The Blog

Great British Bake Off 2015 - Week Eight

"It's important that you fill the horn right to the bottom so that you enjoy every mouthful" I can't help but think Mary Berry is just trolling us now.

Pâtisserie week, and the quarter-final to boot, kicks off with a signature challenge of two dozen cream horns. Ian, star baker in three of the previous seven weeks, is in bullish mood and, in an off-hand manner, declares that making them is "relatively easy - not much can go wrong". Talk about blowing your own (cream) horn. A mischievous editor cuts straight to a stern-faced Paul Hollywood: "I think cream horns are quite difficult".

Flora, the world's most middle-aged teenager, clearly thinks they're difficult too, as she's burying her head in the sand and is focusing mainly on her supporting cast of decorations, including some complex-looking tuile biscuits. Her flavours sound exciting - one batch of peach, lemon and thyme, and another of butterscotch and almond - but she's left everything too late, fillings don't set, and she finds that her cream horns are dripping from the bottom.

Speaking of almonds, Ian's on the prowl. He's searching for decorations for his cream horns and, despite having a full jar about as big as his head, he's going through each flaked almond individually. "I'm hunting for the perfect almond," he exclaims to the camera, a demonic grin flashing across his face.

Judge Paul looks to be rekindling his bromance with Baker Paul by telling him how excited he is about his banana custard cream horns. However, when the banana flavour is too faint, Hollywood isn't happy. Bromance in crisis! This relationship needs counselling. Nadiya's rose and pistachio concoctions win plaudits, as do the lime/mascarpone and malt/honeycomb creations from Tamal (SWOOOOOOON!). Ian, who, as we remember, was remarkably laissez-faire about the prospect of cream horns, has attempted to mix two different types of pastry together, and he runs into severe structural problems. It's a true encapsulation of pride coming before a fall.

Continuing the theme from previous weeks of technical challenges featuring things you've never heard of, our famous five are tasked with making mokatines. For the uninitiated (i.e. everyone), mokatines are filled squares of Genoese sponge, covered in nuts and three kinds of icing.

Paul sheepishly admits he's never made a Genoese sponge before, and it certainly shows. His first attempt contains about as much air as a vacuum. Despite time marching on, he bins it and promptly whips up batch number two which is... practically identical. Even though a mokatine is something that clearly didn't exist until the filming of this program, the remaining bakers take to it fairly well. Paul, though, is having such a bad time of it you wouldn't be surprised if he finished sixth out of five. Nadiya produces textbook mokatines (if such a thing were to exist, which they don't, because they're made up) and wins the challenge, just ahead of Ian, who wisely didn't play up his own chances beforehand this time.

Now, I don't know about you, but as much as I like cake and pastries and the like, I often find that the things that I eat don't look enough like religious figures. Luckily, our friends at GBBO have sought to address this, and have set a show-stopper challenge of religieuse à l'ancienne or, to put it more clearly, a free-standing three-tier tower of filled eclairs that's supposed to look like a nun.

It sounds daunting, but Paul Hollywood's not heaping too much expectation on the contestants: "What we're looking for is a structural marvel baked to perfection". No pressure, then.

The bakers set about baking their choux pastry cases and preparing their fillings and everyone is taking a fruit-based approach with the exception of Nadiya, who's making bubblegum and peppermint eclairs. As intriguing as that sounds, the real tension comes from the construction phase, where only caramel and thin discs of shortcrust pastry stand between success and an éclair fiasco. Nerves are frayed, hands are shaking - Flora's even brought a mini spirit level with her - but against the odds, all the bakers manage to get their showstoppers built and standing proud. Everything's fine, right?


Apparently, your everyday religieuse à l'ancienne often stands for hours before serving, so the structural integrity of the éclair towers is tested by dispatching the contestants for a two hour lunch break. When it comes to the postprandial judging, only Tamal's and Ian's are still in one piece. Tellingly, they were the only bakers to use strong flour in their choux pastry mix, and it looks as though their forward-thinking has paid off.

Tamal and Ian also score brownie points for their flavours, but the same can't be said for the remaining trio. Nadiya's bubblegum and peppermint are too overpowering, Paul's addition of banana essence has given his eclairs an artificial taste, and despite Flora putting lime, coconut, basil and white chocolate into her bakes, they taste of... nothing.

A tricky weekend has bested all five of them, and no-one can honestly say they succeeded in all three challenges. So who's staying and who's going?

Innuendo of the week: "It's important that you fill the horn right to the bottom so that you enjoy every mouthful" I can't help but think Mary Berry is just trolling us now.

Star baker: Props to Nadiya who was strong enough in the first two challenges to walk away with the weekly crown.

Going home: Not knowing how to make a Genoese sponge is a pretty rookie error at this stage, and Paul's time in the tent is at an end. How will Hollywood cope?

Next week: It's a chocolatey semi-final.