Bake Off: The Professionals, Series 4, Episode 9: Retroactive Punishments Against Culinary Disasters

Well, they said if he went down to the woods today he was in for a big surprise.

If this episode gave us nothing else, it at least gave us the new popular party game: Hide The Jelly.

Apologies for another delayed recap, you might have noticed there’s a bite of a heatwave (Pronounced “heat-Wah-Vay”) and sadly this recapper’s brain doesn’t function properly in anything above a mild 21 degrees.

Petty and Petite

As it’s the semi-finals the judges are really ramping up the stakes, and you know they mean business because Cherish has perfectly coordinated her dress and lipstick in such a shocking shade of pink that it just about fritzed the colours on our TV

Her sartorial powers are limitless and unmatched.
As for the challenge, there’s A LOT of it and it’s all incredibly fiddly because they have to make four different petite fours, a food stuff almost entirely defined by how time consuming they are to make and slightly unsatisfying to eat they are. Two of their petite fours had to be savoury and 2 had to be sweet and then on top of all that, one of each had to be vegan- which I thought would mean everyone would make a super big deal about it in the same vein as MasterChef where vegan food is treated like it came from Mars and requires you to cook only via astral projection, but everyone just quietly got on with it BECAUSE THEY’RE PROFESSIONALS.

I almost wish they had talked a little more about how they made their petite fours vegan though, the only one we got much insight into was from Kevin and Maria Vittoria who were making their pea garden tart using chickpea pastry and then filling it with a pea and mint panna cotta, which does sound mighty dubious but was apparently very nice

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone quite as enthused about peas as Benoit was – it was a very strong round for this team and they’re petite fours all looked incredible

it’s unfortunate that Maria Vittoria rolled the spicy salmon rolls in a duvet of pastry

but they can at least revel in the fact they got complimented on their use of yuzu gel as an accompaniment, rather than it absolutely overpowering everything. The same couldn’t be said for their Apricot Pavé which was mostly just a mouthful of thyme cream. But they got major bonus points for their vegan sweet petite four consisting of a pineapple and hibiscus granola topped with a chocolate shell containing a pearl of hibiscus gel

it’s hailed as an absolute genius piece of patisserie, I mostly just enjoy that if you put a pair of googly eyes on it that it looks slightly like a high-collared supervillain

the strange blood red speckling only adding to the unsettling vibe.

Ordinarily, hibiscus might be the most unusual flavour on offer – remember when Dave on Bake Off made hibiscus and guava bread? How was he not imprisoned for that? Is it too late to do it now? I’m all for Retroactive Punishments Against Culinary Disasters. However, this time, Julien and Elise were not going to be outmatched and decided to create a macaron filled with white chocolate and cheddar ganache and a fig and port chutney, all of which was being presented as a sort self-peeling Babybel cheese

it is absolutely the sort of thing I would like to try, I don’t expect I’ll like it but I would certainly be interested and the judges’ reactions only make me more curious as they go bananas for this. They just about have to restrain Benoit and Cherish from shovelling the whole batch into their mouths.
Their vegan option by comparison did feel like a bit of cop out, you cannot just pile tapenade and pureed roast tomatoes between some pastry and call it a mille feuille

I refuse this. But I will take an entire vat of the kalamata tapenade for my worries.
As for their sweet offerings, they were playing dangerously with their first one by risking it all and using the dreaded tonka bean, an ingredient with a past history of overpowering just about anything it is put in – it is the overeager theatre kid of the culinary world. And in a rare moment of victory, Julien and Elise perfectly pull off their peanut and tonka bean bites, but it’s their vegan chocolate tarts where they truly excel

they look so dainty and pristine! And apparently tasted incredible, so it’s off to Julien Plumart for afternoon tea, yeah? I actually looked them up the other day and it turns out, I have actually eaten there before! They have lovely macarons!

Michael and Andrew also had a go at a chocolate tart, theirs not being vegan or going quite as smoothly, and not just because of Michael was fighting a losing battle against his salted caramel

the messier the chef, the better the food!
They seemed to fall into a bit of a rush towards the end and their tarts just didn’t come out quite as polished as they probably could have, and we know they’re capable of

but honestly, just feed me spoonfuls of that chocolate ganache and I’ll be happy for a lifetime.
Their vegan sweet was a little lacking for the judges, mostly because it was kind of just a piece of nougat, albeit incredible sounding nougat – I’m a fiend for pistachio, what more can I say?

The judges did think they were particularly “competition ready”, and maybe I am but a patisserie civilian, but they look really good to me? They’re pleasant colours, they look neat? If Benoit didn’t want them, I would have gladly inhaled them all.
While I will defend the honour of those nougat blocks for as long as I need to, I cannot offer the same protection to the lump of mackerel paté on a cracker

I very much enjoyed Benoit saying “This could have been a sandwich.” in exactly the same way I would say “This could have been an email.” after a very inconvenient meeting.
They did at least pull it back a little bit with their vegan offering of an aubergine and tomato tartlet,

the aubergines of which had been put through several stages of torture at the hands of Andrew, including just being relentlessly smoked and suffocated

The judges love them, with a slight caveat that they could have used a touch more seasoning.

