Week three was bread week and the tent seemed pretty serious and notably less jolly. And this wasn’t helped by Paul, who stated grimly: “Every bread week star baker has made it on to the final”… no pressure!
I have a love-hate relationship with bread-making, having had a bakery. It is such a simple thing in terms of its components, and then it transforms into one of the most amazing things you can bake. It is definitely my favourite baked good to eat and, at a leisurely pace, one I have loved to bake. However, bread is the beast that has dragged me from my bed at 3am on many a morning, which made me love it a little less!
Challenge one was chocolate bread... yes please! Several bakers opted for chocolate babka (or couronne, as Paul argued), I must confess I googled both to see what was what: a babka is seemingly an Eastern European yeasted cake/bread while a couronne (‘crown’) is a French twisted crown-shaped loaf. The bakers had two-and-a-half hours, which wasn’t long for what they had to create, and meant they had to make many quick decisions about proving and baking times. Andrew was the only brave baker to prove once with his chocolate barmbrack, and he was right. I confess I think I’d have tried to prove twice (and questioned Andrew) but he had this challenge nailed. There were three choc chilli loaves, one belonging to Michael (whom I increasingly absolutely love), but his was too spicy, and then Tom’s buns (oops I mean loaf!)… ’proved’ (hah!) to be the most successful.
While we questioned the size of Rav’s dough, he went on to produce a lovely little loaf, ‘proving’ (hah again!) it’s about quality not quantity, and size doesn't necessarily matter! The problem faced by Jane and Benjamina was adding too much weight/filling to their delicious-sounding loaves, which made them not entirely successful. The main issue, however, was raw dough – this happened where priority had been given to proving time, leaving not enough for the bake. This was a problem for several of the bakers, but for Candice in particular, whose salted caramel (again) and chocolate loaf was too underdone for the judges to even try.
Technical time and it was...*little fanfare* Dampfnudel ...what?!
These are steamed sweet German dumplings – very interesting to watch and learn about and (once I caught a peep at their more appetising little brown bottoms) something I’d really like to try. I wasn’t surprised that no baker claimed they’d “made these loads of times at home”, but it meant there was an even playing field for this one. The bakers had to on rely on instinct and experience (which Val admitted she has plenty of) and which leads me to say that I loved Dampfnudel even more when Val came out on top with the best of the bunch.
Raw dough reared its ugly head again, though, leaving Rav, Jane and Kate at the other end of the judging scale.
Finally a tri-flour plaited bread centrepiece... as-you-do. Nothing this year was as spectacular as Paul Jagger’s legendary lion, but there were some beauties. Kate’s corn maiden came pretty close and was extraordinarily neat to look at, and the judges said it tasted superb too. I loved Andrew’s basket – I thought with this third bake he’d done more than enough to secure star baker, but not so. Tom pipped him to the post and stole the crown after the judges loved his seaweed hammer loaf. Relaxi-Selasi started to come a bit unstuck this week with his admirable and hilarious laid-back approach… he might need to do a bit less lying down next week. Candice had another less-than-perfect round and seemed very vulnerable, along with Val whose Noah’s ark may not have won the day, but sailed the stormy waters and survived, elephant and all, until next week... hurrah! I didn’t see Michael’s exit coming and was properly gutted. Both decisions were unexpected for me this week, but huge congrats to Tom, and a very glum goodbye to marvellous Michael.
Things can only get batter (sorry) next week for the nine remaining bakers, and it looks like they’re in for a flippin’ (sorry again) exciting week. It’s still all to bake for!