Bake Off: The Professionals, Series 4, Episode 1: Physics, Ham and Jenga

Cherish Finden came, she delivered many a reaction Jpeg, she left.

The Great British Bake Off’s stressed out, overachieving cousin is back and absolutely determined to bring about The Jaffa Cake Discourse once again. They are biscuit-sized cakes, can we stop?

We’re back with our usual contingent of hosts and judges, Tom Allen and Liam Charles are handling hosting duties between Liam having a go at being William Tell but with Jaffa Cakes and absolutely no aim

and Benoit Blin is here as the second most French person to grace our TV screens, he would be the first but we all saw Barbara Pravi’s Eurovision performance and Cherish Finden also returns in all of her glory and is, as we would expect, dressed like she’s about to lead a whole nation into intergalactic warfare

and I for one welcome our new Supreme Empress of The Universe.

And of course there are the first lot of our Professional Baking Teams, I’m still on the fence about how this is all done. It’s very hard to get to know the teams with the way the heats are run and handled but I shall do my very best!

Merryn, Sherrazade and Sherrazade’s Coat

A French and South African powerhouse of Girl Power quotes and the ability to whip up a freshly baked Genoise sponge in a matter of minutes they definitely deserved better than Tom Allen asking if he could shorten their names within the first 5 seconds of starting a conversation with them.

Julien and Elise

Julien is like someone taught a shark how to bake and I’m entirely convinced the brains behind this experiment is Elise and so far, it seems to be working.

Alex and Stacey

Sweet baby angels, the both of them. We’ll just pretend mirror glazes don’t exist, ok? Sweep them under the rug, it’s fine.

The Geese

My money is firmly on these two.

Kevin and Maria Vittoria

The silent assassins of the show, they don’t get much screen time but then you get to the end of the challenge and they’d somehow made a giant peppermint and 2 dozen perfect mousse tubes.

Michael and Andrew

Michael is returning after appearing in 2018 alongside Rebekah (who is still alive and there’s no need to dig up his patio) and is this time joined by his personal chocolate teapot Andrew. His words, not mine.

Jamie and Andrea

I’m mostly looking forward to Jamie telling us all about the weird, specific ways in which he eats certain food items and Andrea silently judging him with a well timed look to camera. They will birth a wealth of reaction jpegs.

So Close, Yet So Jaffa

For the Miniature Classics round the teams were tasked with reinventing the Jaffa Cake into something worthy of gracing the fanciest patisserie display as well as recreating a Tarte Piémontaise, which is an Italian chocolate and hazelnut tart originating from the Piemont region of Italy which is, unsurprisingly, quite well known for producing very good hazelnuts meaning the hazelnut flavour is to it what orange is to a Jaffa Cake. Unless you’re a heathen who eats the raspberry flavoured Jaffa Cakes.

The Piémontaise has a very distinct look featuring peaks of piped chocolate ganache which most of the teams embraced and didn’t stray away from. However there were a couple that went a little off-piste with the mavericks that are Julien and Elise pushing it furthest by adding a layer of Tonka Bean paste to the base of their tart and adding a tuile on top in place of the usual caramelised hazelnut garnish, which they didn’t entirely forgo and ended up adding a rather apologetic nut to the top

I think it would have looked a lot cleaner and more contemporary without the nut at all. I like the look of it, Benoit seemed sceptical and also really disliked the tonka bean paste which overpowered the hazelnut and I seem to remember the use of tonka bean paste being a bit of an issue a couple series ago. So everyone, ditch the tonka beans NOW.
They did however entirely redeem themselves from the rising tensions between themselves and Italy by creating a very good take on the Jaffa Cake

it just looks stunning and is absolutely the sort of thing you’d see in a display and insist on ordering, and they completely nailed it on the taste to with a perfect balance between sweetness and bitterness.

Their partners in Piémontaise Renegadary were Merryn and Sherrazade who opted to top their tarts with a spiralling mould which would have looked great if they hadn’t had to rush the demoulding stage and unfortunately batter and bruise a number of their tops and losing the polished finish that you would expect

I was slightly confused by the pastry critique in which Benoit said that it evidently wasn’t baked and yet when he cut it the two halves jumped apart with a surprising amount of gusto for an inanimate object

to me that would suggest it was overbaked or just too much flour was used but I also probably shouldn’t question the professional patissiere, huh? It wasn’t the only issue with the pastry though as apparently it was all Cherish could taste and you know, when butter is the primary flavour in a chocolate and hazelnut tart, that’s pretty damning.

I really liked Merryn and Sherrazade’s take on the Jaffa Cake though as they combined it with fellow Elite Supermarket Cake, the Mini Roll. The process didn’t go entirely smoothly because Sherrazade’s Genoise sponge wasn’t suited as much to rolling as it was to crumbling to dust at even the slightest touch

I’m having flashbacks to the infamous Hexagonal Swiss Roll of Bake Offs past.
She did have just enough time to remake a sheet of the stuff which unfortunately meant she didn’t quite get the 24 required portions out but I think they looked really cool

the judges described them as a car crash and I think that’s grossly hyperbolic, especially considering what was happening in the other end of kitchen with an aerosol can.
The judges did at least praise the cardamom and orange marmalade filling, although this praise is somewhat overshadowed by Cherish pulling a roll of plastic from off their moulded chocolate

genuinely shocked that the two of them weren’t vaporised then and there.

