The Great British Baking Show recap: Dear Dairy…
It's week 4 in the tent, and the bakers are tackling a rich new theme: dairy. All week I've been excited to see what challenges Prue and Paul have in store for our bakers. Will we see any of our favorite crèmes (brûlée, patissiere, anglaise)? Will we see custards? Would they be so bold as to assign the bakers a challenge having to do with ice cream, knowing full well that Iain's series 5 bingate is still very much an international open wound? But even more importantly, as we hit the one-third mark on the season, will we start to see which bakers will be the cream that rises to the top, and which will start to sour?
Signature challenge: Dairy cake
Cake mixture must contain a cultured dairy product.
Steph is making her "Answer to Everything" chocolate and raspberry buttermilk cake. Paul quizzes her on lactic acid, which I'm only willing to forgive because I do in fact think that is interesting scientific information [pushes glasses up nose]. Before tasting, Prue remarks that it is "so much chocolate," but never mind that nonsense because both judges approve of the rich texture and great flavor.
Priya is upgrading her usual banana bread recipe with the addition of natural-set yogurt, chocolate chips, and a toffee sauce. Prue mentions that it is "a lot of chocolate" again (Prue, buddy, what are you not getting about chocolate?), but Prue and Paul agree that the result is delightful.
Rosie, who is properly science-y, already understands the purpose of lactic acid in baking and is making a buttermilk limoncello cake topped with meringue kisses. Paul calls it "spot-on," and Prue appears to just be excited about getting to drink so much limoncello this early in the day.
David is also leaning into limoncello, but adding poppy seeds and opting for yogurt as his cultured dairy. Prue and Paul love it.
Phil's yogurt cake will be flavored with rosewater and decorated with roses. The decorations are not up to Prue's expectations, which makes me wonder what kind of decorations I would expect to see from a truck driver who laughs about running over pigeons. On top of that, the judges don't really get the rose flavor and it seems to be one of the few cakes in this challenge that they're not particularly fond of.
Helena, who continues to move through the world wearing Halloween blinders, is making an almond and buttermilk ghost. Now, I love committing to a spooky personal brand as much as the next millennial, but am I alone in thinking it might be nice to see some range from Helena? Regardless, the cute little ghost works out well for Helena, as Prue states very frankly, "For a mad woman, you're doing well." Savage! Paul then fires back, "Pot, kettle." DOUBLE SAVAGE!
Alice is making a lemon and cardamom yogurt cake with pistachio filling, decorated with leaf-shaped pistachio biscuits. The judges are keen on the pistachio flavor but want a touch more lemon.
Michelle's buttermilk rhubarb cake is topped with meringue kisses, dried apple, and pecan crumble. That's a lot of focus on toppings, and the judges do notice that it suffers from the age-old style-over-substance problem. The rhubarb in the batter has released too much moisture, rendering the middle of the bake too claggy.
Henry is going all in on apple flavors for his streusel-topped German breakfast yogurt cake, which will be filled with apple and topped with apple slices. The presentation is properly beautiful, and Prue and Paul love both the flavors and textures.
Michael is participating in the age-old GBBS tradition of following up a star baker week with some extra self-imposed challenges by using two types of dairy in his cake. He's making a lemon sour cream cake with a raspberry cheesecake swirl. He's made this cake 10 times this week at home and it's only worked once, so he doesn't seem all that surprised when the cake splits in half coming out of the mold. He decorates through his disappointment, and the judges are fairly kind when they come around to his station. Paul does still feel the need to point out all the mistakes that Michael is already aware of. However, lucky for Michael, the whole thing is delicious and the judges love the raspberry cheesecake swirl. He looks relieved, Sandi gives him what looks like the best hug in the history of the world, and then Michael asks very politely, "Can I jump in the river now?" Yes, Michael, you may.
Should you make this at home?
I have it on extremely good authority that a sour cream coffee cake can heal a multitude of wounds.
Technical challenge: Maids of honor
A flaky rough-puff case; one layer of lemon curd; a silky-smooth, well-risen cheese curd filling; topped with a Tudor rose.
"What is a maid of honor?" asks Priya, kicking off all our concerns about this challenge and also accidentally touching an extremely exposed nerve for lots of women in their late 20s. Outside the tent, Prue explains that it is an adorable little tart filled with lemon and cheese curd and topped with a Tudor rose. I'm going to assume at this point that all British kids learn about traditional heraldry in grade school and they will all know exactly what a Tudor rose looks like. We can check back in later to see if that assumption was correct or if I maybe have a very romantic idea of what it means to go to grade school in Britain. (Checking back in: The roses were far too messy to confirm my theory, but the few that came out did look rather proper, allowing me to continue my fantasy.)
Rough puff pastry is no simple task, so any bakers who have experience with this technique will be well served. Helena forgets to add the water to her pastry and has a hard time getting it shaped into the molds. It's a similar story for the lemon curd, since Prue has given them no instructions beside "Make the lemon curd." Priya flails a bit under this lack of instruction and spends quite a bit of time trying to get her curd to set, which puts her behind on her pastry. No one seems particularly concerned about the cheese curd layer except Michael, who understandably gags comically while separating the milk.
