Pastry week equals the soggy bottom police's time to shine. Here's what went down last night
Buttery puff, flaky filo, soft shortcrust … pastry really is the food of the gods. But who'd ever try creating the stuff from scratch when there's all that lovely ready-made stuff just sitting in the supermarket fridge?
The Great British Bake Off contestants. That's who. And that's why we will never, ever make it into the tent ourselves. Sad times.
This week's tent antics got off to a tricky start with a frangipane tart signature challenge: a delicate, creamy almond filling, thin case and beautifully fanned fruit. The real test here, said Mary, is to "not get a soggy bottom".
Feeling all the frangipane feelings
Firstly, there was a debate afoot: to blind bake or not to blind bake the shortcrust for all that glorious frange? Ian reckoned not. A little too confidently, if you ask us.
Tamal – oh, beautiful doctor-by-day-baker-by-night Tamal – confessed his desire to take the star baker crown while Alvin started to get in a muddle with his pastry. It just wouldn't roll out properly, so he went for a plum jam version of the bake: "How do you fan your plums, Alvin?" asked Mel, but a few timing issues saw him struggling to get all the almondy topping on to cook the dessert in time. We wanted reach out into the telly and help you Al, we really did.
Ian's twist this week was eggs from his own guinea fowl back home (smug, smug, smug, smug) and contestant Paul dragged us into the festive season a little earlier than we liked with a mulled wine glaze. It's September, Paul. We really don't need jingles and bells for another few months, please.
On to judging and lovely, wonderful and huggable Alvin had a nightmare. Pastry? Uncooked. Filling? Unbaked. Plums? Raw.
According to Ms Berry, Dr Dreamy's (Tamal) looked chaotic and tasted delicious while Nadiya had a "tasty tart" but undercooked pastry. Paul's festive number went down a treat, prompting the question: is working a season ahead what the judges really like?
Cheese twists take a walk on the posh side
Technical time, and the contestants were to bake something "very close to [judge] Paul's heart" we were informed. It's a flaouna (no, Mary hadn't heard of it either) which is a Cypriot pastry/cheesy/sultanay square studded with sesame seeds and traditionally served at Easter. Or so we were told, anyway – Paul H could be making it up for a laugh and none of us would be any the wiser.
Paul didn't let our esteemed baking troop in on what this flaouna was actually meant to look like – naturally – and, unsurprisingly, a look of sheer panic descended on the tent. This was only made worse when they got a sniff of mastic, a plant resin and the key ingredient that Nadiya said "smells like bathroom cleaner". Yummy.
The bakes went in, our beloved Tamal finished up in seventh place and all hopes of star baker glory sailed away like icing sugar on the breeze. You're still number one in our eyes, T.
The seventies called. They want their canapés back
Hello, showstopper. Just what will the bakers be called to do? A pastry tower fashioned into a celebrity from the 1940s? A crumbly box filled with edible toys? A wonder of the world formed from miniature pies?
No. It was the most retro nibble on the baking block: vol-au-vents.
But there were some pretty sexy interpretations afoot. Nineteeen-year-old Flora got cracking on a chocolate puff pastry, Mat worked on a 'Full English' creation and Ian topped his mushroom affair with truffle oil. Ooh la la.
Serving up time swung around and it was bad news for Nadiya – she had to present her filling and pastry separately after re-making the puff due to issues with lumpiness. "Oh dear," said judge Paul. But still, both elements were deemed good and it looked like she might have just avoided total annihilation this time.
Contestant Paul's crème pâtissière versions tasted great but looked "hideous" and Mat's runny yolk version got all the praise.
Alvin, as forlorn as can be, presented his set. The dough, when prodded, was raw. We could weep for the man.
You're a superstar, that is what you are
And so cheeky chappy Mat stole la crown de star baker for the first time, after an enchanting vol-au-vent display.
But – and this is hard to say, truly – it was Alvin for the boot.
"I'm leaving the tent a better man, a different man," he said with so much dignity we think he deserved a medal. (Or perhaps an OBE. Could someone pop a call in to the palace for us?)
Go forth and keep making the world a better place just by spreading your joy, Alv. You'll be truly missed.