Bake Off 2021, Caramel Week: A Flock of Baguettes

The Jurgenator has entered Sleep Mode.

This week we see the return of Caramel Week – a theme last seen on the inaugural Channel 4 series of Bake Off and there’s a bit of a reason it was banished for several years considering The Stroopwafel Incident of Yore.

It’s All Gone a Bit Tarts Up

Kicking off the newly returned Caramel Week was a signature challenge for the bakers to create their best Caramel Tart which had to be a sharing size and beautifully decorated. The obvious trap with a caramel tart is the cooling times and with only 2.5 hours we were once again watching The Great British Sticking Things In The Freezer Because There’s Obviously Not Enough Time. But there were a few things the bakers could have done to make things A LOT easier for themselves, like you know… not choosing to make a baked caramel custard… Unfortunately for Curiously Confident George and Lizzie they had both fallen into the baked custard sandtrap and spent quite a lot of time commiserating on the floor in a private commune of shame and anguish

Lizzie had at least thought ahead and kind of themed hers around everyone’s favourite maritime disaster: The Titanic – or at least the name was a pun and I think those shards of caramelised pineapple are meant to be lifeboats on the roiling sea as the Titanic sunk?

big fan of Lizzie aiming for finesse and landing firmly in Unhinged Edible Diorama.
And while Lizzie helmed a sinking caramel ship, George was over on the other side of the tent creating the most cursed content to come out of Bake Off for quite some time as he piped cream onto a still very liquid tart

Look at the banana displacement! But don’t worry, it gets worse because he absolutely realised that this was a mistake and instead of scooping it off like a normal person, his panicked lizard brain kicked in and he just grabbed fistfuls of cream off of it

I hate it when the limbic system betrays my favs.
Granted the fact he had just done all that, he did end up with a tart that we could generously call decorated

as Paul said it does look a little bit like an Arctic apocalypse or the entire world’s population of polar bears slowly sinking into a very sticky quagmire, never to be seen again. It’s what they would have wanted.
The biggest issue with the tart though, other than you know FISTFULS OF CREAM, was the fact his custard had indeed split and even with the amount of caramel, toffee and bananas in there, it didn’t have much flavour apparently – I would say get Prue and Paul a Covid test but they did spend a significant amount of time telling a few of the bakers that their caramel tarts were too sweet…
As for George’s partner in ill-advised baked custard, Lizzie’s tart was holding together a little better and somehow looked like less of an arctic circle based disaster

it is a little melty still but her flavours at least garner her back some points and there’s the fact her tart base is very much holding firm and crisp.

Jurgen was also having to do a double bake but remained significantly more calm than Lizzie and George – the former gleefully relishing the turmoil and the latter glaring daggers at Crystelle as she began piping cream on a perfectly chilled tart. Jurgen’s decision did similarly result in a tart that lacked definition in its piping

the softness of the cream belied an interior of nut toffee that threatened to rob any unwary eater of at least 3 molars

I do have to somewhat admire Jurgen for even going ahead with the piping of his cream given the fact his tart was bubbling in the most ominous way that it possibly could

major Swamp of Sadness energy. It was not Jurgen’s finest hour.

As for the other bakers, they had at least chosen the sensible route of only having to bake their pastry cases which also gave them plenty of time to work on creating garnishes for a more decorative look – not that Lizzie’s flotilla of pineapple lifeboats wasn’t decorative…
I was a little surprised by the lack of Salted Caramel featured throughout this episode, but Crystelle was still on a one woman mission to make Miso Caramel the next big thing with her very cute autumnal looking offering

for a while it did look like Paul was going to give Crystelle another handshake but apparently he has the same face when he’s really enjoying something and when he’s contemplating if a caramel is too bitter or not. The final verdict being that Crystelle’s would have been too bitter but her cinnamon’d apples, nuts and cream managed to cut through it nicely. There is absolutely no mention of miso from either Paul or Prue – LIKE A DAGGER TO HER ASPIRATIONAL DUCHY ORGANIC BRAND HEART.

While Crystelle managed to perfectly balance her flavours, Chigs wasn’t quite so successful as he set about making what was essentially the world’s most overwhelming Millionaire’s Shortbread with a tart laden with caramel and chocolate ganache

he deserves some praise for being the only baker to attempt sugarwork – I apologise to Giuseppe but I’m not considering dipping hazelnuts in caramel as sugarwork

As for the judges’ verdict, Prue finds it all a bit too much which in my head makes it sound like the perfect caramel dessert because why else are you eating anything involving caramel if not specifically to feel that almost euphorically dizzy rush of sugar followed by the intermingling of deep regret and satisfaction? THAT is the essence of caramel, embrace joy!

