Great British Bake Off, episode nine: a fondant farewell

Four semi-finalists: Jane, Andrew, Selasi & Candice. [Photo: BBC]

Sacré bleu! It’s the semi final, no more Val’s or Rav’s to hide behind. Every detail counts, people! Our four hopefuls battled it out in the sweatiest, messiest week so far: Patisserie Week.

The Bake Off tent was that quiet this week you could hear a pin drop. The number of contestants may have decreased but the sheer volume and demand of work just keeps getting harder. First up: 24 savoury palmiers (aka fiddly as hell puff pastry) in two different styles and flavours.

Is this the first time we’ve ever seen Selasi break a sweat? Yes, yes it is. Why? Because he’s never made a palmier in his life. Not only that but he keeps having an anxiety dream where he’s reached the final and has to bake in a dress. Classic.

Andrew comes back strong one hour in with his second batch of puff pastry. [Photo: BBC]

First to stumble is Andrew with his dry crumbly pastry. We all know a dry pastry makeith for disappointed judges. What with it being the semi final an’ all our youngest remaining baker makes the brave choice to start over one hour in. Despite the setback he gets away with it producing a beautiful display of simple but tasty cheesy elephant ears and herby treble clefs with good flavour and colour.

Sleep deprived Jane’s pesto with sun dried tomato and tapenade palmiers have a lovely flavour but her oily choice of filling made them a little soggy. Candice’s mushroom, streaky bacon and parmesan palmiers were a hit but her red onion, blue cheese and walnut pastries were overfilled with loss of definition. Selai’s salmon, spinach and mushroom offerings were underdone and his sun dried tomato, onion, peppers and parmesan parmiers raw.

That’s not a savarin, this is a savarin. [Photo: BBC]

With the playing field wide open the bakers move on to the technical challenge: one high end savarin. What the heck is a savarin? Well, in the words of Jane: “a sort of round yeasty cake thing soaked with syrup”. That’s right Jane. It’s a fiddly old thing that needs proving twice then decorated it with chantilly cream, caramel shards, fruit and a hand-piped chocolate label.

Nobody. Knows. What. They’re. Doing. Fortunately our clever semi-finalists have brilliant baker’s intuition to fall back (aka totally making it up). In first place came savvy Jane who knew the hot weather would impact on her proving and adjusted times accordingly, producing a perfectly coloured cake with good decoration. Candice’s over baked cake saw her come in third. Andrew took second place, his decoration was good but his cake a little over baked. And last was Selasi. Two successive disapointing rounds has really put him in the danger zone.

The contestants line up their savarins. [Photo: BBC]

For the show stopper the bakers were challenged to make two different types of fondant fancies. That’s 36 little cakes with genoise sponge, buttercream and fondant all made from scratch (you know, the pink and yellow ones Mr Kipling does).

Candice impressed the judges with her chocolate, praline and cherry bakewell creations. “You’ve made two cracking fondant fancies, they don’t look so brilliant but they’re stunning,” gushed Mary.

Jane with her dip ‘n’ ice technique. [Photo: BBC]

Jane’s renegade decision not to coat her pistachio and raspberry and lemon curd surprise fancies with buttercream ahead of icing meant they came out a little messy. “They’re supposed to look tempting,” said Mary. However her flavours were good and the insides were neat.

Andrew’s vanilla and jam and mocha ‘philharmonic fondants’ decorated with musical notes and bowties and presented in a little orchestra pit won the judges over bagging him this week’s Star Baker title.

Although Selasi’s lime and ginger and pink velvet and prosecco fancies had a great sponge they were too sweet and “a bit basic”. Alas three below par rounds saw the nation’s favourite exit series seven. Goodbye Selasi, we’ll miss your effortless chilled out approach to baking.

Goodbye my friend. I know you’re gone, you said you’re gone but I can still feel you here. [Photo: BBC]