It’s the semi final and it just got serious… the concentration levels, the competitiveness – it’s all gone through the roof. From experience I can promise you that at this stage it’s all about survival – just one more week to go, and everyone is desperate to be a finalist. This week’s theme was French-inspired patisserie. It should equate to precision and beauty so no ‘rustic’ cakes allowed in the semi-final.
The signature bake was petit four, another fairly open challenge offering contestants a lot of options to choose from. Brendan stuck by his retro reputation, choosing to make coffee meringues with hazelnut cream, apricot and pistachio friands and lime curd choux pastry swans. The other three bakers all opted for macaroons which are my specialty, and what I believe made me stand out to Paul and Mary thanks to their technicality.
To my mind Danny’s macaroons looked the best and her langues de chat and financiers all sounded rather good. James played to his strengths and tried something lesser-known, constructing a chocolate mousse with only chocolate and water – a rather modern technique invented in France.
The results were the usual mixed bag: Brendan finished top getting rave reviews from the judges, James and Danny’s efforts were deemed decent, but it was John who disappointed after failing to impress Paul and Mary with his raspberry tart, macaroon and lemon madeleines.
As a result he went into the technical challenge looking rather nervous and clearly downbeat... The next bake was the classic fraisier – not the most difficult recipe but the judges left scant instruction so this round was really designed to test the bakers' knowledge as well as their talent.
The resulting cakes were very different. John managed to redeem himself by constructing a decent-looking cake, however Brendan and Danny’s efforts both suffered serious problems. But it was plucky James who made the best of his Genoese sponge, earning him top marks from Paul and Mary to win the challenge.
The final test – the showstopper – was a choux-based gateau. Most of the bakers made a Gateau Saint Honore but James daringly went for a Paris-Brest. To me Brendan’s entry had the best finish, looking typically polished and rather tasty too. James’s wasn’t exactly patisserie in style, but it was great fun to look at and Mary and Paul loved the taste. Sadly the only contestant to get a poor reception was Danny whose rose flavour was deemed overwhelming, leaving her teetering dangerously at the bottom of the pile…
For the contestants, waiting for the result this week is harder than ever as the pressure of making the final looms and no one wants to be packing their bags. In the end it was James who earned the coveted star baker award, while Danny left the competition leaving an all-male final – a Bake Off first!
For me, the week before filming the final was strange – I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate and I found myself fairly nervous which made my preparation rather difficult. I survived purely on adrenaline. Going into the final all three of the bakers (James, John and Brendan) have a chance of winning so it really will be the best baker on the day who takes home the prize.
Edd Kimber's first book The Boy Who Bakes is out now, with his second - Say It With Cake - to be released on 25 October.