Bake Off: The Professionals, Series 5, Episode 2: Geometric Soup

These are the only facial expressions I pull during this show.

Ah yes, my favourite show: Professional Pastry Chefs Going Insane For 1 Hour.

Continuing this series’s trend of replacements, Venus of Team Jeffery and Venus fame has this week been replaced by Flora, who is her sister and Jeffery’s wife – it’s all a bit Dynasty with Cakes

as to why Venus was absent, all we get is “she’s a little bit sick” which is an ominous statement in The Age of The ‘Rona.

Don’t Hate The Layer, Hate The Game

The difficulty was being ramped up this week because the teams were each having to produce two individual items: one savoury and one sweet both of which, much like ogres and onions, had to have many layers. The Savoury Slice (or Fancy Sandwich if you’re Stacey Solomon) had to feature at least 5 layers made of at least 3 different elements, and then their dessert was a Crepe Cake which everyone was pronouncing as ambiguously as possible so that Liam and Stacey could make the same joke for 20 minutes.

Boglarka and Krisztian were being particularly ambitious with their savoury slices, drawing inspiration from a Hungarian version of a ratatouille known as Lesco – and Benoit was particularly horrified to find out they were using a total of 49 ingredients in said slice, which wasn’t overly surprising given that they had very much overcomplicated the whole thing by deciding to make 5 elements including a potato rosti and a “smoked sausage cream” which honestly sounds nightmarish

as was want to happen, they very rapidly fell behind time trying to get all of their elements made and never quite got all of their slices fully up to scratch

the colour combination is very much reading as Christmas cake, but like the sad Christmas cake that Yuletide Miss Havisham would have fermenting away in her attic. Sadly the flavours couldn’t even really save them with Benoit finding them all too bitter and the slices slightly dry.

Their Crepe Cakes faired a little better, they still didn’t look *great* with each of them being accompanied by a chocolate shard that looked like the facade of a derelict building, thus making their offering of crepe cakes look like some sort of decaying dystopian cityscape

the judges, while not overly impressed with their presentation, did at least like the flavour combination of cow’s milk and dill oil – the latter of which did indeed ooze out of the slice when you cut it like it was a practical effect in one of the Alien movies

the judges were significantly more taken with the Blood of Shreksus Christ than I was and praised them for the concept and implored them to, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop attempting to do too much in the future.

Boglarka and Krisztian were not the only ones to get a little carried away with their concept as Robert and Mireia also very quickly fell behind with the amount of work they were putting in. Their Savoury Slice, largely made by Robert, was a much more typical and expected flavour with its star ingredient of crab featuring in both their Crab and Scallop Mousse as well as their Brown Crab Mayo topping, which was flavoured with a very specific “Wang of Worcester Sauce”, which certainly wanged Benoit around the face when he tasted it

Robert could have probably have done with a few shots of Worcester Sauce to get himself going because he did fall behind time, which isn’t altogether surprising given that he was weighing out his flour like it was an egg and spoon race at a junior school sports day

and while by some miracle he didn’t end up covering 80% of the kitchen with a trowelful of flour, his balance and coordination had waned by the time he had to start plating up and his savoury slice jumped to its death with a rather satisfying splat

but given that most of their savoury slice had autodefenstrated itself out of the competition, they still managed to serve the full 24 required slices

and to me, the biggest crime here is the fact the colour combination is not particularly appetising – it’s like sunbleached 70s wallpaper colours. The judges did at least really love their flavours though and deemed them the best tasting slice of the competition.

Robert wasn’t floundering alone as Miriea struggled to build up any sort of rhythm or speed to her crepe making, having only started hers while everyone else was finishing up which didn’t leave much time to finesse her plating as she just savagely hacked into her stack of crepes to portion it out

and there was nothing Robert could do to help because despite Miriea force-feeding him pineapple at home (which he’s allergic to) the Bake Off Health and Safety Officer was not going to allow anyone to fall on their anaphylactic sword for the sake of a decent stack of crepes, so Miriea’s Crepe Cakes looked like they could have done with a self yeeting of their own

the choice to make them square was distinctly odd because it does make them look like an anaemic lasagne.
Much like their savoury slice, the judges can’t say much for the look of it, but they do like the flavour profile – not that they could really criticise is given it was the obligatory Pina Colada flavoured dessert of the episode.