There was another Swiss Roll in the kitchen and Maria Vittoria was having just as many issues as her pate de fruit didn’t quite set and was leaking out

she, like Sherrazade, immediately set about remaking her sponge and the behest of team mate Kevin, and was navigating the kitchen like it was an obstacle course in a 90s gameshow, to not entirely successful results

it’s clearly unfinished and needed some sort of coating on the outside of the roll, but there’s a certain elegance to the monochromaticness of it. The Pate de Fruit filling is however slightly too overpowering for Benoit and Cherish but they can at least go to sleep safe in the knowledge that it certainly tasted of orange.
their Piémontaise wasn’t an outright success either with the finish being just that slight bit lacking

and it didn’t deliver the silky smooth interior, with the filling being slightly too dry and crumbly, which Kevin seemed well aware of.

Jamie and Andrea suffered a similar woe with their Piémontaise lacking the silky experience and giving Benoit a “very dry sensation”

and what we need is a WAP (A Wet Ass Piémontaise.)

Given that Jamie eats his Jaffa Cakes like a mad man I had expected their Jaffa Cake to be well and truly deconstructed and reconstructed like it was RoboCop and that’s not *not* what we got

I think I like the look of it? But there is something ever so slightly alien egg-y about the whole thing – and the toppings could certainly have been a little more delicately applied but I do love the contrast between the velvety texture and the chocolate coating at the bottom.
They were ambitious with their flavouring, opting to use fresh ginger, which goes very well with orange, but it was a little too strong for Cherish and Benoit. I am however willing to allow McVitie’s to experiment with a stem ginger Jaffa Cake.

Alex and Stacey were also venturing forth into bold flavour combinations with the addition of the ever divisive Balsamic Vinegar to their caramel and it would have been the fact Benoit just about turned inside out when he tasted their Jaffa Cake balls that was their biggest misstep

but you know, their miniature illusion oranges looked like this

it wasn’t their proudest moment and the fact their Piémontaises were slowly giving up the will to live certainly wasn’t helping

and Benoit simply describes them as “lacks baking” which I know what he meant but did sound like one hell of a put down when the whole show is about baking.

Lastly we have Michael and Andrew who had a very successful round with a classic and on brief Piémontaise

that delivered the silky smooth experience that Benoit was chasing all episode, and it helped that it was one of the few that actually delivered an even vague hazelnut flavour. There was a relatively low bar on the front.

Their Jaffa Cake creation was similarly good and featured the intriguing sounding “Gold Chocolate” – a phrase known only to Michael and Andrew who have started a 2 man mission to rebrand Caramelised White Chocolate, and their glazing process worked wonders

which was particularly cruel because Stacey was going to do a mirror glaze on her Jaffa Orbs before having to veto that idea and going all Junior Banksy on them.
As for Michael and Andrew’s final Jaffa Cake, it was truly beautiful

it had a very distinct Austrian feel to it with the ruffled ganache topping and the collar – I could see it in any number of high end hotels and cafés.

An Unofficial Piémontaise and Jaffa Cake Ranking

  1. The Bewheeled Orange Segment
  2. The Austrian Jaffa Cake
  3. Julien says “SCREW YOU!” to the Piémontaise Rules
  4. Jackson Pollock’s Jaffa Tube
  5. The Only Real Piémontaise
  6. The Jaffa Cake Egg
  7. The Retconned Leaky Swiss Rolls
  8. Everyone Else’s Very Dry Piémontaise
  9. The Jaffa Spheres and Their Existential Crisis

Strawberry Dreams

For the Show Piece Challenge, not to be confused with the Showstopper Challenge BECAUSE THESE ARE PROFESSIONALS, the teams have to create as whimsical and elaborate display as they can without becoming some sort of a meme for failure. It’s a tough challenge in only 4 hours and a room filled with studio cameras that are determined to melt anything and everything, upto and including Cherish’s icy stare.

The theme for the challenge was Strawberries and Cream and alarmingly not a single team went with anything Wimbledon related despite the event selling just shy of 200,000 portions every year, we did however get quite a few gardens with Kevin and Maria Vittoria being the most overt in their take on an urban garden

it is impeccably made and I would argue is one of the best builds we’ve seen on the show, it’s just so clean and exact. I get what the judges said about it needing a little more life and whimsy to it and some insects would have fitted in really well but given they’d just made 24 chocolate flower pots that looks very convincing I don’t really mind

and I am very much charmed by the fact it looks a little bit like a baby version of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.
The layers of their Strawberry Foam, Cream Fraiche Mousse and Chocolate Soil didn’t go down brilliantly with Cherish finding the soil a little too much but they enjoyed the theatre of the “secret weapon” which was just some strawberry juice in a spray bottle

I think it’s a rare instance of the spray bottle gimmick working because of the design of the piece, I still find them a little eyeroll inducing but at least Cherish was having fun.
And if you were wondering how a barbarian navigates fancy desserts, I have your answer

this is the one and only time Tom Allen will ever be compared to a barbarian.

