After last week's unexpected reprieve for our bakers' half-dozen, tensions are running high in the famous tent this week. Week six may have had the bizarre theme of European cakes, but we're on safer ground in today's episode with pastry. Before a VT of an unexpected, pasty-based link between Mexico and Cornwall, we're treated to the sight of our heroes trying to make a batch of identical pastry parcels. Exciting flavours abound, and everyone seems to give it a pretty good go, yet Kate is undone by a misbehaving deep-fat fryer, which appears to shut down after an allotted time, much to her surprise and chagrin.
There then follows possibly the most unusual technical challenge yet: hardly any ingredients, three and a half hours, and a pastry that literally none of the contestants have ever heard of. It's a Paul Hollywood recipe; a sweet, puff pastry-like, Breton concoction known as a Kouign-amann (thanks, Wikipedia). Because so much of the skill lies in judging the proving time, and the turning of the pastry, the creation of this sweet treat doesn't exactly lend itself to spectator sport.
Paul's instructions are deliberate obtuse, especially with regards to when to add the sugar to the dough. As any Kouign-amann aficionado worth their salt knows, the sugar must be added to the dough at the last turn, thus caramelising during the bake. Any earlier, and it gets lost during the turns. Richard and Martha correctly decide to leave it late to add the sugar - though it seems more luck than judgement - and are complimented accordingly come the judging. In fact, Richard (you know, the BUILDER) wins the technical, but it's bad news for Chetna, who left her dough to prove longer than all the others, who comes last.
For the showstopper, or should I say, choux-stopper (totally copyrighting that pun), our brave, baking adventurers must make two dozen éclairs; twelve of one flavour and twelve of another. Kate, Luis and Chetna all decide to flavour their choux pastry, with Kate adding Greek basil to the dough that will form the base to her lemon meringue éclairs. Much to her visible disappointment, Chetna is also making lemon meringue éclairs, only adding to Kate's woes after a difficult first two challenges.
Nancy has clearly never been down to her local Greggs for a cheeky chocolate éclair, as she seems to think that salmon, horseradish and sesame seeds make for a perfectly acceptable éclair filling. You'd be pretty annoyed if you bit into an éclair expecting some yummy, synthetic cream and got a mouthful of that instead, wouldn't you? Richard provokes borderline hysteria in Mel and Sue by revealing he's built an éclair stair to display his bakes. In case you didn't quite get it from the subtle hints provided by the judges and editors, Richard is a builder by trade.
Martha, despite having written, in Sue's words, "a dissertation on choux" in her AS studies, appears to have gone into full-blown crisis mode. The crème pâtissière she's made to fill her éclairs has gone all kinds of wrong, so she quickly whips up a batch of maple cream. Towards the end, it's all hands on deck, as she ropes in Richard to help break up her nougat in order to actually get her bakes finished before time. She looks on the verge of tears as Paul tells her that her maple and bacon éclairs just didn't work, but has she done enough in the rest of the episode to scrape through?
Innuendo of the week: "In the words of my Dad, 'not too wet and not too thick'" - Richard's Dad isn't exactly Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker, is he?
Star baker: Richard has excelled in all of the rounds, and has now been star baker in three of the seven episodes. He's also a builder.
Going home: Everyone had at least one superb round. Everyone, that is, except Kate, whose time in the Bake Off tent comes to an end. Now I need a new favourite.
Next week: It's 'advanced dough', which is what you're allowed to study if you get an A* in your dough GCSEs, presumably.