Nathan and Kevin had also opted for a fishy savoury slice, opting for a Smoked Salmon Mousse which was being accompanied by an asparagus element as well as a Tomato Gel which Nathan was presenting in the style of an unhinged child’s finger-painting

and then to further amplify the tomatoiness there was also a tomato sponge which Nathan had a very fraught relationship with

just break up mate, there’s plenty more… tomato sponges in the patisserie?

His relationship woes aside, Nathan did eventually manage to plate up 24 extremely good savoury slices, which were certainly the most vibrant of the bunch with them all looking a little bit like one of those very beautiful sea slugs

and the praise from the judges didn’t stop at their appearance with Cherish loving their balance of classic flavours.

The slices were going to be a tough act to follow, but their crepe cakes were going to be equally eye catching with Kevin making crepes with a batter that looked like Tubby Custard

I expected them to somewhat lose their vibrance once they were cooked however that could not have been further from the truth

I would very much like to eat the nonsense Teletubby dessert. Although, I am hesitant about the blueberry jelly they topped them with which did look a bit like an eyeball

I’ve heard of a Sharing Dessert but never a Staring Dessert

and Kevin had really gone all out for brownie points from Cherish by weighing out every single scoop of the banana cream filling – although he might have wanted to use a little less because Benoit’s critique of their dessert did mostly amount to him screaming “BANANA!” at them like a Minions Meme on Facebook

and while Kevin fell on the right side of Cherish Finden’s merciless ruler, Flora unfortunately did not as her Crepe Stacks were all a little bit uneven

but they did like their flavour profile and the use of the Kalamansi, although their actual crepes could have done with a little refining as they leant slightly too doughy.

Jeffery was on Savoury Slice Duty, his being inspired by a Full English Breakfast which was inexplicably topped with “a cube of chicken soup” and the thought of geometric soup really tickled me

apparently the shapely soup was to cleanse the palate to be properly prepared for the onslaught of black pepper that Jeffery had karate chopped into his layers

an experience that Benoit was not entirely too fond of, Cherish’s biggest issue was with the fact the mushrooms were apparently the overpowering element.

Lastly we have David and Cydrick who were definitely on Stacey Solomon’s Fancy Sandwich wavelength with their savoury slice basically being a Ham and Cheese Sarnie with layers of cheddar mousse and braised gammon all topped with a pickled walnut as a nod to the accompanying side of Salt and Vinegar Crisps

it’s a great concept and the pared back simplicity of it is exactly what this challenge called for – Benoit was particularly taken with the ingenuity of the pickled walnuts.

Their Crepe Stacks were similarly simple – being chocolate and hazelnut with a Rum Chantilly filling as a bribe

the judges weren’t overwhelmingly blown away by it, it’s a very expected flavour combination and nothing about it really put it over the edge to make it truly special other than the fact David continued his circus tricks by insisting on flipping his crepes

I want hear all about his former life as a circus performer as I am increasingly convinced he must have been.

An Unofficial Layered Patisserie Ranking

  1. The Taste of Robert and Miriea’s Savoury Stack
  2. Nathan and Kevin’s Beautiful Savoury Sea Slug
  3. David and Cydrick’s Fancy Sandwich
  4. Nathan and Kevin’s Tubby Pancakes
  5. The Desolate, Nuclear Wasteland of Crepe City
  6. Jeffery and Flora’s Slice of Pepper Spray
  7. David and Cydrick’s Uninspired Crepe Cakes
  8. The Sight of Robert and Miriea’s Savoury Stack
  9. Jeffery and Flora’s Uneven Stacks
  10. Anaemic Lasagnes
  11. Miss Havisham’s Hors d’Oeuvres

There’s a Good Sport

For this week’s Showpiece Challenge the teams had to create a Piece Montee, which Google unhelpfully translates to “cake”, but is more directly translated to “mounted pieces”, which was understandable considering their Showpiece had to be made out of 160 choux buns in 2 different flavours AND USING ABSOLUTELY NO MOULDS, DID YOU HEAR THAT JEFFERY? NO. MOULDS. And because this is Bake Off, there did have to be a theme with the choice this week inexplicably being Sports – I admire the absolutely lack of effort to even vaguely link it to the layers theme of the last challenge. I don’t know, your favourite skyscraper?

