'The Great British Bake Off': week nine review

This week was anything but British with the bakers tasked with making baklava, a schichttorte and entremets for their place in this year’s final. Read on if you’re totally befuddled…

by Natalie Hammond

This year’s ‘Bake Off’ has seen the contestants making breads, cakes and pastries from all corners of the globe – and semi-final week was no exception. The signature challenge was to make two different types of baklava, a moreish Middle Eastern sweet that’s made from filo pastry, contains nuts and is traditionally soaked with honey syrup. Filo pastry is something of an anathema – it has to be stretched until wafer-thin in order to produce layers of crisp pastry when baked.


Richard was in pole position for the semi-final, with four star baker plaudits under his belt and the sheriff badge pinned proudly to his apron. He went fairly traditional on flavour – a ginger and walnut and a rose and pistachio – but impressed with his concertina baklava and perfect pastry. He just can’t put a foot wrong can he?


Nancy hadn’t even heard of baklava, which might explain why she thought stuffing one with muesli was a good idea. Actually it was a good idea, although Paul criticised the colour, saying it should be a nice golden brown, her ‘breakfast baklava’ held together and had an excellent texture. Mary even praised her originality – shows how much we know. Luis and Chetna had a less successful round as Luis’ baklava cups, while beautiful, were bone dry according to Paul, and Chetna’s cocoa-flavoured pastries didn’t have the flaky layers a filo should.  


To Germany for the technical, which this week was the schichttorte (which sounds amusingly like s***torte, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves). Now the schichttorte is a most unusual cake – it’s got 20 layers and is made by cooking each individually under the grill before glazing with chocolate and piped icing. It was basically the baking equivalent of the hokey pokey – in, out, in, out – but the only shaking was the bakers’ heads as they struggled to build up their light and dark layers in time.


The men came out on top as the only two who managed all 20 layers (yup, Paul got pedantic and counted every single one). Luis narrowly toppled Richard for first place, with his plump cake, clearly defined layers and impressive flavour. Chetna seriously struggled with her timings and ended up with a lopsided effort and no chocolate glaze up the sides. Fourth place in the technical and a dodgy batch of baklava meant the pressure was on for the showstopper.


The showstopper pushed the bakers’ technical and time management skills to the brink. They were tasked with baking two types of entremets – small cakes of French origin that usually contain contrasting textures like mousses and jellies. This was the high end of patisserie; Mary said each had to be a work of art and Paul said he had seen many a pastry chef crumble baking them. No pressure then. 


Pandemonium pretty much ensued for the rest of the episode as the bakers ran circles around their work stations. Most had 10 or 11 processes going at any one time, which included jellies, mousses, custards, sponges, buttercreams, chocolate decorations and pralines. And breathe.  


Luis’ entremets both looked characteristically immaculate – we loved the look of the rubber-ring-shaped pomegranate jelly on top of his pistachio sponge – and the judges were mightily impressed by the marriage of flavours in his cherry and chocolate entremet.  Richard’s were of a similar ilk. He baked blobs of grapefruit-flavoured batter in a sponge to create a spotty effect, which Sue kindly said looked like chicken pox, and took the brave decision to show all the layers to his hazelnut mocha cake. Paul said the nutty flavour was extremely good; Mary said she found the crisp base ‘exciting’. Steady on.


Nancy’s raspberry nonnettes were stunning on the inside, but the judges (particularly the male one) were slightly disappointed with her presentation. The flavours, however, were sensational. Chetna was perhaps the most ambitious, but all her efforts were alas in vain. Her first entremet had six layers of chocolate, orange and hazelnut, praline paste, milk chocolate cream and almond sponge, but only tasted of chocolate mousse. All that running about for nothing. Her second had a beautiful cappuccino flavour but Mary said they looked a little bulbous for an entremet. Give the woman a break!


With the final next week, there was a bit of ping-ponging in the judges’ chamber. Hold onto your hats because Richard was announced star baker for THE FIFTH TIME IN THE COMPETITION. Four was recording-breaking but five? That’s just showing off. Unfortunately it was Chetna, who gave us some of this year’s most scrumptious bakes, who got the boot. We’ll never forget her dipping grapes in caramel to win star baker and using her hands like a paddle to rescue her melting baked Alaska. Richard, Luis and Nancy were overcome with the news that they'd made the final but were very stiff upper lip about it, managing to control the water works. We knew there was something Great British about this programme. 



Some pastisserie recipes you're going to love...


Baklava with figs and pistachios

Honey, pistachio and orange flower baklava

Orange cake with honey syrup

Blackcurrant and cassis mousse cake

White chocolate and orange mousse cake

And don't forget to check out our cheat's guide to this week's recipes.


Image: BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon

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