New & NowCake

The Great British Baking Show Episode 9: Patisserie!

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Allison Robicelli will be recapping each episode, week-by-week. Catch the final episode recap tomorrow! And tune in to the show on PBS.

As we count down towards the end of both this season and the BBC-era of the show as a whole, it’s important to savor whatever enjoyable moments we can before they’re gone for good. And when I say “enjoyable moments” I’m talking about Mel and Sue, because not only is this the worst season of the show thus far, but it’s so painfully bad that I’m actually happy it's the last one with the original gang. My many, many feelings about this will be discussed in the in the final recap. But today, we must survive the semi-final: Patisserie Week. Les tensions sont élevées! Allons-y, mes amies!

The Cheater's Pain-Free Puff Pastry
The Cheater's Pain-Free Puff Pastry

Signature round: Savory Palmiers

Today the bakers are tasked with making savory palmiers: stuffed puff pastry that’s rolled up, sliced thin and baked til crisp. Normally these are sweet, stuffed with sugar that caramelizes during the baking process, creating a beautiful golden brown cookie that snaps with the bliss of countless buttery layers. Instead of that, we’re about to get flaccid butterfly-shaped disasters stuffed with salmon.

Garden designer Jane is making floral shaped pastries again, because it’s important you remember that she’s a garden designer. She says through nervous laughter that she’s not sleeping anymore, and that when she does sleep she’s baking in her dreams, and then looks like she’s about to burst into tears. Candice’s palmiers look like crap, so to keep up with that theme she loads them all into the bottom of a birdcage.

Torta all'Arancia (Orange Cake Inspired by Ada Boni and Marcella Hazan)
Torta all'Arancia (Orange Cake Inspired by Ada Boni and Marcella Hazan)

Technical round: Savarin

Savarins—yeasted, liqueur-soaked cakes—are so old school that none of the bakers know what they are, and that’s a shame. If there’s one thing this show should teach us, it’s that we’ve taken some serious steps backwards in the world of baked goods, where we react to deep-fried croissant dough as God's gift to the pastry world, meanwhile something as brilliant as a savarin virtually unknown. Perhaps savarin would be more popular if it were Funfetti-flavored.

Even with barely a direction, I expect the bakers to do well, as week after week they’ve shown that they have a solid handle on many things that even some professional bakers don’t know about. It is for that reason that I am totally gobsmacked by everyone’s incessant struggles with caramel. How is this possible? This is one of the first things I learned in my career, and the rules are very basic. They’re all stirring when rule number one is never to stir, and then are totally shocked when they're left with a crystallized mess. If you know how to make phyllo dough but can’t make a decent caramel, you shouldn’t even be here. The only thing suppressing my rage is the sight of Sue wiping the sweat off a very moist Selasi, who is looking extra sexy in this boiling heat.

Mini Pistachio-Vanilla Cake
Mini Pistachio-Vanilla Cake

Showstopper round: Fondant fancies

Are people actually impressed by these teeny tiny little cakes? I just don't see how they can possibly be more compelling than a gigantic croquembouche or pulled sugar sculpture, or literally any other mind-boggling spectacle in the French pastry catalog. Instead, they thought it would be thrilling to watch people attempt to make a lot of small cakes in five hours instead of the two days it would normally take. To me, this is more of a test of time, not baking prowess—and the end result is arguably the most tedious challenge in the history of the show.

When I woke up, my husband/viewing partner informed me that Selasi went home, Andrew won star baker, and somehow Candice didn’t get any chocolate or fondant on her outfit.

We’re almost—finally!—at the end of this lifeless season, and this much closer to my super-anticipated analysis as to what went wrong. Stay tuned for my next (and last) recap tomorrow!

Tags: Bake, Pop Culture