Bake Off 2021, Dessert Week: Catherine of Aragon From Next Door

Personally I’m only ever happy if Chigs is happy.

Dessert Week is upon us so expect some setting nightmares and would you care for more sin with your cake, dear Adam?

It’s All Pavlova Now

The Signature Challenge for this year’s Dessert Week was for the bakers to create a pavlova and while they were encouraged to go absolutely buck wild with their flavours and design, it was rather unsurprising that Maggie was indeed keeping things basic because in her words “There’s no need to enhance things.” I like to think she’s doing this as a protest against the axing of The History Bit™ – I fully believe there’s an entire 5 minute segment on the cutting room floor of Maggie just about giving a PowerPoint presentation on Anna Pavlova AND I FOR ONE WOULD HAVE BEEN GRIPPED. I did once convince someone that Pavlovas were named after Ivan Pavlov of Pavlov’s Dogs fame – it was my proudest moment.
Maggie’s pavlova was the usual summer fruits and the very moment they specified they were “frozen summer fruits” I started mentally packing Maggie’s bags and then she started burning her meringues and well, her fate was sealed only 2 and a half hours into Dessert Week

and while everyone else had gone to the efforts of beautifully piping their meringues into crisp, aesthetically pleasing designs, Maggie’s was more akin to a dry stone wall

the judges did praise the flavours of the pavlova – it’s kind of hard to be mad at summer fruits, isn’t it? The design is generously described as “informal” and Maggie was left to just stare at it like it had severely disappointed her

How dare you only gain Honourable Mention at the Sussex County Fair!?
But she wasn’t the only one to have an issue with presentation as George found himself hampered by the apparent 1 oven per baker rule, despite the fact we’ve eliminated 3 bakers and there must be spare ovens SOMEWHERE. WHERE HAVE THEY GONE? WHERE ARE THE OVENS?
Meringues obviously take a while to cook because you have to let them cool in the dratted oven and if you take them out to cool they crack like Phi Phi O’Hara’s face during the mirror reveal in All Stars 2

and George, not happy with just baking a meringue was also wanting to top his pavlova with speculoos biscuits – every day I get closer to my Horrible Speculoos Euripides, one day, one day soon… He thought he had a solution though and transferred his meringue to the proving drawer, and in true George fashion did it with as little grace or delicacy as he possibly could – he is truly everything Anna Pavlova wasn’t.
After its ill-treatment I believe his meringue may have cracked purely out of spite

but George had a plan to disguise its fractured appearance, I’m not quite sure why pipping great big thick ribbons of questionably chunky cream was his Plan A but he sure went for it

and then as a final flourish and to ensure that everyone knew his Pavlova was meant to be a lemon-y overload he garnished it with an abundance of lemon slices

I don’t even really know why but it unnerves me greatly.
Much like Maggie, his presentation is called out as “utterly horrible” and the fact his meringue was almost completely marshmallow didn’t earn him many redeeming points but they did like his flavours, so it’s the usual George critique then. At least he has a brand.

Freya had an uphill battle in this round, mostly because Paul Hollywood was determined to undermine vegan baking at any turn he could like we were back in 2012. She was of course using aquafaba instead of the usual egg whites, the downside being that it’s not quite as good at holding its shape, and perhaps because of this Freya was going all out on her piping

her flavours were also set to please with her taking the basic components of a Peach Melba and combining them into a bit of fruity hellhole in the centre of an otherwise beautiful pavlova

the colour of the raspberry coulis is distinctly distressing when contrasted with caramelised peaches. And while on paper a Peach Melba Pavlova sounds really quite divine, it didn’t translate with the judges thinking it needed a little more tanginess to bring it all together.

And if you thought Freya’s coulis was a distressing colour, Lizzie, as unsurprisingly as Maggie deciding against making anything you wouldn’t find in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, had decided to dye her meringue purple with the final colour of it being distinctly the same shade as the skin of a vampire in a MMORPG

she was theming her pavlova around Easter and because lambs are associated with Easter she was filling her pavlova with a rosemary crème diplomat which she was indeed dyeing green, and no it did not make her purple meringue look anymore appetising

it’s at least quite an achievement to make something green and purple that in no way could be read as Barney the Dinosaur, not quite so successful is the fact the whole thing is a little stodgy which if anything at least suits the greenness of it all. They do however like the blueberry and rosemary combination.

