By Anne Latini
October 12, 2019 at 03:36 PM EDT
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Welcome back to Great British Nonsense Themes! This week on The Great British Baking Show, the bakers are tackling “festivals,” a theme I’m hoping will reveal itself to be at least mildly interesting as the episode plays out. Festival food, to me, usually means something on the spectrum between a town’s best food trucks (one barbecue, one vegan, one with instagramable ice cream, one with a food item 200% its normal size) and that one tent shilling gigantic sausage and peppers sandwiches between the Dad Humor T-shirt tent and the Learn More About Pet Adoption tent. But I’ll be happy to be wrong here because last week’s episode did so much to set the ship straight and it would be a real shame to lose that momentum. We said a long-overdue later, gator to Priya and crowned Steph Star Baker for a third week in a row. Luckily, it’s Festival week, so it’s just a flower crown, which will hopefully relieve some of the weight she’s starting to feel. Alice was very close on Steph’s tail last week, but will she have what it takes to snatch the daisy chain from Steph’s fringe thus ending her magnificent winning streak? Will our bakers be forced to deep fry something on a stick? Will anyone take club drugs and spend an entire challenge trying to find the water bottle tent? Let’s find out…

Great British Baking Show (screencap)
Netflix

Signature Challenge: Festival Buns
24 yeasted festival buns

Turns out you can just put the word Festival in front of any baked good and call that a theme. Okay, sure, let’s do this. Steph is making classic Easter hot cross buns filled with cranberries and sultanas. Prue loves the balance of flavors. Paul calls the texture “perfect” and extends his hand for a shake, the absolute least he could do for our three-time winner. 

Alice is also making hot cross buns, but with a twist. She’s filling her buns with fresh and freeze-dried blueberries and topping them with a lemon curd glaze.  Alice also had to mark 150 papers and write 150 reports this week so she’s either riding so high on adrenaline that she’ll be unstoppable or we need to keep a close eye on her potential collapse from exhaustion. I was preparing myself for some slanderous remarks from Prue on the topic of blueberries but none arrive. In the end, Paul and Prue point out that the buns vary in size and color and Prue suggests that Alice’s candied lemon peel could have been candied for a bit longer.

Michael’s vertical stripe shirt of the week is an assortment of rainbow colors on a white field. Michael’s buns are honoring the last two occasions on which most people attend church anymore, Easter and Christmas. His hot cross buns are flavored with lemon and orange zest and chock-full of brandy-soaked dried fruit and decorated with marzipan holly berries. Paul and Prue love the flavors but offer a sad knowing smile in regards to the uneven sizes and messy results.

David is pulling inspiration yet again from his family ties to Bulgaria with his Kozunak, a traditional Bulgarian Easter bread. It is flavored with malt powder, filled with raisins, and topped with flaked almonds. Paul points out that they may have been a little too long in the oven but everything else about the bun gets high marks. 

Henry is taking his inspiration from Sweden with his chocolate Kardemummabullar. I am very excited to see how these turn out, since it was just Kardemummabullar Day in Sweden on October 4th of last week. I have watched a lot of people on the internet make and eat these this week and man oh man do I want to try one so freaking bad. Paul and Prue absolutely love the cute knotted buns and in one of my favorite moments in GBBS history, Henry responds to Paul’s outstretched hand with a simple and urgent “Shut up.” 

Rosie’s Finnish Mardi Gras buns will be filled with raspberry jam and namelaka and decorated to look like proud peacocks. The judges are very impressed with the avian design and Prue really enjoys the light airy texture.

Should You Make This At Home? Yes, it seems there is a bun for every holiday so, why not? 

Technical Challenge: Sicilian Casatelli
12 pastry crescents filled with smooth and creamy ricotta flavored with chocolate and orange and fried until crispy and golden

These Italian Carnevale treats look like the refined third cousin of the American fair food classic, the fried ravioli. While ours is savory and dipped in marinara, theirs is sweet and dusted with icing sugar. The bakers all get very weirded out by the process of pushing the ricotta through the sieve, a step that ensures a smooth and creamy cheese filling. The pasta machines also prove to be a bit challenging for some. Rosie, David, and Michael are clearly experienced with the incremental rolling out process, but Henry, Steph, and Alice struggle a bit. Once in the frier, Alice’s and Michael’s pastries lose their seal completely and open right up. Henry’s split open a little, Steph’s is worried about a lack of uniformity, and Rosie’s deems hers “Ok”. David maintains a consistently eerie calm confidence.