Michael and Andrew were also aiming for a garden/afternoon tea themed setting with a slightly more abstract approach and a chocolate teapot that Michael used to mercilessly insult Andrew with

the fact they managed to achieve that height is something of a feat in itself and then Michael just casually carried it from one table to the next without breaking a sweat

meanwhile everyone else is jittering all over the place and sweating like their about to cut the wire of a bomb in a 90s action film. It’s a patisserie power move if ever a thing existed.
As for their desserts they were aiming for little strawberries and absolutely landed in Papal ceremonial mitre

and least it tasted of Strawberries and Cream and they cut very nicely to reveal very defined internal components

overall an incredibly successful day for Michael and Andrew The Supposed Chocolate Teapot.

Also throwing his hat into the ring of strawberry sculpting was Julien who was risking it all by creating them using the temperamental technique of sugar blowing and cheating ever so slightly with a mould

and his final sugar-glass sculpture of a strawberry plant and spilling cream was possibly one of the best examples of sugarwork we’ve seen on the show

him walking it over to the table was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever seen in my life, just terrified that those shiny little strawberry baubles were going to shatter EVERYWHERE.
Their actual strawberry petite gateaux didn’t quite live up to the elaborate wow-factor of the sugar piece

It’s very much the forgotten child in this design, but the flavours were good – Julien’s unique blackcurrant pepper goes down a treat but is also sadly the only flavour they really notice as it overpowers the strawberry but they like it and that counts for a lot and I fully suspect Blackcurrant Pepper might become A Thing™.

Julien wasn’t the only one attempting sugarwork as Merryn and Sherrazade decided that they were going to create their ENTIRE sculpture out of sugar and then try to balance a whole 12 person Fraisier Cake in the middle of it. MADNESS, and it certainly wasn’t looking good for a while as the ring snapped while Merryn tried to demould it

as it was the only thing they had managed to make during their setting process they were kind of forced into repairing the ring with more molten sugar, which I fully expected to shatter and break apart the moment they applied even an iota of pressure to it AND YET

Magic. Wizardry. Witchcraft.
On closer inspection, the finish isn’t of the highest standard but they certainly displayed a lot of skill and work in their creation. As for the Fraisier Cake, it’s a little divisive with a sadly split Mousseline centre and a little too much lemon zest.

There were a number of issues with the teams overpowering their strawberries and you would think in a challenge where you’re essentially trying to highlight two quite delicate flavours: cream and fresh strawberries that you wouldn’t add too many other flavours, if any at all. Well Alex and Stacey had other plans as they created single desserts comprised of Strawberries, Cream, Lemon, Mint, Pistachio AND Sesame… Was anyone not invited to this party?
The theme for their display was kind of a play on physics and they wanted everything to look a little precarious

and certainly their place in the competition was looking a little precarious as Stacey proudly told Cherish that she had made her mirror glaze already and was going to redeem herself for the first challenge’s failure and well… the mirror glaze looked a lot like molten human flesh

I’m a little disappointed that she didn’t persist with it and instead vetoed the idea completely while profusely saying “I promise I’m a professional” while looking down the barrel of the camera – honestly, relatable queen.
The whole thing didn’t quite come together as the pair furiously jammed discs of brittle and ruby chocolate together like the worst game of Jenga you’ve ever seen to produce a show piece that looks like a very generous display of ham sandwiches

as was expected the judges have a major issue with the Saturnalia of flavours going on but at least the layers of the dessert were clear and they looked very cool when you cut them

so not all was lost to The Great Flavour Massacre of 2021.

Lastly we have Jamie and Andrea who were creating a very large sculpture of a Campino sweet and it looked very good!

Andrea has some fantastic painting and decorating skills, I’m intrigued to see what else she does.
As for their dessert, they were making a tube filled with basil mousse and a strawberry compote, which once again looked incredible, perhaps save for the unappetising shade of green of what I imagine is something basil related

they also come with the party trick that when cut, they do in fact bleed quite profusely

gore aside, the basil flavour is a little strong for Benoit and Cherish but they could appreciate the flavour profile that were going for and with a little tweaking it would be a really cracking dessert.

A Strawberries and Cream Show Piece Ranking

  1. Tea With The Pope
  2. The Lifeless Strawberry Garden
  3. Alexa, Play Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis
  4. All Sugar, No Gateaux
  5. Merryn The Sugar Whisperer
  6. Physics, Ham and Jenga

The winners of the episode, for showing the most technical skills over the two challenges, are Julien and Elise which I suppose is fair but I kind of think Michael and Andrew deserved it for the polish they showed in both challenges.

As for the eliminated team, there was very little suspense as to who was going home with the inevitable chop going to Alex and Stacey

at least they have an anecdote now!

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