Not quite so successful with her flavours was Amanda whose chocolate mascarpone filling was a little bit too overpowering in her pavlova that was absolutely ripped from the pages of BBC Good Food’s February issue

you’re asked to come in with 20 pre-prepared recipes, corners have to be cut, it’s fine! At least it looked pretty and wasn’t the colour of a Cbeebies character, it was a pretty low bar for this week’s signature guys.

Jurgen was out for redemption after a Bread Week that I think we’d all like to soon forget and his hopes lay in a Pavlova inspired by Passover as his wife herself is Jewish. And he was of course using some traditional Jewish ingredients and flavours, inluding a trio of matzah pyramids and a Charoset Paste made from dates and oranges. The latter had the judges worried because dates are sweet and meringues are sweet. It’s almost like most fruit is sweet and this is a dessert?
The Judges weren’t overwhelming positive about the presentation which they described as “a little bit untidy”

A little more care with the placement of the fruit on top though and he would have been golden, I think a Matzah Pyramid is always going to be a hard sell in terms of aesthetics.
They did at least love the flavours and are now proud Date-Pavlova converts and they were delighted that there was enough acidity to cut through the sweetness of the meringue which they had somehow thought there wouldn’t be despite the fact Jurgen explicitly told them that there was an entire orange in his Charoset paste…

Jurgen’s rival for Continental Father of the Year, Giuseppe was also taking a familial route with a pavlova inspired by his family holidays to the beach with a peach and coconut pavlova that he explained in the most intense, engineer fashion he could, giving Paul and Prue a complete run down of his oven times and temperatures like he was talking them through the disabling of a bomb. His Pavlova wasn’t quite so intense and looked very summery if maybe a touch uninteresting

“summery and uninteresting” basically being a pavlovas entire MO.
His flavours were praised very highly, however it did need to bake for longer because Paul was able to rip off the walls of his pavlovas like it was a house that someone on Homes Under The Hammer bought without having a viewing first. HOW MANY TIMES DO DION DUBLIN AND MARTIN ROBERTS HAVE TO TELL YOU?

Crystelle had structural problems of her own, although at least her impenetrable meringue walls kept the destructive forces of Paul Hollywood’s grabby hands at bay. She had had to settle for making her own take on a Key Lime Pie because apparently her Godmother Whomst Is Famed For Pavlovas deemed her unworthy of her secret recipe. Oh to be a fly on the wall during that discussion… I suspect it went a lot like this

all was not lost with her key lime pie, which in true Bake Off fashion was being made with Kimi just for the Kiwi Lime Pie pun – and it’s nice to know that the spirit of Jairzeno lives on in the tent as she created her own mass kiwi grave

and out of all of the Pavlvoas, Crystelle certainly looked the most like a fully fledged dessert centrepiece, if maybe a touch too much like the gaping maw of a lamprey

it’s the risk you run when making a pavlova.
And Paul Hollywood’s unquenchable thirst for a Key Lime Pie was at least sated for now and he didn’t seem to mind the inclusion of the kiwis too much.

It was Chigs however who had the strongest round with his Tropical Fruit Pavlova

it looks stunning as a whole but look how well it holds its slices

in comparison to everyone else’s that pretty much fell to pieces the moment you so much as touched with the knife – AND THE HEIGHT OF IT!
And in the eyes of Paul it was a completely unfaultable pieces of baking and Chigs gets a handshake!

the force with which Paul thrust out his hand did seem to take Crystelle by surprise at first, and I too might have thought Paul was about to shank Chigs

not to entirely dismiss Chigs’s baking success but we can’t entirely ignore the fact he was absolutely power-staring Paul into that handshake

Jedi Jim, eat your heart out! Does anyone remember Jedi Jim? I suppose there’s your irrelevant media reference for the recap at least.
And thus began The Great Chigs Renaissance.