Naturally with the theme being sports, most of the teams instantly gravitated towards The Olympics but sadly, I imagine because of copyright issues, none of them could build a choux bun shrine to the best Olympic Mascot: Amik the Gay beaver from Montreal 1976

and the things I would have given to see someone try to build the 1998 Winter Olympics owlets that looked like someone’s DeviantArt Sonic OCs (do not steal) out of choux pastry is unfathomable

instead we got a few nods to some of the Cauldrons and some sporting equipment rendered in nougatine and caramel- BOO!

In order to make the challenge somewhat achievable, the teams were allowed to make and freeze their pre-baked choux buns the day before, not that this ended up doing Robert and Mireia any good because their pre-made choux buns had to be binned because they didn’t rise

and so began Robert’s second attempt at choux pastry which was not going well because it just wasn’t coming together, which Mireia seemed to realise but Robert had faith in The Little Batch of Choux That Eventually Wouldn’t

and when Robert finally conceded defeat to The Choux Gods, the very life and soul left Mireia

and I probably would have given up entirely by the time the second batch didn’t work, or at the very least orchestrated a Mission Impossible style heist and stolen a few choux buns from everyone else by cable dropping in from the ceiling

but they are better people than I and kept faith in their patisserie skills, eventually ending up with a decent two thirds of a Piece Montee honouring the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, which happened to be Miriea’s hometown

beyond the flags there’s not a great deal to indicate that this is The Olympic Games, and even then it does look a bit more like a school hall on Geography Awareness Week, but the fact there’s anything at all is quite impressive considering what the two of them went through.

What I did really appreciate about Robert and Mireia’s showpiece though was the fact the flavours went with the theme, having opted for Spanish flavour. The first of their choux buns being filled with a Turron Cream and the other a Crema Catalana. The latter went down the best, while the Turron was praised for its texture but denigrated for their use of almond essence because Benoit has decided that almond essence is The Devil and must be expunged from this Earth.

Robert and Mireia weren’t the only ones having to make an emergency second batch of choux though with David and Cydrick having to make one too. Albeit for the opposite reason with their first batch being a little too large – they were initially perfectly happy with them but then Benoit compared them to Yorkshire Puddings and the fear of being even tangentially British set in so they binned them. It’s a decision that I can respect. Much like Mireia and Robert, they were also basing their design around the Olympic Games being hosted in their hometown, which did mean they had to hark all the way back to 1924, which predates The Olympics being fun and having insane mascot ideas. Also, it means that Paris 2024 will be exactly 100 years since they last hosted, so that’s fun.

Their flavours were a little less related to the theme, flavouring one batch with Salted Caramel Popcorn and the other with S’mores which are kind of just nice crowd pleasing flavours, unless your crowd is two very distinguished patisserie chefs

the S’mores one was at least a little more related because they had indeed also incorporated an Olympic torch into their building, and were surprisingly the only team to do so

you could have dimmed the lights *a little*, production.

The only part of the Showpiece that Benoit was particularly taken with were the sugarwork laurels, the rest looked a little too messy for him and sadly their S’mores Choux Buns didn’t have a lot of flavour, and their salted caramel popcorn choux were just a little bit uninspired. Which is a fair critique because Boglarka and Krisztian were also making a Salted Caramel Choux Bun to help build their Kayak themed Piece Montee, kayaking being Boglarka’s sport of choice apparently

it doesn’t really look like a kayak so much as it does a wicker basket that the future King of Israel is about to be sent down the Nile River in, but at least it’s boating adjacent – Cherish on the other hand saw a pizza oven. It’s like a Patisserie Rorschach Test.