Lastly we have Giuseppe and his Hazelnut and Apricot Caramel Tart, which did feature A LOT of hazelnuts and I was mostly pleased to see someone cutting things up like a normal person

after weeks of Amanda going full Hereditary Walnut Jump Scare on every kind of nut, it’s nice to be reminded that there is calm in the tent.
Much like everything Giuseppe does, the tart turned out looking very elegant

if, and forgive me Italian Father for I am about to sin, a touch plain and predictable? Giuseppe has a very polished and precise baking aesthetic but I’m not sure its exciting enough to win Bake Off, and the same goes for Jurgen too to be honest, and with only three episodes left after this one they better start embracing the gimmickery or they’re about to lose to Chigs or Crystelle. Sorry Lizzie, but the show is very much making you the Gretchen Wieners to Jurgen’s Glen Coco.
As for the verdict on Giuseppe’s tart – it’s a little too sweet for Prue which is a baffling critique of a caramel tart but I’m going to assume she meant the apricot element was too sweet. As for Paul, he was more concerned about the fact the hazelnuts were the hero flavour instead of the caramel – Paul just doesn’t appreciate the rich hazelnut history of Piemonte.

An Unofficial Caramel Tart Ranking

  1. Crystelle’s Waitrose Special
  2. Chigs’s Coma Inducing Caramel Tart
  3. Giuseppe’s Piemonte Pride Tart
  4. Lizzie’s Caramel Tart-anic
  5. Jurgen’s Caramel Dental Risk
  6. George’s WWF Showcase

Twix of the Trade

Continuing the trend that the Jammy Sandwich Biscuits started, the bakers find themselves having to create a batch of 10 Caramel Biscuit Bars That Definitely Aren’t Twixes™ and if this challenge accomplished anything it was proof that creating factory made baked goods is a fool’s errand, especially if even potential baking android, Giuseppe’s winning offerings are getting slated

this is just The Stroopwafel Fiasco all over again.

What I think I loved most about this challenge, other than everything George did, was the fact that in order to fill the time and offer critiques of the Subpar Twixes, Paul and Prue had to keep saying “The flavours are good” like they were a pair of chocolate sommeliers sampling the finest truffles Belgium had to offer and not bog-standard chocolate bars made of milk chocolate, plain shortbread and caramel.

Nobody suffered through this challenge more than poor George who had a nightmarish time from the moment his shortbread cracked

and then while making his caramel seemed to forgo the cream and went only with butter which resulted in an unpipeable toffee

and there’s only one solution for that

and while that offered a temporary solution, it did of course later just return to its tooth shattering toffee form

There’s goes Paul’s incisor.
While George was every bit the disaster, I do think he might be on to something with his Emergency Twix Loaf

sometimes chaos births the greatest feats of genius.
And while George’s Not Twixes were a risk to one’s dental future, at least they could get them into their mouths because Lizzie’s had become fused with the plate like some sort of caramelly symbiote

as for the rest of the bakers, their critiques landed mostly between “this biscuit is too soggy” and “your finish isn’t neat enough” because, and I cannot stress this enough, not a single soul is out there trying to make their own Twix.

An Official Definitely Not a Twix Ranking

  1. Giuseppe’s by The Magnitude of Everyone Else’s Failure
  2. Jurgen’s Twonks
  3. Chigs’s Begrudgingly Given Third Place
  4. Crystelle’s Caramel Droppage
  5. Whatever They Could Prize Off Lizzie’s Plate
  6. George’s Dental Disaster Bars

The Straw That Broke The Caramel’s Back

The final challenge for Caramel Week was for the bakers to create a caramel flavoured dessert that incorporated at least 1 baked item, 2 caramel components and all finished off with a sugarwork dome – the latter part of which at least meant some of the PPE the show invested in got used on camera

and Crystelle was only forced to use it by the time she reached her third attempt at making her sugar dome despite not using the balloon method

there’s only so much jeopardy a floor manager can take.

Much like the Caramel Tart challenge, the results of this Showstopper were all a little bit samey – there’s only so many things you can pair with caramel and only so many different mousses in the world, all of which were featured in Jurgen’s Never-ending 107 Step Dessert

There was: Caramel, hazelnut praline, caramel bavarois, a shortcrust bottom, mango and passion fruit bavarois, chocolate Genoise, more caramel bavarois, passion fruit glaze, the souls of the damned, a mango flower, ladyfingers AND BLUE! Mostly shocked he hadn’t brought in an entire super computer to help run the mammoth spreadsheet he had no doubt spent months cooking up.
And fair play to him, he managed to get all of it done in the time to a very pleasing result

at least from the aerial view, the ladyfingers aren’t the most elegant looking things in the world

it’s like a flock of baguettes huddling for warmth.
But beneath that stumpy fingered exterior, was a very even and pleasing cut-through

it’s all just so pristine and even, it’s really quite a marvel.
And the flavours go down just too with Prue having nothing to say about the sweetness despite there being a metric tonne of caramel and a Jairzeno amount of tropical fruit in there.