An Unofficial Pavlova Ranking

  1. Chigs’s Almost Accidentally God Tier Pavlova
  2. Jurgen’s Date Conversion Efforts
  3. Crystelle Trying To Earn Her Godmother’s Respect
  4. Giuseppe on the Beach
  5. Amanda’s Broken-hearted Good Food Plagiarism
  6. Freya’s Vegan Hellhole
  7. Lizzie’s gonna Lizzie
  8. George Can Have an Extra Oven As a Treat?
  9. Maggie’s Anti-modernity Protestations

A Sticky Situation

For their Technical Challenge this week the bakers had to take on the classic Sticky Toffee Pudding which was being unfortunately fussed up with the addition of a crème Anglaise and tuiles – I can understand the custard but I will not forgive the tuiles and Freya seems to be on the same page as me

RIP Lady Tuile.
And all that in 90 minutes had Giuseppe terrified

and despite the fact Sticky Toffee Puddings are basically the primordial stew of the dessert world, Maggie has never made one. Which is pretty obvious in hindsight. As usual it looked all set to be the toffee sauce and the Crème Anglaise that caused everyone the biggest issues with Amanda making the dreaded Sweetened Scrambled Egg to accompany an all too anaemic toffee sauce

and George managing to burn his caramel within seconds of the challenge starting and desperately trying to add enough vanilla to it to try and mask the burning smell – it did not work. Not that his caramel was the most burnt thing served up to the judges this round… Nobody had quite as big a toffee sauce mishap as Chigs whose “sauce” had to be coaxed out of the jug like a frightened animal

but hey, at least they all managed to redeem themselves by successfully baking a quartet of Sticky Toffee Puddings. Maggie on the other hand had somehow managed to go through the entire mixing process of her pudding batter and not once question why there was no flour in it, even as she poured a distinctly liquid mixture in her moulds

it was Giuseppe who had to break the unfortunate news that there was indeed flour in the recipe and sadly he’s far too calm a man because if ANYONE else had done this we’d have have another delicious baked icing moment. It was probably kinder to Maggie who still had to turn out her flourless puddings

that crash zoom onto the poor cremated remains is high art and of course nothing quite prepared me for the slow pan across the puddings, which for the most part at least resembled the efforts of a pub with a questionable star rating on TripAdvisor, only to finally reach Maggie’s which resembled a squadron of fossilised Pteranodons

and sadly nobody could goad Paul into even so much as licking one of them, SPOIL SPORT! You tasted Freya’s raw sticky toffee puddings and they, rather ironically, looked like she had opened a can of mystery meat

all was not lost in the tent though as Jurgen had a return to form with his sticky toffee puddings that practically received rapturous applause and an Oscar nomination compared to everyone else’s.

An Official Sticky Toffee Pudding Ranking

  1. Jurgen’s Sticky Toffee Triumph
  2. Lizzie’s Stiffly Sauced Puddings
  3. Chigs’s Sticky Toffee Pudding and Coy Sauce
  4. Giuseppe’s Slightly Under-baked Puddings
  5. Crystelle’s Stodgey and Raw Puddings Being Fifth Is an Indication of the Degree of Failure in the Tent
  6. Freya’s Mystery Meat Puddings
  7. George’s Biggest Crime Was Making Treacle Sauce
  8. Amanda’s Obligatory Sugary Scrambled Eggs
  9. Maggie Reanimating Prehistoric Life

That Don’t Imprime Me Much

For the final challenge of Dessert Week the bakers find themselves having to dip their toes into the turbulent waters of Bake Off: The Professionals as they take on Imprime Cakes featuring decorative joconde collars. They were at least granted somewhat of a reprieve in that they only had to feature two separate layers and they weren’t going to have to be judged by Cherish Finden and her ruler

as for Benoit, most of them could take him in a fight I reckon.

