If last episode's bread baking challenge was the week to impress Paul then this week's tarts were definitely the way to impress Mary. They are a classic skills test and there is no way Mary would let any shoddy pastry get past her...
First up was the signature challenge: the bakers had to put their own spin on a classic tarte tatin.
In their own kitchens, most people would probably be tempted to use ready made puff pastry but, of course, that's not The Great British Bake Off way. Baking a real puff pastry should really be out of question - it takes too long - but James once again pushed his allotted time to the limit and managed to pull off a real puff pastry. Most of the other bakers opted for a rough puff pastry as it’s easier to make in the short time allowed.
Sarah-Jane even brought her own knife and while that may seem strange, in a tent that feels alien, anything to make you feel at home is a bonus. And it seemed to work - she played right into Mr Hollywood's hands and made one of his favourites, a banana tarte tatin. The tarte got universal praise and this type of feedback is worth its weight in gold. It helps you relax and lets you enjoy the process. For me this was important - I always did well when I was enjoying the filming.
Victoria made an interesting sounding fig, walnut and pink peppercorn tarte. It is always a tricky balancing act between taking a risk and trying something different or playing it safe with something more classic. I've noticed that Paul seems to be more open to different flavour combinations whereas Mary is a little more cautious. Sadly Victoria pushed the flavours a bit too far though and neither Paul or Mary enjoyed her tarte.
I found these kinds of challenges the worst because once the tarte is in the oven your work is pretty much done. You are left in the kitchen - being filmed, alone with your thoughts - and in that environment all logical thought goes out of the window!
Next up was the technical challenge: Mary’s classic treacle tart. The tricky part here was definitely avoiding Paul’s dreaded criticism of having a soggy bottom!
Sarah Jane went off-piste and did a completely different style of lattice from the one on Mary's tart - a big no-no in a technical challenge.
Manisha didn't do well in the technical challenge either, coming last. At this point she'll have known she had to pull something brilliant out of the bag in order to stay in the competition. Thankfully the show is filmed over two days each week so she will have had a night to sleep on it before coming into the tent to bake again.
The Showstopper Challenge was a fruit tart. Sounds simple, right? But in true Bake Off style it needed to be good enough to be sold in a high class pastry shop.
Cathryn who last week I called a 'solid all round baker' seemed rather nervous and not her usual confident self, but thankfully she produced a lovely tart and will be back next week.
Looking at the finished tarts, the two that impressed me the most were James', who's Lychee Rose and Raspberry tart looked beautiful, and Stuart's, who’s raspberry and chocolate tart looked like it had been flown in from Paris.
After doing well again this week James was named 'star baker', once again marking him out as one to watch. But remember, one bad week and it's all over - it really is anyone’s game right up until the final!