Lastly we have Geanina and George who were basing their petite fours off of their favourite childhood foods and I don’t know if it says something about Romanian childhoods that one of their creations was a roulade made from a spinach and garlic sponge and a salmon and cucumber mousse

there are concerns over whether the roulade is too big or not, to which I say “Anything is bite-sized if you try hard enough!”. I would happily dislocate my jaw trying to shove an entire tray of those babies into my mouth in order to protect Geanina and George. I mean that. I’ll do it, I will eat all of the cursed green swirlies.
I might not quite extend the same invitation to their vegan option that was just a lump of pastry filled with fried mushrooms

it’s just not particularly elegant, although the mushroom filling was apparently very nice, you do just have to wade through the mouthful of fairly bland pastry.
Their vegan sweet offering was also deemed a little too safe despite the fact they tried their best to push their boat out by using matcha and lime

unfortunately, this might have been more successful in 2015 when matcha was perhaps considered slightly more of an exotic flavour – I think once Starbucks has turned it into a latte it kind of loses the mystique.
Their final piece of petite four was what they called “Carpati”, a chocolate and honey cake named after the Carpathian Mountains

I think it’s a pretty divine sounding piece of patisserie and the judges did like the flavours, however Benoit had some issues with everything apparently being different sizes

BY MAYBE A MILLIMETRE. I think he just wanted an excuse to put three pieces of cake on a plate thereby making them all his under the Covid guidelines. I KNOW YOUR GAMES MONSIEUR BLIN!

An Unofficial Petite Fours Ranking

  1. Julien & Elise’s Chocolate Babybel
  2. Kevin & Maria Vittoria’s Hibiscus Bond Villain
  3. Julien & Elise’s Veganuary Tartlet
  4. Julien & Elise’s Taming of the Tonka Beans
  5. Michael & Andrew’s Tortured Aubergine Tartlets
  6. Kevin & Maria Vittoria’s Pea-nna Cotta
  7. JUSTICE for Geanina & George’s Mountain Cake
  8. Geanina & George’s Childhood of Spinach and Salmon
  9. Michael & Andrew’s Nougat Was Fine Benoit, Calm Down.
  10. Michael & Andrew’s Chocolate Mess
  11. Kevin & Maria Vittoria’s Thicc Salmon Roll
    • Geanina & George’s Childhood of… Mushroom foraging?
  12. It Was Mostly Just Tapenade.
  13. Geanina & George’s Out of Fashion Matcha Slice
  14. Kevin & Maria Vittoria’s OverThyme
  15. Michael & Andrew’s Potential Mackerel Sandwich

Bears! Bears! Bears!

For the last challenge of the semi-finals the teams had to create a table scene based on the Teddy Bears’ (That’s plural, Julien and Elise) Picnic. The only real requirement beyond everyone having to find the easiest way to make chocolate bears was that they had to create a jelly dessert to serve 40 people and was to be revealed at the end of the showcase because YES! This was also a theatrical storytelling challenge which I had thought would mean everyone would dress up but sadly Michael and Andrew were the only two to really go for it

THE REST OF YOU ARE COWARDS!

They had a few misteps in the making process, the biggest being the moment Michael accidentally broke their chocolate logs

and then had to waste time as he became a sort of Frankenstein of the arboretum, and that wasn’t the only injury he was dealing with as he gave one of their bears a severe concussion while rigging their little swing

meanwhile Andrew was a bit busy making adult jelly innuendos with Tom Allen because their jelly was flavoured with champagne and peach liqueur and surrounded by a thyme and honey bavarois. I lowkey think they had the best looking sharing dessert of the bunch

it may have been a little too strong and overset but it’s well decorated, vibrant, elegant and most importantly doesn’t look like it’s had an illicit frisson with an octopus, KEVIN AND MARIA VITTORIA

We’ll talk about it, don’t worry.
As well as the sharing dessert each team had to incorporate an additional 5 elements with it being an unspoken rule that everyone would have to make candyfloss, or try their best to, Andrew mostly just created a candyfloss windstorm in the kitchen

How sticky was the kitchen after all of this? How much equipment did he damage?
As for their additional components, Andrew had created some rather divine sounding roasted peaches which were very much just left to inelegantly sit on the side of the table looking alarmingly like the corpse of a less fortunate bear

I really loved their bears, it’s cute and quite modern with the angularity of them.
I think my favourite of their additional components though were the pebbles that were filled with a raspberry gel meaning that when you cracked them open they did look alarmingly like they were bleeding from severe blunt force trauma

shortly following those murder victims are the cinnamon meringue paw prints which will set off your trypophobia more than Kevin and Maria Vittoria’s cursed cake design

Not to Web MD this poor bear or anything, but that looks like a bad case of bumblefoot.