Even with the call for grandness and celebration, Maggie was sticking to her village fete guns and wasn’t venturing anywhere beyond strawberries

it’s Norman and vanilla all over again except sadly we’ll never get to the episode where Maggie finally snaps and laces some meringues with enough lavender to knock Paul Hollywood unconscious. With the pressure building, her nerves get the better of her and she de-tinned her joconde sponge too early meaning she had to start again. But not before she started grabbing fistfuls of semi-raw cake in frustration

it does at least look quite stress relieving.
This of course set her behind and meant her cake never quite got enough time to cool and her layers struggled to set, of which she was indeed trying to valiantly pass off a drizzle of raspberry coulis off as “a layer”… And with her what-we-shall-generously-call-layers never really managing to set in time, she was forced to try and hold it together like a frightened dog on Bonfire Night

but alas, like a metaphorical scarred chihuahua, it did all get a bit leaky

there were indeed no prizes for guessing who was going home this week because not even Paul talking about Freya’s vegan substitutes like they had publicly shamed his entire family and he was seeking retribution against them was going to save Maggie. And Freya’s Imprime Cake really wasn’t great as her Chocolate Tofu Mousse had fully returned to being tofu by the time the judges ate it, but Prue at least defended the quality of her Joconde Sponge, even if the pattern she had put on it had somewhat been lost

the murkiness of the orange jelly and the loss of the pattern does make it all look a bit like a preserved Roman bath.
I think her biggest mistake was doing orange against a chocolate cake, the colours just didn’t contrast enough and so basically everyone else doing pale vanilla jocondes means Freya’s did stick out a little bit.

The only other baker to opt for a chocolate joconde was Chigs, whose celebratory imprime cake was being used for the most auspicious of occasions: his sister retiling her bathroom – with the design on his collar being a recreation of the pattern meaning his sister has quite the bathroom floor

it’s not the tidiest patterning we’ve ever seen but the judges praise it the heavens, imaginably because Channel 4 was the brief haven of Changing Rooms this year and so nobody was allowed to question anyone’s interior design choices. Stones in glass houses and all that.
In terms of his flavours, he was continuing the tradition of using the flavour profile of a Black Forest Gateau and suddenly 4 episodes into this year’s series and Prue Leith has decided to tell everyone that she doesn’t really like a Black Forest Gateau – YOU ATE THREE MINI ROLLS WORTH OF ONE AND SAID NOTHING. But she did like Chigs’s and noted that his Cherry Mousse and Chocolate bavarois were absolute perfection.

Chigs wasn’t the only baker reaching for the lofty height of two tiers as George kind of realised he needed to redeem himself after a face-cracking meringue and committing the unforgiveable crime of *checks notes* making treacle. I’ll stand by saying he was absolutely not the third worst in that technical challenge. It did seem he had bitten off a little more than he could chew, both in terms of assembling the thing to a polished standard

and the fact he had layered the middle of it with a disc of peanut encrusted chocolate so thick every dentist in the country should probably do a PSA warning against it

but of the bits everyone can safely chew their way through, he gets pretty positive reviews, so it is indeed The Usual George Critique™. I cannot wait for this king of a man to fully Laura his way to the final by there always somehow being someone just a little bit worse. I fear Giuseppe or Jurgen might be our Hermine.

Speaking of The Continental Fatherhood, Jurgen was joining Maggie and doing everything in his power to drag The History Bit™ kicking and screaming out of whatever cupboard the producers tied it up and bungled it into with an imprime cake inspired by Pastime with Good Company, a song composed by King Henry VIII (supposedly) for Catherine of Aragon. I love that he called her “Catherine of Aragon From The 16th Century” lest we confuse her with Catherine of Aragon From next door. Sadly Jurgen didn’t have his trombone on hand to give us a sample but he did at least hum it at Paul’s request

who doesn’t love a little bit of dinner theatre?
And his cake did look pretty impressive, we’ll forgive the few bubbles in the white wine jelly because his music note piping is wonderful

I am however FUMING that he dared to tell us that he once made the same cake but Star Trek themed

I can only imagine that the Bake Off lawyers couldn’t OK that one because I refuse to believe Jurgen wouldn’t have tried to make it again.