Their popcorn choux was mostly criticised for being unbalanced with Cherish getting no salted caramel and Benoit getting a big lump of it. Their second choux bun, filled with a pumpkin flavoured custard went down much better despite the judges being very sceptical about it to begin with, however their accompanying ganache was a touch too salty, so perhaps we found the lost Salted Caramel?

Jeffery and Flora were also making a piece inspired by their home country, theirs being Hong Kong and specifically theming it around Hong Kong’s first Olympic Gold Medal in fencing, won by Cheung Ka Long in Tokyo. There was a little bit of controversy around their structure given that the brief explicitly called for a freeform Choux Bun structure, however Jeffery was very much using a mould, as much as he tried to do it on the floor behind the workstation

his logic seemed to be that it wasn’t a pre-bought mould, he had in fact made it himself – and that would have been fine had they not just been gluing their Choux Buns to the moulded piece of sugar

it’s also not incredibly clear what their structure actually was even though they were the only team to include The Olympic rings, which were mostly strategically not in frame (I imagine for legal purposes)

the top portion of the structure is where the confusion really sets in because it did look a bit like a UFO was raining down fire on a quaint countryside tea room

but at least it’s interesting and a talking point?

As for their choux, they had some pretty divisive flavours with their first being a Chocolate Ganache paired with Black Olives and enough caramel to make a dentist a very rich person

despite the judges’ scepticism over the black olives, they did actually really rate it quite highly, once they had eventually smashed their way through the bulletproof caramel.
Their second choux bun was a little more expected with it just being a dose of double raspberry – it didn’t go down quite as well with the compote being too acidic and the cream being described as “gritty” which is a distressing mouthfeel to imagine.

Lastly we have Nathan and Kevin whose Piece Montee was themed around Street Basketball which saw its Olympic Debut in the 20201 Tokyo Games. In order to keep their Bake Off Crowns, they were going particularly daring with their structure, opting for two layers

purely for the wow factor, I am assured that they do not in fact play Street Basketball on a court with a mezzanine.

Unfortunately for Nathan and Kevin, nougatine doesn’t lend itself particularly well to being a load bearing material and the cracks almost instantly began to show

and sure enough, much like Pitbull in the hit song “Timber”, it’s going down, I’m yelling “Timber!”

I haven’t seen a basketball related collapse like this since Space Jam 2: Pop Culture Reference Boogaloo. And while that is gutting for them, I did enjoy that the fallen structure looked a bit like that goose from The Rugrats that inexplicably had a set of human teeth

this is the origin story of every 90s kid’s anatidaephobia.

They were also pushing themselves with the flavours in their choux buns, one of which was flavoured using the always risky lavender and a fruit called “soursop” which looks like a spiky avocado, tastes like a strawberry had a baby with an apple and apparently has the texture of a banana – it’s Frankenstein’s Fruity Monster, which was also my nickname at school. The judges couldn’t taste the lavender (a net positive, we didn’t want another Norman moment) and their second choux bun flavoured with Cactus and Beetroot had similar problems with the cactus not being discernible enough, Cherish’s remedy being to shove a lump of cactus into every choux bun. Give the woman her cactus, ask questions later.

An Official Choux Bun Showpiece Ranking

  1. The Collapsed Basketball Mezzanine, Somehow
  2. War of the Cotswolds
  3. David and Cydrick Need S’more Refinement
  4. A Geography Diorama Gone Awry
  5. Baby Moses’s Choux Basket

This was quite a difficult one to judge because everyone had fallen a little short in the Showpiece Challenge whether it be lacking flavour or general structural shortcomings (or both). There was a pretty solid argument for anyone to go home, and for a while it did look like Robert and Miriea would be the obvious choice but I think the judges really appreciated how much they managed to pull their Showpiece out of the proverbial toilet which did very much put Boglarka and Krisztian in the crosshairs and unfortunately they were eliminated

just as I’d learnt how to confidently spell Krisztian’s name too!

And so we’re down to 10 remaining teams

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