I guess now is as good a time as any to address Kevin and Maria Vittoria’s aesthetic distress

I hate it *so much* and yet I would consume every morsel of a peach and champagne jelly dessert and I think beyond the questionable use of jelly… pustules(?) on the top, it all looks rather nice, it doesn’t quite fit in with the whimsy of the rest of their display, which looked absolutely incredible

so, if their sharing dessert wants to stay hidden for a while longer, that’s fine by me!
Kevin was hoping to show off a little more of his South African heritage (a sharp intake of breath from this recovering Zimbabwean household, I’ll tell you that much) by which he meant a braai and not the… colonialism. He did of course have to explain what a braai was and it physically pained him to compare it to a barbecue. In order to do this, they had created a station at which the judges could create their own s’mores out of the pineapple marshmallows which did have to be extracted from the inside of a bear that had apparently just eaten them all and which Cherish did with a unique sense of gaiety that only she could muster

Let’s pour one out for our fallen chocolate ursine brethren

I’m not entirely sure what’s more off putting, the savage destruction of the bear or the fact the marshmallows were flavoured with pineapple – I have qualms and concerns but the judges responded really well to it, so I’ll just keep quiet and simmer in my anti-pineapple prejudice.
It was really nice to see more of Maria Vittoria this episode, she really shone during the telling of their story and I’m glad she got that little moment and that the judges acknowledged her for it.

While Kevin embraced his heritage, George and Geanina weren’t looking to their Romanian upbringing for any inspiration, politely stating that they’d never heard of a teddy bears’ picnic because they grew up during the communist period and didn’t have toys, but George did used to hug a pillow. I love him and want nothing but good things for him. Sadly I think we knew exactly where this was going the moment they decided their grand plan was to make Victoria Sponges and some Jammie Dodgers

are they crowd pleasers? Yes, absolutely, shovel those babies into my mouth all afternoon if we must but they don’t really give you a strong chance when Benoit and Cherish have actively been telling you to stop being so vanilla for about 4 episodes now. They also had some issues with the fact all of their bears were moulded meaning they didn’t possess much personality despite looking adorable

and maybe it was a good idea that they moulded them rather than make them by hand because George’s hand moulding is… dubious

HORNY JAIL, THE LOT OF YOU!
Because they had moulded so many of their bears, it did mean they had made the most and it did look like Paddington Bear’s very raucous family reunion

sadly there was no marmalade in sight, from any of the teams. Is the copyright on Paddington that aggressive because I refuse to believe that nobody thought to go with that angle.
As with their collection of Victoria sponges and Jammie Dodgers, their jelly dessert was also just a little lacking in the aesthetics department

a red gelatinous tube is distressing at the best of times, somehow even moreso when it is extracted from within a log. The general consensus of their whole piece was that it was another wonderfully safe effort, which ironically made them distinctly unsafe.

Lastly we come to Julien and Elise who at least somewhat misunderstood the assignment and made a very sad, solitary bear and his little spider-webby bottom

Honestly, I kind of respect his decision to have a picnic by himself – we should all take a lesson from Bruno here, the bravest bear.
These two seemed to have by far the most work to do with Elise alone having to tackle about 17 different recipes, most of which seemed to be for the chocolate teacups that contained carrot cake and orange blossom cream

they’re the highlight of the whole piece for Cherish, which is great that they tasted so nice but doesn’t speak well to the jelly dessert that was meant to be the centrepiece and came out a little lacking in jelly

it also doesn’t help that it kind of just looked a bit like a moderately successful high street baker’s sheet cake – it just didn’t mesh particularly well with everything else that looked so elegant and pristine (perhaps withhold those compliments from applying to Bruno) and their bitter orange mousse filled fish were wonderful, even if they were Marie Antoinette’d by one Cherish Finden

she had never met a chocolate animal that she wouldn’t murder in cold blood.

A Teddy Bears’ Picnic Showpiece Ranking

  1. Kevin & Maria Vittoria’s Teddy Braai
  2. Julien & Elise’s Lonely Teddy Bear’s Afternoon Tea
  3. Michael & Andrew’s Gruesome Tale of Ursine Destruction
  4. The Result of George & Geanina’s Frantic Google Search

Winning the episode by a pretty clear margin are Kevin and Maria Vittoria – the only real competition was how much mileage Julien and Elise could get out of those white chocolate and cheddar macaron and unfortunately it was only good enough for second place – a fair showing!
It did of course come down to an elimination between My Favs: Michael & Andrew or Geanina & George with it sadly being that latter two who find themselves eliminated while Andrew stands in shocked cold silence seemingly staring into another dimension

Does he need some water?
As for Geanina and George, what a class act – just superbly wonderful people who deserve nothing but happiness and joy

I will greatly miss their presence in the final, they were delightfully uncompetitive and made the show that much more enjoyable for it – all they wanted to do was make nice things and I think they accomplished that and then some.

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