While Jurgen championed the one redeeming feature of Henry VIII, Giuseppe was drawing his inspiration from his father who was a professional chef and once made a simialr sort of cake for a friend’s wedding, so his final design was quite subtle and elegant looking

I’m beginning to worry about how far Giuseppe can keep going with relatively simple looking bakes, which to be fair are always impeccably well made, in a show that has come to rely on gimmicks and shenanigans like a novelty Liverpudlian wheelie bin – and I do mean the prop, I’m not giving Lizzie a very rude nickname

pretty much the only critique Lizzie’s cityscape of Liverpool really gets is that it does look a bit like a child drew it on the wall using crayons

and that somehow the Bavarois inside it is as tough as shoe leather, which in many ways is pretty impressive, none of them positive.

I think the most impressive piping of the entire episode was from Amanda, whose Garden of Eden insired design, while delightfully unhinged, was really rather stunning

Personally I love to eat cake while being constantly reminded of the concept of sin.
Unfortunately she had a little bit of a leaking issue with the maple syrup glaze and instead of making like Maggie and trying to hold the whole thing together, she just slammed the freezer door shut and tried her best to pretend she hadn’t seen it

a bit worried that that was the reaction of a police detective, but I think we’ve all learned not to expect great [ARIADNE STOP THIS SENTENCE.]
And the final result, while at least still standing does deserve the honour of being dubbed A Dessert with a Threatening Aura

Bleeding Forest of Snakes is both certainly a vibe and an excellent heavy metal band name.
The judges are hugely complimentary of her flavours, mostly because the whole thing does taste overwhelmingly of calvados and her layers were incredibly well defined given the general leakiness of the whole thing

Amanda wasn’t the only one going boozy as Crystelle was tonight’s designated pina colada maker and she was an incredibly generous bartender as her lime jelly needed 13 leaves of gelatine in order to adequately account for the amount of rum in it. And to fit in with the pina colada flavour profile, the cake did of course look like a pineapple, which did mean her collar design was a little bit minimal

it’s still incredibly polished and well made though! Not to mention even.
Unsurprisingly the judges love it and Prue Leith ascends to another plane of existence on the fumes of the rum alone

so tick off “Prue Loves Booze” (just like Mary Berry did, funny that?) on your Bake Off Bingo Cards.

An Unofficial Imprime Cake Ranking

  1. Crystelle’s Rummy Pineapple
  2. Happy New Bathroom Tiles Day to Chigs’s Sister
  3. Jurgen’s Tudor Redemption
  4. Giuseppe’s Gonna Giuseppe
  5. Amanda’s Biblical Forest of Bleeding Snakes
  6. An Imprime Cake by Lizzie aged 28½
  7. George Just Really Likes Peanuts
  8. Freya’s Roman Bath Diorama
  9. Maggie Barely Keeping It Together, But Classically

Despite the best efforts of Jurgen to come back with a bang and score his third Star Baker after the dud of a Bread Week, and we know he meant business because of his Power Baking Stance

but Chigs was just an unstoppable dessert powered bullet train and thus he takes his first Star Baker title

VIVE LA RÉVOLUTION! Da Vinci eat your heart out, this is the real Renaissance. Burn The Mona Lisa.

And then of course everyone does their best to add even a modicum of tension into who might go home with the very obvious choice being Maggie

She came, she flavoured most of her bakes with summer fruits, casually revived prehistoric life like the ultimate midwife and then she left! And not once did she stop smiling, truly a joy and an excellent addition to this year’s tent.

and so, 8 bakers continue on to the potential minefield that is German Week where Jurgen will have to bake everything with 1 hand tied behind his back

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2 thoughts on “Bake Off 2021, Dessert Week: Catherine of Aragon From Next Door

  1. Anja

    From the inspiration of a Tudor composition to a nifty bathroom floor tile design Chiggs may have admired with while going to the toilet, GBBO never fails to entertain.

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