The only person to at least try and riff on the presentation of their dessert was, rather unsurprisingly, Lizzie who wasn’t creating a dome but creating a bowl because she’s not like other bakers, she’s a cool baker. And because this is Lizzie we’re talking about, she was of course also dyeing it blue

which did at least afford her protection from Paul commenting on how misty or opaque it was and likening it to a greenhouse in the winter.
As for what the dessert was… really it eludes categorisation as it all lay within that bowl like a creature hiding from the light

the main gripe is that it was all a little bit stodgy with Prue pining for some custard – quite how custard, a food that is by it’s definition a creator of stodge, is meant to remedy that I do not know but it would at least make the whole thing a certified trifle.
At least they commended her for her presentation and her swollen pastry roses are deemed as “having finesse”

which likely means it’s curtains for Lizzie next week as that’s the logical end point to her Bake Off narrative.

Given her own talents at piping roses, I was surpised that Crystelle didn’t use this as an opportunity to show it off again, instead she was branching out her botanical piping skills and creating a caramel cacti terrarium, which did of course feature more miso caramel – hey, you buy 1 jar of it, you might as well use it all. And making things doubly hard for herself, on top of the sugar dome she was attempting a dark chocolate mirror glaze which was incredibly dark and lent the whole thing a touch of dark arcane elegance

which made the reveal of the tiny delicate, very cute cacti that also looked a bit like an underwater Christmas scene a little funny

and she’s rather lucky there even was a reveal to be had considering the nightmare she had making the domes (plural) and by the fourth go she had everyone standing in the background looking like a boyband on the verge of a heart attack

Crystelle’s Dome Woes aside, the flavours of her dessert were very well received, the textures however are a little off, mostly because she had to use quite a bit of gelatine as they were being asked to make and set mousse (mousses? mice? moussidae?) in only four and a half hours so it’s no wonder her’s was slightly dry and Giuseppe’s could actually hold its own in a WWE Grand Slam

I did love that Giuseppe essentially just made the same thing as he did in the signature round, with his apricot and salted caramel glaze – his Caramel Dessert essentially just being the logical Pokémon evolution of his Apricot Caramel Tart AND NOBODY SAID A THING. But at least it wasn’t too sweet this time, it was just a pair of lycra pants away from winning an oversized gemstone encrusted belt.

Chigs was having gelatine issues of his own and in keeping with his new look of The Only Scientist Capable Doing The World Saving Equation in a Sci-Fi Film

Chigs was seemingly on a mission to create a new state of matter

I know we’ve already given the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Benjamin List and David MacMillan for The Development of Asymmetric Organocatalysis (the things you learn on this blog, huh?) and I’m sure that was very important work but Chigs’s Possibly Sentient Gummy Caramel would like some respect.
He did at least have the good sense to bin the caramel before it grew too strong in power and overtook the entire grounds of Down Hall Hotel. Unfortunately his second batch decided that it was not going to be friends with his mousse and weirdly all seeped out of it

I genuinely think that might be quite an impressive achievement? Benjamin List and David MacMillan COULD NEVER. I hope they vanity search for themselves, I’d love to hear from them and find out what the Hell an Organocatalysis is.
Much like Giuseppe’s the flavours are wonderful (it’s kind of hard to screw up Caramel, Coffee and Pecans) but the textures didn’t make the eating experience the most enjoyable thing in the world. I still think I’d hoover up ever last, drippy scrap of it.

And then we come to George who by this point had a rather insurmountable challenge to redeem himself and I admire him for how valiantly he continued on through this challenge. He was at least pushing himself a little more than the others who had all opted to make their domes and bowl using isomalt while he opted for pure, grade A sugar, which is a lot more delicate and prone to cracking – a big hazard when you’re George and tend to treat all of your bakes like there’s a long running familial grudge match between the two of you… that poor pavlova. But he and his sugar dome seemed to bond on a deeper emotional level

and his final dessert did look rather lovely

and it was indeed looking like George would manage to do it again and claw his way through another round purely on the grounds that someone else’s showstopper was a bigger flop than his but sadly his had quite a few textural issues with the whole thing being a touch dry and in desperate need of a mousse or a bavarois (Jurgen had plenty to spare) instead of the buttercream filling he had instead opted for, mostly I think because he had realised that 4.5 hours to set a mousse IS NONSENSE. I also take issue with Prue saying “I think if you do get a mouthful of everything it’s quite nice though” BECAUSE HOW ELSE ARE YOU EATING A DESSERT? I could have have done with Caramel Week being declared null and void to be quite honest.

An Unofficial Caramel Dessert Ranking

  1. Jurgen’s 107 Step Caramel Dessert of Never-ending Possibilities
  2. Lizzie’s Glorious Bowl of Stodge
  3. Crystelle’s Arcane Terrarium
  4. Giuseppe’s WWE Champion Dessert
  5. George’s Little Dome That Could
  6. Chigs’s Science Experiment

Having successfully pulled off cooking what essentially surmounts to The Anna Karenina of Desserts, there really was no other option than to give Jurgen the title of Star Baker this week

and by this point his family had thankfully learnt to sit by the phone at 3pm every day.
And after several weeks of managing to just hang on, it is with a heavy heart that George’s time in the tent ran out

I have loved every second of George being in that tent from his utter lack of delicacy to the begrudging eyerolls in every technical challenge – he is, in my eyes, a Bake Off All Star.

And so, 5 bakers carry on to the quarterfinals and Free-from Week

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