" while Pauly H rather nicely commented, "Looks good, tastes good." Phew.
Flora's carousel was good but on the wonky side, and Ian's well was critiqued for not showing off enough chocolate wizarding mastery.
You're a superstar, that is what you are
Getting the semi-final star baker title is no small thing and when Nadiya swept it, she was as happy as a kid given free reign over a box of Celebrations.
But where there is star baker, there must also be the one who does not live to bake another day. Sue announced that Flora's time was up. The 19-year-old was all smiles through her sadness. "I’m gutted, of course I am. But I feel very privileged to have got this far. what a fantastic 9 weeks," she said.
So next week is the biggie. The actual real final. Ian, Tamal and Nadiya are standing, but who's dough-covered fingers will lift the trophy? We shall see.
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