The Blog

Great British Bake Off 2015 - Week Nine

When it comes to the judging, Paul Hollywood suggests that Ian hasn't done enough with the time, it seemingly having slipped his mind that - let me repeat this - Ian's MADE A FULLY-FUNCTIONING WELL. FROM CHOCOLATE.

When a show has 13,000 applicants, chances are that the penultimate episode, where four contestants become three finalists, is already tense enough. Our man Paul Hollywood, however, decides to inject a little extra jeopardy into proceedings by declaring that, at this late stage, "If they make an error, it can prove fatal." Flora, Tamal, Ian, Nadiya... no pressure, guys.

Semi-final week is chocolate week in the Bake Off Tent, and the signature challenge to start us off is a chocolate tart. Sounds simple enough, but our fantastic foursome go all out to put their own, individual spin on things. And those spins are so particular to each baker as to almost be a parody.

Like usual, dreamboat Tamal decides to keep things relatively simple, and relies on his flavours by pairing his chocolate filling with a raspberry coulis and crushed pecan praline. Nadiya's taking a careful, scientific approach, and adding stuff that sounds like it's normally found in a chemistry lab, like usual. Flora, as she usually does, has gone overboard with the accessories, and plans to adorn her passion fruit custard, mousse and ganache tart with chocolate decorations, jelly and macarons. Finally, Ian just cracks open a sachet of Angel Delight. Just kidding, he makes salted caramel with bay leaves, i.e. mixing sweet flavours with unusual herbs, you know, like he usually does.

Flora gets all her flavours right but, as is often her downfall, she's taken on too much and Paul lays into her substandard macarons. Tamal's bake is technically strong, and he's complimented on his mix of textures and flavours. Ian's infused caramel gets short shrift from The Hollywood, but Nadiya gets a "lingering handshake" from the silver fox. Round 1 to Nadiya.

Every now and then, the program makers like to shake up the GBBO format, and introduce something they haven't done before. This week, they decide the technical challenge will have a staggered start, so no two bakers are preparing the same element at the same time. However, they don't seem to have passed this information onto the editors, who splice the footage together so it looks like they're all baking simultaneously. In summary, it looks like it does every other week.

The technical challenge is to make a chocolate soufflé. This involves making a chocolate crème pâtissière and a meringue at the same time, and folding them together perfectly to get the desired rise in the oven. The stress of the occasion is clearly getting to Ian, who starts off by blanking staring at the ingredients for a while, before confessing, "I've forgotten how to make a crème pât." At least, that's what he tells us he's thinking, he's probably just devising a way to get some home-grown oregano into the bake.

Ian also doesn't seem too au fait with the importance of the folding either, because while the remaining three are carefully deploying their spatulas, he's chucking it all together in the mixer. As a result, his soufflé is the flattest of the lot. He hasn't had the worst time of it though. Nadiya's time management issues mean she doesn't mix properly, and there are flecks of egg white throughout. Tamal and Flora have made a better fist of things, but Tamal's crème pâtissière splits, meaning he can only claim second place. Round 2 to Flora.

The showstopper for the semi-final is a chocolate centrepiece which must incorporate biscuits, must include white chocolate somewhere, and must also be three-dimensional. Tamal's putting together a vanilla shortbread and tempered chocolate bell tower, but for the zillionth week, he's having issues getting it all done on time. He's not as bad as Flora though who, with one hour remaining of the four hour challenge, worryingly announces she's about "an hour behind". She's creating a 'cocoa carousel', which incorporates pecan shortbread sitting on a chocolate sponge cake, with a chocolate and puffed rice roof.

That's the fairly normal showstoppers dealt with. Nadiya's making a chocolate peacock, with a ridiculously detailed tail, and a prodigious use of blue modelling chocolate (which is a thing, apparently). Ian has to go the extra mile though, and with an army of home-made metal templates (naturally), he decides to make a fully-functioning well. From chocolate.

When it comes to the judging, Paul Hollywood suggests that Ian hasn't done enough with the time, it seemingly having slipped his mind that - let me repeat this - Ian's MADE A FULLY-FUNCTIONING WELL. FROM CHOCOLATE. Nadiya's peacock is "like a piece of art", according to Mezza Bezza, in contrast to Flora's and Tamal's, which are both derided as lacking attention to detail. All four of them have succeeded with regards to flavour though. So, Round 3 goes to... who knows? And after a weekend that contained enough chocolate to give the entire nation a sugar rush, who's going to fall at the final hurdle?

Innuendo of the week: "I'm going to coat my truffles in the peanut butter powder." We all deal with stress is different ways - this is Nadiya's.

Star baker: Despite losing the technical challenge and being convinced it was the end of the line, two strong rounds mean that Nadiya's the baker to beat going into the final week.

Going home: She's arguably been on borrowed time for a few weeks, and even though she won the technical challenge, in the end her insistence on over-elaboration proved too much. Ta ta, Flora.

Next week: IT'S. THE. FINAL.