In the judging, Paul, always a tiresome ham, threatens to leave the tent and then declares, "They're awful." Can you be cool for just a second, bro? No one in this tent has ever heard of a maid of honor before and they all tried very hard. And you haven't tasted them yet, so you don't even really know yet, do you?
In her rush to finish, Priya's tossed-together tarts earn her last place. Helena's accidental short-crust tarts are next to last. David's attempt at a rose pattern earns him second place, and Steph's "best of this lot" tarts win her a still sort of disappointing first place.
Should you make this at home?
Try making a simpler rough-puff tart first, and if that works out and separating milk doesn't make you want to hurl, go for it.
Showstopper challenge: Mishti
A stunning display of milk-based Indian sweets including 12 portions of three different kinds of mishti that could serve as a centerpiece for a party or wedding.
As an additional challenge in this showstopper, Prue and Paul have asked the bakers to create one of their confections using a sweet base called khoya, a process of creating condensed milk by simmering the milk down to get milk solids. Helena mentions that sweets shops would just use powdered milk and that "only nutters" would do it this way. Helena, honey, do you know what show you're on?
Alice's showstopper is a celebration of afternoon tea, featuring a mishti carrot cake, chocolate cheesecake, and a coffee (not tea, oddly). Priya is making saffron and cardamom sweets with lychee and mango, honoring her favorite childhood flavors. Michelle employs the flavors of home comforts with raspberry, passion fruit, and chocolate, as well as a tonka bean rice pudding served up in a neat little tart case. Phil is making a rock garden scene of elderflower and pistachio flowers and blueberry butterflies. There are no pigeons. Michael is taking inspiration from the colors of the Indian flag in his mango, pistachio, and lemon and rose mishti. He's hoping to honor his Bengali grandfather even though he's not fond of milk sweets himself. Contender David is celebrating the flavors of India with kewra water, cardamom and mango, and fennel and carrot mishti. Kewra water is made from the pandan leaf, a somewhat grassy flavor we've seen on this show in seasons past.
Nearby, Noel is whispering sweet nothings into Steph's ear about her chances of being named this week's star baker, and though she attempts to deflect the idea in favor of David, it's clear she knows it's a possibility. Her raspberry chocolate signature cake bake got ace marks from the judges, and her modulated triumph in the technical challenge puts her neatly ahead of the pack going into this final round. Steph's mishti are light on a theme but will feature a rose and pistachio, mango, and date and walnut confection.
Ask and ye shall receive! Helena's showstopper is a delightfully Halloween-free display of Ye Olde English Sweet Shoppe mishti featuring coconut chocolates, parma violets, and lemon sherbets. She's also making precious little biscuit spoons decorated with real flowers. Helena, look at this range!
Rosie is drawing inspiration from a 1920s cocktail bar. Now that's a really very British idea, since we Americans were under strict Prohibition in the '20s and spent the decade enjoying the purely American delights of simultaneous puritanical morality and black-market crime. I digress. Rosie's mishti will include orange, rose, and sweet milk-tipple-inspired treats.
Most of the bakers are using condensed milk for their third confections, but ever-ambitious Henry has decided to make an already rather difficult challenge even more difficult by making a raspberry kulfi, a type of Indian ice cream that needs to be chilled for quite a while to set. His display will also include orange and coconut mishti to evoke the feeling of a summer day at the seaside. Just as he feared, the kulfi does not have enough time to set and sloppily pours from the molds.
Steph impresses the judges with both a beautiful presentation and expertly balanced flavors. David's "very neat, very precise, very accurate" presentation is coupled with "delicious" and "excellent" flavors. Alice's afternoon tea looks just right and tastes delicious. Helena's old-timey confections are a big hit with the judges — Paul and Prue both fawn over the lemon sherbet and have a hard time not gobbling it all down. Rosie's "very clever" and "nicely aromatic" mishti lead Prue to tell her she should be very proud of herself. Michael's flag of India mishti are "really stylish" and "really delicious."
Henry's kulfi gets exactly the poor reaction he expects, and he admits he would only eat it if he were offered one as a prisoner (and even then only maybe). They skip over the rest of his presentation entirely.
Michelle's favorite rice pudding mishti is not received well by Paul. Priya's mishti are lacking a bit in presentation and color but get straight A's in flavor. Thats disappointing because she was just trying to recreate the mishti of her childhood and I don't think the judges took that into consideration enough. Phil's gnomely garden scene seems to perplex the judges a bit in presentation and underwhelm them tremendously in flavor. They say it looks like play-dough, and I have to agree. Prue says she wouldn't want to eat a lot of it, and I think we all know she's just being kind.
Should you make this at home?
There are just some things that are better left to professionals. Perhaps a better idea would be to go support your local Indian bakery and buy a massive box to share with your buds.
Just as Noel predicted, this week's star baker is Steph and her amazing fringe. Steph nailed every challenge this week, and her stunning showstopper tied it all up in a pretty pink bow.
After genuinely thinking this could be the week for a double elimination, the judges decide to just send home one baker, and that baker is Phil. As the weeks progress, bakers are expected to up the ante on their work, and Phil's simplistic garden simply did not cut it. Luckily, Phil has a rich life to return to outside the tent. He'll go back to gleefully smooshing pigeons under his truck and baking cakes for his motorcycle gang.