Pastry week was tough for some of the bakers. Making your own is a disappearing art. Many home bakers prefer to buy readymade shortcrust from the supermarket chiller, and even experienced cooks may not bother to make puff pastry from scratch. It’s time-consuming and not guaranteed to be better than bought.
Pastry caused Radlett’s finest — Stacey Hart — to come unstuck. The opening teaser scenes revealed her confidence crumbling faster than the walls of her hand-raised pie. Each challenge saw her star fall further from the glory of caramel week. Would her pitiful Portuguese tarts see her heading out of the tent for good?
The signature challenge was four savoury shortcrust pies. The decoration needed to be linked by a theme. As Prue Leith explained, intricate pastry work takes a lot of skill. The more you mess around with it, the less likely you are to achieve that delicious crumbly texture.
Some of the bakers’ choices of decoration were unsurprising - Yan’s nerd pies honouring her scientific heroes, for example. The self-confessed boffin had even worked out an equation for the perfect pie - sadly it didn't need pi.
Steven’s Fleetwood Mac-inspired pies included a songbird motif and Kate had chosen to carve pastry images of her heroes Shakespeare, Amelia Eckhardt, John Lennon and Einstein.
Stacey’s "love" theme was in line with her girly leanings. “They remind me of something my Grandma Elsa would have made,” she explained. She upped the kitsch factor by colouring her egg wash red.
New teachers’ pet, Sophie, managed two ticks from Hollywood and Leith — who termed her four season-themed pies “a triumph”. Liam’s football-inspired pies, presented on their own mini football pitch, also won high praise.
So reminiscent of his nan’s baking were Stacey’s pies that they almost made Paul Hollywood’s steely blue peepers mist over for a second. “A proper northern pie” he swooned — but he stopped short of a handshake. No one received one this week — perhaps he had sore paws after last week’s shakeathon.
Poor Yan’s pies were a termed “a mess” by the judges, while Julia’s "things you’d find on a tree"-pies were pronounced best buried under a tree.
The technical round was devilishly challenging. Pasteis de nata — Portuguese custard tarts. One would be difficult enough; 12 identical tarts would be a true badge of baking excellence. They are immensely hard to replicate in a domestic kitchen. The puff pastry needs to be thin, crisp and layered with a creamy, just-set custard filling.
Unsurprisingly, most of the bakers failed to present tarts that looked the real deal. After some issues with her pastry rolling, Stacey pronounced her efforts “pathetic”. The judges weren’t much kinder, but Hollywood did like the flavour of her custard, giving her sixth place. Kate’s almost charred tarts, resembling chocolate cupcakes fared marginally better, leaving her fifth, whilst a sad Julia brought up the rear.
At the top of the league, Yan stormed off the with gong for that round, narrowly pipping Sophie’s slightly too solid custard at the post.
The showstopper — announced by Fielding, in a cardigan borrowed from a Goth grandad — was to make a hand-raised pie made of hot water crust pastry. A hand-raised water crust pastry is made with a high proportion of rendered animal fat — either lard or beef fat — which helps the pastry support itself. A fruit topping needed to complement the savoury filling.
Designed to house pork, the hand-raised pie is terribly treif. Not the best dish for Stacey, who plumped for a vegetarian filling of layered lentil curry, paneer and eggs .
Kate — also in need of a winner if she was going to hang on this week —had similarly chosen to be meat free.
Traditionally, a hand-raised pie is formed on the outside of a tin. Once it firms up in the fridge or freezer, you take off the tin, fill and bake. Liam, Julia and Yan had planned on shaping theirs from inside their tins. Hollywood put paid to that plan — for Liam anyway — telling him in no uncertain terms that it should be done this way or the highway. Liam folded, but Yan and Julia danced dangerously to their own tune.
At de-moulding time it was clear Stacey was in trouble. Her pie collapsed on one side — “really not good,” she moaned. Already looking at a pie that appeared squashed by a flying saucer, you felt that cold sweat when she realised that she’d also left a sheet of baking parchment inside.
The judging didn’t bring too many surprises: Steven’s blingy cranberries failed to disguise a bland pie; Yan’s chequerboard scored an “absolutely wonderful” from Leith; Liam’s efforts — inspired by his grandma Cynthia’s roast dinner — also won praise for look and flavour; Sophie’s pastry was too thick; and Kate pulled off a blinder, saving her from relegation. Poor Julia’s ‘special occasion’ pie was overcooked with soggy pastry — not a good look, and Stacey’s floppy flying saucer was judged tasty but not terribly pie-like in its state of collapse.
But Stacey, despite her struggles, survived, and it was Julia who left the tent. An almost speechless Liam was named star baker.