THE BLOG

Great British Bake Off 2014 - Week Five

05/09/2014 11:19 BST | Updated 04/11/2014 10:59 GMT

After last week's baked Alaska furore provoked complaints to both the BBC and Ofcom, pie and tart week promises to be a much more sedate affair. Diana, unfairly painted as the villainous architect of Iain's demise, has pulled out due to illness leaving only a magnificent seven remaining.

Teenager Martha kicks off the signature challenge - a family-sized custard tart - with the odd claim that old people, "such as Nancy", make a lot of pastry. This claim is unheard by Nancy, but who the inadvertently backs Martha up by waxing lyrical about her love of pastry creation. Perhaps mindful of last week's unexpected drama, the editors have seen fit to furnish any footage of people walking to the freezers with tense string music, despite the fact they're just going to chill a batch of shortcrust.

Norman, my hero and spiritual guide, decides to keep it simple (again) by making a tarte au citron and focussing on flavour. However, yet again, he receives criticism from the judges due to his lack of invention. He's had a great morning compared to Martha, however, whose apricot and pistachio pie receives such a negative response from Paul and Mary, it reduces her to tears. Luis, on the other hands, has made a tart so perfect it looks as if it's been crafted by a team of designers armed to the back teeth with protractors and set squares.

For the technical challenge, our intrepid bakers must make a mini pear pie, which consists of thin strips of rough puff pastry wrapped around a poached pear. That, to my mind, does not sound much like a pie at all. The contestants are as baffled as I am, and spend so much time fretting, they practically all end up with under-baked "pies". Richard has an absolute disaster, and his pastry spiral has fallen off and settled around the base of his pear. Less pear pie, more des-pear pie, right guys? Out of nowhere, Martha completely redeems herself with a well-baked set of half a dozen pastry-covered poached pears, and wins the challenge.

If the idea of the last challenge apparently being a pie makes you scratch your head, the show-stopper will make you think the Hollywood and Berry tag-team have lost the plot altogether, because the participants must now make a three-tiered pie, which surely isn't really a recognised thing in any kind of culinary tradition. They're all raising their game though - Norman's making a "pieffel tower", which is finished off with a pie topped with lavender meringue. Nancy has decided to hand-raise her pies (i.e. she's not using a tin, for some reason) and needs a pencil to mark the baking paper. No pencil? If only there were a builder around, they keep pencils behind their ears, don't they? Fret not, Richard comes to the rescue, fulfilling the program makers' quota of reminders of Richard's profession for another week.

The pies are supposed to be themed but, as nice as they all sound, the links between some of them are debatable. Richard's "builders pies" (I think he may work in the construction industry) contain a middle pie with frangipane at the base but using hot water crust pastry, more usually associated with pork pies. Kate seems to have the right idea though - her pork-themed pies all come with a different fruit. Luis' sound great as well; they're all fruit-topped to look like sweet pies, but actually all contain meat.

It's frantic at the end - some pies are burnt, some pies are under-done, and Norman's apparently put an entire field of lavender into his meringue, but who's going home? In fact, with Diana out of the picture, is anyone going home?

Innuendo of the week: "I'm doing a tropical Manchester tart" - that's great, Luis, but try and keep your private life out of the tent, eh?

Star baker: Kate had been solid if not spectacular in the first two rounds, but her perfect pies pushed her to the peak of the precipice.

Going home: It was the end of the road for Norman. Don't worry, you're still my hero, Norman.

Next week: We've been promised European cakes. I'm not quite sure what that entails either.