Alice’s too-thick pastry and split seams earn her sixth and last place. Michael’s exploded pastries come in fifth. David’s tactic of drawing on his experience with filled ravioli land him in second place and after a string of consistent fifth-place finishes, Rosie’s perfectly filled, sealed, and fried pastries put her in the top spot.

Should you make this at home? Deep frying anything at home can be daunting, but rolling, filling, and frying these cuties would make a super fun group project for you and some mates.

Show Stopper Challenge: Kek Lapis Sarawak
A colorful cake originating from the Sarawak region of Malaysia and often used in religious and cultural celebrations. The cake should be grilled under the broiler and display even and precise layers arranged in intricate patterns.

Never one to retreat from interesting flavors, David’s is using a traditional Indonesian spice mix called spekkoek in his modernist sculpture cake. The layers will be brushed with tamarind and honey and decorated with sugar paste shapes and royal icing latticework. After a very jovial and promising check in with the judges, David proceeds to burn the early layers of his cake under the broiler, a curse that we soon watch plague many of our bakers. 

As an homage to her hometown carnival, Alice is crafting a chocolate, orange, and salted caramel kaleidoscope cake. The cake will be decorated with colorful sugar fireworks and chocolate marzipan stars. Henry is making a yellow and green layered lemon and lime cake filled with raspberry and mint jam and topped with raspberries. Michael’s Jamaican flag-inspired cake is flavored with spiced rum and ginger, layered with rum and lime marzipan, and topped with a royal icing swirl pattern. Steph is honoring her Step-Gran with an orange liqueur syrup that will weld together her red, yellow, and green chai and orange spiced layers, which will then be decorated with marzipan roses and piped royal icing. 

In keeping with her avian theme for the week, Rosie is making a lemon and mixed spice sponge layered with nectarine jam and topped with piped royal icing and blown sugar glass birds. After one whole successful cake, Rosie scorches the bright pink first layer of her second. She appears genuinely perplexed and disappointed as it was only under the broiler for two minutes. My best-educated guess is that having the broiler on for so long made the oven way hotter than she was accounting for. 

At the judging, Paul and Prue like Steph’s cake just fine despite some gapping between the layers. Paul likes the flavors of the sponges and Prue calls the marzipan “brilliant”. Rosie’s attempt at a triangular pattern rendered the cake “messy” which isn’t helped by the fact that Paul can’t recognize the nectarine flavor. Paul and Prue find Henry’s cake very impressive, noting, in particular, the perfect texture. 

Michael’s layers lack definition and Paul calls it “ very claggy”, “very stodgy”, and “rubbery”. The rum drizzle caused the layers to run together. Paul describes Alice’s cake as “extremely neat”, remarking particularly on her beautifully layered patterns, lovely painting, and sparkling sugar work fireworks. Paul and Prue love the almond flavor and nice texture and Prue says is “really works”. 

After having to toss half of his cake in the bin, Paul and Prue notice that David’s cake is rather small. However, his nice layer definition and “neat” presentation are not enough to make up for a lack of sweetness and rubbery texture. I’ve said it for weeks but I’ll say it again, this man is style over substance at every step and it will one day be his downfall. 

Should you make this at home? Sure, if you feel like it, but please do manage your expectations.

Off-camera, Steph breathes a sigh of relief as this week’s Star Baker is awarded to Henry. Henry kicked off the weekend with handshake worthy Swedish buns, move on to some very passable casatelli, wrapped it all up with a perfectly layered cake, and wowed at every turn with his consistently smart sporting of a necktie. Henry has really grown in confidence since week one and his comfort in the tent is really showing as he’s been turning out better and better bakes each week. This late-blooming surge of talent makes him a dark horse to keep an eye out for in the run-up to the final.

Going home this week is Michael, who’s dedication to the stripy tee lifestyle was not enough to carry him through a very tough stripy cake show stopper. Michael first struggled with uneven buns in the signature, then after a bottom half finish in the technical, found the end of the very colorful line with a claggy and undistinguished cake. In his memory, I suggest we all find the time this week to take a very difficult spin class with all of the lights on.

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